John Mariani, who must think he's finally nailed L.A. after giving due praise to John Sedlar, Kris Morningstar, and the chefs at Sotto, pens a new piece for Esquire called "Where You Should Eat in L.A. Right Now." He throws the three restaurants of the aforementioned chefs up there, along with New York import Mr. C and solid, if not quite vital, Public Kitchen. But this time around, it's Mariani's introduction, not his picks, that really piss us off.
In his ramp-up, Mariani declares that French cooking is "on life-support" in L.A. Sacrebleu! Sure, our restaurants have turned aggressively casual as of late and while New York is always down to offer the Le Cirque clan another chance, traditional European fine-dining experiences are few and far-between around here (ask Tony Bourdain about that one). But French cooking is far from dying in L.A. and can look towards a bright future several levels beyond mere resuscitation.
Clearly, the story must have been penned before Mariani caught wind of former Bastide and Anisette chef Alain Giraud's graceful return at Maison Giraud. He's probably not holding his breath along with the rest of us for the return of Walter Manzke at his own bakery and "bistronomic" concept, Republique. And does he know of Highland Park's Ba? Nah!
How sad to find Mariani missing the crucial French options, influences, and evolutions in L.A. While he's playing around with Mr. C, another New York import, Bouchon, is down the street recreating the climes of a classic Gallic bistro with the skills of a Universal Studios set-designer. Hasn't the critic ever heard of Church & State, RH at Andaz, or Burbank's Bistro Provence? Does the man know what Akira Hirose can do merging Japanese and French flavors at Maison Akira or that a restaurant can't even get a permit in L.A. these days without a commitment to make its own charcuterie?
Newcomers like L'Epicerie (under Perigord toque Sebastien Archambault) and Parisian Farid Zadi's Cafe Livre et Le Marche have helped French food fit right into our casual daily diets, while restaurants like the refined Cafe Pierre (under Frenchman Remi Lauvand) and accessible, charming Delphine (under former Pastis and Balthazaar chef Sascha Lyon) champion French influences for two very different degrees of customer.
French influences abound in the California cuisine of L.A. legends like Patina, JiRaffe, and Melisse, and some of our most venerated chefs, like Jean Francois Meteigner at La Cachette Bistro, Laurent Quenioux, and pop-up legend Ludo Lefebvre, happen to be proud Frenchies with impeccable backgrounds and no deficit of mind-boggling dishes. Petrossian superstar Giselle Wellman gives heavy credit to her years with Jean Georges, David Myers has a hit with Comme Ca, Guillaume Burlion infused the Sunset Marquis' American cuisine with French flavor, and enough can't be said about David Féau's talents at the Royce. L.A.'s French influences, it appears, are alive and very well.
Bistros and their ilk are still popping up, from Redondo Beach to Downtown to Hollywood to Culver City to Main Street Santa Monica. Meanwhile, those who know where to look can find a slice of Gallic influence at indie restaurants like Canele and small bistro romance at the likes of Cafe Stella.
As for the future, after Manzke returns to Downtown, we're also excited for Santos Uy's forthcoming, Parisian-inspired Papilles and Elia Aboumrad's Avec Moi. And really, a party is not a party around here until Christophe Happillon shows up with his oysters. We even have a Kosher French restaurant helmed by a Top Chef for heaven's sake!
Anyway, we could go on and on like this, shouting out French pleasures like Tarte Tartin, Maison Maurice, Quadrupel Brasserie, and those crepes you get at the food stylist in Mar Vista. But we'll leave it to the national critic to come back for a visit to see for himself if his "life support" comment still hangs tough.
And if you have any must-try French suggestions or rebuttals for Mariani, please let us know your thoughts in our comments.
Where You Should Eat in L.A. Right Now [Esquire]