I probably don't really need to introduce Lazy Ox Canteen. This new baby of Josef Centeno (formerly of Meson G and Opus) recently got a three-star review from SIV at La Times and parking around Little Tokyo has been harder to find than ever.
And if you're wondering right off the bat how I like this place, I'd like to point out that this review is based on 3 visits. Not that the place is perfect, but just how many places do I visit three times in two months? Not many, not many. The fact that they have a routinely rotating menu helps.
The place got packed following the LA Times review but you can still walk in and wait for spots at the bar or community table.
Cancha, a Peruvian corn, toasted and tossed with chili powder, salt, and lime. A good snack, although I've realized from my Peru trip that I don't like Peruvian big, starchy but bland corn as much as the sweet corn variety.
Lazy Ox carries a selection of sodas with sugar cane including Bundaberg ginger beer, etc. I've always loved root beer so I gave the Abita Root Beer a try.
The first soft drink made by a microbrewery, this root beer is produced by Abita Brewing company which specializes in microbrewed lager, the root beer is made from Lousiana sugar cane. A notable step up from your typical canned root beers at the grocery store.
Lazy Ox Canteen has a semi- permanent printed menu and a large rotating blackboard specials. If you don't pay attention to the blackboard, you're missing out.
New Zealand salmon crudo with Tabil
This salmon was fresh, meaty, and had a lot more flavor than most. The Tabil sauce was nice and added a nice richness but you really only needed a bit of it as the salmon itself gave you most of the flavor you'd need.
Creamy farro grain with sunchoke puree ($13)
A good, risotto-like creamy dish.
Hand-torn egg pasta with sunny-side up egg, brown butter, herbs ($11)
My first thought was that it was rather thin and thus mushy, but then I quickly started loving it. By the end, it was my favorite dish here (I also have a long standing love affair with eggs, which should explain my love of weekend brunches). The flavors are a more subdued and restrained here and I can imagine some people saying that it is bland, but I find it to be nicely balanced. The herbs provided the appropriate kick and neither that or the butter was overwhelming. If there is a dish to make me come back over and over, it's certainly this one.
Lamb Cheeks w/ Pickled Red Onions ($14)
Good flavors, pretty tender. A good combo with the mashed potato and greens.
Whole roasted quail, stuffed with golden raisins.
A bit on the small side of an "entree" and feels a little overpriced (over $20). I did like the quail but personally felt the stuffing to be a bit distracting.
Chilled Rice Pudding w/ caramel, hazelnut brittle ($7)
This was a recommended dessert that seemed to have made its way as a permanent addition to the blackboard. Denser and firmer than your typical rice pudding, but the caramel and hazelnut brittle are definitely a welcomed addition.
My second visit to Lazy Ox was thank to LAist's Sam Kim coaxing me with their fried chicken dinner ... no, wait. I think it was the other way around.
The fried chicken dinner for two was a weekly special, and I believe it cost $28 or so?
I also had a Peche Lambic. They have a nice selection of beers although it's a bit pricey especially for the pour sizes.
The chicken dinner might or might not have come with salad ... Sam Kim arrived earlier and received a salad with his order but we did not until we had to ask for it (and the bartender we talked to wasn't sure if we were supposed to receive one).
The salad was actually on the bitter side, but seeing how rich our other dishes were, it was a necessary side on the table.
The Fried Chicken for two consisted of about 6-7 pieces total.
The chicken meat was undoubtedly moist, but the breading was a little too thick for my taste.
The dinner also came with a biscuit with gravy.
Buttery biscuit, creamy gravy with bacon, and I really love the combination of the collard greens soaked in the gravy.
Because I heard so many people talking about the pork trotters, I ordered some too.
The three of us shared what we thought would be a fairly light dessert: Lemon Trifle ($7)
It didn't end up being light, but was instead pretty dense and rich. It did have a nice tart flavor.
A week or two ago I felt like I needed a really good meal, but didn't want to drive too far. So we ended up at Lazy Ox Canteen again. We were seated outside this time, having called ahead 30 minutes before arriving.
We started our meal with the Hand-torn Egg Pasta again. Still as great as I remembered. Just this dish was worth our trip.
Farro w/ Beet Puree & Yogurt ($9)
Rich and creamy but that acidity of the yogurt cut the richness nicely. A great dish.
Suckling Pig Pork Rack ($18)
Tender, though small (I mean, it was a suckling pig ...). Was it that much better than, say, rack of lamb? Not particularly I suppose. That doesn't mean it wasn't great.
What ended being the next highlight was in fact the Lamb Roast.
Perfectly cooked for my taste. Medium rare, so tender. See for yourself:
If they can consistently produce a lamb like this, I would definitely be here all the time.
For dessert I got the Chocolate Pate w/ fleur de sel
A decadent chocolate dessert that's helped by both the brittleness of the candied seeds and the ice cream.
Lazy Ox Canteen provided overall good meals, with a few outstanding dishes that are enough to bring me back again. The rotating menu is always interesting and doesn't get old. Your meals here can easily tend towards the heavy side, though, so either order very carefully or ... just let go for a night.
Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012