Professor Gourmand — Brunch at P.Y.T.

I think I lead a charmed life. The day after I had the eight-course vegetable tasting menu at Le Comptoir, I had dinner at another highly rated restaurant, Here’s Looking at You, also in Koreatown. There I had a spectacular plate of food I’ll be writing about next — sturgeon, a fish you don’t see on a lot of restaurant menus, in a remarkable presentation that complemented the fish. Sitting next to me at the bar were a chef someplace else and his wife. We got to talking, and when I brought up Ervin, Justin, the chef, said he had cooked at one of Josef Centeno’s restaurants and that if I liked Erven I’d like P.Y.T. downtown. Today I had some errands to run downtown, so I booked myself a table at P.Y.T (finally). I will ALWAYS listen to recommendations from a chef now.

The east side of Main Street south of 4th Street is a Josef Centeno block. Ledlow (American comfort food), P.Y.T. (vegetable-based) and Bäco Mercat (Spanish fusion). P.Y.T was carved out of Ledlow, and as LA Eater notes, it’s “a new plant-based idea that Centeno’s been toying with for some time. He’s been doing more urban gardening through the L.A. Leadership Academy in Lincoln Heights, where some of the produce and herbs will come from for P.Y.T., and has been wanting to turn towards the vegetable as a primary base for dishes for some time.” Jonathan Gold’s take on it? He’s mostly happy, and he concludes it by writing “You’re not here for authentic-ish versions of things you’ve tasted before, you’re here to taste the produce of the season transformed.” That’s about dinner.

Brunch is like dinner, only with more eggy stuff and breakfast pastries. I had looked at the brunch menu online and I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to order, so I did. Before my brunch dishes came out, the restaurant presented an amuse-bouche.

Charred purple broccoli with pistachios, lemon and salt. I think Swine served something along these lines. This was very tasty, and you can see from the plate that you could have as little or as much salt as you want. Very thoughtful plating, and a nice way to prepare for the actual brunch dishes.

The menu online says “English muffin, Fontina cheese caramelized onions.” The menu at P.Y.T also says “fried egg”. And so it was. The egg covered the caramelized onions, and when I turned over the half that’s face down in the picture, there was the melted fontina. Egg and onions, then the fontina to sop up the yolk. I’m pretty sure the English muffin was baked for the restaurant. You can see from the color of the yolk how fresh the egg was too. JUST delicious, If that wasn’t enough, it came with a leaf lettuce salad with a dressing that was just astringent enough to complement the egg and the cheese, and two slices each of black radish and watermelon radish. Yes, my two favorite kinds of radish. Black radish is used a LOT in eastern European cooking and it’s nice to see it on an American plate.

With that, probably the smartest thing on the P.Y.T brunch menu. Of course, you can get a side order of Nueske’s bacon, which I liked so much with the French toast at Bellwether. You can also order a side of smoked trout, which I did (keeping up my pescatarian cred). Tossed in just enough aioli to moisten it, with chives and parsley, it was the perfect accompaniment to cut the richness of the egg, cheese and onions. I’m going to suggest to Bellwether that they do the same thing with smoked salmon on their brunch menu at dinner on Tuesday.

Iced tea with the meal. The maître-d’ and I were discussing the idea that where ever else Los Angeles stands in the ranking of America’s best restaurant cities, it has to be at the top in terms of vegan and vegetarian cooking. I mentioned my “regular” status at Erven and before that at Swine, and he said he hoped I’d be a regular at P.Y.T too, and so I will be. It was just terrific.

P.Y.T. 400 S. Main St., Los Angeles, (213) 687–7015, pytlosangeles.com. Dinner Tues.-Thurs., 5:30 to 10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5:30 to 11 p.m.; brunch Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Credit cards accepted.