The Top Ten Best New Restaurants: No. 10, January 2014
The barkeep is talking to a regular about gentian-root liqueurs when 25-year-old Miles Thompson emerges from the kitchen. With the intensity of a prophet, he arrives at your table to deliver a plate of Dungeness crab custard with lobes of uni and pickled strips of hajikami ginger root. There's a certain fearlessness to the chef, who worked at Son of a Gun and did the pop-up thing (the Vagrancy Project) before landing at this 1920s stucco box in Echo Park. The only meat in a tasting menu may be in the first-course beef tongue cappelletto, tiny pasta capsules presented on a seared spinach leaf. Dessert involves the earthy notes of Jerusalem artichokes. Every direction seems promising to Thompson, who compresses the possibilities into the indentation at the center of a white plate.
This little restaurant has tried to be many things many times. Now the owners are taking a chance on 25-year-old Miles Thompson, of the arty pop-up the Vagrancy Project. The result is more highbrow than the area wants or needs—but damn if it isn't delicious. Carrot tendrils headline a salad with sunchoke, radish, and pickled turnips. A tender ravioloenvelops soft blood pudding, and a clever kimchi ranch dressing sets off a fried oyster. You can taste the effort, and service struggles while the chef pores over each garnish. Depending on how much Top Chef you watch, you'll worship or despise the place, but the craft cocktails should please all.