The opening of Alta Adams has been generating some noticeable buzz in the mainstream press due to Chef-Owner Daniel Patterson’s involvement. This is the same Chef Patterson of Michelin 3 Star COI fame, and the same Chef Patterson who was involved with our local Chef Roy Choi in opening up the “healthier fast food” option of Locol in Watts.
With the disappointing experience at COI earlier this year (to be fair, Chef Patterson is no longer actually cooking in the kitchen, but it was still a letdown), that wasn’t the draw for us. It was the Soul Food menu and the fact that Chef Daniel Patterson was teaming up with a local Watts & So Cal native, Chef Keith Corbin, who started at Locol as a Line Cook and worked his way up, learning from Chef Patterson and was now Chef de Cuisine, helming this brand new restaurant Alta Adams.
In a way, despite the negative press surrounding parts of Locol and the closing and the reaction of Chef Roy Choi to the naysayers, Chef Corbin is probably one of the greatest success stories and living proof that something about Locol succeeded. Here he is, now running this brand-new restaurant.
Walking into the restaurant, it’s a warm, cozy spot. Clean, simple, but not stuffy.
The backyard patio area was adorable.
At night, it turns romantic.
We see Chef Daniel Patterson and Chef Keith Corbin on the line:
Chef Corbin explains that he wanted to make Soul Food. And for him, “Soul Food is comfort food.” But he wanted to also introduce more of California into it, creating what he called “California Soul.”
Glancing over the menu, it is indeed a checklist of things that make you want to curl up on a couch, eat happily while enjoying the company of loved ones, friends or just bing watching your favorite TV shows.
Cornbread with Honey Butter:
Made in-house, the Corn Bread arrives at room temperature, which is disappointing. However, taking a bite, it is fragrant, lightly sweet and bright. Crumbly and luscious sweet from the Honey Butter. If they served this warmed up, it would be amazing, but even as is, this is enjoyable and comfort food.
Black Eye Pea Fritters (Herb Dipping Sauce):
Arriving piping hot, right out of the fryer, these were delicious! Crispy-crunchy, earthy, nicely seasoned and spiced and not too salty. The Herb Dipping Sauce gave it a nice creamy edge. Excellent and a must-order!
Through the Grapevine (Vodka, Concord Grape, Tarragon, Burma Tonic):
This was just OK. Not bad, but something about the combination of Concord Grape Juice and Tarragon and Burma Tonic made this taste like artificial sweet cough syrup of some sort. It was otherwise balanced quite nicely.
Candied Yam Gratin (Spiced Cashews):
Now this is serious Soul Food elevated. But not like some other recent notorious chef who wants to teach us about another cuisine. With the Candied Yam Gratin, it tastes like some of the best Candied Yams you’ve ever had, but seared to have a slight caramelization (which is even more delightful), with Brown Butter and a bit of nuttiness from Spiced Cashews.
Nothing about this dish screams “tweezer food” or “trying to be fancy.” It truly has Comfort Food Soul to it, and I couldn’t stop smiling eating this dish. Highlight of the Evening! (@TheCookie @PorkyBelly @J_L @Bookwich )
Mac & Cheese:
Visually, this does look a little foreign and maybe trying to be fancy, but taking a bite: This is amazing, ultra creamy tender, balanced delicious Macaroni & Cheese! It is buttery and creamy and cheesy, and Chef Corbin tops this Mac & Cheese with an aerated Cheese & Cream mixture that gives it an incredible lightness, but still retains a great creaminess. Delicious! (Mac & Cheese lovers take notice, @Dommy)
Pigs Foot & Vegetable Salad:
Beautifully composed Salad: This is really vibrant, so fresh, refreshing California Produce at its finest. I loved the combination of Frisee and Radicchio strips and Herbs. But what made it even better was the Pigs Foot, deboned, and served in strips like Prosciutto or finer cuts of meat. Here, Chef Corbin presents comforting Soul Food with Pigs Foot in the same manner and it works beautifully.
Kale, Avocado & Grapefruit Salad, Ginger Dressing:
Their Kale Salad was less successful: Still very fresh and bright, and the I love the heartier, leafier, heftier Kale and additional greens, but the Ginger Dressing was too piquant. However, eating a bite of the Grapefruit + some Kale + Avocado in 1 bite? Delicious. But those perfectly matched bites weren’t consistent enough unless you were really careful and focusing on getting a bite of each, every time.
Skillet Fried Chicken:
When I saw the words “Fried Chicken” it was a must try. When it arrived, it looked rather dark, which raised some alarm bells.
The first bite resulted in a slight crunch (and the Fried Chicken was consistently that crunchy throughout - which was great). Breaking into the meat, it was moist, well seasoned all the way to the bone, and just a very solid rendition.
However, it was served warm only (not piping hot out of the fryer), so it felt like the Fried Chicken wasn’t fresh battered and fried to order. This was probably to save time, but I’d rather wait 20 minutes for this dish (and the servers just make sure to enter it early enough) than eat pre-cooked Fried Chicken that was ready faster. Howlin’ Ray’s this was not.
Still it was good, and already in the Top 10 for Fried Chicken based on this 1st visit. If they can improve on the Fried Chicken and fry it fresh to order, it would be outstanding.
Collard Greens (Vinegar, Smoked Oil):
This was a beautiful, surprising presentation on Collard Greens: Taking the whole Collard Green leaf, and instead of chopping it up, it’s thrown on the grill, charred and cooked to a tender consistency. Breaking inside, you get Chopped Collard Greens as well. Smoky, piquant and tasty.
Rice & Beans:
Another classic Soul Food dish, Chef Corbin’s Red Beans & Rice are delicious! Lightly spicy, beautifully stewed, well seasoned but not too salty (like far too many Soul Food places unfortunately), over Multi-Grain Rice, this was delicious, healthy but not tasting like you were at some overly health-conscious restaurant. Loved this.
Oxtails & Rice:
The simply named Oxtails & Rice is simply the star of the menu: Slow, lovingly stewed Oxtails, cooked down to a fork tender consistency bathed in a umami-rich, balanced Gravy (that Chef Corbin reveals uses a bit of Miso and Soy Sauce, but you wouldn’t be able to taste it), over perfectly cooked, plump Rice.
Just look at the morsels of Stewed Oxtail meat in this pic! This was SO GOOD and Highlight of the Evening x 2!
Do not miss this dish!
Housemade by Chef Corbin himself(!), this is just another great comfort food dish: This moist Yellow Cake reminded me of the best Pound Cake (denser in a good way), The Buttercream wasn’t too sweet, and fragrant Coconut that give this a tropical, fresh flavor.
Service was a bit haphazard and all over the board, but it’s their Grand Opening and you could see the staff still learning. Prices range from $3 - $28 (for the Hangar Steak (which was pretty big)). Oh and one other strange thing: When the bill arrived all you could see was:
There were no additional ridiculous line items for Healthy Surcharge, Service Charge, Dual Tip Lines or other craziness. Just straight up prices and a tip line. Refreshing.
Alta Adams feels like what Local was trying to be in some ways: Making a restaurant for the community that presented food that the local neighborhood could appreciate and want to eat, better executed and with local staff employed. At Alta Adams, there is no hipster menu that’s being forced on anyone. This is Chef Keith Corbin (a “graduate” of Locol Watts, from Line Cook to Chef de Cuisine now at Alta Adams) cooking up Soul Food he loves and that he believes the locals would love as well.
And he’s succeeded: I adore Soul Food and Comfort Food of all types. Here at Alta Adams, the Black Eye Peas Fritters, Mac & Cheese are a delight and better executed than most places I’ve tried recently. The Pigs Foot & Vegetable Salad is at once light, refreshing, healthy, but also with delicious cooked down Pigs Foot presented like Charcuterie slices.
The Candied Yam Gratin will have you smiling perpetually as you eat the dish.
Their Skillet Fried Chicken could use some improvements, and their Kale Salad might be a touch too tart, but when you take a bite of the long-stewed, luscious, tender Stewed Oxtail & Rice? Pure JOY and the essence of Comfort Food done right.
THIS is what you go out to eat for. And it truly feels like California Soul.
5359 W Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016
Tel: (323) 571-4999