Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
In Los Angeles' Little Toyko, newcomer Xlice promises "New York style" pizza. The rhetoric on Xlixe's website drew me in: "While serving some of the most authentic yet fabulously bizzare pizzas ever to pass through the lips of delighted patrons, customers will never know who they'll sit next to at this hip downtown LA eatery, but are advised to leave their inhibitions and attitude at the door." Sounds good, right? Well, it should sound suspicious. The initial reviews promised curious toppings like persimmons and rabbit, but the when I visited the menu proved to be a bit more benign.
In addition to cheese, they offer three pizza slices daily. I ordered The Forager, a mélange of portabella, oyster, and white button mushrooms over a base of ricotta and mozzarella ($3.5). It's actually a well topped slice; the mushrooms are fragrant and chewy and mix perfectly with the mild cheeses. But the anemic crust, lacking in browning, crispness and flavor was sadly disappointing. Though it was served 'freshly reheated' from the deck oven, it still felt room temperature.
Our friend Damon from AHT took a sojourn from burgers to joint me for a slice. He taste tested The Rancher, a tomato sauce and mozzarella based slice loaded with pepperoni, sausage, bacon, and onions ($3.5). In his own words: "The Xlixe slice is an exercise in underachievement. The pepperoni is a prime example. The crust strains under the weight of the cheese and meat without any relief in the form of improved flavor. The pepperoni was too salty by half and the crust had that firm texture and chew that leans toward staleness. It was clearly the least appealing option of the slices we sampled."
But we had to make sure that the magic isn't simply lost on the reheated slices, so we ordered a whole pie fresh from the oven. The Angeleno, a base of creamy arugula pesto with smoked mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and fresh basil ($14 for 12"/$24 for 18") was an equal disappointment. The arugula pesto was not much more than a green ricotta, with none of the characteristic spiciness of arugula. The smoke of the mozzarella was barely detectable. The fresh tomatoes and clumps of basil chiffonade were juicy and fragrant, but it's really difficult to mess up those two elements.
Just because you call it NYC style does not make it so. With some tweaking, Xlixe could produce a NYC style slice. The raw elements and aspiration are there, so I pondered the slices to find the missing element. To me, what really sells a NYC slice is the crust; awash in browning and specks of char, the molten cheese just beginning to burn and the steaming sauce just waiting to burn your pizza palate. You can begin to see hints of this on the underside of the slice. So, Xlixe, pump up that oven temperature, experiment a little more with higher heat! I'm not sure why they've back away from the more exciting topping sported on the initial menu, but I'd encourage Xlice to be more adventurous. This neighborhood can totally handle it. Nearby pizzeria, Strawberry Cones, serves seaweed and teriyaki hamburger on a mochi crust—successfully!
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