Food Humor

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.

Share

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

Share

Is it Good? iPic Theater

ipic

Well, that’s it. All other movie theaters are ruined for me forever. (SETS ARCLIGHT MEMBERSHIP CARD ON FIRE.) I’ll never go to another one without comparing it to the iPic. Thank you, iPic. Damn you, iPic.  You’re the best. And the worst. I love you. And I hate you.

The iPic in Westwood is a premium movie theater experience featuring reclining chairs with soft blankets and pillows. I could stop describing it right there, and it would stand as the most comfortable movie theater experience I’ve ever had. It’s like flying first class in a movie theater. Somewhere else in the world suckers are paying good money to sit upright in movie theaters while you lounge in the theater like you’re in your own living room. But that’s not all.

The iPic also offers drinks and food delivered to your seat by a courteous wait staff. The food is OK and pricey (if you’re not one of the high-paid lawyers or UCLA types who works nearby), but you get to eat it at a table at your seat, and it’s far tastier than your traditional movie theater hot dog that may or may not actually be made of recognizable animal parts.

iPic is movies for the, well, not 1 Percent. Wherever the 1 Percent watches the secret good movies that are never released to the public probably isn’t open to guys like me. Let’s say The 5 Percent. The iPic is movies for the 5 Percent.

jeanralphio

The iPic also has a restaurant and a bar. For some reason the music and vibe outside of the theaters themselves is ootz-da-da-ootz Jean Ralphio, like some kind of trendy-dance-club-meets-Beverly-Hills-Asian-fusion-restaurant. Can an establishment offer both Junior Mints and bottle service? The iPic may one day answer that question.

But these are just tiny quibbles that stand in the shadow of the main attraction. It’s the chairs that make the iPic. If you’ve read an “Is it Good?” before, you know seating is one of my top two main factors in whether I enjoy an experience that requires me to leave my home. Human beings are not meant to sit upright for two-and-half hours, which is what most movie theaters demand. It’s not the worst discomfort in the world. There are people in refugee camps who stand in line all day for food, so I’m not about to complain that movie theater seats make me slightly achy, but if a movie isn’t good, you do notice your discomfort, and you just can’t wait for the thing to end. That isn’t a great use of $16.

Not a problem at the iPic.

I saw a mediocre movie–Jersey Boys–and enjoyed every minute of it because the chair was just so damn comfortable. It was soft. It was orange, which I liked for some reason. It reclined. You could spread out. You could kick your feet up. You could build a little fort, which I thought about doing during Jersey Boys, a movie that suffered from the classic biopic problem of trying to show you everything and actually showing you nothing.

The thing the iPic lacked was that we’re-all-packed-like-sardines-and-we’re-going-to-experience-this-movie-together feeling you get during a movie at a non-deluxe theater. For a film like Jersey Boys, it didn’t matter. But for a movie where you’re like, “Can you believe this movie? It’s amazing!” you’d lose some of that community–the salty, buttery touch of the common man.

It’s a premium experience, and you pay for the premium. Tickets are $19 if you’re a member, $29 if you’re not. Tickets do come with complimentary small popcorn, which is no small purchase in Los Angeles. Call it a savings of $5, at least.

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

iPic: Is it good?

It is.

iPic is good.

It’s The Titanic of places you could possibly see The Titanic.

ipic-chairs

- Twitter:@joedonatelli

Share

Is it Good? Tart Restaurant

tart-facebook-farmersdaughter3

I get invited to events because I’m married to one of Los Angeles’s top food, travel and lifestyle writersI’ve also been a lifestyle writer myself. I go to so many restaurants and bars and happenings and have so much to say about these experiences that I’ve decided to start a new feature on this site called “Is it Good?”

“Is it Good?” answers the main question everyone asks when they’ve heard you visited a restaurant or a bar.

They want to know, “Is it Good?”

Then you explain, “Yeah, it’s good.” Or you say, “No, it’s not that good.” Or: “It could be good if…”

Each “Is It Good?” will weight the following factors in a bar or restaurant that are important to me.

They are, in this order:

1. Is the food delicious?
It usually is, but sometimes it isn’t. Generally speaking, the better the view, the worse the food. Bad views generally mean better food. That’s not the deal all the time–you can find places that blend good food and good view–but it does explain why some of the best food in LA is in strip malls.

