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Gold Explores Umami's Modernist Approach; Virbila Sups at Spice Table

J. Gold talks to Modernist Cuisine author Nathan Myhrvold, who confirms that Umami Burger is "probably the first restaurant to employ modernist techniques at" a quick-service volume. The approach might not have worked on the Heston Blumenthal-inspired triple-cooked fries that turned out "mushy" and the logo may give him gynecological giggles, but does Gold like the burger? Eh, not as much as he likes the turkey burger with green goddess dressing. Perhaps this says it all: "In the umami game, truffle oil is the first refuge of a scoundrel, and at Umami Burger, they use it by the quart." [LAW]

S. Irene Virbila can't stop eating Bryant Ng's cauliflower florets and spicy sambal-fried potatoes at Spice Table, addicted to the slight heat and the kitchen's expertise with frying. Something has her inspired to peddle poetry here, as she sketches a "contemporary Asian" restaurant that "weaves elements of cuisines from all over Southeast Asia through the menu like bright threads of silk." She's definitely feeling the spirit, guzzling beer and dipping into snacks of crispy fried anchovies with chiles and curry fried chicken wings. The bone marrow under shrimp sambal? "Brilliant." Hainanese chicken rice? "Comforts and soothes with each bite." The otah fish cakes? Well, that's just not her thing. In conclusion, Virbila writes, "Spice Kitchen works not just because of Ng's technical expertise but because of his emotional connection to the food he grew up with." Two stars! [LAT]

Don't be fooled by the honors that he's got, he's still J. Gold from the block and the man who ate Pico Blvd. is back. Some guy asks Gold what his favorite Pico pig-out spots are and Mr. Gold responds dutifully. You can bet he's a big fan of El Parian, Dino's, Sky's, and Texis, and sleeps better at night "knowing that there is still fried pork leg with onions like [El Colmao's] in the world. And wait, who is that dancing with the table in his mouth at Papa Cristo's? Oh wait, nope, not him. [LAW]

Another one of Jonathan Gold's Chinese SGV faves has magically morphed into a completely different restaurant. But he lets the sudden shift to Sichuan roll off his back to tuck into the attractions at Lao Bian Dumplings. He loves a twice-cooked pork and finds the Sichuan pepper, cumin, and chile-coated , dry chile-fried lamb ribs to be "the best version of this dish in town, and there are a dozen contenders." [LAW]

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