Exactly four — Alimento, A.O.C., Redbird, and Studio at the Montage in Laguna Beach. Not a stellar showing, but at least something, considering how we were shut out of the James Beard Restaurant Awards this year, except for Guelaguetza being honored as one of America’s Classics. Addison in Del Mar also got the nod. But that’s it.
San Francisco got eight — A16, Acquerello, Benu, Foreign Cinema, Nopa, Quince, RN74, and Saison. But if you add in Manresa in Los Gatos, which is still part of the Bay Area, they come in with a grand total of nine. Nine!
Should we be hanging our heads? Emphatically, no. The wine publication missed oldies but goodies, such as Spago and Valentino, both with extensive, wide-ranging wine lists that are real treasures for wine lovers. Bestia and Osteria Mozza, both with worthy lists, were snubbed, too. Craft didn’t get a mention either. Or Barbrix or Faith & Flower. And that’s not even a full list of the restaurants that should have been considered.
Surprise shows on the 100-strong list are Foremost Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo and Ember Restaurant in Arroyo Grande.
Foremost Wine Co. is both a restaurant and a wine shop that is described on its website as “a community of passionate farmers, winemakers and wine drinkers, with the common goal of making great wine accessible to the masses.” The masses? But the menu looks terrific -- lamb tartare with Arbequina olive oil and Fresno chile, crispy duck Thai salad, Morro Bay oysters with wild brine sauerkraut and ginger, and the Kiler Ranch pig plate. The wine list runs to three pages and is full of gems both by the glass and by the bottle.
In Arroyo Grande, 2-year-old Ember Restaurant specializes in wood-fired cooking and Central Coast wines, mostly from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Chef Brian Collins did a six-year stint at Chez Panisse and was the chef at Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos before moving back to his hometown to open Ember.
His menu is very much in the Chez Panisse spirit -- Cayucos abalone and crispy pork belly, Monterey Bay squid “pasta nero,” ricotta gnocchi with fried artichokes and Bloomsdale spinach, and wood-fired lobster stuffed with king trumpet and oyster mushrooms. He’s got over two dozen wines by the glass, mostly local and small production, and a long list of enticing bottles.
OK, so Wine Enthusiast could have done better with its paltry choice of SoCal restaurants. There’s always next year. Meanwhile, the magazine has done us the service of pointing out two restaurants worth checking out on the Central Coast.
Which Los Angeles restaurants do you think should have been on the list?
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