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Gelt Learns The Hippie Lingo at Cafe Gratitude; Gold Offers Tipping Tips

Cafe Gratitude: Come for the salad, stay for the Kool-Aid

Cafe Gratitude: Come for the salad, stay for the Kool-AidPhoto: Wrestlingentropy via Flickr

Jessica Gelt is again our restaurant critic for the L.A. Times this week, something we could get used to. She's hanging out with the trendy hippies at Cafe Gratitude, where even the toilets come with inspirational messages and the customer's are all happy and life-affirming (could nitrous-filled balloons be at play?). "The restaurant is so uniformly bright and cheery that it borders on pathological," she writes, later finding that "the air smells like Tom's of Maine bathroom products and crushed nuts." We like where this is going. Gelt suspects "that not every server is drinking the positivity punch" and finds the prices aren't so utopian, but she likes the raw and house-made vegetarian food, maybe even more when she learns the armchair life-coach lingo. The place sounds like a bad stereotype of SoCal (ditto the San Franciscan lunatic lifestyle it actually does reflect), but Gelt emphasizes, "What Café Gratitude serves is clean, and good. It feels healthful. You feel healthy." Meanwhile, we wonder...could she be the very Jessica who left this comment? [LAT]

There's no getting around this people! If you want to eat at restaurants, you have to tip 20%, says Jonathan Gold. "In practice the difference is no more than a buck or two, unless you're Joe Pytka. In which case there's a $10,000 wine tab, so it works out," Gold cracks, before clarifying, "But the idea that a tip is optional, or variable, is a useful fiction, even when the soup goes tumbling into your lap. The owner gets to pretend her prices are lower, the busboy makes rent, and you get to feel like a philanthropist. A win-win for all." He offers nine more reasons that end with you having to tip 20% EVERYTIME. [LAW]

Linda Burum finds herself at Jun Won, a Koreatown restaurant where seafood is the specialty but farm-sourced banchan outshines all else. "Jun's dishes transport the brilliant fish-centric cuisine of Chungcheongnam-do to the tables of her simply furnished dining room." Sounds great, now good luck finding it. [LAT]

For once, we actually don't wish we were Jonathan Gold, reading questions like the one from a raw vegan lady who wants to find a steakhouse but who only eats purple food that starts with the letter Q. No sweat, he points to Akasha and Fig, which will please carnivores and plant-people equally. Then the lady is back, bugging him for yuzu ramen, which no one has really heard of on this side of the Pacific. But lo and behold, the Goldster's finds a jar of yuzu and chile sauce at good ole Shin Sen Gumi, where the "yuzu kosho is total umami crack, a wondrous substance that probably would improve everything from cupcakes to filet mignon." [LAW]

Jonathan Gold sure seems to enjoy comparing restaurants to Koi these days. Today it's Picca, Ricardo Zarate's tuned-up celebration of Peruvian cuisine. "Zarate's conceit here is the opposite of Nobu Matsuhisa's," Gold writes, "Instead of inflecting izakaya cuisine through Andean flavors, he's filtering Peruvian cooking through the aesthetics of the sushi bar, so that causas...becomes a blocky kind of sushi, piers of cool potatoes topped with spicy tuna tartare, eel and avocado, or albacore with toasted garlic, like a spud analog to the crunchy-rice sushi pioneered at Koi." [LAW]

J. Gold sheds a tear for our loss of Breed Street and champions Antojitos Carmen in an intriguing look at L.A.'s street food scene, where both Pink's and Guelaguetza, got their start. He's really pulling for Antojitos Carmen and wants you to try their huaraches with huitlacoche. It "will make you suffer, first through its physical heat, then through the heat of El Chamuco [a hot sauce named for Our Father of Lies]," he warns "then through the jet-black fungus that will paint your teeth the color of charcoal before it oozes down to stain your favorite shirt." [LAW]

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