Dec. 3, 2018
Los Angeles is a place of possibility: where immigrants strive to offer a taste of home; where chefs endeavor to express themselves in myriad and inventive ways; where intrepid diners fear nothing in search of something great to eat.
These are sentiments our late restaurant critic, Jonathan Gold, championed time and time again in his restaurant reviews and in his best-restaurants lists that he produced for The Times. Using last year’s list—his last—as a guide, food writers Jenn Harris, Andrea Chang and Amy Scattergood tried to introduce the new and fill in the gaps where appropriate to reflect the city as a whole. The list is unranked and presented by neighborhood.
We hope to continue Jonathan's great legacy and to help guide readers in finding delicious food around Los Angeles.
Check out 10 classic restaurants that are essential to Los Angeles »
From Chinatown to the Arts District, from the 110 Freeway to the Los Angeles River, explore 19 of this year’s best restaurants.
The overwhelming popularity of Bavel may have a lot to do with its grilled octopus or with Genevieve Gergis’ date crème brûlée. But I’m guessing it’s...
The overwhelming popularity of Bavel may have a lot to do with its grilled octopus or with Genevieve Gergis’ date crème brûlée. But I’m guessing it’s the hummus that keeps Ori Menashe up at night. You can’t fake hummus. And Menashe’s hummus is magnificent, a ring of silky, airy purée surrounding chunkier, denser stuff; a green rivulet of olive oil; smears of spicy, smoky harissa; and green puréed herbs. You scrape hot pita between one density and the other, an essay in the nuances of texture and fragrance. Yet the best dish at Bavel may be grilled oyster mushrooms, chewy as flank steak, with a bitter wild-nettle purée and an electric sprinkle of tart sumac. Almost everything at Bavel — Menashe and Gergis’ full-throttled Levantine follow-up to their downtown Italian restaurant Bestia — seems touched with wood fire and cumin, coarse salt and fresh mint. The crisp, flaky Yemenite flatbread malawach — served with tomato pulp, herbed cream and spicy fermented strawberry jam, a take on the herb sauce zhoug — explodes into a hundred layers when you bite into it. The best big meat dish is lamb neck shawarma, charred and smoking, laminated with a spice-shopful of herbs. Carve off a bit of the dripping meat, tear off a scrap of hot laffa bread, tuck in the vegetables and you will have constructed the ultimate taco al pastor of the Middle East.— Jonathan Gold
It seems odd to remember that Bestia has been open only six years, since the restaurant seems so integral to Los Angeles restaurant culture. Maybe it’s because...
It seems odd to remember that Bestia has been open only six years, since the restaurant seems so integral to Los Angeles restaurant culture. Maybe it’s because so much of what Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis offer on a regular basis is now de rigueur in a certain class of restaurant: the house-made salumi, the handmade pasta, the wood-fired pizza, the industrial design, the natural wine list. Bestia is a cacophonous palace, a restaurant built into an Arts District loft that serves multi-regional Italian cooking with forceful flavors that have been stirred up by the multiculturalism of Los Angeles and the Middle East, where both Gergis and Menashe have family history. The result is a menu shot with fennel pollen and preserved lemon, where local seafood is paired with house-made ’nduja and the pasta is twirled with aged cheeses, chiles and black truffles. Gergis’ desserts are a masterful juxtaposition of sweet and tart, reliant on seasonal fruit, cream and spice. With the opening of Bavel, the couple’s second restaurant, earlier this year, we all hoped the crowds would thin a bit, allowing an easier path to a coveted counter seat near the pizza oven. No such luck. Fortunately, the wait is always worth it.— Amy Scattergood
Instead of trying to explain what contemporary Mexican cuisine can look like in Los Angeles to visitors, just take them to Broken Spanish. Sit where...
Instead of trying to explain what contemporary Mexican cuisine can look like in Los Angeles to visitors, just take them to Broken Spanish. Sit where you can see both the open kitchen, where someone is making tortillas from nixtamalized heirloom corn, and the view outside, as you are across the street from an El Cholo, the ’20s-era Mexican restaurant chain, and the Staples Center (LeBron James!). Amid this juxtaposition of old and new L.A., chef Ray Garcia is cooking food that embraces his past, growing up in a Mexican American family in Cypress Park, at the same time that it looks forward. He makes esquites with bone marrow, turns masa into ethereal dumplings, and tops tostadas with yuzu kosho aioli and seaweed. His version of a chicharrón, an enormous golden disk adorned with radish sprouts and pickled herbs, looks like it could have come from Pierre Hermé’s pastry kitchen. Yet there’s a playfulness that permeates the cooking, along with all the guajillo chiles and green garlic and epazote. Garcia, after all, is the guy who once won Cochon 555, the nose-to-tail pig cooking competition, while wearing a luchador costume.— Amy Scattergood
When people ask where to eat in downtown, my usual response is Josef Centeno. Because to eat at one of his four downtown restaurants is to...
When people ask where to eat in downtown, my usual response is Josef Centeno. Because to eat at one of his four downtown restaurants is to, in a sense, taste the entirety of Los Angeles. The chef, who has colonized the corners of 4th and Main streets, specializes in food that draws inspiration from his upbringing in Texas and his time cooking at places such as Manresa, Daniel and Charles Nob Hill. You will crave his oxtail hash-stuffed bäcos and za’atar and eggplant fava dip at Bäco Mercat and honey nut squash with mole dukkah at P.Y.T. There will be weekend nights where the puffy tacos and bowls of queso at Bar Amá seem like an inevitability. But where Centeno may excel most is at his Italian Japanese tasting menu restaurant Orsa &Winston. In the evenings, there’s a six-course menu with things such as silky satsuki rice porridge with Santa Barbara uni and Parmesan cream. For brunch and lunch, an omakase Japanese breakfast or a chicken katsu sandwich on milk bread. And if you want to baller out, there’s a caviar service that starts at $85.— Jenn Harris
Church & State
Before there was Bestia, diners ventured to the Arts District for crusty baguettes, proper charcuterie boards and excellent wine at this classic bistro. Then Tony Esnault came on as executive chef, and...
Before there was Bestia, diners ventured to the Arts District for crusty baguettes, proper charcuterie boards and excellent wine at this classic bistro. Then Tony Esnault came on as executive chef, and the Frenchman, who cooked under Alain Ducasse, brought his thoughtful French-California cooking with him. Although the Church & State menu doesn’t quite reflect it yet — it’s Esnault’s bouillabaisse, pâté de campagne and Burgundy snails in garlic butter that draw most of us there — he is a vegetable whisperer. At Spring — the restaurant he and owner Yassmin Sarmadi operated until earlier this year — his legumes de saison, a medley of more than 10 vegetables in varying preparations, thoroughly exemplified Los Angeles-influenced French cooking. Here’s to hoping it finds its way to the Church & State menu soon.— Jenn Harris
Wedged into a corner of the Freehand L.A. hotel, the Exchange is a proto-Israeli restaurant where the chef, Alex Chang, is a Californian with...
Wedged into a corner of the Freehand L.A. hotel, the Exchange is a proto-Israeli restaurant where the chef, Alex Chang, is a Californian with a Mexican mother and a Chinese dad and who spent formative years in Tokyo. So if the Israeli thing is basically a conceit (proprietor Elad Zvi, who runs the place with Gabe Orta, is from Israel), it kind of works. Tel Aviv, like Los Angeles, is a place where cultures smash together. It’s no surprise, then, that the best of the main courses is a grilled sweet potato with almonds, cilantro and chile morita. The dish erases the boundaries between Japanese street food and Middle Eastern cuisine; between Holy Land food and flavors of the Mexican table at Lent. There are salatim (more or less mezze) of silken hummus made with chickpeas from cult grower Rancho Gordo; fluffy baba ghanouj that leans into the bittersweetness of burnt eggplant; and diced avocado with herbs and toasted seeds that you’ll probably end up reordering before dinner is through. A red-cabbage salad is snapped from Eastern Europe to the Middle East with a lashing of cumin and a sprinkle of the crushed-nut condiment dukkah, and in all, I’m rather glad that it was.— Jonathan Gold
Grand Central Market
You could probably eat your way through this downtown food hall every day for the rest of your life and be content. The century-old market is as...
You could probably eat your way through this downtown food hall every day for the rest of your life and be content. The century-old market is as essential to the city as the Coliseum and the Hollywood Bowl. Clark Street Bread is making some of the best bread — and avocado toast — in the city. The cheese mongers at DTLA Cheese and Kitchen may actually change your life — and certainly your next dinner party — with their rounds of Normandy butter and wheels of cheese. The nut, mole and candy vendors still offer samples with a smile. The Filipino rice and sisig bowls and buko coconut pie at Sari Sari Store cure most ills. The carnitas at Villa Moreliana are a national treasure. And the lattes at G&B Coffee are the gold standard for every serious coffee drinker in Los Angeles. A friend demands vegan ramen? It’s there too. Look around and you’ll see what seems like the whole world, elbow to elbow at packed counters, digging into ice cream cones, pastrami sandwiches and tacos, breaking bread together under one roof, a place of feasting for all. And it doesn’t hurt to know that you can buy party supplies at the discount store downstairs too.— Jenn Harris
For years, we trailed Wes Avila’s taco truck, lining up in front of coffee shops, ordering his blissful sweet potato tacos and uni tostadas, content to eat some of...
