Headed by 27-year-old chef Ari Taymor, who started cooking in pop-ups and partially funded through Kickstarter, Alma opened on a nondescript stretch of Broadway last fall with only 39 seats and an ambitious menu that combined California farmers market ingredients with the latest in modernist techniques.
It won almost instant admiration. “Nobody is cooking quite like this in L.A. at the moment,” wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Jonathan Gold, who listed Alma at No. 36 in his 101 Best L.A. restaurants list. He described it as a “sure step toward the cuisine most often seen in restaurants with six-month waiting lists and $145 tasting menus."
Los Angeles Magazine’s Patric Kuh wrote that the restaurant "burns with a refreshing passion...I just never expected to have such a revelation in an eight-table restaurant next to a hostess dance club."
Following Alma on the Bon Appétit list is Saison in San Francisco, Rolf & Daughters in Nashville, Fat Rice in Chicago and Ava Gene’s in Portland.
Rounding out the top 10 are the Pass & Provisions in Houston, the Optimist in Atlanta, Jeffrey’s and sister restaurant Josephine House in Austin, Texas, the Whale Wins and sister restaurant Joule in Seattle and Aska in Brooklyn.
In his review, Bon Appétit dining editor Andrew Knowlton confessed early reservations about Alma, but concluded, "By the end of my meal, I was an Ari Taymor apostle. Despite his age and relative inexperience, this guy is cooking on a level I rarely see or taste. I eat out almost every night, so it takes a lot for me to get overly excited about a meal. But there I was, like a teenage boy on his first real date. At Alma, I'd experienced something special -- that unique moment when potential meets skill and anything seems possible. I saw a star born."
Last year’s winner was the ever-popular State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, and downtown’s Baco Mercat was No. 9. In 2011, Charleston, S.C.’s Husk won, while West Los Angeles’ Animal was No. 7.
This year was extremely good for Los Angeles’ new restaurants -- five of them made the Top 50 nominations. In addition to Alma, there were Allumette, Bar Amá, Chi Spacca and Hinoki & the Bird.
Ironically, according to the Alma website, the restaurant is closed this week for “a week of rest.”
Alma, 952 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 244-1422.
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