This week, our restaurant review considers Allumette in Echo Park, the new spot from young chef Miles Thompson. To get the full rundown on this somewhat astonishing restaurant you should read the full review. Or turn the page for a synopsis.
Food: Thompson, who started on his own as a pop-up called The Vagrancy Project, is cooking some of the most interesting, highly conceptual food around. At its best it is complex, cerebral and delicious. From a plate of turnips and brown rice -- actually vinegar-roasted turnips, grilled asparagus and brown rice mixed with kohlrabi, black sugar, lime juice and black vanilla bean paste, along with blackberries and an oil made from burnt star anise and pumpkin seeds -- to a teeny midcourse of marinated fairly squid, much of what Thompson is putting out is nothing short of astonishing. There are some missteps, a few of them quite major, but this is the flavor of an incredibly talented young chef finding his footing.
Drinks: Allumette has a short but well-selected wine list, which leans heavily towards France but also includes quirky finds from Eastern Europe and the new world. But the real fun here is in the very good cocktail program, with drinks like "You Only Live Twice," a refreshing concoction made from sake, gin, velvet falernum, tangerine, lime and Szechuan peppercorns.
Space: Allumette is an odd brown box of a restaurant, not uncomfortable or unattractive but not special in any way. The bar is inviting, and the regular seating is fine.
Service: Varied. Most servers here are gracious and knowledgeable, and all of them seem genuinely excited about the food and drinks. There's the occasional flub (it does not feel welcoming to be finishing your dinner with servers putting tables up on chairs around you), but with owners hanging out and chatting it all feels very convivial.
Takeaway: 3 stars (very good). At its best, Allumette is serving some of the most exciting food in town. It's a work in progress, and it's still possible to get a puzzling meal here. But it's also possible to get a meal that, from beginning to end, is startling in its inventiveness and quality.