Over the last few weeks, The O.C. Register's new restaurant critic Brad A. Johnson had us hungering for a road trip to visit our southern neighbors; not on another jag to explore Santa Ana's Mexican scene or the Vietnamese treasures of Garden Grove, but into the chef-driven experiences of The Playground and The Ranch. This week, Johnson reviews Noah Blom's Arc Food & Libations, a Costa Mesa restaurant that depends entirely on an open flame, cooking everything over almond wood in a brick hearth or on orange wood in a grill. The restaurant doesn't even posses a conventional stove-top range, one of the reasons the critic cites this chef's sequel to Shuck as "emphatically one of the most important restaurants to open in America this decade."
The lack of dessert may be a lapse, but Johnson still glows about this "ultimate and inevitable backlash to molecular gastronomy" by writing, "for now Blom is reminding us just how great real food can taste without all the technological trickery and modernist pretense...just a dude with a fire and a firm commitment to cooking locally and passionately." [OCR]