La Boulangerie par Jean Luc Pelé

104 boulevard Sadi Carnot06110 Le Cannet, France • +33 4 93 45 36 32 • www.jeanlucpele.com/fr/

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Located on a tiny, pedestrian-only rue, sits this bakery/grab-and-go café with a few tables outside and pretty decent looking pre-prepared food. For example, the roasted veggie sandwich on a long narrow focaccia roll filled with peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and squash, dressed with a pesto spread looked mighty tasty from the other side of that glass case. But after taking a bite, I was quickly reminded that even in France, pre-prepared food that’s been sitting around in a case is seldom life-changing. So don’t be Francophooled.

Also, along with the sandwich, I tried a cup of their avocado gazpacho, which sounded and looked very intriguing. Sadly, the flavor of avocado was quite absent, or taste in general, for that matter. Perhaps the sweets are better.

All in all, it’s not terrible, but why settle when you can just head to Cocoon around the corner- it’s less than a two minute walk and easily two to three knives better. Plus the name is a lot shorter and easier to pronounce.

2 teeth

Mari Vanna

41 E 20th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 777-1955marivanna.ru/ny

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The name alone brings a smile to my face because it sounds a lot like marijuana. The other smile inducer is the décor, dressed like a movie set plucked right out of the 1920’s in post World War I Russia. From the chairs to the plates to the distressed walls and the copper kettle sink in the bathroom, you feel as if you’ve actually just done the Time Warp again.

It’s just a jump to the left. And then a step to the right. Sorry. Getting very sidetracked in a Rocky Horror kinda way. So back on topic, the décor somehow comes off authentic and not as gimmick, partly because it’s very well done and partly because the employees are actually Russian and I want to believe they wouldn’t dare work at a place that turned their culture into a caricature.

The food is also pretty authentic, for better or for worse, because it’s not exactly the most decadent cuisine, most dishes being born out of a need to pack on the pounds to keep warm, or out of poverty-stricken means to survive. This is excluding the caviar, of course.

Starting with the bread, it is served with a customary beet and green onion, along with coarse sea salt, which you are supposed to drag the root veggies through before eating. I took a pass and opted for the bread, because if it’s one thing Russians do well, it’s pain (2 points for the double entendre).

For starters we went with another classic, the Olivier Salad, made with roasted vegetables, bologna and mayonnaise. It was just okay, tasting more or less like potato salad, to be honest. This was then followed by the pickled herring, which was also a bit underwhelming, to be honest. I’ve had much better at some of the Kosher Delis in the city, not to mention the Romanian ones.

But the best starter- no, the best dish in totality, was by far the Borsh. So rich and hearty, the beets were like meat, and the broth like the sweet blood of Sookie Stackhouse. In other words, it’s most definitely an Ultimate.

On the other end of the spectrum, the most disappointing dish of all was the much touted Stroganoff, only offered as chicken instead of beef, which made the dish horribly bland, the chicken, rice and sauce all tasting like shades of the same. Not sure what the Yelpers are thinking on this one, but this strogan was off. So off, in fact, that I actually preferred the meat stuffed dumplings with sour cream. Nothing spectacular, but they reminded me a little bit of the Turkish dish manti, granted they are probably closer to a perogie than anything, in a good way.

The tally is mixed on this one, as you can see, but I’m leaning to the low side because of the slow service and a waiter who swooned about everything on the menu as if it were made with gold. I hate that.

2 teeth

 

Olio

8075 W 3rd St. Ste 100 Los Angeles, CA 90048(323) 930-9490 pizzeriaolio.com

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Food markets such as the Grand Central Food Market seem to be all the rage as of late, and I must admit I’ve taken the bait just as much as the next lemming. They’re sort of like a UN of cuisine. But giving myself a modicum of credit, I don’t love them simply because of the gimmick. They still have to live up to my high standards, regardless of the fact that they are housed in a cool, modern-day bazaar, with great energy. So no favoritism and no slack here. You either bring it or I pan it.

So as much as I would like to pan the pizza here, I found myself pleasantly surprised, especially in light of the fact that great LA pizza is about as rare as meeting a waiter who isn’t also an actor.

In descending order of greatness, at the top of the totem pole sits the spicy sausage and hot peppers. Obviously if you’re a vegetarian, vegan or just don’t like the thrill of fireworks in your mouth, then this pie should be a pass. But I have to say, it’s your loss, because it’s everything a pizza was meant to be and more.

But don’t lose hope just yet, because their roasted veggie pie (pictured) is also very good. Letting the quality of their ingredients shine, this pie is full of flavor and topped with a nice, peppery arugula. It’s a little more basic for sure, but it’s bangin’ basic. As is the mushroom and speck, which is a slight dial away from the usual mushroom and pepperoni. And a tasty dial it is.

The only pie that didn’t quite make the grade, however, was the old classic margherita. It was significantly lacking in flavor compared to the others, which perhaps points to a greater weakness in the sauce and the crust. After all, that’s the true measure of a pie and why LA pies never truly measures up to New York standards, because they always seem to have to cheat their way to the top via toppings. And to be fair, I honestly don’t mind it, because toppings have their place too (on top). But a strong foundation is everything and it’s also what’s holding LA back from ever being a real contender in the pizza game. That goes for you too Mozza.

3 teeth