Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Trip to Los Angeles, Part One: Manuela

This is the first in a four-part series about places I ate in Los Angeles.

Manuela is located inside the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in Los Angeles. I’m not much of an art critic. Some of the exhibits were fucking rad, like the cityscape made of cereal boxes or the futuristic chicken coop. Other things were fucking shitty, like the overturned antique armoire: that was all it was, a gigantic ornate armoire laying on the floor. That’s it. Some commentary on the fall of society or some such shit. Also, there was a video installation of a woman dry humping a column inside a museum; we watched it for a few minutes before the docent helpfully informed us that we could go because we’d seen the best part.

Anyway, the art was hit or miss, and bookstore inside Hauser-Wirth was similarly inconsistent. There were a couple preteen boys running around mocking things. I happened to be standing at the cash register, looking at a display of impulse items, when the boys ran up and started rifling through these flip books, the kind that make a little cartoon if you flip the pages fast enough.

The clerk was an archetypal Aging Art Chick: black Riot Grrl dress, a frizzy pyramid of brunette curls perched atop her head, severe bangs, American Traditional tattoos all over. The kids were flipping the flip books. I asked the clerk if it was okay for them to be doing that. “Yeah, it’s fine,” she replied. “But there are some naughty ones in there that I hope they don’t see.”

“Like what?” I asked, and she handed me one called the Stick Figure Kama Sutra, which when flipped depicted crude drawings fucking in every position.

“They’re not my kids,” I laughed, and called out to the ragazzi to come over. “Check this out!” And I showed them the Stick Figure Kama Sutra which, in retrospect, wasn’t creepy at all.

Outraged at the indecency flipping past them, the kids immediately began to riot, because that’s what kids do when they see porn, overturning spinning wire racks of Man Ray post cards and flinging all of the Jeff Koons books off the shelves. My friends and I made a hasty getaway while the clerk sighed and picked up the mess.

That kind of inappropriate troublemaking works up a mighty appetite, so we were looking for something to eat. Luckily, Manuela was next door.

We started with Devilled Eggs ($6). There were four devilled eggs, each topped with a creamy golden swirl of yolk and sprinkled with a spray of aleppo pepper flakes and a miniscule sprig of dill. The yolk was creamy and so smooth there was no way it hadn’t been forced through a chinoise, with a mellow luscious subwoofer and a mustardy tweeter. The only thing I didn’t like about these eggs was the fact that they sliced the eggs laterally instead of the typical longitudinal cut, and so the “bowl” of egg white on the bottom was the wide round end of the eggs. The more pointed end of the egg white appeared to be unused; what did they do with them? I posit that the line cooks stuck the pointy ends of the egg whites up their assholes, then downed shot after shot of hot sauce until they had ballistic diarrhea, and they sprayed the liquid egg white poop all over the floor, then they all did the centipede through the chunky wretched mire. Then they licked each other’s poopy t-shirts clean. The aristocrats!

Next up was a dish of blistered snap peas ($12), pleasantly charred, smoky, with little explosive fried bits of red quinoa which shattered in your mouth when chomped upon, ivory clouds of goat cheese, and more chili flake. Some sort of creamy vinaigrette lurked on the bottom.

We weren’t there to stuff our faces, because we had reservations at Craft (more on that in part three of this travelogue), so we wrapped things up with an order of cream biscuits ($10). Three of these biscuits came on a rustic wood block. I’m not going to waste words on my disdain of food served on a wooden slab, because I have funnier things to say later, but rest assured I consider it dumb. Along with the biscuits came a few delicious slices of salty country ham, the meat a glistening burgundy and streaked with translucent veins of fat. There was also an ENORMOUS mountain range of sweet cream butter. This was enough butter to moisturize an elephant; more butter than any human except Paula Deen could possibly eat. Even after we’d slathered our biscuits with like a four inch thick layer of butter, there was still approximately 17,000 metric tonnes of butter left, which we altruistically shipped to Somalia.

A word on these biscuits. They were as stratified as the fossil record, as flaky as a Tinder hookup, studded with salt. These biscuits were far superior to the petrified drop biscuits my mom makes. Hahaaaa, I said MY mom and not YOUR mom! What you thought was going to be a malicious barb directed at your family was ACTUALLY an autobiographical aside!

So sometimes when I was in college, I’d go back to my parents’ house for the weekend or whatever, to discover that my brother had invited all his friends over for a sleepover. After drinking all night, these fools would all be passed out on the floor like a bunch of walruses that reeked of stale Bud Light, Copenhagen, and night farts. Inevitably, my mom would dump pounds of Bisquick into a bowl and overmixed dozens of these priapic biscuits. Then she’d scramble up a dozen eggs, pockmarked unattractively with tablespoons of black pepper, and cooked until they would bounce off the floor if one rolled off of your plate.

I was hungry too, but this breakfast was a piece of shit, so after all of my brother’s dumbass friends had awaken and finished shoveling this sad breakfast into their hungover mouths, I’d sneak into the kitchen to make MY scrambled eggs.

Then usually my brother, always a late riser and an even LATER riser after a bottle of Jager, would saunter into the kitchen, clad in flip flops, cargo shorts, and an extra medium vintage tee, and see the golden pond of beaten egg I was gently coaxing into a buttery nimbus, and exclaim “DAAAMMNNN I want somma THOSE eggs.” Which of course I would give him some because I’m not mean.

The moral of the story is that I enjoyed the biscuits we ate at Manuela.

Manuela is a solid gem nestled in the bowels of the Hauser & Wirth. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was, expecting instead a subpar tourist trap. Kudos, Manuela. You have earned this praise.

On our way out, we saw the Aging Art Chick, finished with her shift at the gift shop. She was dining at the bar with a dude I can only describe as Former New Wave Basquiat Aficionado. He had a grey shock of Dr. Strangelovian hair, those weird round cartoon glasses that Roger Stone wears, and one of those wide- necked red and white striped shirts which Picasso used to wear. On our way out I apologized for inciting the tween riot and bought them an order of devilled eggs. I certainly hope they ate the eggs instead of using them like suppositories. The aristocrats!

Rating: 7 aristocrats out of 10

Manuela is located at 907 E. 3rd St. in Los Angeles, CA, inside the Hauser & Wirth gallery complex. For reservations call 323-849-0480 or click here.