Is it Good? Saint Martha

Saint Martha Restaurant in Los Angeles's Koreatown I never get excited about brisket. It is a source of perpetual disappointment. Sometimes I order it at restaurants. And sometimes it gets trotted out during a press dinner. I bite in hopeful. I swallow disappointed. Not enough flavor. Too dry. It just tastes like generic meat to me. Perhaps I’m not sophisticated enough to enjoy the subtlety of a well-cooked brisket, but my palate does not do subtlety. I like rich, bold flavor.

The brisket at Saint Martha (740 S. Western, Los Angeles) is the best I’ve ever had. I told the sommelier those exact words while I was eating it. The sommelier’s job is to suggest wine, but I felt like I had to tell someone. “I’ve never seen Joe this excited about brisket before,” my wife told sommelier Mary Thompson, who had only come by to fill my wine glass, thereby giving Thompson a complete and totally unnecessary appreciation of my history with the dish.

Chef Nick Erven’s brisket was unlike any other I’ve had. It was soft and a little fatty, and it was covered in a sweet and tangy sauce and topped with veggies a la Korean street taco. It paired wonderfully with the pinot noir Thompson selected. On the way out I wanted to tell people coming in, “Get the brisket or you won’t have lived a complete life.”

Saint Martha—brisket maker of my dreams—is named after the patron saint of cooks and servants. The Koreatown restaurant is run by the same people who run Tart, the Fairfax restaurant where diners can jump in the pool for half-off their brunch. Saint Martha faces a nondescript parking lot, and so its interior steals a page from restaurants like Melisse: If the view stinks, don’t give the customer a stinky view. Saint Martha has no windows, pushing the customer’s focus to the art, each other, and, of course, the food.

Seaweed Doritos from Saint Martha Restaurant in LA

My wife Jen and I enjoyed an array of creative dishes, including the seaweed sea urchin “tataki” with avocado mousse, hearts of palm and seaweed Doritos (that’s them on the right—they were great); octopus with Koshihikari rice, sauce nero, lardo and espelette; steak and oyster tartare with champagne sabayon and bone marrow beignets; and diver scallops with black trumpet mushrooms, endive, white yam puree and smoked dulse.

The brisket was the grand finale. Growing full, I forced myself to stop eating, and our server wrapped the precious remainder in a tinfoil swan, which I lovingly placed in the backseat of the car for the ride home. I wondered if I should buckle it in. I didn’t want anything to happen to it. “Drive carefully,” I told my wife.

I finished it off at lunch the next day.

And now the question…the big question…the only one that matters.

Saint Martha: Is it good?

It is.

Saint Martha is good.

Have I mentioned the brisket?

Follow Joe Donatelli on Facebook and Twitter.

All images stolen from the Saint Martha website

For more “Is It Good?” Reviews, go here.

The True Meaning of Labor Day

labor-day-flag

Labor Day. Some say it’s getting too commercial—too gaudy. Stores put out their festive Labor Day decorations months in advance. Homeowners race each other to string up their Labor Day lights first. And radio stations play the same Labor Day songs nonstop. Yes, America, it seems somewhere along the way we lost the true meaning of Labor Day.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Labor Day ain’t what it used to be. What used to be a humble observance has morphed into an orgy of crass secular celebration, an orgy whose key bowl is the first Monday of September and whose keys are the picnic hamburgers, potato salad and corn hole boards that we worship instead of the true spirit of Labor Day.

Now everyone everywhere takes advantage of this precious holiday for all the wrong reasons. Over at Fox News, the Fair and Balanced Squad runs hyped-up stories about the supposed “War on Labor Day.”

As if.

Oh, yes, there is a War on Labor Day, but it’s not the one Fox News claims it is. Just because one small town in Pennsylvania or wherever wants to honor a little thing called the Constitution and refuses to erect scenes from the first Labor Day in front of city hall does not mean Labor Day is under attack. In fact, it’s pretty hilarious that Fox News would choose to defend Labor Day from “attack” when it continually practices none of Labor Day’s most cherished values. But that’s another commentary!

A brief side note: To those who actively celebrate Labor Day, it would be nice to see some of you step away from the Labor Day shopping lines for a moment and donate your time to a local soup kitchen or give toys for children who will have no toys this Labor Day.

