It's not a good idea to go to Chef Josef Centeno's Lazy Ox Canteen on a semi-full stomach. The Little Toyko gastropub that many refer to as the downtown version of Animal is not the place for a "light bite" or a post-supper nibble.
Nibblers really need not apply for one of the bare bones, unadorned tables there.
This, of course, was unbeknownst to me when I impetuously dropped into the masculine lair with HC of LA and OC Foodventures and Cathy of Gastronomy Blog after sampling the lounge menu at Wolfgang Puck's WP24. HC and I were still feeling "peckish" after our light supper of dumplings, pork belly baos and Peking duck rolls, and wished to extend the evening a bit longer with a savory night cap.
So when we happened upon Lazy Ox after finding out the wait for a table at Daikokuya was at least 45 minutes, it seemed rather serendipitous. I'd been wanting to try the much-praised eatery that is known for its burger, essential caramel rice pudding and the rest of its seasonally-inspired, ever-changing menu of shareable plates, and its blatant proximity was not to be denied.
"Oh yes!" I enthused, my voice ecstatic at the direction our evening was headed.
But when we sat down at the communal table by the door and began examining the menu, our appetites and gastronomical boldness shrank.
"Something light." HC and I said to each other as way of weeding through the 18-item regular menu and nearly as lengthy specials menu.
Cathy sat quietly sipping her water, seemingly amused by our indecisiveness.
Because while the 7-oz burger with cantal cheese and green peppercorn mustard ($14) and escabeche of duck breast with crushed yams, marshmallow and cranberry ($15) sound delectable to an empty stomach primed for lubrication and satiation via grease, they are not so intriguing when there's not much room left at the inn.
So we apologetically kept shooing our patient waitress away as we fretted about what we could possible order from the aggressive menu. After much discussion, we finally settled on the recommended special spaghetti squash with persillade ($7), and the lamb neck hash with toasted quinoa and fried jidori egg ($13) -- mostly because we are both partial to the nutty grain.
What followed was, as expected, mostly delicious, artery-clogging heaven. The once innocent spaghetti squash had been given the Paula Deen treatment -- lovingly lambasted with butter, cheese and devilish accouterments. Tasty and comforting like most things with butter tend to be, but a hard (and slightly salty) bite at this juncture in our evening.
While seemingly the heavier of the two plates, HC and I were more drawn to the well-seasoned lamb neck hash that can be best described as an upscale, modernized Southern-style breakfast plate. The bitter greens and delicate quinoa pearls helped to temper the richness of the egg's runny yolk and tender hunks of braised lamb. We finished the plate without too much protest from our now at capacity stomachs.
Turning a cold shoulder to that famed caramel rice pudding dessert was a foregone conclusion given our state of satiety, but as we passed under the neon Lazy Ox sign on our way out the door, our voices rang out with songs about "next time."
"Next time we'll get the burger."
"Next time we'll come hungry."
"Next time we'll do Lazy Ox's menu justice."
Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012