|housemade bread with cultured butter; $5|
|seaweed & tofu beignets with yuzu kosho and lime; $9|
|broccoli with wild & cultivated mushrooms; $16|
|chicken liver toast, date jam, frisee; $9|
|boulder valley new york, celery root, smoked potato; chanterelle; $30|
|buttermilk cake, blood orange, candied fennel; $9|
|rose geranium-white chocolate semifreddo, charred strawberry; $9|
Last time I was back in Los Angeles (after driving back from seeing Roger Federer play live for the first time at the 2013 BNP Paribas Open) I had dinner with an old friend at a hot new restaurant in downtown Los Angeles just a few blocks from "L.A. Live" and the Staples Center called Alma.
The buzz about improvements in downtown Los Angeles is starting to increase at an increasing rate (or as mathematicians woud say, the second derivative is positive!) and Alma is just one more example of that.
My friend sold his house in Echo Park last year and bought a condo in the classic Eastern Columbia building which is walking distance from the restaurant, so he is something of a regular there, since he was one of their very first customers when the restaurant opened in sumer 2012.
Happily, when I visited Alma I didn't make the same mistake I made the first time I went to Fiola in Washington, DC. I loved the food at Fiola but didn't have a copy of the menu so I could not be specific about what I ate in my review afterwards. For Alma I was more careful and retained a copy of the menu (which is printed on regular lined yellow sheets of notepad paper).
At his suggestion we started with the homemade bread with butter and "fancy fish cakes" (the menu calls them "seaweed & tofu beignets with yuzu kosho and lime; $9" but I like my name better!) I'm not a fan of tofu (or seaweed, for that matter) but they were relatively tasty, although most definitely not my favorite thing I ate that night.
We split everything and decided to order several of the plates, which are relatively small and vary in price from $9 to $31. The order we ate them are pictured above. My favorite items, in increasing order were: the "fancy fish cakes," then the white chocolate with strawberry dessert, the new york steak with potato and chanterelles, the broccoli with mushrooms, the bread and butter, the buttermilk cake and the chicken liver toast. The last three (or four) were absolutely outstanding, with the chicken liver toast being a "must-have." Actually I would include the bread and butter in that list even if you are thinking "$5 for bread and butter?", trust me it is worth it. I suspect that Alma changes their menu pretty rapidly so I doubt the desserts would be the same, but if you see buttermilk cake on the menu, definitely order it. The broccoli was fantastic, but I think it is severely overpriced at $16.
Alma prides itself on supporting sustainable food production and only uses ingredients that are in season. Note that even though I ate "dead animal" (i.e. meat) during my meal, more than half of the menu items on the day I went were vegetarian (meatless). The interior of the dining area is quite large for the limited number of tables inside (less than 12 I think) and it has very high (at least 20 feet ceilings) which can lead to an almost boisterous atmosphere when the place fills up, which it basically does every night. The service is impeccable. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Overall, Alma is an amazing find (and accomplishment); yet another example of the burgeoning foodie landscape in downtown Los Angeles, and a place I hope to enjoy many times in the future.
Location: 952 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Visit: March 13, 2013.