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The return of weekly restaurant reviews

Andong-Style Soy-Braised Chicken special and banchan from Shiku in Grand Central Market.
Andong-style soy-braised chicken special and banchan from Shiku in Grand Central Market.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

If I were constructing my perfect meal from Shiku, the Grand Central Market stall run by Kwang Uh and Mina Park serving Korean comfort foods, I’d start with the Andong-jjimdak — Andong-style soy-braised chicken.

The dish is a special and not always available. Its braising sauce has a garlicky, gingery sweetness that permeates the chicken to a cellular level and plays up the varying degrees of earthiness in cabbage, mushrooms and potatoes. Glass noodles squiggle in the mix for a little snap. The whole thing comes over rice, and there’s an option for a fried egg on top. It does mingle nicely with the other ingredients.

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Alongside I’d order at least three of the banchan: “kimchi’d corn,” a condiment full of smoky heat that was once part of the fried chicken bowl (called Karma Circulation) at Uh’s formative restaurant, Baroo; white kimchi, nutty and silky; and jinmichae bokkeum, spicy stir-fried dried squid with toasted peanuts. Really, though, it’s hard to go wrong with any of Shiku’s ever-evolving array of banchan, several of which together with rice make a harmonious meal.

Shiku marks my return to weekly restaurant reviews. It felt like the right subject for reentry, given that it focuses on takeout (though easily enjoyed immediately as soon as you find a table in the mobbed market) and, more meaningfully, that it represents a transitional step in Uh and Park’s trajectory as chefs and restaurateurs. Baroo — especially its first incarnation, the 16-seat restaurant Uh opened in an unglamorous Hollywood strip mall with childhood friend Matthew Kim in 2015 — was one of the wildest, most mind-opening restaurants Los Angeles has ever seen. I wrote one of my favorite pieces about it during my years at Eater.

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A spread of banchan from Shiku.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Perhaps like you, I’m considering many things in the world right now one day at a time, and the framework of restaurant criticism is among them. Once strictly service journalism (is this place worth you spending your money, and what are the best things to eat there?), reviews have long been blurring into a form that amalgamates the context of features, the provocation and marrow-level analysis of culture criticism and the beauty of literature. The approach varies wildly from critic to critic. It’s also a shrinking profession, in part because journalistic outlets keep disappearing, and also it’s expensive for companies to pay for reviewers’ meals.

And the past year, amid all the loss and tumult, has given those of us who still have the privilege of being restaurant critics a lot to think about.

All of which is to say: After nearly 20 years at this I still love reviews more than any other type of writing. I hope you keep reading as I (and the form) continue to evolve. If you have thoughts about what you’d like to see in reviews, send them to bill.addison@latimes.com.

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Last Sunday Los Angeles lost Mark Peel, one of the chefs who shaped the modern ethos of “California cuisine.” He worked with Wolfgang Puck at Spago before opening Campanile with his then-wife, Nancy Silverton, in 1989. Laurie Ochoa wrote a beautiful appreciation, noting that her husband, Jonathan Gold, had called Peel “the LeBron James of the grill.” I had my first restaurant meal in L.A. at Campanile; I wrote some thoughts, too.

Adam Roberts brings us a tribute to rainbow cookies, recipe included. “Rainbow cookies are the perfect metaphor, not just for Pride but also for anyone who celebrates their own identity,” he says.

Lucas Kwan Peterson has a beginner’s guide to Mexican candy.

Gustavo Arellano wrote a column thinking through the tortilla-throwing incident between two rival high school basketball teams during the CIF San Diego Section final.

Julie Giuffrida has a roundup of plant-based recipes for summer, including some of the vegan standouts (a meat-free version of Tommy’s chili burger; spinach-artichoke dip; and strawberry muffins) developed by former cooking editor Genevieve Ko. Also don’t miss Ben Mims’ vegan carrot-banana cake.

Finally, Jean Trinh reports on El Ruso’s first bricks-and-mortar location in Silver Lake and other newsy happenings.

Bonus: This week Eater L.A. published Bill Esparza’s tirelessly researched and beautifully written opus on California’s barbacoa trails.

Rainbow cookies made for Pride month by Adam Roberts.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)


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