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The 2021 101 Best Restaurants in L.A. guide is coming soon

An illustration with a black background and a dish and the words "101 Best Restaurants in L.A."
(Photo by Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times; typography by Luke Lucas / For The Times)

Last Wednesday, I finished my final bit of writing for this year’s 101 Best Restaurants in L.A., and then I met a friend for dinner at Bicyclette in Pico-Robertson.

The 101 is always a gargantuan task, a guide that’s as much about celebrating the pluralism of Los Angeles as it is about excellent places to eat. The hands and minds of so many colleagues — writers, editors and copy editors, designers and photographers — band together to produce this annual tentpole. It goes live online on Tuesday, Dec. 7, and the beautiful print version the team just completed will be in subscribers’ Sunday newspapers on Dec. 12. I’m excited for you to see what we’ve created for 2021.

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Spoiler: Bicyclette is not on the list. The latest project from République’s Walter and Margarita Manzke is really two restaurants: a downstairs bistro that opened in June, and a more formal dining room upstairs that will likely debut in the first half of 2022. I’m waiting to write a full review until both elements are up and running.

But it’s not like the bistro hasn’t made its own initial splash. A reservation search as I’m writing tells me prime-time seating options aren’t available until well into December. When I’m determined to have dinner there without booking ahead, I show up at 5:30 p.m. when the restaurant opens and hope to snag a couple seats at the handsome, kitchen-side bar. It worked last week; I waited for my friend (who got caught in the long line to show proof of vaccination at the door) and watched the entire room fill by 5:45 p.m.

The beverage program has started out strong, led by an illustrated booklet of cocktails that lean French-inspired (like everything here) but zigzag in all sorts of boozy directions. The apple brandy and tonic is an autumnal mood-setter and an early favorite.

Most everyone talks about the impressively engineered and densely caloric caramelized onion tarte tatin — yes, you should order it your first time at the restaurant. For this dinner, we veered instead to a half-dozen Kusshi oysters in their ruffled shells; soft scrambled egg in its shell with smoked sturgeon and a thimbleful of caviar; and a charming presentation escargot served individually in small vessels topped with puff pastry. When the steak au poivre arrived, a server spooned cream-laced peppercorn sauce over sliced New York strip from a copper pot until a puddle formed around the meat. I loved the electric current of nutmeg flowing through the textbook boudin blanc.

An egg filled with caviar in an egg glass
Soft egg in the shell with caviar at Bicyclette.
(Anne Fishbein / For The Times)

I will never skip the chance to eat Margarita Manzke’s desserts, even when I’m full. We asked for a slice of dried cherry tart with a thin, shattering crust to go … and then ended up polishing off most of it at the bar. It felt like the right finale for a meal to celebrate completing this year’s 101, in part because it has me already thinking about what next year’s might look like.

Celebrate the release of the 101 on Dec. 7

To celebrate the release of the L.A. Times 101 Best Restaurants guide, which is presented by City National Bank, The Times is hosting a tasting event at downtown’s City Market Social House from 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 7. Thirty of L.A.’s top restaurants will be serving bites of some of their best dishes, and guests will be able to watch the live reveal of the 101 list as they enjoy food from establishments including A.O.C., Alta Adams, Evil Cooks, Bavel, Rossoblu, Pizzana, Parks BBQ, Kato, For the Win, Post & Beam (winner of the 2020 Gold Award) and Phenakite (The Times’ 2021 restaurant of the year). Tickets are $175 per person. For more information go to events.latimes.com/101list/

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