I don’t listen to David Chang’s podcast (I don’t listen to podcasts at all), but I follow him on social media, which is how I learn of Chef Jessica Largey and her new DTLA restaurant, SImone.
Now that I’m leaving LA, I’m on my farewell LA eating tour, and SImone is high on my list of places to eat. I’m surprised by how easy it is to get a reservation, not surprised by how impossible parking in the area is or how expensive valet parking is, and surprised, again, by how wide and spacious the restaurant is. Even after almost two years back in LA, I’m still surprised by how much sheer physical space there is.
Simone is beautiful, done up in a lot of slate greys and open space, and the restaurant is thoughtfully laid out, a bar in front, a kitchen past that, before opening up to the main dining space. The hostess seats me and a friend in a room to the side (I can spy Dorie Greenspan in the main dining room, right in my line of vision), sets menus before us, and leaves us to contemplate.
Between the two of us, we order a cocktail each and five dishes — two appetizers, one in-between, two entrees — and, when we’re done with our meal and so completely stuffed with food, we order two desserts.
All the food is kind of stupidly delicious, and we marvel and ooh and aah over how thoroughly the chef has thought about textures and flavors. There’s nothing on any plate that’s there by accident, and none of the plates seem to be missing anything — something that could honestly be fairly onenote in texture as a bowl of hummus is made more dynamic by the simple addition of crushed cucumbers and sweet tomatoes, and a plate of casarecce, a weirdly textured pasta that’s almost dry and hard but not unpleasant (just different), is offset by the tender succulence of grilled octopus. The pork collar, apparently considered “the rib-eye of the pork world,” according to Simone’s Instagram, is served with bok choy and boiled peanuts, which add a softness (but not mushiness) to the plate.
The most surprising dish, though, is the kabocha entree. Steamed kabocha is served atop grilled pureed kabocha, and here’s where I wish I took notes during meals (except I don’t really wish I took notes during meals) because there are details from this dish that now elude me. There’s something to add crunch and texture to what could otherwise be a soft, mushy dish, but the real surprise is the passionfruit sauce that’s poured over the dish at the table. Passionfruit is not something I’d pair with kabocha — I’d think they’re from dissonant flavor profiles — and, yes, there is a degree of dissonance on the plate, but it works. Sometimes, dissonance is harmonious.
My friend and I basically waddle out of Simone because, even after all that food, we still get two desserts. We hug outside before heading over to our respective cars. The valet doesn’t charge me the $10 the parking sign says but asks for $5. It’s a nice little sweet note to punctuate one of the best, most remarkable meals of my life.