Los Angeles: Wurstküche

Once, back in the late ’80s, after a loft party in L.A.’s downtown Arts District, a friend and I returned to her car to find the window smashed and a brick on the back passenger seat. Hilariously enough, the only thing missing was a gym bag containing a loofah, a threadbare towel, and a pair of flip-flops. In the intervening years, developers have worked hard to gentrify the area: Between stretches of blight are luxury loft apartments and the occasional outdoor café. Tucked in the middle of all this is Wurstküche, a new sausage-and-beer joint, just a few steps from the scene of the crime.

Wurstküche (“sausage kitchen” in German and pronounced “vurst-COOK-huh”) feels like the perfect bridge between the old no-frills neighborhood and the future one that doesn’t quite exist yet. You enter into a tiny front room with a squat, sausage-filled deli counter, a grill, and a handful of metal bar stools, and then, a surprise: After walking down a long, narrow hallway, you come to a high-ceilinged dining hall with exposed wooden beams, concrete floors, a door-and-sawhorses communal table, traditional café seating, and a long blond wood bar offering 24 kinds of draft beer. Owners (and first cousins) Joseph Pitruzzelli and Tyler Wilson are young—27 and 22, respectively—and none of the sausages they serve are made on the premises, but their stripped-down menu has an enthusiast’s sparkle: Along with classics like a spicy Louisiana hot link and a nutmeg-infused bratwurst, the sausage list includes a number of backwoods combinations: rattlesnake and rabbit; buffalo; duck and bacon; and alligator andouille. The crisp, hot Belgian fries come with small pots of sauces—Thai peanut, tsatsiki, and blue cheese with walnut and bacon are among the choices—along with regular condiments.

The demand for their food has made it impossible for the cousins to fulfill one wish: to designate the small front room for eating and the cavernous back room for drinking. The other quashed dream has been harder to accept—the city refused their request to stay open 24 hours a day. “We’re not too excited that we can’t sell sausages at 3 A.M.,” says Wilson.

Wurstküche 800 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles (213-687-4444; wurstkucherestaurant.com)

Paris: Jadis

Jadis (“in times past”) may seem like an odd name for a brilliant new bistro by one of the most talented young chefs in Paris, but after a meal there, you’ll get it. Guillaume Delage is an intensely disciplined classicist who reveals his cards with a quote on the menu from the late, great Edouard Nignon: “The chef who knows and understands the past well, who is inspired by it, will in turn become an innovator.”

At Jadis, in the far reaches of the 15th arrondissement, that means a double menu listing traditional French dishes on the left and market-driven creations on the right. Past or present, Delage’s cooking is lean, clean, and muscular. There’s so much precision in everything he does—whether it’s creating a gently tangy lemon sauce to meld a sauté of lamb’s feet and button mushrooms, or constructing an intricate retro checkerboard terrine of artichoke hearts and foie gras—that every meal reinforces the perception of him as some sort of intensely drilled culinary athlete.

An oyster velouté with shavings of Cantal cheese and a brilliant pairing of Puy lentils with sea snails and smoked bacon show that Delage is not just an A+ student, but he also has a nascent gastronomic imagination of his own. For main courses, a perfectly cooked lamb shoulder on a bed of plump white mogette beans, revved up with black olives and fine slices of dried tomato and served in a copper casserole (a vieille France dish if ever there was one), contrasts brilliantly with ocean perch in a wasabi sauce with a side of velvety sweet potato purée and Delage’s funky sauté of cockscombs, duck hearts, kidneys, and other gizzards.

But nothing demonstrates Delage’s work ethic better than a galette du roi (flaky, buttery pastry with a frangipane filling) that the waiter gravely warns will take 20 minutes—a mere nanosecond for something so good.

Jadis 208 rue de la Croix-Nivert, 15th, Paris (01-45-57-73-20)

New York City: La Fonda del Sol

When the original La Fonda del Sol opened in 1961, in the glass-sheathed Time-Life Building, it was quite possibly the most purely joyous restaurant in New York City. It always seemed sunny—appropriately enough, since its name means The Inn of the Sun—no matter what the weather was like outside. This was due in part to its menu of vivid, full-flavored Mexican and Latin-American dishes, food that, half a century ago, was practically unheard of in an upscale Midtown restaurant. More than that, though, the place was defined by its bright, pop-flavored interior, the work of celebrated textile and graphic designer Alexander Girard—complete with folk-art sunbursts and the names of dishes and drinks in an olio of outsized graphics on the wall.

In late January, the Patina Restaurant Group opened a new La Fonda del Sol (the first one closed in 1971) in the MetLife Building adjacent to Grand Central Terminal. They claim the original as an inspiration, and the ubiquitous and multitalented Adam Tihany has subtly worked some references to Girard’s design—sun imagery, food names etched in glass—into his interiors for the new place. Beyond that, it’s a whole new thing.

To begin with, the food—with the exception of tuna tacos offered in the big, lively tapas bar at the front of the restaurant, and some raw fish tiraditos on the regular menu—is Spanish, not Latin American. Columbian-born chef Josh DeChellis, late of Sumile and BarFry, has constructed a menu of Spanish dishes both traditional and innovative. Not everything works quite yet. Cochinillo—suckling pig—was flavorful enough, but it lacked the crackling-crisp mahogany skin that makes the dish such a delight in Spain. Patatas bravas were just nicely roasted potatoes with a ramekin of hot sauce on the side; the dish needs a second sauce, the traditional allioli, which is what marries the elements together. Other things are a delight, such as little wisps of perfect Iberian ham from acorn-fed pigs, tender octopus in spicy pimentón sauce served over slices of slightly undercooked potatoes, and very good herb-crusted braised pork cheeks with white beans flecked with parsnip and sausage. A side of garbanzo beans with spinach and pimentón brought back fond memories of a dozen tascas, or little Andalusian tapas bars. The new La Fonda del Sol may not be quite as sunny as its predecessor, but you’ll still leave with a bit of a glow.

La Fonda del Sol MetLife Building, 44th St. and Vanderbilt Ave., New York City (212-867-6767)
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