Alta Rations

Comforting flavors in a grown-up restaurant

In the realm of food, does comforting equal dumpy? Yoni Levy's menu at Alta CA, which opened a month ago, argues: absolutely not.

Of course, no one would ever expect a Daniel Patterson restaurant to serve gloppy mac and cheese. But Levy, who has worked in Boston, Chicago and Oakland (Flora, Haven), serves a straight-up burger and deviled eggs.

Levy has also worked Ashkenazi flavors into many of the dishes. His fine-grained, smoky pastrami ($13) is served as if it's a salumi plate, thinly sliced with just a dollop of mustard, and his coaster-sized bialys ($6) are topped with deeply toasted onions arrive at the table oven-warmed.

"I'm not actually pushing the Jewish angle," explains Levy. "I'm just shooting for flavors that I love, and these are flavors I grew up with." The flavors ground the dishes, which are polished enough that you'll be Instagramming your meal, and convey a sense of the cook himself.

Yoni Levy's bialys | Cracked-wheat porridge

Even non-Jewish dishes occupy the borderlands between comfort and excitement. Could "Hen-of-the-Woods mushrooms with cracked-wheat porridge" ($19) sound more dour? Yet it's as rich as risotto, all butter and pecorino cheese.

"Warm root vegetable salad" ($13) reads like the homiest of vegetable dishes, but the plate, with its raw-root shavings, fried curls and batons of sugary roast carrots seasoned with fish sauce and mint, looks and tastes like a ticker-tape parade.

Which is what we'd like to greet Alta with.