What’s hot in downtown Los Angeles right now? Per the accolades and the press, Spice Table, along with Baco Mercat, seems to be rocking everyone’s socks. Not here. I will not pretend to enjoy $8 chicken skewers, nor fall for saucy gorditas.
Blue Cow Kitchen is where it’s at. And before accusations of “Mendocino whore” are thrown, know this: I’ve walked out of Mendocino as often as I’ve eaten Mendocinos. Which is to say: once. Not everyone gets hooked on $10 sammies, not everyone works west of 405. However, a confited, then grilled, duck wings in some faux-Japaneses-Brazilian BBQ (officially “aji amarillo”) sauce (seen to the left below), with a sesame ginger tzatziki is rather remarkable. Let’s count its winning ways. A: it’s not chicken. B: there are bones involved. C: it’s evocative of Cantonese style braised poultry, but also not at all alike. This dish is so absolutely genius, and probably offends the white masses in so many ways, that it alone makes Blue Cow Kitchen currently the most interesting restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. At this space formerly-known-as-Casa, there are no butchered Malaysian dishes masked by sexy incandescent lanterns, there are no disingenuous gringofied renditions of Pan-Mexican flour tacos first formulated by Taco Bell. The flavors are all-American, as long as America is somewhere with ethnic and culinary diversity. Blue Cow is LA’s LA restaurant — there’s merguez for the African-French, kefta for the Lebanesee, Cuban sandwich, banh mi, torta, ooey gooey cake for the St. Louisians (seen to the right below), brick chicken for Italians, steak frites for the Francophile, ad infinitum.
Everything is tasty, as long as you hold tight to that suspension of disbelief. There’s no authenticity here whatsoever, nor are they striving for that realness. Can it be more LA? Of course there’s a kale/beet salad, there’s tandooried turkey, and the bacon cheese burger is a whopping $14+$+1=$16 dollars. It does not come with fries. This menu could’ve easily been everyone’s nightmare (every single farmer is named! SMH), but the whimsical “Sweet & Salty” (spicy/sour pecans/walnuts/almonds tossed into caramel corn) arrives, a swig of Allgash Curieux is taken, and suddenly the labeling of the chicken salad as “Vietnamese” is no longer offensive.
The restaurant is rather inaccessible for those who are not CPAs, bankers, or lawyers; the parking is difficult; the prices border expensive — $8 for glorified celery/carrot sticks, $7 for 2 bites of fried chicken sliders (seen top-left below)). There is no curb presence and it’s not open on Sunday. Even with all those deterrents, this has been the most visited DTLA so far in 2012. Where else in LA are there house made merguez, horseradish ketchup AND cola? The dashi vinaigrette blistered green beans are similar to the brilliant bean dish found at MB Post. The crisped/grilled brassicas were smokey, sour, tasty, but probably unfit for George Bush. Select the decadent, but not fatty, butternut squash soup over the banal baked/fried potato wedges (again, exact replica of MB Post!?). The “Veggies to Start” menu subsection is perfect for that Meatless Monday, if one’s into that sorta of false dieting.
Now, can someone go prod the pastry chef with a branding iron? Where’s the rest of the dessert menu y’all promised since grand opening? And, really, fixtures quoting Orangette over Calvin Trillin or Fuchsia Dunlop? A bit gross, more than a bit witless.