Alma (Los Angeles, CA)
952 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 8/20/13
Ari Taymor opened up Alma in the middle of last year, after having brought his pop-up restaurant slowly east from Venice to Silverlake and finally opening permanently in downtown LA. Taymor has had a relatively brief cooking career (he’s only 27), having spent time in San Francisco’s Flour+Water and Bar Tartine, but has really exploded onto the scene in recent months.
Last week, Alma was named the #1 best new restaurant in America by Bon Appetit, beating out even the vaunted Saison. The restaurant has been a critical darling since opening (JGold/LA Times, Besha/LA Weekly), though it currently maintains a relatively pedestrian 3.5 star rating on Yelp. I dined here towards the end of last year and placed it in the ‘good but not great’ category, but figured it was time for a return.
Taymor takes the local, farm-driven concept a bit more seriously than others, sourcing his produce from local suppliers and partnering with a farmer in Venice to get customized ingredients. While Alma offers an 11-course tasting menu for $90, it currently offers a special Tuesday tasting menu featuring 4 courses for $45 with a couple of choices at each course (vegetarian and non). A very reasonable $25 wine pairing accompanies the menu (which was 5 pours on this evening). Between my coworker and I, we ordered each dish off the Tuesday tasting and supplemented with a few bites from the ‘snacks’ portion of the menu.
seaweed & tofu beignet, yuzu kosho, lime
Served warm with an addicting light crunch on the outside, the seaweed flavor of these beignets definitely came through. The citrusy lime and yuzu kosho was an integral part for me, adding some acid and a much brighter flavor contrast.
english muffin, uni, burrata, caviar, liquorice herbs
The warm sea urchin and burrata was a great combination of flavors, with a bit of salinity from the caviar. Unfortunately, we found the English muffin to be pretty chewy, distracting from the rest of the bite.
sweet corn soup, nasturtium, vadouvan
A sweet roasted corn soup was warm and comforting – I’ve really been loving corn dishes while in season. A nasturtium ice cream brought a nice warm-cold contrast, as well as a slight peppery-grassy flavor.
smoked salmon, summer squash, chevre, dill
Smoky fish, crisp squash and a tart yogurt were the primary flavor and textural profiles in this dish, though I’m not sure they came together as well as I would’ve liked.
summer vegetables, mascarpone, melon
I appreciated the refreshing flavors and textures from the cantaloupe and cucumber, but I thought the mascarpone was the difference-maker. Slightly rich and creamy, I thought it went very well with the rest of the dish including the bitter green sauce/juice (which tasted like sorrel).
shelling bean stew, green tomato, tomatillo crema, fried egg
There were a few different varieties of beans here, combining to create a rather hearty and savory stew. Fried tomatoes added some texture, tomatillos added depth of flavor, and a fried egg added a warm richness that brought everything together.
dry aged rib eye, alliums, sunflower
There was a nice, deep beefy flavor present in this steak (which resembled more of a New York to me than a rib eye). The sunflower sauce was pretty tasty too adding a slightly earthy, slightly sweet flavor.
plums & cream
Moving into the dessert course, we found the plum and cream flavors in different vehicles – ice cream and a firm panna cotta, respectively. Fresh slices of the fruit were on the tart side and I didn’t find this dessert to be too successful.
warm fig, pu-erh, brown butter madeleine, pine brittle
I preferred this dessert with a delicious warm brown butter madeleine. A toasted marshmallow, sweet fig bites, crunchy woodsy brittle, and pu-erh cream were well-balanced accompaniments.
I enjoyed this meal moreso than my last visit to Alma, though it wasn’t without its ups-and-downs. This was far from a meat & potatoes meal; for the most part, proteins didn’t play a central role and I appreciated Taymor’s strong emphasis on his produce. I’m very interested to see how the food at Alma evolves, especially with so much new-found attention.
We had nearly identical meals! What do YOU think the best new restaurant is America is? I vote Bestia!
Haha we did! As for best restaurant, I haven’t tried nearly enough but I expect Saison would be my choice, aside from costs. Bestia for sure though from what I’ve tried in the sub-$300 realm!