The Internet has only exacerbated the issue, in my opinion. What was once a quiet, dignified celebration of American workers has ballooned into a self-serving social media frenzy. Oh, how handsome your family looks on Labor Day in front of your Labor Day tree! Right there in my Facebook feed. Aren’t you all SO perfect?

And what about those Americans who do not work? To them Labor Day is nothing but an organized insult, one that brazenly touts the virtues of gainful employment and national progress to the nation’s be-couched. As a country we spit on an entire group of people with our Labor Day preening.

So.

What is the true meaning of Labor Day? It’s not about the Labor Day gifts or the Labor Day movies or all that delicious Labor Day eggnog. Labor Day is a day in which we celebrate the virtues of working by not working. Let us never, ever forget this fact.

So Happy Labor Day, America! And to our Jewish friends, please enjoy all eight days and nights of this special Labor Day season. And to our black brothers and sisters, Happy Laboranza.

Joe Donatelli is a journalist in Los Angeles. Follow him @joedonatelli.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker

Is It Good? Blaze Pizza

blaze-pizza-sign

Blaze Pizza solves the biggest problem in the pizza business: how long it takes to make a pizza. Making a pizza takes forever. By the time you drive to a pizza joint, wait for the waiter to take your order, put in your order and then pick at a salad while the restaurant’s wood-fire authentic Tuscan Italian brick oven takes one complete World Cup qualifying and tournament cycle to make your pizza, you are dead because you can’t live for four years on one small side salad.

Blaze Pizza, with its aggressive orange color scheme and flame logo, is all “Eff that. Hurry up and pick some toppings, and we’ll nuke your artisanal pizza in 180 seconds, you go-getter, you.”

That’s 175 seconds too long, but it’s progress.

I recently checked out the Blaze Pizza at The Grove Farmer’s Market.

Just like Chipotle, there’s an ingredient line, and you can customize your pie.

blaze-pizza-ingredients

We didn’t customize because my wife didn’t want to see how high I could get the workers to stack jalapenos on a pizza before a manager got involved, but customizing is an option. If you want mushrooms and applewood bacon–you got it. If you want chicken, sausage, pepperoni and meatballs–they’ll do it. If you have enemies, you can slide a piece of paper across the counter with a name and address and “things happen,” no questions asked. They really aim to please.

Our pizza topping sherpa was training a new employee, and the new employee was timid with the toppings, and the veteran employee kept throwing more on. This is exactly what I like in a food establishment–wanton disregard for efficiency in exchange for maximum customer satisfaction. We ordered the Red Vine  (ovalini mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, parmesan, basil, red sauce, olive oil drizzle) off the Signature Menu. This is what it looked like. You can tell from the lack of dead animals and spices that my wife selected it.

blaze-red-vine-pizza

The crust was thin, which was fine by me, because I prefer tasting ingredients over chewing a pound of white bread. The ingredients were fresh, and half a pizza was the perfect amount of food. We also had salads and drinks. The whole thing came to $20. Not bad for a date-night meal before a movie.

And so now the question…the big question…the only one that matters.

Blaze Pizza: Is it good?

It is.

Blaze Pizza is good.

When I want world-class pizza, I will go to Mozza. When I want volume, I will go to Shakey’s. When I want to eat a pizza at lunch on a workday without having to wolf down three slices in five minutes because it took 55 minutes for the pizza to reach the table, I will go to Blaze.

- @joedonatelli

The 19 Funniest Exercise Fads of All-Time

prancercize-horse

I have a new piece on Livestrong rounding up the 19 funniest exercise fads of all time. My favorite, by far, is Prancercise, pictured above. What is Prancercise?

From the list:

If you ever see someone prancing through the park like a horse, don’t call the cops. They’re not on LSD. They’re Prancercising. Joanne Rohrback’s Prancercise video has more than 10 million views on YouTube. And, yes, to answer your question, Prancercise is real. A book is currently available on Prancercise.com, where you can also view a photo of Rohrback prancing in a field with what appears to be a Photoshopped horse. The Prancercise inventor, for some reason, always looks like she’s dressed for lunch at the country club. She describes her prancing workout thusly: “It’s about self-expression. It’s about nonviolence. It’s about conservation.” Actually, it’s about strapping on ankle weights, turning up the volume and exercising like nobody’s watching!

Even more ridiculous exercise fad: Treadmill Bike.

You can read all about it here.

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