Besha Rodell Glorifies Mezze; Gold Returns to Next Door by Josie

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Mezze chef Micah Wexler Photo: Mezze

When it comes to casting an eye on L.A.'s restaurants, Besha Rodell is four for four. First, she pushed Post & Beam to spread its wings wider, then she applauded Michael Voltaggio's artistry while summing up what many are thinking about .ink's flavors, and broke down the hits and misses at Maison Giraud. Now she's giving Mezze the standing O it deserves. Besha is bonkers for the place, noting, "there is barely a dish on the menu worth passing by," though she finds the "fat-kid aesthetic" of Micah Wexler's Syrian Rebel Fries, "out of place on a menu that is otherwise restrained in all the right ways." It's not only Wexler's dishes that earn her lyrical admiration, but "a wine program that takes Lebanon and Israel seriously." Rodell can file very few complaints, except for the occasional lapse in service, the "trying too hard" decor, and the "unfortunate" location for an open restaurant. But even on the most harried visits, she finds "the kitchen...didn't miss a beat, and the food was as good as ever." [LAW]

If head-noodle-in-charge J. Gold could only "consume one noodle dish...again" in his life, he thinks the tsukemen at Sawtelle's Tsujita "would almost suffice." Still, he takes a peek across the street at newer Miyata Menji, "a branch of a well-known Tokyo place named for a famous Japanese comedian." Unfortunately, the ramen may not pull you out of Tusjita's long line anytime soon, as he notes Menji's ramen "was a little like the tsukemen you'd expect the Olive Garden would make." Probably not a great sign. [LAT]

Following his look into Next Door by Josie last fall, Jonathan Gold is back, considering the Racer 5 and the bacon popcorn without channeling The Beats. Again bemoaning the explosion of gastropubs, the critic sounds charmed by this one, which offers Josie LeBalch's expertise without the commitment to fine-dining. Noting her way with veggies, Gold calls a dish of haricots, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes "the best thing I have ever tasted in any of Le Balch's restaurants," though some of the dishes don't benefit from her considerable training, as a cheeseburger, ribs, and game meat chili fall flat. Noting the "juiceless" chicken and a "gloriously pungent and delicious" sloppy Joe, Gold files his final thought on the mixed experience: "Restaurants, like life, can occasionally be mysterious." [LAT]