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Our last night in LA was the entire reason we had come to there to begin with…dinner at Alma, Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurant.
It brought us to one of the grittiest streets in downtown LA, between a hostess club (yeah, I had to look that up) & a former marijuana dispensary.
The inside is tiny (39 seats–I’m still surprised we got a reservation!) & very minimally furnished. Within minutes of arriving we were seated along the long marble bar, right in front of the open kitchen…& The Expeditor.
The food at Alma is very seasonally-driven, relying heavily on a colleague’s half acre garden plot in nearby Venice for many ingredients, & local farmers’ markets for the rest. The portions are small, but wonderful for sharing, which is what we did to sample a good portion of the menu (now they do a strictly tasting menu).
We ordered our beers & settled in to watch the cooks & chef Ari Taymor prepare each dish in front of us…each perfectly timed by The Expeditor & his intricate grid of tickets & painters’ tape & fueled by the huge glass of wine he poured directly down his throat.
It was unreal to watch. The Expeditor would bark out, “JEFFREY. One beignet.”
“JEFFREY. Two soups.”
Poor Jeffrey. I think he made just about everything that night, except for the poor girl that dared make the mistake of putting butter in a bowl that was a little too fresh-from-the-dishwasher warm. The Expeditor snatched the bread out of that bowl as soon as she handed it over & dumped the melting butter right into the trash, then ordered her to do it again.
We ordered the bread & (unmelted) cultured butter, seaweed & tofu beignet, Courtney’s snails with fingerling potatoes, sunchoke soup, beets with figs & pistachio, mushrooms with Brussels sprouts & dry aged ribeye.
& the food was good, but the show even better. I think we watched The Expeditor wide-eyed the whole time we sat there. He never faltered, never cracked a smile, never stopped to even taste any of the drinks that kept him soldiering on…juggling tickets & dishes & barking orders to the cooks. It was unreal.
Was it the best meal we’ve ever had? No. Was it the best meal of the trip? No. I think that ramen has us forever ruined. Best new restaurant? I dunno. We didn’t dislike it, but didn’t over-the-top love it…see also: ramen. Am I glad we did it? Yeah, we never regret giving a place a shot & we kept the Best New Restaurant streak alive.
Will it happen again this year? Guess we’ll have to wait & see…fingers crossed for somewhere fun!