For years the Lazy Ox has been the place to eat in Downtown Los Angeles. But with all the yapping about their superb dashi marinated yellow tail (boring) and fried pig ear (gross) or pork belly sandwich (sounds like David Chang…sleeping) I wasn’t exactly running to their Little Tokyo location. While the vegetable dishes are hardly innovative, there are solid options and a few truely outstanding bites between the pork and pork and pork.
With speckled flaky char under olive oil sheen, the Grilled Asparagus is almost perfect! Tender and crisp with a sweet finish accentuated by the earthiness of shaved sharp sheep manchego cheee, rich romesco & espelette. The small sprinkle of espelette pepper lends a huge amount of heat, while the tiny chives do nothing but sit around and look pretty. So why ‘almost perfect’? $9 for six half spears of asparagus?! Please….
Sodden with sweet juices,the Fig and Beet Salad lazes across the plate. A few globs of creamy yogurt dressing and a splash of basaltic finishes it off. It would be a pedestrian salad if not for the crisp pita chip hiding beneath the mound of fleshy morsels. As for the ‘greens’… am I the only one who thinks micro greens taste like nothing?
Japanese yuzu kosho is one of my favorite condiments. Ever. It adds an air of bitter citrus to everything it touches, without killing the palate like lemon or lime. Paired with cactus-just-after-a-summer-rain-plump Sweet Sugar Snap Peas and the delicate crunch of quinoa ($8) this is a spectacular dish of understated elegance.
The most forgettable dish of the meal was the most exciting sounding: Bellwether Farms Ricotta Fritters with saba & saffron honey ($7). Saba is complicated to explain… let’s call it fancy grape syrup (or you can read about it here). Despite these rich ingredients, the fritters managed to remain bland and boring.
Caramelized Cauliflower with pine nuts, chili & mint ($7) was an obvious must. As a vegetable, cauliflower is nearly devoid of its own flavor (which is why it pairs so well with cheese!). But when caramelized a rich tone takes over the floret. Nutty and tender—but not sugary at all—the mint and chili adds the slightest hint of spice and sweetness.
The unquestionable star of the meal was the Anson Mills Polenta with creamed mushrooms & curry ($11). So rich and creamy, it was like eating cheese fondue without the gut killing fatness of dairy. Sheer amazingness. Like scrape the bowl with your finders delicious. I didn’t taste “curry” of any varietal, but it didn’t matter, it would only muddle the perfect polenta.
With the small portions, some people accuse the Laxy Ox of monetize veggie pedigrees, a new undercurrent of the farm-to-table movement’s backlash. But I side with the chefs in this battle. When you’re eating predominating vegetable dishes, it’s absolutely worth it to play a little more for farmer’s market driven ingredients. But my absolute favorite criticism of the Lazy Ox comes from this Yelp review:
“Everything else on the lunch menu is an overpriced pseudo-vegetarian side dish containing ingredients so exotic so as to be ridiculous sounding.
I’m sorry, but I really don’t need my dish adorned with “Jerusalem artichokes,” whatever the hell those are. The standard Mexican or Peruvian ones are just fine by me.”
Ha! Ha! Hahahahahahahaha!!!
If you don’t know the difference between Jerusalem artichokes and standard artichokes, then yeah, the Lazy Ox isn’t the place for you.
Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012