2. Was my chair comfortable?
This one is huge. I can’t tell you how many meals I have not enjoyed because my chair was uncomfortable. “So,” the PR rep will tell us, “the owner’s wife actually purchased the restaurant’s chairs from a Swedish grade school. Isn’t that eclectic?” No. It’s painful. My spine is in agony. The left side of my face is numb. I’m losing my vision. Just let me lay down on the floor. Restaurant designers and owners operate under the delusion that the people eating their chefs’ million-calorie meals will somehow shrink over time. We’re not all 6-year-old Swedish boys, restaurant people. Some of us need fat-people chairs.

3. How was the booze?
Extra points for good bourbon, whiskey or something spicy.

4. Parking?
Was I able to find parking without circling the block several times while crying into my steering wheel?

5. Did the men’s room offer enough privacy?
How was the urinal spacing? Were there dividers? What was the depth of the dividers? Was there enough privacy to operate with 100 percent efficiency? If there was a #yesallmen, this topic would be my No. 1 concern.

ear-trumpet6. Was the restaurant too loud?
If the waiter has to shout the specials while I hold one of these old-timey listening things in my ear, your restaurant is too loud.

7. How was the staff?
It’s impressive to meet a server who knows EXACTLY how the chef prepares the various dishes. There are a lot of great servers in Los Angeles, and I think this is mainly due to the fact that producers keep giving the same 14 actors all of the good TV and movie roles.

8. Did the establishment try anything new?
Is there a combination of foods, flavors or presentations that makes me want to whip out my phone and annoy my friends on Instagram with another shot of someone else’s dinner?

Let’s get to our first, “Is it Good?”

Recently we were invited to check out Tart, the restaurant adjacent to the Farmer’s Daughter hotel on Fairfax. Chef Nick Erven previewed his summer menu. The food was terrific, and I’m not just saying that because we ate for free and were served several glasses of delicious wine from countries I didn’t know made wine. The big deal for me was that the fried chicken and waffles had Tabasco-infused syrup.

You can’t deny fried chicken and waffles. They’re amazing. But when when every chef in town is doing his or her own “comfort food” menu, how do you stand apart from the crowd? You infuse your syrup with hot sauce, that’s how. The dish was perfect, and it hit every important food group–your hot sauces and liquid sugars and fried meats and ridged breads.

More pics of the food are up on my Instagram page.

tart-wet-wild-pool-warriorsTart had one more surprise for us. My wife and I get out quite a bit because of her job, and we know a lot of the fun things to do in Los Angeles. But for some reason we’d never heard of the Tart Wet ‘N Wild Pool Warriors. As it was explained to us: Anyone who jumps in the adjacent Farmer’s Daughter Hotel pool during brunch gets half off their meal. If you jump in with your phone, the whole meal is free. (It’s not that ludicrous. I’ve owned several phones that would’ve made me money on that deal.)

The jumping into the pool generally occurs after many bottomless mimosas or gigantic “punch” bowls are consumed. In Los Angeles we nonchalantly call such behavior “day drinking,” but in other parts of the country it’s still referred to as, “Jim’s been having a hard time.”

In any case, I couldn’t believe we hadn’t heard of the Wet ‘N Wild Pool Warriors, so I went online and sure enough…

Via @mrscantz

tart-twitter-mrscantz
Via Pop and Sizzle

tart-popandsizzle

Via Farmer’s Daughter Hotel Facebook page

tart-facebook-farmersdaughter5

tart-facebook-farmersdaughter

tart-facebook-farmersdaughter2

tart-facebook-farmersdaughter4
Via @valentijnhere

tart-instagram-valentijnhere
And KTLA ran a segment on the Wet ‘N Wild Pool Warriors. I would have embedded it, but the pre-roll ad starts playing automatically, and I ain’t down with that.

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

Tart: Is it good?

It is.

Tart is good.

It is Tabasco-infused syrup good.

- @joedonatelli

UPDATE: I have been asked on Facebook if we jumped. No. It was dinner, and the half-off deal is for brunch. Plus, it was kind of a fancy press thingy. But we will jump next time we come back for brunch, and I’ll post pics.

Share

Mad X-Men

mad-x-men

Like a John Deere riding mower run amok,  my friends who brought the world House of Thrones have released their follow-up effort, “Mad X-Men: Don Draper’s Future Past.” Once again the video features Ross Marquand (this time as Draper) and is directed by Oren Kaplan. It’s solid throughout, and Quizno’s shows how cool it is by allowing the product placement to occur at the worst possible moment.

Share
Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: