Ari Taymor’s Alma, reeling from an abundance of food media hype, and pernicious legal battles finds itself situated in a diner, of all places, even if it is a diner wedged ironically into the side of the ritzy, polished Standard hotel on the Sunset Strip.
The Sunset Strip is not known for great dining, although it is known for expensive dining; this fact is hilariously underscored by the fact that the mediocre little gems caesar salad on the regular Standard Diner menu is actually more expensive than the exquisitely composed little gems salad on Alma’s pop-up menu.
Anyway, if you get past the irony, the atmosphere, and the miserable (or expensive, rather) parking then you will find that Alma’s cooking is still some of the best in the city.
Snacks are mostly quite low-priced, and fairly large in portion.
Chickpea Fries are hearty, and crisp, and deliver the hefty essence of chickpea in spades. Simple and unfussy.
Seaweed and Tofu Beignets are perhaps a bit chewier than some would imagine a beignet being, but they are irresistably zippy with umami and salt. Really quite addictive in a strange way.
One of the “signatures” at Alma is the english muffins with uni, burrata and caviar. Spectacular little bites. The pillowy, yet firm and yeasty muffins add just the right sort of balance to the double creaminess of the uni and burrata, and the burst of the caviar places just a hint of salt where it is needed. Very thoughtful, addictive bites. My one wonder is, “why three and not four? Where is the other half of the second english muffiin?? Do they just toss it out?”
Little Gems. Alma has always been a superstar salad desintation and this did not disappoint. Sadly, they cannot get the greens from their own garden on the rooftop anymore, but the little gems were very well sourced, and so fresh and delightful. The dressing was light, a bit smokey, a bit vinegary, and insanely addictive. Bits of pickled onion and housemade croutins just made it even more gorgeous. One really ought to order salad at every visit to Alma.
Possibly the best dish was the new york steak with sunchokes though. Some of the most beautifully cooked steak I’ve ever experienced, done in the Heston Blumenthal method of continuous flipping, producing an incredible outer crust with an interior that is cooked, yet quite red throughout. But the perfectly grilled sunchokes alongside the cuts of steak were also glorious in their toothsome savoriness and vegetable root bliss. However, the brown butter bearnaise with vinegar was positively sublime, one of the best sauces I have eever had the pleasure of tasting. Utterly addictive in every way imaginable. Combining richness, umami, acidity, and even tanginess. Wow. The dish is truly flooring, just when you thought NY strip was boring…
I finished with a Fernet and Parsnip Sundae, on the house because their hours were stated at 6-11 on their website, I showed up at 10 to them being closed. Their actual hours are 6-10 most nights, to 11 on Fri-Sat. I thought it was very nice of them to serve me anyway, and give me a free sundae, you can hardly find better service anywhere!
The sundae itself is fantastic. Parsnips form the base of it, and add a vegetal quality as well as a kind of crunchiness to the dessert, but it is not overpowering. The fernet is in the caramel, and sort of serves only to add a whiff of herbaceousness that mainly lightens the effect of the caramel. The thick cream is luscious and utterly wonderful. Exaclty the kind of cleansing, yet soulful desser that one would want after almost any meal in my opinion.
Alma is, or remains, one of the best places to eat food in LA. Utterly addicting flavors are situated within its immensly thoughtful and exceptionally talented cooking. Plus, they are big fans of Donkey & Goat winery, and they generously pour the stuff, which matches absolutely exquistely with the food.
Do yourself a favor and brave the terrors of the Sunset Strip to dine here. Now.