Restaurant Review: Broken Spanish, Cassia, Jon and Vinny’s, Leona, Maude

Sometimes, the most innovative restaurants prove cuisine does not have to be overly complicated to be sophisticated

Restaurant Review: Broken Spanish, Cassia, Jon and Vinny’s, Leona, Maude
December 30, 2015

Broken Spanish

After spending six years at the venerable Fig in Santa Monica, LA-bred chef Ray Garcia broke with the posh trappings of The Fairmont Hotel to create Broken Spanish, an earthy but elegant tribute to our city’s Pan-American culinary underpinnings. Rather than go the Modern Mexican route, Garcia instead takes the route of an eclectic, “authentically inauthentic” menu to create an overall picture of Los Angeles’ migrant-influenced flavors, starting with an arsenal of locally sourced produce fused with classical culinary techniques.

FD_Q1-2016_Broken-Spanish

The supporting cast in Garcia’s show is equally colorful and robust. It includes business partner Jacob Shure (Fig, XIV by Michael Mina) overseeing operations; Geter Atienza (Fig, Bouchon) as chef de cuisine; Luis Ayala (Superba Food + Bread, Spruce) as executive pastry chef; and Mike Lay (Faith & Flower, 1833) in the beverage director role.
1050 S. Flower St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
213/749.1460
/ brokenspanish.com

The duck at Broken Spanish is served with a sesame mole and persimmon

The duck at Broken Spanish is served with a sesame mole and persimmon

Cassia

In the 1990s, restaurants like Crustacean and Le Colonial celebrated the way French culinary influences transformed traditional Vietnamese and Southeast Asian cuisine into delicate expressions of indigenous spice and seasoning. While places like The District by Hannah An (featured in fall 2015) continue to celebrate that tradition, restaurateur power couples Bryant and Kim Ng and Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan take the recipes back to their roots—and then add essential California twists. Starting with recipes sourced from the Ng’s culinary heritage, the kitchen factors in Loeb and Nathan’s commitment to local farmers to create an extensive menu with taste bud-popping excitement.

The Wine Room at Cassia (Photo: John Linden)

The Wine Room at Cassia (Photo: John Linden)

Aromatic and savory selections include black cod in anchovy broth with Chinese romaine and lychee relish, whole grilled sea bass turmeric, whole Singaporean white pepper crab, grilled flattened half chicken with honey and lemongrass, hanger steak garnished with Phú Quoc island peppercorn sauce and a Creekstone Farms short rib stew.
1314 7th St.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310/393.6699
/ cassiala.com

Cassia's clay oven bread with (left to right) young soybean puree, Koda Farms chickpea curry, and Vietnamese paté (Photo: Rick Poon)

Cassia’s clay oven bread with (left to right) young soybean puree, Koda Farms chickpea curry, and Vietnamese paté (Photo: Rick Poon)

Jon & Vinny’s

With Animal and Son of a Gun on their culinary resume, restaurateur/chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo have run with the concept of rough-hewn “meat-and-potatoes” restaurants (as opposed to country clubby steakhouses), receiving accolades for bringing hearty proteins back to earth—albeit with creative flair. Now, they’ve teamed up with Ludo Lefebvre (of Trois Mec and Petit Trois fame) to bring their straightforward brand of dining to Jon & Vinny’s. The new place, expanding upon their presence in Mid-Wilshire, is a nod to the Italian-American pizza-and-pasta joints of their childhoods where one could bring business associates or the kids.

Photo: Joshua White

Photo: Joshua White

While the menu has a familiar “old neighborhood-y” tone to it, don’t write Jon and Vinny’s current endeavor off as something more middle-of-the-road. Their simple-but-sensational LA Woman Pizza, adorned with silky burrata, is the darling of food critics and bloggers. Other familiar-yet-new things worth diving into include meatballs crafted from short rib and pork shoulder, house-made spaghetti, and indulgence-worthy ricotta cannoli. Bellisimo!
412 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323/334.3369
/ jonandvinnys.com

Photo: Joshua White

Photo: Joshua White

Leona

Top Chef alumnus Nyesha J. Arrington brightens our day by creating her own genre: Progressive California Cuisine. She describes it as “seasonally driven, ethically harvested, and globally inspired” and a tribute to “the mosaic of the Golden State.” There are restaurants that fly their flag under the California banner, and others using the “progressive” label. However, chances are you are not going to find such inventive dishes as the tropically inspired brown butter pancakes with whipped coconut and vanilla butter, coctel mixto (a ceviche-like concoction with crispy rice paper), hemp vanilla porridge, ocean trout with curried lentils and a Korean latke anywhere else.

Inside, looking out at Leona (Photo: Ryan Tanaka)

Inside, looking out at Leona (Photo: Ryan Tanaka)

Arrington clearly infuses her recipes with wit, joy, and an uncanny instinct for what ingredients from disparate parts of the world will work together—as it has during Los Angeles’ storied history. The airy décor, which frames her culinary works of art, includes natural woods, cleanly arranged tables, and vintage Venice Beach photos sourced from the local historical society.
123 W. Washington Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
310/822.5379
leonavenice.com

The short rib at Leona

The short rib at Leona (Photo: Ryan Tanaka)

Maude – A Restaurant by Curtis Stone

Many French restaurants endeavor to recreate the ambiance of a private cottage on the Mediterranean or the nonchalant glamour of a Paris sidewalk café. However, Curtis Stone takes that idea one step further by stepping back to put the “cuisine” (i.e., the actual kitchen) back into the equation, scaling everything down into a private-feeling 25-seat space where guests can watch the chef challenge himself with a limited, carefully curated selection of ingredients. Every month, Curtis Stone’s team presents a prix-fixe menu built around a single ingredient taken to its furthest extent in nine plates. Whether that specific ingredient is the focal point of the dish or plays a supporting role, it’s inspiring to see—and taste—the versatility of that featured ingredient.

A seat at Maude is precious, as the restaurant seats just 25

A seat at Maude is precious, as the restaurant seats just 25

On this stage, Stone clearly enjoys being the master of ceremonies to this nine-act show, but doing it in a way that brings French cuisine back to earth both figuratively and literally. “I’m pleasantly surprised by the tasting plates that make it to my table,” Stone confides.
212 S. Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
310/859.3418
/ mauderestaurant.com

Bay scallop and parsnip at Maude

Bay scallop and parsnip at Maude

Want to get ahead with exclusive updates from CSQ? Join today.