“Diane” weaves real-life struggles into seamless storytelling; Pikoh puts L.A.’s multiculturalism on a plate

By Angela Matano

Pikoh’s kimchi fried rice is served with seared pork belly, black mint sauce and a fried egg
(Photo by Carrie Rollings)

Artisanal is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, being used to describe everything from pickles to scarves. Pretentious as the word is, the sentiment — that of being handmade — retains a certain luster, especially in this world of chain retailers, online conglomerates and ginormous box stores. What a relief then to spend a night at an authentically personal restaurant after viewing an independent movie at an art house theater.

Opening Friday (March 29), “Diane” stars the shockingly underutilized Mary Kay Place (“The Big Chill,” “Lady Dynamite”) as the titular character, a scrupulously regular woman living a life of quiet desperation in upstate New York. Fiercely principled, Diane spends her days taking care of others, ministering to sick friends, working at a soup kitchen, and trying to kickstart her drug-addicted son.

While all this mishegoss may sound depressing, director Kent Jones (“Hitchcock/Truffaut”) keeps things moving along with sparks of levity and an uncommonly steady gaze. Place is surrounded by a cadre of spec-
tacular supporting actresses, like Andrea Martin (“SCTV,” “The Good Fight”) and Estelle Parsons (“Roseanne”), who make it look so easy, so natural that I almost forgot I was watching a movie.

Isn’t it weird that seeing realistic female faces — older female faces — still feels like a radical feminist statement? In fact, just spending time with “Diane” resonates like a political act, elevating a woman’s life, an average woman’s life, onto the big screen of a movie theater, as if it matters. Men, like Jack Nicholson in “About Schmidt,” Bruce Dern in “Nebraska,” and Harry Dean Stanton in “Lucky,” often get the chance to play the small moments of existence, quietly and poignantly, while actresses are considered fortunate if they get to be the wife, or the daughter. “Diane” puts women at the center of their own world.

What kind of dinner do you pair with such a resonant picture? How about venturing to the new Pikoh? The latest venture from Peruvian chef Ricardo Zarate and Chef de Cuisine James Jung, Pikoh is a glittering sapphire of a bistro. Come for a coffee and dessert, brunch, a sandwich, happy hour, or dinner; the restaurant is open all day. I recommend dinner, as the chalky azure booths and stellar cocktails make for a relaxed romanticism; the Per Amalfi — a blend of vodka, limoncello, dry vermouth, Greek yogurt, vanilla, lemon and rosemary — goes down like
a dream.

In some ways, Pikoh radiates a core truth of Angeleno-ism, the diversity inherent to the city from its inception. While California cuisine — with its seasonal focus and a plethora of vegetables — is well established, the food of L.A. — beyond the core Mexican heritage — is still undefined. What Zarate and Jung bring to the conversation is a thorough acknowledgment of our tremendous multiculturalism.

Without apology, the restaurant places Korean-inspired kimchi fried rice next to Italian bay scallops and orecchiette and Peruvian smoked salmon ceviche. As Craterface put it in the movie “Grease,” “The rules are: there ain’t no rules.” This is nowhere more apparent than the French toast entree, a house-made brioche with banana brûlée and algarrobina sauce (black carob syrup). While breakfast for dinner might not seem out of place at a diner, at a swell spot like Pikoh the ease feels like a revelation. What could be more Los Angeles than that?

“Diane” is screening at the Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A. Call (310) 473-8530 or visit landmarktheatres.com.

Pikoh is at 11940 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A. Call (310) 928-9344 or visit pikohla.com.