Virbila Slams The Cooking at Craig's; Brad A. Johnson Loves Lukshon

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Photo: Hadley Tomicki

Just in case you thought S. Irene Virbila had a giant wheel of stars and half-stars that she spun at random when writing her reviews, she takes us into her agonizing process. Should she give new hot-spot Craig's one star or half a star? Yep, she goes bezerker-brutal on the food at Craig Susser's industry hang, as charmed as she is by the man himself and his legendary hospitality. But for all the glitz and smiles, it's the "retro" food that saps the stars away. She writes, "Craig's is better than Dan Tana's, certainly, but that's not saying much," later admitting that's a "low-blow." Even the very well-made cocktails can't turn the restaurant's luck around, as Virbila makes the final call, "Craig's is more about conviviality than dining." [LAT]

Lukshon makes Brad A. Johnson's mouth all tingly. He calls Sang Yoon's re-entry into fine-dining "A far cry from the cacophony of the first-come, first-served free-for-all at Fathers Office," noting that "Lukshon is calm, sophisticated and surprisingly glam." He's not particularly excited about the whites-only wine list, nor the mackeral, but everything else, especially those "big overweight" mussels and the short ribs redang ("definitely a contender for dish of the year"), rock him. [Brad A. Johnson]

After telling us what differentiates a good restaurant from a good sandwich shop, Jonathan Gold casts his eye on Olive & Thyme, a sturdy, fresh example of the latter. With their Intelligentsia coffee, short rib sandwiches, and Belgian beer, Gold asks, "Have the Davies reinvented the wheel? Not quite. But they've come up with a damned good place for lunch." [LAW]

Jonathan Gold acknowledges that he's obsessed with noodles in The SGV. Slamming Brentwood Italian and the "San Jose-based chain restaurants" of Santa Monica Place, he defends his passions like someone is trying to take his chopsticks away. So don't talk shit now that he's covering Central Vietnamese Nha Trang, "a serious noodle shop." Among the great options, he recommends the bun bo hue, a "cleaner version than I've ever tasted, spiked with plenty of slippery pig's knuckle meat, with neither that meat's barnyard aroma nor its thick broth." [LAW]

Wish we'd known more Pacific Seafood Center when we were loitering around The Redondo Pier last week. In any case, Mr. Gold recommends two lovebirds bring their act here for live sea shrimp and a good hard pounding on some Dungeness crabs. [LAW]