For years, we trailed Wes Avila’s taco truck, lining up in front of coffee shops, ordering his blissful sweet potato tacos and uni tostadas, content to eat some of the city’s best tacos on a dusty sidewalk. Sometimes the truck would move, or Avila would run out of supplies, and we’d be bereft for a few days; that was part of the charm, but it was also unsettling, as it reminded us how tenuous the promise of those tacos was. Earlier this year, Avila took up permanent home in the Arts District. Now there’s not only a roof, tables and chairs, but lamb kebabs, a full bar, even weekend brunch. Avila is using his new, bigger kitchen to experiment, loading hard shell tacos with wild boar, beef chile colorado with foie gras, and queso fundido with chorizo and octopus. If you haven’t had his tostadas topped with hamachi or raw scallops, they’re remarkable — and a reminder that you don’t have to trek to Contramar in Mexico City or La Guerrerense’s Ensenada cart when Avila is here.— Amy Scattergood
“Have you been to Howlin’ Ray’s? Is the line really that long? Is it worth it?” When people learn...
“Have you been to Howlin’ Ray’s? Is the line really that long? Is it worth it?” When people learn that I’m a fried-chicken freak (this is not an exaggeration), these are the first questions out of their mouths. So, for the record: Yes. Yes. And unequivocally, yes. Since Johnny Ray Zone opened his Nashville-style hot-chicken shop in Chinatown in 2016, lines have snaked through the Far East Plaza and out onto North Broadway. He is the catalyst for the city’s current fried-chicken boom. What makes his chicken so special? Howlin’ Ray’s affords the same care to a piece of fried chicken as a Michelin-star chef does to each tweezered tasting menu course. Each piece is brined, dredged in seasoned flour and fried in peanut oil. The chicken is showered in a “shake,” a blend of more than 10 spices — that the DEA will one day classify as a Schedule I drug. The results are juicy to the point of perversion and have the ideal crackly, crunchy coating. You could order your chicken sandwich “country” (no spice), and be content. Try the medium for a sweat-inducing level of heat. If you’re willing to try your chicken Howlin’ Hot, brave your mouth for a delicious beating.— Jenn Harris
Brothers Chase and Chad Valencia helped jump-start the movement of great Filipino cooking from home kitchens to restaurants when...
Brothers Chase and Chad Valencia helped jump-start the movement of great Filipino cooking from home kitchens to restaurants when they opened Lasa as a pop-up, which followed a series of backyard dinner parties. Now their space in the Far East Plaza feels lived in, a comfortable dining room with a takeout window where the pair continue to present modern takes on the traditional food they grew up with. Chad’s cooking has evolved with the restaurant, moving from tasting menu-style dishes to street food and back again, as he experiments with what second-generation regional cooking can look like in a Chinatown food court in contemporary Los Angeles. So adobo translates into cocktail peanuts, pancit comes with calamansi butter and cured egg yolk, and there is salty duck egg custard with the dessert fritters. Imagine family cooking from a test kitchen, the flavors exacting, the end result addictive.— Amy Scattergood
If you were going to put a name to David Chang’s aesthetic, it could be something like Cracked Perfection — the way of the...
If you were going to put a name to David Chang’s aesthetic, it could be something like Cracked Perfection — the way of the shokunin, a Japanese craftsman whose bliss comes through the search for mastery, tempered with an all-American restlessness that keeps mastery from being achieved. Chang’s style, vividly on display at Majordomo, his first Los Angeles restaurant, is an intensely flavored, willfully eclectic mash-up of traditional Asian cooking, modern European fine dining and touches of bling. As at Ssäm Bar, the New York restaurant that cemented Chang's place in the food world, the Majordomo menu draws from the Korean dishes he grew up eating, but in Los Angeles they seem less abstracted: closer to the original. You can eat something like a pure Korean meal here. When the kitchen is on point — a succulent short rib rubbed with spices, smoked for the better part of a day, carved table-side and served with fermented Korean sauces, herbs and wrappers — the flaws (imperfectly rendered fat) can make a dish human, and thus compelling. I loved skate-fried rice, presumably a riff on bibim bap, with a slash of spicy gochujang, a scattering of herbs and a bottom layer of crunchy fried skate wing that doubled for the crunchy rice crust that is always the best part.— Jonathan Gold
The New York invasion of Los Angeles continues with the Manhattan transplant NoMad. Should we be alarmed that...
The New York invasion of Los Angeles continues with the Manhattan transplant NoMad. Should we be alarmed that New Yorkers seem to be coming out of every coffee shop, window and alley? Not so much when the result is a 241-room hotel that has transformed the old Giannini Place building into an opulent Vogue Italia spread outfitted with polished tiled floors, floral print rugs and velvet, everywhere. Chef Daniel Humm (of NoMad and Eleven Madison Park in New York) and executive chef Chris Flint seem to be doing their best to make sure no one thinks of what the NoMad serves as “hotel food.” There’s a dish of sea urchin that’s a cross between caviar service and a make-your-own-taco bar. Suckling pig is confited and served with charred cherries. There is a carbon copy of the decadent roast chicken for two that put the dining room on the map in Manhattan, and a roast duck preparation that may be even better. Wine director Ryan Bailey’s recommendations are consistently #spoton. If you’re still worried there’s going to be something hotelly about the place, head to the coffee bar in the lobby for pastry chef Mark Welker’s viennoiseries. A baklava croissant? Howard Johnson has nothing on these guys.— Jenn Harris
Everything about Officine Brera screams, “I’m in the Arts District!” The exposed-brick walls, über-high ceilings and...
Everything about Officine Brera screams, “I’m in the Arts District!” The exposed-brick walls, über-high ceilings and warehouse windows give the dining room an art house feel, like you’re in a friend of a friend’s loft for a cool party, thrown in honor of that artist you pretend to have read about. The chef at this party is Angelo Auriana, who opened Factory Kitchen and previously cooked at Valentino. At Officine Brera, he’s making a handful of pastas and cooking as much as he can on the wood grill or in the wood oven. His pièce de résistance? The Milanese risotto. Anyone who has ever cooked the stuff knows that to do it right, it takes a watchful eye and patience. Auriana’s is toothsome, with a sauce that sticks to each kernel. The rice is stained a pale yellow and perfumed from the saffron, with a piece of smoky roasted bone marrow rising from the middle.— Jenn Harris
Welcome to chef Timothy Hollingsworth’s mad, magical world. You can often catch him in the large, open kitchen at the center of the restaurant, whizzing from one station to the next. And at first...
Welcome to chef Timothy Hollingsworth’s mad, magical world. You can often catch him in the large, open kitchen at the center of the restaurant, whizzing from one station to the next. And at first glance, the menu may seem just as spontaneous. There is no real through line that carries you from dinner to dessert. A recent menu included hamachi with ponzu granita, gnocchi with truffle and grilled fish with tamarind and tomato. He’s the guy who put foie gras mousse on his funnel cake like it belonged there. His Lebanese wife inspired the dry-aged beef tartare, his take on a kibbeh nayeh, with rough-chopped raw beef, bulgur and yogurt served on a shard of lavash. And of course there’s caviar, served with truffle butter and a misshapen piece of naan that would make the guys at Badmaash happy. For brunch, there are cubes of fried pork belly artfully plated next to squares of French toast topped with dollops of whipped maple, served out of a donabe. Mole with eggs and blue corn tortillas? Why not? Don’t try to pick a theme; just go with it. His culinary compulsions may swing irregular, but his plates will often leave you humming with satisfaction.— Jenn Harris
Stepping into Q is like entering an alternate universe. The minimal, serene space — a narrow passageway of dark wood and soft lights — blocks out...
Stepping into Q is like entering an alternate universe. The minimal, serene space — a narrow passageway of dark wood and soft lights — blocks out all the noise and clutter of whatever kind of day you’re having. And you can blissfully concentrate on the task at hand: eating sushi. Hiroyuki Naruke and wife Kyoko have managed to create an Edo-style sushi bubble in the center of downtown, where you can get lost in an omakase lunch for an hour or a three-hour procession of fish for dinner. At Q, there is no need to dip your sushi in soy sauce. Hiroyuki, who ran a six-seat sushi restaurant in Tokyo before opening Q, ages and cures his fish to manipulate the flavors to his liking, and his rice is artfully seasoned with red vinegar and salt. He works gracefully behind the bar, his nimble hands shaping each course and placing it carefully before you — each piece of fish a gift, created just for you.— Jenn Harris
The airy atrium in the shadow of the Vibiana bell tower is reason enough to go to Redbird, the New American downtown restaurant by chef Neal Fraser and wife Amy Knoll Fraser. If you need another, the...
