Saint Martha | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Saint Martha

photo by Anne Fishbein

Saint Martha — named for the patron saint of cooks and servants — joins the ranks of small, ambitious restaurants that open with little fanfare and even less money. The whimsical space behind a heavy wooden door in a run-down strip mall in Koreatown is decorated with classic oil paintings that make you look twice: The woman sitting in a 19th-century portrait pose has an intricate neck tattoo creeping down her décolletage; a neon sign above the open kitchen reads “hipster.” Chef Nick Erven’s food is theatrical and ambitious, with the same humor and attention to aesthetics that make the room so much fun. There’s an exuberance here, a youthful energy that never quite veers into brattiness or posturing. Erven and Co. are here to have a good time, to drink some good wine and to play with our expectations. It’s a good game. —Besha Rodell