California Dreamin'

Chef Adam Mali’s also a floorwalker, which bothered me a little. When I see a chef working the room, shaking hands, making nice with the customers, all I can think is that with him on the floor loving up the crowd, who’s in the galley watching my agnolotti or expo-ing that twelve-top? A chef on the floor means no chef on the line. And there are only three places a chef ought to be: his kitchen, his bed or his casket.

Montecito, the newest restaurant in the Master family empire, is this week’s target, and while I didn’t fall in love with the place right away -- didn’t go head-over-heels instantly, the way I so often do -- I have now come around. There are moments at Montecito that are close to perfect, possessed of a balance and beauty and that sweet ache of anticipation that are the hallmarks of great meals in the offing.

For weeks and months, the place labored. It almost wallowed under the weight of expectation, staggering as menus changed and crews were shifted around. But now, finally, everything has fallen into place and the true essence of the restaurant (Californian purity, French discipline, mature simplicity) shows through hard and knife-edge bright.

And lucky me, I was there on the night that it all came together…

So that’s what’s in store for this week's review. In Bite Me, I track the development of a very different sort of place on Sixth Avenue --L ’Asie Fusion Bistro -- and drops some (carefully worded) news about the new wine being produced by and for the guys from Frasca.

And finally, my buddy Gracie and I mourn the passing of Kurt Vonnegut at the most appropriate bar in Colorado: the Wynkoop. -- Jason Sheehan