The airy atrium in the shadow of the Vibiana bell tower is reason enough to go to Redbird, the New American downtown restaurant by chef Neal Fraser and wife Amy Knoll Fraser. If you need another, the happy hour is among the city’s best, with the restaurant’s addictive quinoa-strewn shishito peppers, house-cured sardines and hamachi crudo all on discount, plus more than half a dozen $9 cocktails. You easily could spend a very happy hour or two sitting at the marble-topped bar under the retractable roof, chatting with the attractive bartenders and eating nothing but complimentary Brazilian cheese ball after cheese ball. But then you’d miss out on the gemelli pasta with braised goat, bread crumbs and poached egg, enlivened with the heat of Fresno chiles, or the lamb belly with charred eggplant and pickled walnuts. Since opening in 2014, it has quietly become one of downtown’s finest places to drink and eat the work day away.— Andrea Chang
Is there a tiny nonna hiding somewhere in the back of Steve Samson’s Bologna-inspired restaurant in the downtown Fashion District? Is that...
Is there a tiny nonna hiding somewhere in the back of Steve Samson’s Bologna-inspired restaurant in the downtown Fashion District? Is that her behind the grill? Maybe she’s in the bar sipping a Negroni. Nope, it’s Samson in the kitchen, cooking food he’d probably like you to believe a sweet nonna made, out of one of the hippest dining rooms in downtown. His Bolognese, paler and richer and, frankly, more Bolognese than most of what you’ll find at other restaurants, is the kind of stick-to-your-ribs meat sauce that will leave you wishing we had actual seasons in Los Angeles. (He’s dressing his brunch burger with a ladleful of the stuff, too, which sounds like a gimmick but eats like a dream.) Before the Bolognese, you will taste your way through Rossoblu’s house-cured meats draped over the puffed pillows of dough known as crescentine fritte. The coppa di testa is a delicious mosaic of pig parts, the dry-aged whipped beef tallow is pure meat butter, and the salame stands tall as some of the best in the city. Samson may cook like your nonna, if she had Instagram.— Jenn Harris
- Price: $$$
- City Market South, 1124 San Julian St., Los Angeles
- (213) 749-1099
- Full bar. Valet and street parking. Credit cards accepted.
Dining at Shibumi feels kind of like the surprisingly refined reward of a postmodern urban treasure hunt. David Schlosser’s small, sophisticated Japanese restaurant could be...
Dining at Shibumi feels kind of like the surprisingly refined reward of a postmodern urban treasure hunt. David Schlosser’s small, sophisticated Japanese restaurant could be mistaken for a dive bar from the outside, crammed next to a parking garage in a grimy section of downtown L.A. But duck inside and you’ll find an omakase counter fashioned from a hundreds-year-old cypress tree, behind which Schlosser stands, making gorgeous little plates of salmon trout smoked in cherry bark, steamed abalone and handmade mochi diced into a bath of ginger miso. There are tinier plates of pickles, mushrooms aged for a year, bits of raw eggplant, a hunk of tuna that’s been cured in salt until it looks more like charcoal than fish. You can spend more than a hundred bucks on an omakase menu, plenty more if you want Kobe beef or a bottle from the impressive sake collection. Or just order a plate of grilled onigiri, the rice balls you can find in Tokyo department stores, served with a lacto-fermented pickle. And for dessert? Maybe a cake made of water.— Amy Scattergood
Sonoratown opened in downtown two years ago with the lure of something not commonly found in L.A.’s robust taco scene: buttery soft, almost translucent...
Sonoratown opened in downtown two years ago with the lure of something not commonly found in L.A.’s robust taco scene: buttery soft, almost translucent, super-thin flour tortillas made in-house by hand. Those outstanding tortillas are the base of Sonoratown’s northern Mexican-style tacos, quesadillas and “chivichangas,” mini burritos that are grilled instead of deep-fried like chimichangas. Co-owners Teodoro Diaz-Rodriguez and Jennifer Feltham, perhaps the friendliest person to ever take your taco order, run this tiny counter-service storefront not far from Santee Alley. Most items are modest in size, and all are modest in price, so you can build an extremely affordable meal by mixing and matching: maybe a chivi with shredded chicken, a carne asada taco and a chorizo caramelo — a large folded taco with Monterey Jack cheese and pinto beans; all told, that would run you $11. Get a bean and cheese burrito to go and eat it as a snack later.— Andrea Chang
Boyle Heights and east of downtown
From downtown L.A., motor east on 1st Street to Boyle Heights to explore two restaurants from this year’s list. Don’t forget to check out Highland Park.
When the taqueria opened in 2010, Guisados was a novelty for many Angelenos. The Boyle Heights shop didn’t offer the more familiar crumbly...
When the taqueria opened in 2010, Guisados was a novelty for many Angelenos. The Boyle Heights shop didn’t offer the more familiar crumbly carne asada or sliced al pastor tacos, instead spooning powerfully flavorful braises — tinga de pollo, bistek en salsa roja, chuleta en chile verde — from bubbling vats. Known as guisados, the stews are pure comfort food with roots in home cooking, hugely popular in Mexico City. The little shop also brought thicker, more richly corn-y tortillas to the L.A. taco scene, in part because they stand up better to the hearty stews. The substantial handmade tortillas can be polarizing, but the guisados are universally adored. Seemingly overnight, Guisados turned into a mini-chain, with taquerias in some of Greater L.A.’s trendiest corners and an expanded menu that includes breakfast items at some locations and specials such as chiles rellenos. But the sampler of six miniature tacos is still the way to go: You’ll get to try more of the braises, and the ratio of tortilla to stew is just right.— Andrea Chang
Hippo seems very much a restaurant of 2018 Los Angeles. It occupies a loud, open-beamed industrial space in Highland Park, the go-to neighborhood of...
Hippo seems very much a restaurant of 2018 Los Angeles. It occupies a loud, open-beamed industrial space in Highland Park, the go-to neighborhood of the moment for chefs trying to make their mark. You have to pass by an on-trend pizzeria — the Roman-style, by-the-slice pie shop Triple Beam Pizza — even to get to the front doors, which is fitting, given that Hippo’s chef is none other than Matt Molina, who ran the kitchen for L.A. pizza queen Nancy Silverton at Osteria Mozza. Since leaving Mozza, Molina has been slinging burgers, albeit insanely good ones, at Everson Royce Bar, his downtown wine bar, so it’s terrific to find him at work in the huge open kitchen. You can see Molina’s history on his menu, the rustic California-Italian style that he learned coming up in Campanile and Mozza, with its emphasis on house-made pasta and roasted vegetables, salumi and intense sauces. And to pair with all that intensity, it should come as no surprise whatsoever to find a heavy-hitting wine list from Mozza alum David Rosoff, along with Rosoff himself, as familiar to L.A. diners as the plates of burrata and agnolotti. Get the barbecued, pancetta-wrapped quail and let Rosoff take care of filling your glass.— Amy Scattergood
Years before Los Angeles became known for its fleets of nouveau food trucks, Raul Ortega had parked his taco truck on the side of Olympic Boulevard in Boyle Heights and...
Years before Los Angeles became known for its fleets of nouveau food trucks, Raul Ortega had parked his taco truck on the side of Olympic Boulevard in Boyle Heights and was handing down paper plates of tacos dorado de camarones to loyal crowds. Ortega is still there making those shrimp tacos, addictive envelopes of corn tortillas folded around mashed fresh shrimp that are fried golden and topped with spicy salsa and slices of avocado. It’s a recipe he brought with him from San Juan de los Lagos in Jalisco, Mexico, some 35 years ago, and it has remained as constant as the crowds. There are other things you can get to supplement your order — incendiary aguachile, fish ceviche on crispy tostadas. But it’s the fried shrimp tacos that you’ll keep coming back for. Take a plate loaded with as many as will fit and a bottle of Mexican Coke and go sit on the brick stoop beside the truck with folks doing the same. It’s an L.A. rite of passage as much as it is lunch.— Amy Scattergood
San Gabriel Valley
To tour San Gabriel Valley’s food scene, traverse the 10 Freeway from Monterey Park to the Los Angeles County line.
As L.A.’s Sichuan renaissance evolves, Chengdu Taste remains a constant. The cooking is as vibrant as when the place opened five years ago, a procession of...
