Le Comptoir: 99 Essential Restaurants 2011

Le Comptoir is every chef's dream restaurant: a few counter seats, a single menu each night, and the intimacy of a sushi bar — although it is a pop-up, huddled around the open kitchen of the sprawling restaurant Tiara. An armful of fresh herbs pokes from containers on the service counter, and the customers sit close enough to chat with the chef, ex-Marche auteur Gary Menes, about the provenance of the enormous squash, the odd growing season in Paso Robles or the homegrown starter he uses to make the huge blackened loaves. Menus are a formality — you will eat what he has prepared. Each dish seems to require at least a half-dozen preparations, and when the food is being cooked a few inches from your stool, you become aware of every one of them: the buds of curried cauliflower served with padron peppers, ripe persimmons and a molten spoonful of grits; or the whey-poached chicken breast with grapes, pickled shallots and crunchy sheets of its own fried skin. The menu was different yesterday, and it will have changed by tomorrow — except, perhaps, for the egg, plucked warm from a backyard hen that morning, sizzled crisp on superheated iron. In a way, this is pop-up dining at its best: the spontaneity, the illusion that, like Coltrane on the restaurant's stereo, Menes is making it up as he goes along. 127 E. Ninth St., dwntwn. (424) 571-3536, facebook.com/pages/Le-Comptoir-at-Tiara-Cafe/262315170471537?sk=info. Reserve at lecomptoirla@gmail.com. Thurs.-Sat., 6 p.m., 8 p.m. & 10 p.m. seatings, at least through December. Wine. Street parking. AE, MC, V. California.

99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011:

Jonathan Gold's Introduction
Anne Fishbein's Photos
The Google Map

The List:


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