What are the hottest restaurants in Los Angeles? That’s subjective, of course, but one obvious way of measuring it would be which restaurants do the most people want to go to.
And judging by the readers voting on our Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants page, the hottest restaurants in L.A. are a very mixed bag of modernist Alma, traditionalist République and Korean Pot.
After more than 1,500 readers voted, those are the three restaurants that landed on the most wish lists.
Alma is the hyper-experimental little place that opened next to a downtown taxi-dance hall in 2013. Since then, the accolades have been many – it was Bon Appetit magazine’s best new restaurant last year, and not to be outdone, Food & Wine chose Ari Taymor as one of its best new chefs.
It finished at No. 12 on the 101, with Gold commenting: “Does Alma deserve the flood of praise? A qualified yes: Taymor occasionally seems too interested in aesthetic problem-solving, and his effects tend to be less than grounded in anything beyond themselves. Still, dinner here is never less than fascinating.”
République, on the other hand, embraces big-flavored bistro dishes. Situated in the former Campanile, chef Waltzer Manzke favors dishes such as head cheese, tarte flambe, steak frites and snails en croute. It was the No. 20 restaurant on the 101 with Gold wondering: “Will République grow to encompass Manzke's considerable skills with haute cuisine, or will it remain populist and delicious? At this point, it's hard to tell.”
Pot, which is only a few months old, has nevertheless stirred up a fair amount of controversy, which is probably just as chef-owner Roy Choi planned -- starting with the name. Gold acknowledges, “To understand [Pot], you've probably got to swallow a lot of haterade.” Gold did, ranking it No. 23 because “this is Choi's homage to the broad L.A. Korean American food universe in which he was raised, and it is vital and engaging in a way that even the best of the more sedate specialists … can never be. Pot isn't a careful re-creation of a Seoul buljip. It is a raucous, sizzling, loving creature of Koreatown L.A.”
Trailing just behind the Big 3 are another diverse group: Guerrilla Tacos, Factory Kitchen and Connie & Ted’s.
Guerrilla Tacos is a taco truck run by Wes Avila, who worked for famed French chef Alain Ducasse. His turns on the beloved street food are, predictably, off-beat. Gold writes: “The tacos you get at Guerrilla, which parks outside a downtown coffee bar a few days a week, are pretty much the ones he decides to sell you, which are as likely to be stuffed with diver scallops, Tuscan kale or even French black truffles as they are to be heaped with shrimp or carnitas — carnitas Avila makes by slow-roasting Cook Pig Ranch pork shoulder.”
Factory Kitchen is the new Arts District favorite run by chef Angelo Auriana, who had such a hand in making Valentino a dining destination back in the day. This time, his approach is more casual, which is not to say less delicious. Gold called it “a compelling hybrid, an informal trattoria with rather formal northern Italian cooking” and singled out Auriana’s mandilli as “the most sensational new pasta dish of the year— fragile handkerchief pasta crumpled over an almond-thickened pesto, which essentially melts the second it hits your tongue.”
Michael Cimarusti is on a winning streak. Not only was his formal Providence selected Gold’s No. 1 restaurant for the second year in a row, but his casual East Coast crab shack Connie & Ted’s (No. 33) is one of the hottest restaurants in town. Writes Gold: “And while any New Englander worth her salt pork has remarkably specific preferences about how lobster rolls, stuffies, steamed cherrystones and clam chowder should be prepared, at his cavernous homage to Rhode Island shore dinners, Cimarusti has his own. There may be no restaurant in Los Angeles that treats its oysters with more reverence.”
No surprises rounding out the rest of the list – Bestia and Trois Mec are two of the most highly praised restaurants in Southern California.
Ori Menashe’s Arts District Italian spot (ranked No. 14 by Gold), Bestia “exemplifies the modern Italian restaurant in Los Angeles,” writes Gold, citing the house-cured charcuterie program and the nose-to-tail aesthetic, before conceding “at this point, Bestia may be best known as the downtown restaurant you can't get into, so you should probably plan your next dinner there a month in advance.”
Trois Mec, of course, is the conjunction of Ludo Lefebvre and the Animal guys, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook. Is it hot? Considering you practically have to win a website lottery in order to earn the privilege of buying a nonrefundable ticket for your dinner, we’d say so.
Probably the biggest winner in the heat sweepstakes, though, is Los Angeles' Downtown area in general. Once a no man's land where few ventured after dark, today it boasts four of the eight most-sought restaurants.
Alma, 952 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 244-1422, alma-la.com
République, 624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 362-6115, republiquela.com
Pot, 3515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 368-3030, eatatpot.com
Guerrilla Tacos, 826 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles, no phone, guerrillatacos.com
Factory Kitchen, 1300 Factory Place, Los Angeles, (213) 996-6000, thefactorykitchen.com
Connie & Ted’s, 8171 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-2722, connieandteds.com
Bestia, 2121 E. 7th Place, Los Angeles, (213) 514-5724, bestiala.com
Trois Mec, 716 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, no phone, troismec.comCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times