Within a certain community, this is an action of note: The New York Times has started reviewing restaurants outside of New York.
The first such review was published today, and unsurprisingly it features a Los Angeles (County) restaurant: Cassia, the Vietnamese-French restaurant in Santa Monica, started by a bevy of beloved L.A. restaurateurs, including Bryant and Kim Ng and Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb.
There's an elevated level of difficulty in writing a review of an element of culture one doesn't live in every day. Pete Wells, the New York Times restaurant critic, probably gets that, and drops some hints in the review to the effect that he's working on understanding L.A. as a whole. It works to some extent: The second-to-last paragraph compares Cassia with six other restaurants and a restaurant group — but they're all entities well-known in the worldwide food community. On the third hand, Wells makes reference to L.A. as “the easternmost city in Asia,” which is an excellent sign that he gets where this town's eaters are coming from.
Yes, we just reviewed a review.
Wells bestowed three stars upon Cassia. Our own restaurant critic, Besha Rodell, gave it four stars. Funnily enough, those star ratings mean the same thing: Both are the “excellent” category at their respective publications.
There is reason to believe Wells will be making relatively frequent forays to Los Angeles. The New York Times has historically had a difficult time wrapping its institutional head around L.A.; working under the assumption that Wells knows that, the city can look forward to adding his voice to the mix. And feel swaddled and smug in the knowledge that he made L.A. his first non–New York destination.