Gold Mines Cortez To Find Shrunken Small Plates; Rodell Rousts Chatty Waiter and Uneven Execution at Le Ka

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The table is set at Le Ka Photo: Ali Khan

Jonathan Gold takes on Cortez today, noting that it's not for everyone. Specifically those who can't stand hour-long waits, "crowds...noise, screechy jazz...[And] well-meaning servers who are slightly impatient with the idea of service." The critic warns, "Cortez, like Cookbook, is an enterprise whose customers are pretty much self-selecting — if you belong here, you know who you are." Painting a pretty picture of precise, produce-intensive small plates, Gold puts the emphasis on the word small, telling us that "the size of its portions, at least the non-vegan ones, makes the usual sort of small-plates sharing almost impossible," leaving one's table-mates swiping and licking the quickly ravished bowls. "Tiny portions are great in principle...," he writes, "but there may be a reason so many of the regulars at Cortez fit nicely into skinny jeans. And by the time you finish ordering, you are going to have spent a shocking amount of money." [LAT]

Noting the letter-perfect, stereotypical Downtown set that houses Le Ka, Besha Rodell notes that this new restaurant, "feels exciting and familiar all at once." Stricken with the feeling that the place "may be... trying to do too much," she regrets that even the great Remi Lauvand can't always make the globe-trotting, "schizophrenic approach" work, even though he kills it with most of his French-leaning dishes and a uni and oxtail congee that "is one of the coolest things I've eaten in a while...the oddest, most delicious surf and turf ever." As for the misses, Rodell surmises, "that some of the less impressive dishes here are simply a product of a kitchen and chef spread too thin by having to provide all things to all people." Worse news: "there's also a real service issue at Le Ka," including a droning waiter on the hard sell, plus ill-timing, and an oft-barren table. Regrettably only doling out two stars, the critic concludes, "I get the feeling that a slightly more focused menu or a slightly smaller venue would put Lauvand's talents in a better light." [LAW]

Blasting back at O.C. Weekly's bellicose jabs, Brad A. Johnson orders "practically one of everything" at Dana Point's Buena Vista Market, grinning over " tacos...stuffed with five times more beef tongue than the tiny corn tortillas can even pretend to hold." But the critic saves room for what he deems three-star meals at chef Amar Santana's Broadway in Laguna Beach, which "walks a fine line between proper upscale dining and casual, boisterous gastropub." Over multiple visits, he's impressed by all but one of his entrees, unable to choose between the duck done three-ways or tangerine-sized scallops when considering his favorite dish. The seafood thoroughly stokes Johnson, while the wafting smell of a chocolate tart is irresistible. Only a bad pass at service runs afoul of the critic, making his table "feel abandoned and invisible," only "a small but glaring glitch in what has otherwise been a thoroughly joyous romp." [OCR; OCR]