Critics’ choice: Three visions of ‘American cuisine’

Son of a Gun; The Dutch; Lincoln

Son of a Gun

Los Angeles

The land of starlets and struggling screenwriters suddenly has its own “kick-ass Florida fish house,” said Jonathan Gold in LA Weekly. Opened six months ago, Son of a Gun at first seemed a nautical variation on its creators’ debut operation, the popular small-plates emporium Animal. But Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo have already kicked aside the menu on which they featured such wee niceties as a single prawn or sliced geoduck “meted out in quarter-grams, like cocaine.” This summer, the scene is all scraggly beards, rusted fishing gear, and beer served in cans, while the kitchen has set its compass on a new bearing: “good ol’ boy cooking more notable for its exuberance than for its exquisiteness.” That’s not meant as a put-down. Hollywood seems to have needed a place where you can pull up a stool at a communal table and dig into a pile of king-crab meat, fried catfish fillets, and Tabasco-flavored rice. Hints of Shook and Dotolo’s meticulous side survive in the relatively delicate alligator schnitzel. Or maybe the co-authors of Two Dudes, One Pan are just helping their customers save room for the nectarine-and-berry pie. 8370 W. 3rd St., (323) 782-9033

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The Dutch

New York

For a certain set of Manhattanites, this chic new SoHo bistro has become “the song of the summer,” said Sam Sifton in The New York Times. Set on a leafy corner and inhabited nightly by people you may recognize from television, magazines, or just their general association with “the whole Gen X-Y food-crazy elite,” it is “where you want to be right now”—full stop. The setting is part of it: three airy rooms with coffered ceilings, beautiful lighting, and that electric clientele. But such folks usually materialize only at places where the food hits a high mark, and chef Andrew Carmellini has surpassed it. Carmellini calls his menu American, but the term here seems to simply mean the best “casual-restaurant food” that a New Yorker could hope for. There’s a nod to the South in a “marvelous” appetizer of fried green tomatoes and Carolina shrimp with a fiery pepper sauce. There’s a touch of Little Italy in the smoked-ricotta ravioli and a hint of the barrio in the “meltingly delicious” lamb-neck mole. If this food isn’t American, neither is celebrity watching. 131 Sullivan St., (212) 677-6200


Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s 16th president isn’t just the namesake of Alan Popovsky’s latest venture, said Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post. This playful and frequently loud downtown newcomer features a floor paved with pennies, a wall handsomely adorned with the backlit text of the Emancipation Proclamation, and an appetizer menu inspired by Civil War–era soldiers’ grub. Some of the patriotic stuff works well. Juicy duck sausage in a crisp wrap of puff pastry proves to be “a tasty turn” on pigs in a blanket. And a cocktail called Lady Lincoln is a refreshing blend of gin, prosecco, elder-flower liqueur, and lavender. But those 1860s-style appetizers? Because Civil War soldiers ate from glass jars, chefs Demetrio Zavala and Karen Nicolas offer three ways for Lincoln diners to do the same. Let’s just say this: When you’re digging into a jar of white beans, tomato jam, and watercress pesto, “the idea is more interesting” than the taste. 1110 Vermont Ave. NW, (202) 386-9200

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