Review: Indian Has Flipped to Italian at AR Cucina and It's Time to Order a Negroni
Cooking is an important skill to have if you are running a restaurant — it is ostensibly why everyone is there. So is a generous spirit, supplemented perhaps by a spot of design sense, a feel for your community and the ability to lead by force of example. What tends to get mentioned less often is an aptitude for math — your quenelles might be the best in the world, but if the numbers don’t add up, your restaurant won’t last long.
So nobody in the trade was especially surprised when Akasha Richmond, whose flagship restaurant Akasha helped pioneer downtown Culver City’s restaurant row, abruptly closed her Indian restaurant Sambar in the fall and changed it overnight into the Italian restaurant AR Cucina. Everybody had more or less liked Sambar — the cocktails were good, the slightly hippie-ish Indian food was tasty, and prime-time reservations were reasonably hard to come by — but apparently, people don’t tend to spend that much money in Westside Indian restaurants, especially ones mere blocks from some of L.A.’s better established Indian restaurants.
Now there is late-afternoon aperitivo hour on the patio, and a cheerful wine list, and clever cocktails called things like La Dolce Vita and Tuscan Sunrise. Clare Ward, famous for unusual cocktails tinged with vegetable infusions and Indian herbs, has here applied her keen palate to Negronis, some based on rum, rye whiskey and mescal; all of them nudged with obscure bitters and the barest hint of citrus.