As L.A.’s Sichuan renaissance evolves, Chengdu Taste remains a constant. The cooking is as vibrant as when the place opened five years ago, a procession of beautifully calibrated dishes that bring the famous heat of the regional cuisine but don’t overwhelm the sophistication of the flavors underneath. That layering is evident not only with the heat index but also on the huge menu itself. There are the classics, such as mapo tofu, dan dan mian noodles and hot pots. Folks still wait in line for its signature dishes — plates of toothpick lamb, green peppercorn-spiked fish and numb-taste wontons — with the kind of reverence kids have for a hot dog at Pink’s. (The lines have been mitigated by the opening of two more locations, but still: be prepared.) And once you’ve visited a few times, you make it deeper still, to the cult favorite stuff like Rabbit With Younger Sister’s Secret Recipe, fiery sauced mung bean jelly noodles and the skewers of chicken feet, like a jumble of pick-up sticks. After enough visits, all of it is in your purview, which means you can go to Chengdu Taste because it’s one of the best Sichuan restaurants in the city and beyond, or because you’re in the mood for an unadventurous but excellent helping of kung pao chicken.— Amy Scattergood
Chong Qing Special Noodles
Half of the tables at Chong Qing Special Noodles seem to hold a big plate of what the menu calls Gele Mountain Chicken, fried chicken cubes tossed with dry chiles. But you are here for...
Half of the tables at Chong Qing Special Noodles seem to hold a big plate of what the menu calls Gele Mountain Chicken, fried chicken cubes tossed with dry chiles. But you are here for the noodles: hand-pulled zha jiang mian, with pork and sweet, black bean paste; oniony Qishan noodles, from Shaanxi province, served with minced pork; hand-cut, fanbelt-thick noodles buried under a wokful of chicken stewed with carrots and potatoes, a close analogue to what the Shaanxi restaurants in town tend to call Big Plate Chicken. The noodle shop is a kind of spinoff of the nearby Best Noodle House in Rosemead; Best’s chef left to start the San Gabriel restaurant. The namesake Chongqing noodles are thin, bouncy things, vibrating with several different kinds of chile heat, tossed with vegetables and pork — everything you want when you go out for Sichuan noodles, with a hard-fried egg on top. When you inhale a big bowl of thick, hand-cut you po noodles with vinegar, herbs and fragrant oil, chase them with smoky plum juice, finishing with a plate of marinated cucumber, sliced pigs’ ears pressed into a translucent terrine, and maybe a huge bowl of fat wonton sluiced with chile oil, it is hard not to be happy.— Jonathan Gold
If you’ve never tried fideo, the umami-rich soup that gets most of its flavor from toasty brown noodles, you should get in your car right now and drive to Whittier. Think of it as...
If you’ve never tried fideo, the umami-rich soup that gets most of its flavor from toasty brown noodles, you should get in your car right now and drive to Whittier. Think of it as Mexican ramen if it helps, or as the chicken soup that’s as comforting as you always want it to be. It’s the specialty at Ricardo Diaz’s downtown Colonia Publica, where you can build your own bowl and add such things as house-made pork chorizo, grilled corn and blanched cactus to a broth built on chicken, vegetables and pork bones simmered until they liquefy. Diaz is also making the kind of food you should enjoy with a michelada (or many): crispy potato tacos with morita-curry salsa, a fried tortilla-wrapped hot dog and a quesadilla full of fried pork cracklins. Alternating between bites of quesadilla, sips of michelada and slurps of fideo is an ideal way to spend an evening.— Jenn Harris
This restaurant has almost everything you’d expect from a mega-dining room — modernist chandelier, marbled surfaces and...
This restaurant has almost everything you’d expect from a mega-dining room — modernist chandelier, marbled surfaces and the largest video screen you have seen outside a stadium. Flashing wall signs advertise specials, and you should probably take them up on the soy sauce chicken, which is one of the restaurant’s best dishes. I’m not sure I have ever managed to get through a dinner here without ordering the luscious slices of braised pork belly draped over pungent Hakka preserved vegetables, or the crisped oysters buried under a stack of cleanly braised scallions substantial enough to be a course of their own. But if you are there before 3 p.m., you have come for the dim sum. Flaky barbecued pork pastries and sticky baked barbecued pork buns; gooey, spicy steamed chicken feet cooked with XO sauce; domes of puff pastry atop bowls of thin, hot almond milk spiked with ginkgo nuts. The steamed rice noodles, cheong fun, are not the usual delicate rolls but chewy and twisted like scarves, with fillings of shrimp, dried scallops, sweet pork or roast duck. The BBQ Supreme rice noodle roll, stuffed with crunchy bits of roast pig, resembles a cross between dim sum and first-rate carnitas, and I cannot recommend the dish enough.— Jonathan Gold
The best Japanese restaurants traditionally define themselves by specializing in a particular food or presentation. Osawa, a project of Sayuri Tachibe and her husband, Shigefumi Tachibe, corporate chef for all the U.S. Chaya restaurants for 31 years, may be...
The best Japanese restaurants traditionally define themselves by specializing in a particular food or presentation. Osawa, a project of Sayuri Tachibe and her husband, Shigefumi Tachibe, corporate chef for all the U.S. Chaya restaurants for 31 years, may be as close to a one-stop shop as I’ve ever seen. You can get sukiyaki and foie gras with daikon, and nobody will give you side-eye if you order an albacore volcano roll. But you can also get sushi of delicately seared nodoguro, a black-throated perch famous for its oil-free flesh and robust, meaty taste, that is hard to find even in Tokyo. Call the place izakaya-plus. There’s as beautifully diverse an assortment of fish as you’ll see outside of Japan: sanma, saury pike, served as sushi at the height of its season; the sea robin called hobo, cooked in a spicy Italian-style broth; lovely sardines from Hokkaido; and a dozen other things that don’t make it onto the menus of strip-mall sushi-ya. Osawa is an easy place to be a secret connoisseur. But I’m a peasant, which means I always order battera sushi too — vinegared sushi rice pressed into a mold over lightly pickled mackerel and a transparent slip of seaweed — more train station sushi than the stuff of omakase meals. For anyone who enjoys getting whomped over the head with flavor, it’s a pleasurable way to go.— Jonathan Gold
Choosing which of the San Gabriel Valley’s dim sum palaces to visit is one of those embarrassment of riches situations, a true First World problem, as the saying goes, albeit with a Los Angeles twist. Sea Harbour is...
Choosing which of the San Gabriel Valley’s dim sum palaces to visit is one of those embarrassment of riches situations, a true First World problem, as the saying goes, albeit with a Los Angeles twist. Sea Harbour is the standout of the pack, a grand Hong Kong-style restaurant in Rosemead that is worth the hour or more that you will almost certainly wait if you show up from midmorning to early afternoon on a weekend. The spiral-bound menu — no dim sum carts here — is carefully arranged with a helpful photo of each dish, like a children’s picture book but for hungry adults. So what makes Sea Harbour superior? It’s simple: Just about every dim sum staple — whether it’s the barbecue pork buns, shrimp dumplings, radish cakes, chicken feet or rice noodle rolls — tastes better here. The generously filled, cloud-like buns deserve a special shout-out, in particular the baked low-fat milk bun, which does not taste low-fat in the slightest, and the steamed preserved salty egg yolk bun, the velvety yellow-orange goo threatening to pour out as soon as you take a bite. The price points are slightly higher, and you might have conflicted feelings about truffle shu mai, but when it comes to high-quality, fresh dim sum, Sea Harbour is where it’s at.— Andrea Chang
Having dinner at Sichuan Impression without the proper number of people is a problem because you will have to wait for a table — Sichuan food is the...
Having dinner at Sichuan Impression without the proper number of people is a problem because you will have to wait for a table — Sichuan food is the rock star cuisine of Los Angeles at the moment — and once you are seated you will need to order much of the menu. You shouldn’t have to choose between the Bobo chicken (a pot of deep red tobanjan-fueled broth with skewers of chicken, gizzards and intestine shooting out of the middle) and the toothpick lamb (a pile of equal parts chopped dried chiles and bits of lamb impaled with toothpicks). You’ll need to try the boiled fish with rattan pepper in a nuclear green broth. And the wontons in chile oil too. This is head-banging food that ping pongs you with that mala effect: a volley of wicked-intense heat followed by a wave of peppercorn- induced numbness. Sichuan Impression is bringing this style of food west and out of the San Gabriel Valley with its new location in Westwood. So for those of you constantly asking where to get legit spicy Chinese food on the Westside, go and be impressed.— Jenn Harris
South of downtown
From Bell Gardens to Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, you’ll find restaurants that serve regional dishes from Mexico and American soul food too.
Chichen Itza / Holbox
Remember when food halls weren’t trendy? Like before Grand Central Market became gentrified and started selling...
