Thursday, May 19, 2011

FOOD REVIEW: Lazy Ox Canteen (Downtown Los Angeles)

exterior of The Lazy Ox Canteen
shell-on roasted fava beans, $5
yellow tail crudo w/ scallion, grapefruit & papaya salad, $14
8 oz. lazy ox burger with cantal cheese & green peppercorn mustard, $14
seared fijian albacore with lentils, pickled apple, oregano & bacon, $18
chocolate pate, $8
butterscotch pudding, $8
Recently, MadProfessah and The Other Half finally made it back to Lazy Ox Canteen, a hot restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. We went for the first time following the Los Angeles Times food reviewer S. Irene Virbila's now-famous rave review:
Lazy Ox Canteen is poised to become the restaurant of the moment. Partners Michael Cardenas and Centeno have made all the right moves. The place has an edgy energy, a cozy, casual interior with huge bare filament bulbs swaying from the ceiling and wood-clad walls, a seriously great wait staff and a wildly interesting crowd. Not to mention Centeno's deliriously inventive cooking, all at affordable prices.

I'm torn. I'd like to keep the place an insider's secret. I like being able to decide, that night, to head over to San Pedro Street for dinner and being able to get in. That's about to change. In the future, reservations are probably going to need to be made well in advance, I'm sorry to say.
We returned again this year on the same day (a birthday) and although the amazing fried chicken was not available (it typically sells out in the first hour of dinner service),we still had a stunning meal.

We started with the shell-on roasted fava beans and the yellow tail crudo with scallions, grapefruit & papaya salad. I was not happy with the fava beans. The shells were very tough and the flavor of the fava beans themselves is an acquired taste. The yellowtail salad looked more impressive than it tasted, because for $14 there should have been at least twice or thrice as much raw yellowtail. The salad looked great and was quite crunchy and piquant. But overall, it felt like a game of hide and seek looking for the crudo.

 The next item was the seared fijian albacore with lentils, pickled apple, oregano & bacon ($18). This is an incredible dish with the only bad thing that one can say about it is that there's not enough of it. It is actually an ample serving of absolutely delicious very rare albacore tuna combined with a sweet, crunchy, savory and salty mix. A must-order, in my book.

The pièce de résistance, however, was the $14 Lazy Ox cheese burger, which was produced with square cut fries and a green peppercorn mustard. The burger was cooked to perfection, exceptionally juicy with just a hint of pinkness and bursting with flavor. The fresh toppings of greens, tomato and melted cheese were kept attached to the burger through the use of a large wooden toothpick, maintaining a breathtakingly balanced burger. At first bite, both of us said "Wow! That's a good burger." Then you bite into the fries which remain quite hot for an astonishingly long time, and are amazed at how delightfully crunchy they are. The only downside of the Lazy Oxy burger and fries is the inclusion of the green peppercorn mustard. I have a strong belief tat the optimal condiment for fries is a simple ketchup and the green peppercorn mustard, although interestingly spicy, is a bit too fancy and fussy.

But, wait, there's more! For dessert we ordered the butterscotch pudding and the chocolate pâté, both of which were absolutely amazing. It's hard to choose between the two, but as a moist, very chocolatey dessert their "chocolate pate" was excellent, especially at $8.

I hope that it doesn't take another year before I return to Lazy Ox Canteen, and that they will still have these desserts on the menu, as well as the albacore and the signature burger. The service was attentive and the prices generally reasonable. Although the dining room itself is very loud when the place gets packed, a meal at Lazy Ox Canteen is one you will remember with pleasure for a long time afterwards.

Visit: April 26, 2011 (and April 26, 2010).

FOOD: A+. 

OVERALL: A (3.917/4.0). 

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