I remember reading about the closing of Canele, a restaurant that had been mentioned quite a bit on various articles about quality eateries around L.A. We were actually a bit sad that we never made it out to Canele before it closed, despite me bookmarking it and reminding myself to try it one of these days.
In its place comes Journeyman, a new concept from Chef David Wilcox, whom our waitress said had worked at Gjelina prior to this.
During our 1st visit, we were greeted at the door, and then instructed on their unique setup: We should decide what to order, and then walk up to the front counter to order, before getting seated.
They had a variety of their dishes on open display, sort of like a Spanish Tapas bar.
Watermelon Agua Fresca:
Pretty tasty, without being overly sweet, bright and fruity.
Anchoiade Toast, Crushed Hazelnuts:
There are many hints and echoes of Chef Wilcox’s previous stint at Gjelina, the Toasts on the menu feel like something that would be at home at Gjusta or Gjelina. Served on their Housemade Bread, the Anchovies and Garlic are actually balanced with a bit of some Fig and the Crushed Hazelnuts. It’s tasty, but the Housemade Country Bread - while generally fluffy and tasty - lacks the depth and subtle tastiness of Gjusta.
Tomato Bread with Genoa Salami:
I really liked this: The farmers market Tomato Puree had an inherent sweetness and brightness, complemented by the porky fattiness from the Genoa Salami. Simple, but tasty.
Rabbit, Duck & Pork Terrine (Fermented Carrots, Khadrawy Dates, Whole Grain Mustard):
This was solid, but the combination of Rabbit, Duck and Pork gave this Terrine a chunkier texture, and it broke apart more easily. Pretty good flavors overall, but it felt like it could’ve been more cohesive.
Lola Rosa, Little Gem & Red Oak Lettuces (Lemon, Olive Oil, Aged Honey Vinegar):
This was a pretty simple Salad in some ways, but the beauty of it was the examination of the 3 types of Lettuces, all slightly different in taste and texture (but very subtle). The Aged Honey Vinegar was unique, and more pronounced in the Honey aroma, but it might’ve been a touch overdressed. A nice Salad overall.
Beef & Pork Albondigas (Garlic Tomato Sauce, Arugula Salsa Verde, Toast):
Meaty, a bit too dense and a bit too salty (just a bit), the Garlic Tomato Sauce with the Toasted Housemade Bread helped to balance the salinity and elevate it.
Duck Confit (Charred Green Onions, Green Plum Gastrique, Pistachio Butter):
I love Duck Confit in general, so I was happy to see this on the menu. The Duck was tender, and there were slight crisped edges, but it was too salty. In addition the Charred Green Onions were fragrant with a beautiful Green Onion scent that grows when it’s quick sauteed, but strangely they salted that component as well. So this just made it Salt + Salt, which was overkill since each component by itself was already too salty.
We found ourselves nearby the following week and we wanted to see how the kitchen was progressing…
Chickpea Salad (Squid, Mussels, Currants, Saffron):
This felt like something that could fit in Gjelina’s menu: It was earthy from the Chickpeas, a bit of briny with the Squid and Mussels. The touch of Saffron was nice. However the Currants while initially OK - adding a little sweetness - soon came back to haunt us the rest of the meal.
Grilled Okra (Peperonata, Fried Egg, Toasted Sesame):
The Grilled Okra itself was well cooked and tender, without being gummy / slimy. The Fried Egg, when the yolk was broken, added a nice bit of luxurious creaminess. However the Peperonata - a bit of tart sweetness - started to make this dish taste similar to the previous dish (with the sweetness).
Wild Albacore Conserva (Cucumber, Olivade, Charred Lemon Aioli):
The Wild Albacore Conserva itself was delicious! Tender, flaky, delicate, it was excellent on its own. However the “Cucumber” component turned out to be sweet pickled, and… once again, we had a dish with tart, sweet and savory. It started to wear on the palate at this point.
Brandywine, Celebrity & Cherry Tomatoes, Homemade Ricotta, Crisped Sage:
I love in-season, farmers market Heirloom Tomatoes, and these were of excellent quality, naturally sweet with a touch of tart, with the Homemade Ricotta added a bit nice creaminess. But notice the tasting notes… even though they are different ingredients, every single dish we had this visit was a bit of sweet, tart, savory.
Grilled Whole Daurade (Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Fennel, Charred Lime):
The Grilled Daurade Fish was perfectly cooked: Moist, tender, and a nice medium in doneness. There was a bit of smokiness from the grilled skin.
But then we took a bit of the accompaniments to the dish: The Roasted Cherry Tomatoes were naturally sweet with a little bit of tartness, the Charred Lime added more tartness, and the Fennel was pickled and sauteed(?), which added more sweet & tartness.
In the end, it just wore on our palates. We both felt like the flavors for every dish started blending together, as if the kitchen needed to move on from trying to always find a bit of tart, sweet, savory mantra for every dish.
One note on the pricing: The menu prices include Tax & Tip built in. There is no line item for “Tip” and they don’t accept additional tips.
In the end, Journeyman the restaurant hearkens back to the definition of the word:
- a person who has served an apprenticeship at a trade or handicraft and is certified to work at it assisting or under another person.
- any experienced, competent but routine worker or performer.
It’s a solid neighborhood restaurant with some skill and the prior stint at Gjelina seems to have influenced Chef Wilcox’s cooking, but it lacks the full spectrum of understanding of where to take flavors, with some oversalting issues and some over-reliance on hitting you with sweet, tart and salty all at the same time in many dishes.
I hope they continue to develop and improve their flavor spectrum and menu, at which point, it’ll develop into something worth driving out for.
3219 Glendale Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Tel: (323) 284-8879