Remember when food halls weren’t trendy? Like before Grand Central Market became gentrified and started selling gourmet peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts trimmed off? Those feeling nostalgic should head to Mercado La Paloma, a converted garment factory near USC that houses food stalls and a handful of shops. It’s easy to park, the lines (if any) are short, and you can build a fantastic meal from Gilberto Cetina Jr.’s two casual Yucatecan spots, Chichen Itza and the seafood-intensive Holbox, without breaking the bank. At the former, don’t miss the cochinita pibil, a heap of moist pork that has been marinated in sour orange juice, spices and a paste made from the red-orange seed achiote and then cooked in banana leaves, or the tikin-xic, two buttery basa fillets balancing atop a mound of rice in a pool of bright achiote-spiked sauce. If you can stand the heat, a splash of fiery house-made habanero hot sauce goes great on both. Over at the newer Holbox a few feet away, Cetina serves raw and cooked seafood dishes including ceviches, cocteles and fish tacos. Thursday through Saturday, the order-at-the-counter stall offers a $65 six-course tasting menu at night.— Andrea Chang
The chef David Chang has promoted Ugly Delicious food — dishes whose horrible appearance masks the loveliness of something great. There may be nothing...
The chef David Chang has promoted Ugly Delicious food — dishes whose horrible appearance masks the loveliness of something great. There may be nothing in Southern California so Ugly Delicious as the aguachile at El Coraloense, run by Natalie Curie, a culinary-school grad who took over the mini-mall restaurant from her parents. Although Curie’s version of the spicy shrimp ceviche at the heart of the Nayarit-Sinaloa kitchen is nicely arranged with cucumber, red onion and fanned avocado slices, the marinade is murky, tinged brown with soy sauce. If you are familiar with the Nayarit/Sinaloan seafood at Coni’Seafood and Mariscos Chente, Curie’s menu will seem familiar: smoked-marlin tacos, mammoth seafood cocktails and more than a few ceviche tostadas. The infamous shrimp-topped raw oysters called Viagra.com? Check. But that aguachile? When you bite into those withered-looking shrouds of flesh — pop! — there is garlic and heat, a rush of juice, and an emphatic flavor that you don’t usually get with finer-looking but mushier takes on the dish. It’s pretty spectacular in any of Curie’s five versions. I like the salty, spicy, slightly smoky ahogados.— Jonathan Gold
La Casita Mexicana
Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu opened their landmark Bell restaurant two decades ago, and for all those years it’s been both...
Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu opened their landmark Bell restaurant two decades ago, and for all those years it’s been both a neighborhood staple and a destination restaurant for the rest of the country. The anchors of the massive menu are dishes from their native Jalisco: bowls of homey pozole and the intense chile-spiked birria. The kitchen turns out superlative versions of dishes from other regions: cochinita pibil, queso fundido, zucchini blossom enchiladas and a showstopping chile en nogada. And there are plenty of moles, which first appear with your introductory bowl of chips, as if to remind you to order them. (Get all three moles — poblano, green and red pepian — with pork.) Although Del Campo and Arvizu have opened a second restaurant, Mexicano in Baldwin Hills, and are Univision cooking show celebrities, the pair are still often in the kitchen or in the garden behind the restaurant.— Amy Scattergood
Post & Beam
When Post & Beam opened a few years ago, it was something of an event. It was the latest restaurant from chef Govind Armstrong, the “Top Chef” alum who had...
When Post & Beam opened a few years ago, it was something of an event. It was the latest restaurant from chef Govind Armstrong, the “Top Chef” alum who had famously started his career as a teenager at Spago. And it was in Baldwin Hills, which had a vibrant African American community, but not a lot of destination restaurants, much less one run by a chef with Armstrong’s résumé. Armstrong is still executive chef, and owner and founder Brad Johnson is still there, part maître d’, part neighborhood impresario. Also behind the stoves is chef John Cleveland, an Armstrong protégé from Oakland, who has been putting his stamp — and his family’s smoked baby back ribs recipe — on the menu for the last year. That menu leans toward soul food, with plates of shrimp and grits, fried catfish with dirty rice, cast-iron chicken and excellent cornbread. There are also Sunday Suppers, brunch on the weekends and happy hours where you can get a plate of buttermilk fried chicken wings or tacos along with your Sazeracs.— Amy Scattergood
Head south of LAX to explore Inglewood or down Sepulveda Boulevard to Manhattan Beach.
Before you’re even settled in at Coni’Seafood, maybe as you’re being led to your table in the modest dining room or to the patio in the back, you would do well to inquire about...
Before you’re even settled in at Coni’Seafood, maybe as you’re being led to your table in the modest dining room or to the patio in the back, you would do well to inquire about a snook. Snook is the white-meat fish that the restaurant turns into pescado zarandeado, a triumph of Nayarit-style seafood cookery, in which a huge marinated fish is grilled, slowly, for 30 minutes, to something approaching perfection. If it’s available — and it usually is — order it right away; the server will eyeball your party and pick a fish size accordingly. Fill your wait with cheesy marlin tacos, an unlikely but inarguable alliance of smoky fish and melty cheese, and aguachile, translucent raw shrimp coated in an electric-green marinade, their heads still feebly attached. While you’re at it, you might as well get a platter of shrimp, too, offered in what seems like unlimited permutations: among them garlicky and buttery, spicy and oniony, or peppery and spiked with tequila. The snook is an impressive sight when it arrives, butterflied and charred in parts, a row of sliced cucumbers decorating one side, rings of bracelet-sized red onion lining the other. Make a taco with the steamy tortillas and caramelized onions that come with the fish, or just dig into the medium-firm flesh directly. Only in Los Angeles will your favorite seafood joint be found on the side of a highway.— Andrea Chang
When Tin Vuong opened his first Little Sister — there are three locations now — in 2013, it seemed so energetic, so progressive as to be almost dangerous. Although maybe...
When Tin Vuong opened his first Little Sister — there are three locations now — in 2013, it seemed so energetic, so progressive as to be almost dangerous. Although maybe it was just the paintings of machine guns on the walls of a loud, clubby restaurant in laid-back Manhattan Beach. His plates of Singaporean chile crab, Viet crepes with pork belly, and a paella-like crock of black rice with seafood are neither pan-Asian nor fusion as much as they are a kind of personal mash-up. Vuong grew up in Monterey Park in a family that moved from Shanghai to Saigon to Los Angeles, and you can trace that path on his plates. His food is as punchy and addictive as his playlists. And although it’s indisputably fun to order a feast of lemon-grass beef and e-fu noodles across the street from the Pacific, the downtown branch has a short list of congee dishes, and Vuong’s cheffy take on the rice porridge comfort food is masterful. Although it’s easy to get distracted by the green papaya salad, do not overlook the “Eastside 626 Provisions,” a sub-group of pickles and hot sauces.— Amy Scattergood
Manhattan Beach Post
The menu at David LeFevre’s almost beachside restaurant reads more like a conversation between friends than an actual menu, with...
The menu at David LeFevre’s almost beachside restaurant reads more like a conversation between friends than an actual menu, with notes scribbled in between and around the dishes: “This is the world’s best pork!” It sets the tone for what’s to follow: a procession of food you’ll recommend to friends in those same words. The menu — American-ish, market-ish, is solid and includes roasted Brussels sprouts in a honey-thyme gastrique, spaghetti with Swiss chard pesto and pickled wild mushrooms, and char siu lamb belly — but what you are here for are the insanely delicious bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits. These are not pretty biscuits. They arrive on a misshapen slab of wood, with bits of bacon and cheddar poking out of the dough. But they are perfection: crisp, tender, flaky, flavorful. And with a healthy pat of maple butter, there are few things in the universe more satisfying.— Jenn Harris
From Culver City to points west of the 405 Freeway there are 17 restaurants that showcase noodle dishes, seafood and more.
A meal at Bryant Ng and Kim Luu-Ng’s Santa Monica restaurant can weave through Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore — often in the same night, and sometimes...
A meal at Bryant Ng and Kim Luu-Ng’s Santa Monica restaurant can weave through Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore — often in the same night, and sometimes in the same bowl. Ng’s riffs on recognizable dishes are the versions you’ve always wanted but didn’t know until he put them on the table in front of you. Many restaurants around town are trying their hand at an inventive bread-and-dip course, and Ng’s luscious chickpea curry and bubbly flatbread probably trumps them all. His charcuterie fried rice is reminiscent of the salty fish fried rice at your favorite Chinese cafe in the SGV but enlivened with Chinese bacon and lap cheong. The steak frites look standard, but that peppercorn sauce is umami-boosted with fish sauce, and the butter melting on your steak is richly redolent of shallots. Cassia has a charcuterie board like every other hot restaurant in town, but this one is filled with Singaporean candied pork, lamb ham and Vietnamese meatloaf. On a recent visit, a diner was overheard proclaiming that “all pork should be Singaporean candied pork!” He’s not entirely wrong.— Jenn Harris
Viewed through the lens of a daytime coffee shop, Destroyer can be a mystifying place — what to make of the deconstructed avocado toast or the beef tartare buried under a...
