The Writer, the Cook, His Wife and Her Fans
What happens when you put a Bulgarian animator, Filipina screenwriter, two Viets working in fashion journalism and landscape design and an appellate lawyer behind a giant curtain printed with bold red flowers? Lively converstion, new friendships and a shared love for ice cream sundaes thickened with hot fudge. Eileen, Alex and I struck up a conversation with our neighbors at Lou, a tapas and wine bar that opened in March next to a laundromat in one of those nondescript strip malls dotted all over Southern California. The Scandinavian-style curtain was an effective divide between the calm oasis of modern cooking and design and grimy urban life that can darken your mood and flip-flop-clad feet. The chef also used dividers for a deconstructed salad of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and red beets. I love beets, so I scooped up those roasted root vegetables with glee. Alex was impressed how a great olive oil can fancy up simple cherry tomatoes.
I wondered if geometry was the chef's favorite class in school. We nibbled on polygon-shaped pate and charcuterie circles aligned in a straight strip, and sipped on prosecco bubbling in elliptical flutes. We skipped the pig candy because Eileen said her friend -- and my future bandmate! -- Colette judged Lou's rendition to be sub-par to her own bacon candy.
But the highlight of the evening -- the hot fudge sundae -- was wild and unruly, like the red flowers bursting from the stiff curtain stretching the entire length of the restaurant's glass front. Considering that it was L.A., it was inevitable that conversation turned to cinema, or at least the connection between the restaurant and Manohla Dargis, the co-chief film critic for The New York Times. Though Dargis can be divisive (you love her or you hate her), I like the way she mixes pop culture, film theory and a sharp wit in her articles. Like the dandlelion greens and arugula in the flank steak salad we had, her writing has bite. I don't agree with everything she says and her essays don't make me rush to or stay away from a film as the works of A.O. Scott (the Gray Lady's other co-chief film critic), Anthony Lane (the British-born critic at The New Yorker) and Joe Morgenstern (the Pulitzer Prize-winning film dude at The Wall Street Journal) do. Word on the street is that Dargis' husband runs Lou. Since reporters are also known as being cranky consumers, I didn't care about the restaurant's pedigree as long as the food was good and the service was quick, efficient and friendly. I was not disappointed.