Martha, the patron saint of cooks and servants, was known to have had the company of Jesus in her home and served him meals on several occasions. In my mind, her food must have tasted heavenly. I mean, the man came back for more! As for the modern Saint Martha, her dishes only appear to be divine. Their flavor unfortunately is lacking.
But, let me explain to you why I think this little nook tucked away in a Koreatown strip mall will draw a righteous foodie crowd.
When you see the pictures and the presentation, you’ll understand that the people who work here take so much pride in creating and serving what they believe to be THE BEST.
If they hear their critics cry, they will create better food. It’s only been open a month. So much time to grow!
When you walk in, you are greeted by the #CooksAndServants themselves at this open kitchen. Chef Nick Erven (of The Farmer’s Daughter Hotel and Tart) has gathered a band of heavily-bearded brothers that are too focused to be friendly. That was not quite as jarring as the BLAZING light behind the counter that would unfortunately flood into the dining room.
Most people don’t care as much about atmosphere if they are going to be served phenomenal food. I’ll capitulate to that every so often. But if I don’t like my experience in the restaurant, my focus is disturbed.
I didn’t get an exact count, but there are probably about 18 tables in the whole place. I LOVE spots like this. Instantly I thought about one of my favorite NYC Greenwich Villages cafes: The Little Owl. You have to wait for at least an hour, that is, if they had availability at all! Here, the eating area is close quarters and the tables seem small by LA dining standards. No matter for most foodies though. If it’s good, we’ll sit wherever.
After about a minute of looking around, I sighed. As there are no windows, the lighting would stay exactly the same all night. If that’s the case AND the kitchen light leaks into the dining space, they should really turn down the lights. That’s an easy fix!
The wine list is IMPRESSIVE. Fifty wines from all over the world by the glass that you can order by the Taste, Glass, Piche, or Bottle so you can pair accordingly with the course. Prices vary as much as the flavor profiles. My waitress was properly educated and more than happy to discuss our preferences and bring samples.
As for the food….
We were instructed to order in courses and share what came out. The menu lists the main ingredients of each dish which doesn’t prepare you for what is about to be served.
Oh my goodness, the presentation was breathtaking. I would have never guessed raw panacotta and tomatoes could be so beautiful! Unfortunately my excitement for the dish diminished instantly after one bite….The amuse bouche of melon and flowers with a honey drizzle was so much more fun. How could that be?!!! Let me try another bite, this time with squash. The flowers were surprisingly tasty. But still, overall terribly bland. Ugh. I dared not ask for salt because I didn’t want to insult the bearded boys who had put so much effort into this.
The grilled octopus that the waitress raved about “being crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside” was not, although thankfully tender (a feat in itself). And…it tasted like a salt lick. Even my companion gaged. As for the rice….Perhaps rice usually isn’t prepared like risotto because the grain gets too sticky instead of smooth.
Third plate’s a charm?
Nope. The “Summer Corn” was not the sweet white juicy kernels I as expecting. This baby corn was covered in flowers, radish, crispy chicken skin, and a seasoning that tasted like Cheetos. (I’m undecided whether that’s a good or a bad thing.)
At this point, I’ll be honest, we paid the bill and left. What should have been a farm-to-table roller coaster ride was a more like a float down the sleepy river. After an hour of nibbling, I was STARVING.
Like I said when I began this story, I’m hopeful for them. Koreatown is booming and cool kids LOVE hideaways like this. The whole experience drew my mind to Uchi in Austin, one of the best restaurants in the country. Saint Martha has the same vision, passion, and soul to be a stand out, desirable farm-to-table like Uchi with Japanese.
Saint Martha - 740 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 387-2300