Viewed through the lens of a daytime coffee shop, Destroyer can be a mystifying place — what to make of the deconstructed avocado toast or the beef tartare buried under a carpet of radish sprouts and powders? Then you find out it’s by Jordan Kahn, and suddenly it all makes sense. Destroyer is a modernist restaurant in a minimalist white space: clean lines, shelves of pickling jars and a futuristic menu board projected onto the wall. Kahn, the curtain-haired chef who trained under Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz and helmed Red Medicine in Beverly Hills, presides over two restaurants on Hayden Avenue in Culver City, one of them kinda weird, and the other — the $250-per-person Vespertine — very weird. Destroyer is the accessible one, a snug all-day place that whips up highly Instagrammable bowls of rice porridge, chicken confit and vegetables, most of which arrive looking nothing like you expect. There’s almost always a row of jammy fruit bars on the counter; do yourself a favor and order one — they’re as out of this world as Kahn’s spaceship-looking building across the street.— Andrea Chang
Dave Beran is nothing if not hyper-ambitious. He burns stuff. He makes powders. He will serve you a...
Dave Beran is nothing if not hyper-ambitious. He burns stuff. He makes powders. He will serve you a glass of strawberry-flavored bubbles, the kind you used to make in chocolate milk with a straw, and hide caviar and a bit of pork belly underneath. If you have the patience for 20 small courses, roughly structured like a kaiseki meal, and the resources to pay for the not-inexpensive meal, Beran will take you places you have never been. He cooked for years at Alinea with Grant Achatz and was the executive chef at Achatz’s Next, a dream restaurant whose theme changed completely every few months. Like Next, Dialogue changes its menu, although the changes tend to be seasonal. If you are lucky, there will be pressed duck. Beran captures the juices that flow from the spout of a gleaming duck press and reduces them with aromatics until they thicken into a suave gravy. You get a little puddle of the sauce, a sliver of crisp-skinned breast and braised fresh pineapple crowned with a crisped sage leaf. You spoon ragout made from the duck’s leg and thigh out of a bowl. You resist the temptation to lick the plate or decide that at $220 prix fixe you just don’t care. You are experiencing one of the grandest dishes of French cuisine lovingly prepared on the second level of a mall food court. And it is magnificent.— Jonathan Gold
I know we’re all supposed to be off-carb, on quinoa, spinning our way to splendid slenderness, but, honestly, I want to be one of the beautiful people in Evan Funke’s Venice dining room, those who are actually eating piles of...
I know we’re all supposed to be off-carb, on quinoa, spinning our way to splendid slenderness, but, honestly, I want to be one of the beautiful people in Evan Funke’s Venice dining room, those who are actually eating piles of handmade pasta every night. Funke, who doesn’t just make pasta by hand but does so with only a rolling pin (his favorite hashtag on Instagram emphatically disses your pasta machine), studied how to make pasta in Bologna. But he makes pasta from all over the boot: His Roman cacio e pepe is hot and punchy with black pepper, his troffie are delicate corkscrews coated with fragrant pesto Genovese. Order all the pastas that appeal, but do not forget to add a pan of sfincione focaccia siciliana to your pasta order. The focaccia, fluffy with a good chew, ends up frying in the olive oil it’s cooked in, creating a supremely decadent table bread. To make a reservation for dinner at Felix, you must plot 28 days in advance: I advise setting a midnight alarm, booking the table online, going to sleep and dreaming sweet dreams of pillows of gnocchi.— Jenn Harris
So much has happened since Travis Lett opened Gjelina 10 years ago. Many of the things that were remarkable about the restaurant back then are now...
So much has happened since Travis Lett opened Gjelina 10 years ago. Many of the things that were remarkable about the restaurant back then are now happily commonplace: the produce-loaded menu, the wood-fired pizzas, the mismatched vintage decor, the leaf-strewn patio, even the local grain pastas and beautiful chef cookbooks. But there’s a magnetism to Gjelina that keeps us all coming back, maybe because Lett has always been better at this than many of those who followed him; he finesses all that burrata and Bloomsdale spinach and caramelized fennel in ways that seem at once innovative and as comfortable as the old J. Crew sweater you’ll want when you sit on the patio outside. These days you can order artisanal pizza in Highland Park, make Lett’s salads at home with his recipes and find hipster enclaves far from Abbot Kinney. Meanwhile, the trendiness at Gjelina has morphed into something more interesting, a kind of depth that comes with good things given time to mature.— Amy Scattergood
Walk into Gjusta, past the stacks of Central Milling flour and permanent crowd by the door, and you wonder how it functions at all, much less thrives. The popular Venice spot is...
Walk into Gjusta, past the stacks of Central Milling flour and permanent crowd by the door, and you wonder how it functions at all, much less thrives. The popular Venice spot is a seemingly chaotic mash-up of deli, bakery, coffee bar, patio lunch meeting place and commissary for Travis Lett’s other restaurants. Yet thrive it does, turning out all manner of excellent products — rye boules and galettes, smoked fish and pastrami, pizza and house-bottled hot sauce — to take home at the same time that it makes a marvelous restaurant menu. There are grain bowls for breakfast, sandwiches and soups for lunch, steak frites and pork chops and agnolotti for dinner: This is a place that can be many things to many people. And although the lines of Westsiders can seem oppressive at times, it’s worth ordering a salted mocha and chatting up one of the folks behind the counter and watching the enormous engine of the open kitchen and bakery at work while you wait. And if you can score a coveted patio table, stow your bag of extra baklava croissants and babka and settle in, remembering to hit the Gjusta Goods gift shop next door on your way home. Because why not get a gorgeous ceramic dish to put all those croissants in?— Amy Scattergood
Kato, the contemporary Taiwanese-esque strip mall spot run by chef Jon Yao, may have the most restrained and unpretentious...
Kato, the contemporary Taiwanese-esque strip mall spot run by chef Jon Yao, may have the most restrained and unpretentious tasting menu in town. It’s a breezy affair, a dozen or so courses served at a speedy clip, a welcome break from the overly long multi-course meals at other restaurants of this caliber. A recent meal began with a buckwheat cracker with a smear of avocado and egg yolk jam under a blanket of nasturtium leaves, followed by a shiso leaf “sandwich” of thinly sliced scallops; aged tuna, uni, lobster and turbot also made appearances on the seasonal seafood-intensive $85 menu. Yao weaves Taiwanese and other Asian influences into his elevated cooking, such as a house-made bolo bao — the Hong Kong-style pineapple bun with the telltale sugary-crust topping — with foie gras mousse, or duck breast resting in a pool of black vinegar. There was just one dessert, and it was a good one: a pingpong-ball-sized scoop of tangerine-colored snow, nestled in a Mandarin orange peel that had been filled with buttercream. You’ll be wowed by Yao’s delicate cooking — and grateful to be leaving happily sated but not stuffed. Kato has a casual menu at lunch and has been experimenting with occasional à la carte dinners.— Andrea Chang
Tantanmen, spicy ramen loosely based on Sichuan dan dan mian, is a perfect cult object, occupying the space where...
Tantanmen, spicy ramen loosely based on Sichuan dan dan mian, is a perfect cult object, occupying the space where chile freaks and ramen obsessives intersect. There has never been a local tantanmen restaurant like Killer Noodle, from the people behind Tsujita. You select your spice level, from one to six, for conventional chile heat and for sansho pepper, whose numbing effect is similar to that of Sichuan peppercorn. There will be no refund if the noodles turn out to be too spicy, but there are big pitchers of ice water at every table. You try the Tokyo-style noodles with soup, level three (sansho level four), and you like them. The soup is thick with ground nuts, and there is an almost imperceptible funk of dried shrimp. The noodles are thin, firm, chewy, almost bouncy. There is a flavor bomb of ground pork, miso and aromatics floating in the center. It is spicy but not too spicy. Yet there is the level six. You return and order a bowl. Servers hover around you, making sure you are not in too much physical distress, offering you towels, refilling the ice water. Then you are floating on a sea of endorphins. Still, the next time around you are thinking you’ll go back to three.— Jonathan Gold
Sometimes it seems as if Lukshon, the high-minded pan-Asian restaurant Sang Yoon opened in 2011 in the Helms Bakery complex, is...
Sometimes it seems as if Lukshon, the high-minded pan-Asian restaurant Sang Yoon opened in 2011 in the Helms Bakery complex, is as much of a test kitchen as his actual test kitchen, which is across the parking lot. Yoon plays with a lot of the dishes at Lukshon, swapping out sauces, firing up new kitchen toys, switching ingredients. So the bowl of Chiang Mai noodles can change color from one month to the next. The subject of the restaurant morphs, sometimes seeming to be about riffs on Chinese street food (cold sesame noodles, Sichuan dumplings, spicy chicken pops), sometimes more about Michelin-y tasting menu fare (butterfish with lime cells and coconut snow, oysters and frozen dipping sauce). Just when you feel you have a handle on the place, Yoon will wander in, after another trip to Hong Kong or a pickup ice hockey game across town, with new ideas. You will never be bored eating here, because Yoon will never allow himself to stop reinventing.— Amy Scattergood
Tucked in the back of a mini-mall off Venice Boulevard, Mayura is an easy place to miss. But there it’s been for 13 years, serving a huge menu of dishes from...
