So it was fun while it lasted. The general belief in LA is that it has been really raising its game in the dining world. In the past few years some of the best restaurants in the country have been popping up – especially in the downtown area. The old stereotypes that LA was more about the scene than about the food were simply proven to be not true. I, like many other Angelenos enjoyed a great run of great new places (Bestia, Trois Mec, Rivera) that were elevating dining and putting the stereotypes to bed. It felt as though LA had finally turned the corner.
My LA food experiences of late had been just great. True fresh ingredients, house made from beginning to end. Local market-driven fare. And then I went to Madera Kitchen.
Now, one experience does not cancel out all the progress or change the reality that LA is a top notch food town. Don’t get me wrong. But one experience at a newly opened place that lives up to all of the old stereotypes does confirm that those problems are still out there and reminds you of what that LA food trolls are saying about the city.
First, the good. It will be a hot place in Hollywood because the space is amazing. Large patio in the front, great space by the bar in the back with wrought iron communal dining tables can never go wrong. It will be a great place to see the gorgeous people in this town on a night out. It is pure Hollywood and it was a very good looking crowd at the start of the night. And to be perfectly fair, although we went on a night where they got caught understaffed on press night so they just didn’t have the bartenders, valet, or servers to handle the amount of people in there, the server we did have was pleasant and did the best he could at crisis management. Service was good.
So I won’t say the problem with the place is the service – it was the food. Wow. We arrived starving so we were ready to probably think lesser food was incredibly satisfying. But here’s the thing…
Non fresh frozen pizza dough is never satisfying. The flatbread we ordered tasted like it had been refrigerated with other foods and had absorbed the funky refrigerator air and the flavorless pizza sauce was piled on so thick that we had to spread it ourselves. Although it claims to be farm-to-table, and unless they can now grow cheap jarred bar olives on a tree… the olives on the pizza weren’t from any farm I know of. The cheese tasted semi-processed and also from frozen. This was a sports bar caliber pizza. Pizzeria Mozza, Stella Barra, Gjelina, this place is not (although pizzas cost the same here).
Pasta with runny water even after saucing is never satisfying. The buckwheat tagliatelle noodle dish wiht poached egg, black garlic, and thyme was actually watery (as in the noodles themselves) and were covered with an even more watery disappointing sauce. I could go on and on but I will just say this – a fair way is to judge restaurants by the idea that “for the same price, I could go to ____ and get ____ in comparison”. This pasta concoction was simply a watery flavorless course that is done better in about, oh, 300 other places in this town.
This place represents what all of the food snobs from San Francisco and NYC chuckle at about LA. The trolls win on this one. After having said all of this, I still recommend going to Madera Kitchen on a hot weekend night to have drinks and take in the beautiful people this summer.
Just make sure you have dinner first before you get there…
835 N Cahuenga Blvd (at Franklin)
Brian Lee is a transplant from Canada who has been in LA since 2000 to attend grad school. After all of these years, there is no Canadian left. Only Los Angelino remains and he couldn’t be happier.