Tucked in the back of a mini-mall off Venice Boulevard, Mayura is an easy place to miss. But there it’s been for 13 years, serving a huge menu of dishes from the southern Indian state of Kerala. The dosas are exemplary: golden crepes that come folded into giant triangles or, if you get the ghee dosa, formed into a massive cone. The uthappam, hubcap-sized pancakes made from ground rice and lentils, are pretty great, especially the spicy ones studded with disks of jalapeños. Kerala cooking is spice-laden and awash in coconut milk. Order a table’s worth of the curries, made with fish, chicken, or goat; you need a bowl of the dense porridge upma; and at least one biryani, which is more ornately seasoned here than is often the case. You can get butter chicken and lamb vindaloo too — the menu seems endless, as do the ways to configure a superior meal.— Amy Scattergood
There’s joy in the journey as you make your way through an evening at Josiah Citrin’s tasting-menu restaurant in Santa Monica. The dining room hits all the...
There’s joy in the journey as you make your way through an evening at Josiah Citrin’s tasting-menu restaurant in Santa Monica. The dining room hits all the marks of classic fine dining: the tablecloths are white, and the lighting is dimmed for the optimal romantic setting. On any given night there’s a festive atmosphere, as most of the diners around you will be marking some kind of occasion. It has been this way for the last 19 years and will hopefully continue to be around for the next 19. Because there should always be cause for a soft poached egg tucked into its shell with a dollop of smoked lemon crème fraîche and golden osetra caviar. And equal cause to make it rain white truffles over al dente Acquerello rice enveloped in mascarpone. And to order the cheese course as a second dessert. Someone in the kitchen is surely using tweezers, but nothing skews stuffy. With each course more decadent than the next, it’s a fitting way to celebrate whatever you’re celebrating.— Jenn Harris
Los Angeles has its fair share of blowout big-occasion restaurants, and Niki Nakayama is at the helm of one of the most wonderful places to go when...
Los Angeles has its fair share of blowout big-occasion restaurants, and Niki Nakayama is at the helm of one of the most wonderful places to go when there’s something really special to celebrate. N/naka, her exceptional kaiseki restaurant, is set in an unassuming bungalow in Palms, with a 13-course meal that takes diners on a journey through this formal school of Japanese cooking, splashed with a touch of Californian influence. Some recent highlights included an avocado-and-Alaskan-king-crab-stuffed tomato at the peak of the season, crowned with a tangle of fried ruby-red beet threads, and a sublime piece of A5 Wagyu beef grilled over binchotan, intense in flavor and astoundingly buttery in texture. Nakayama’s $225 menu changes frequently, and dishes rarely appear again, save for the pretty little twirl of spaghettini with abalone and pickled cod roe. N/naka has a reputation for being L.A.’s hardest-to-book restaurant, a set-your-alarm-and-frantically-refresh situation. Here’s a tip: Use the “Notify Me” function on booking platform Resy and stay glued to your email — chances are you’ll get in once someone cancels.— Andrea Chang
Without anyone quite noticing, Native chef Nyesha Arrington has become a force in Los Angeles cooking: a protégé of Josiah Citrin at Mélisse who...
Without anyone quite noticing, Native chef Nyesha Arrington has become a force in Los Angeles cooking: a protégé of Josiah Citrin at Mélisse who drifted through an oddly vegetable-intensive year at Wilshire steakhouse and a turn on “Top Chef” before her brief, brilliant run as chef at Venice restaurant Leona. It is as difficult to categorize Arrington’s food as it is the chef herself, a young African American, born and raised in L.A., whose love of cooking began in her Korean grandmother’s kitchen. A fat curl of crisped octopus tentacle with smoky, tangy yogurt comes with a handful of house-made corn nuts. In a mustardy, hand-chopped tartare, made with Wagyu beef, the crunchiness comes not from the slivered pear you’d expect in a Korean yuk hwe but from sprouted seeds that have nearly the same texture. I loved the rabbit “sugo” and spaetzle, a tomato-rich dish that resembled a first-rate Tuscan cacciatore. What is clear is that her food tastes like L.A.: colliding flavors from a dozen culinary traditions, tied together with exquisitely seasonal produce from the nearby Santa Monica farmers market, a list of funky natural wines and music that seems drawn from a KJLH playlist circa 1983.— Jonathan Gold
f you follow Jeremy Fox on Instagram, and you should, you can see how much of a hands-on chef he still is, five years after taking over the stoves at Rustic Canyon. The repeating dishes...
If you follow Jeremy Fox on Instagram, and you should, you can see how much of a hands-on chef he still is, five years after taking over the stoves at Rustic Canyon. The repeating dishes that come out of his kitchen, compositions (he favors top shots on a wooden table) showcasing produce from the nearby Santa Monica farmers market, local seafood and grains and cheeses, and prettily plated with Fox’s supremely creative and well-flavored sauces, make you wonder if the chef wouldn’t make a pretty good Flemish-style still-life painter if this cooking gig doesn’t work out. Though Fox is fond of vegetables (he famously helmed the vegetarian restaurant Ubuntu in Napa and wrote a cookbook devoted to vegetables), he is equally gifted with hanger steak and rib-eye, roasted chicken and rockfish, employing all his chanterelles, pomegranates, amaranth and shelling beans in supporting roles. The restaurant, invariably loud and packed, has an impressive wine list (it’s called a wine bar for good reason) and a dessert menu that’s so good — dishes tend to focus on whole grains, raw cream and local fruit — that you’d be advised to leave yourself space to fully explore it. Get the current iteration of “beets and berries,” and even if you always order the pozole verde, do it again.— Amy Scattergood
Memorable meals take place in all kinds of unexpected settings in Los Angeles, with one of the best unfolding in the middle of a building shaped like...
Memorable meals take place in all kinds of unexpected settings in Los Angeles, with one of the best unfolding in the middle of a building shaped like a chili bowl. Inside the quiet circular space just off the 10 Freeway, Shunji Nakao presides over the exquisite Japanese restaurant that bears his name. The bar is where you want to be, as it is supremely pleasurable to get an up-close view of Nakao deftly slicing, pressing and saucing piece after piece of delicate fish, the anticipation heightening as the nigiri makes its way from his station to your plate. There are no unremarkable bites — Nakao somehow understands how to draw out the best of each fish’s innate characteristics, whether it be a piece of otoro crosshatched on one side and then lightly seared with a blowtorch, or a Japanese scallop garnished simply with flecks of sea salt and yuzu zest. Shunji is equally adept at cooked items from the kitchen, a procession of which you will receive if you opt to do the omakase. And you really should — it’s a profoundly special experience.— Andrea Chang
Before Tsujita, the ramen landscape in Los Angeles was dominated by bowls of tonkotsu ramen, noodles and chashu and egg all...
Before Tsujita, the ramen landscape in Los Angeles was dominated by bowls of tonkotsu ramen, noodles and chashu and egg all swimming merrily together in porky broth. Then the Tokyo ramen chain opened an outpost on Sawtelle Boulevard in 2011, unleashing tsukemen — noodles and broth served separately — to the masses and sparking a dipping ramen craze. Long lines formed every day outside the corner shop, and copycats were suddenly everywhere. The crowds are, thankfully, shorter at the original Tsujita now, but the noodle joint remains the standard bearer by which all other tsukemen newcomers are judged (and ultimately fall short). There are several components to tsukemen, and Tsujita gets each one right: medium-sized springy noodles that come apart easily; creamy broth with the essence of pig cranked up to 11; buttery hunks of roast pork; and that gloriously soft egg, all gooey orange jam inside. A squirt of lime and dab of spicy mustardy greens enhance the flavors. Tsujita has since spawned a small family of local ramen shops, including locations in Glendale and on Fairfax Avenue.— Andrea Chang
Few restaurants have been as discussed and debated in the last year as Vespertine. Is it worth the price tag? Is it delicious? Do the servers speak? Can you really...
Few restaurants have been as discussed and debated in the last year as Vespertine. Is it worth the price tag? Is it delicious? Do the servers speak? Can you really eat the dishware? What chef Jordan Kahn has created is an experience unlike any other, and a conversation piece for the entire world. I won’t wax poetic about the waffle-like architecture, the music and uniforms designed specifically for the restaurant, or the fact that the building actually has its own signature scent. What you need to know, if you’re going to spend about a month’s rent on dinner, is that Vespertine will leave a lasting impression. It’s about five hours of stimulating the senses, introducing you to many sights, sounds and flavors you’ve never tried (how many flowers can you eat in one dinner?). It is an odd, post-apocalyptic-ish place. Dinner should and will surprise you. You will walk away feeling like you’ve glimpsed another world, one where the dark green crunchy bits draped over a tree trunk are something you want to eat even if you still can’t figure out what they were.— Jenn Harris
Beverly Hills - West Hollywood - Fairfax
Head down Santa Monica Boulevard from the 405 Freeway to La Brea Avenue and sample pizzas, seafood, injera and more.
189 by Dominique Ansel
Pastry chefs bring a chemist’s precision to the savory kitchen but also a willingness to experiment with form. So it is no surprise that at 189...
Pastry chefs bring a chemist’s precision to the savory kitchen but also a willingness to experiment with form. So it is no surprise that at 189 by Dominique Ansel, a big, airy space looking out over the Grove’s shoppers-filled main street, little is quite what it seems. Milk bread, a construction of soft bread cubes dusted with cotija cheese and filled with puréed corn, somehow tastes like the best street corner elote in East L.A. “Avocado toast” at the downstairs bakery is a trompe l’oeil confection of avocado ice cream, frozen ricotta and shortbread. If you read food magazines, you know about Ansel. He’s the inventor of the Cronut, the Frankensteinian love child of a croissant and a doughnut whose limited daily run inspired endless early morning queues, a New York tradition he has imported to L.A. It’s easy to be happy at 189. Cabbage soup is almost exactly what you hope for when you order French onion soup, down to the boatload of melted cheese. Roasted game hen, with garlic-infused sticky rice and marinated scallion slivers, is a rotisserie-cooked take on the Korean soup samgye tang. Right on cue, the server shows up with shot glasses of strong chicken broth to sip along with the bird.— Jonathan Gold
When a small fire closed A.O.C. not too long ago, we held our breath — and our forks. And then the wine bar reopened, as refreshed as we were, and the procession...
When a small fire closed A.O.C. not too long ago, we held our breath — and our forks. And then the wine bar reopened, as refreshed as we were, and the procession of rillettes, roasted vegetables, fennel-stuffed quail and escarole salads began again, a quiet engine of well-being. A.O.C. has reinvented itself a few times since it opened in 2002, changing addresses, adding a patio and more trees, like a secret arboretum, but its essence has remained. It’s an oasis of vaguely Mediterranean food that has always celebrated local produce and excellent wine, a place where you could eat as well by yourself as with a crowd. As the years went by and chef Suzanne Goin and sommelier Caroline Styne racked up awards, the cocktails have gotten better and the seafood has gotten more sustainable, while the charcuterie boards, roast chicken and bacon-stuffed dates have stayed blissfully constant. While the duo’s restaurant Lucques is the place you go for Sunday Suppers, A.O.C. feels more like a sit-down party, where you can match wines by the glass with whatever Goin is making. Don’t forget to order the vintner’s plate — and the focaccia.— Amy Scattergood
How does Gino Angelini do it? Because restaurants come and go, yet somehow his charmingly cramped trattoria continues...
How does Gino Angelini do it? Because restaurants come and go, yet somehow his charmingly cramped trattoria continues to be full just about every night. That the 17-year-old Angelini Osteria has stood the test of time, becoming for many people the go-to Italian restaurant in a city with no shortage of them, is a testament to its lively atmosphere, the servers with their heavy Italian accents and the rustic dishes that are comforting without feeling dated — this is food you pine for after you’ve been away from it for too long. Take the famous green lasagna: sheets of spinach pasta are interspersed between layers of besciamella sauce and a ragù of beef and veal, a heap of fried jewel-toned spinach strewn on top like crisp leaves on a sidewalk square. It’s not overly fancy per se, but it’s special. The same is true for so many other dishes: spicy bombolotti pasta with guanciale and pecorino, roasted veal bone marrow, a whole salt-crusted branzino filleted table-side. We introduced readers to the osteria in 2001 with a review headlined, “Angelini Osteria a Home for Italian Food.” So many years later, this enduring place still feels like home.— Andrea Chang
When chef Pawan Mahendro and his sons Nakul and Arjun opened the original Badmaash in downtown L.A. in 2013, the restaurant seemed more like a pub than an Indian restaurant, maybe because...
When chef Pawan Mahendro and his sons Nakul and Arjun opened the original Badmaash in downtown L.A. in 2013, the restaurant seemed more like a pub than an Indian restaurant, maybe because of the chili cheese naan and the giant Warholian portraits of Gandhi in Ray-Bans. The Mahendros’ menu evolved, the butter chicken reached a level of profundity, and then the trio opened a second location on Fairfax. The menu is nearly identical to the downtown spot, but somehow the cooking is even better, as if rebooting the dishes across town put them into clearer focus. The chili cheese naan is still there, as is the chicken tikka poutine — the Mahendro family came to Los Angeles from India via Toronto — and the brothers have added a podcast and a recurrent gig at Coachella to their repertoire. But this is one of the best Indian restaurants in town, a place where you can have fun and find terrifically balanced, beautifully torqued food. That you can get your plate of Goan pork curry across the street from Canter’s Deli seems utterly fitting.— Amy Scattergood
Connie and Ted’s
This is the seafood shack you wish you’d had growing up, in some small New England town, with a fishmonger who knows your name and a patio...
This is the seafood shack you wish you’d had growing up, in some small New England town, with a fishmonger who knows your name and a patio that looks out onto choppy, blue waters — except it’s in an improbably tony West Hollywood spot where you’d have dinner with your agent. Michael Cimarusti is one of the best chefs in the country, full stop. Here, he and head chef Sam Baxter visit their talents on elevated stuffies, extra-excellent lobster rolls and perfected clam chowder (there are three kinds). There are boiled dinners full of all the seafood you want to eat with your hands on top of this morning’s paper, served with a bib. The oysters are vibrantly fresh and supremely slurpable. And it’s almost too easy to make a meal out of the fried clam strips and a cocktail. It’s straightforward food made well, in what has become a bona fide neighborhood restaurant.— Jenn Harris
If you’re celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, a new job or your best friend’s new baby, this is the place to do it. This Beverly Wilshire restaurant is where you come when you want...
If you’re celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, a new job or your best friend’s new baby, this is the place to do it. This Beverly Wilshire restaurant is where you come when you want to #treatyourself or someone else. The service is impeccable. The steaks are cooked exactingly. The sides are precisely what you wanted. And Billy Crystal may be at the next table. Wolfgang Puck and head chef Ari Rosenson have perfected the art of the old-school expense-account steakhouse, and they’re doing it better than everyone else. The steak is wheeled out to you on a cart in the dining room so you can ogle the marbling in the 12-ounce Japanese pure-breed Wagyu rib-eye you just ordered. And if you’re attempting extra decadence (you came here for a reason, right?), start with the bone marrow flan. It’s served with rounds of toasted brioche, red-wine bordelaise and a parsley-caper salad for a make-your-own “things on toast” situation. It should also be noted that Cut Lounge, directly opposite the restaurant, is a fantastic place for some Japanese whiskey and a “snack” of dry-aged USDA Prime New York sirloin skewers.— Jenn Harris
Jon & Vinny’s
These days, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo have a mini empire in this city, stretching from the still-unmarked doors of their landmark dude restaurant Animal to the dining rooms they...
These days, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo have a mini empire in this city, stretching from the still-unmarked doors of their landmark dude restaurant Animal to the dining rooms they share with chef Ludo Lefebvre. But it is at the pizza and pasta restaurant they named after themselves that they seem most at home, and maybe so do the rest of us. Jon & Vinny’s is a cozy, all-day place, where there are crayons for your kids and an easygoing menu that includes Nutella-filled Italian doughnuts, mozzarella sticks, house-made pasta with six-hour Bolognese sauce, chicken Parmesan and tiramisu. And then there is the pizza: lightly charred at the edges, built on thin but not crisp crusts, and loaded with good things like Nueske’s bacon or local burrata or black kale or house-made chorizo. If you’re a pizza voyeur, sit at the counter, where you can almost feel the heat from the fire. On the go? Grab bottles of Grüner Veltliner from Helen Johannesen’s supremely well-curated wine room, a separate glassed-in shop conveniently located at the back of the place. It is the kid’s-meal restaurant of your grown-up, hung-over dreams. And, yes, they deliver.— Amy Scattergood
For the last 20 years, Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne have quietly made the former carriage house on Melrose Avenue the spiritual home of...
For the last 20 years, Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne have quietly made the former carriage house on Melrose Avenue the spiritual home of contemporary Southern California cooking. Goin’s dishes — plates of charred vegetables and harissa, of chicken paillard and corn pancakes, of grilled lamb with Bloomsdale spinach and charmoula — feel like she just blew through the kitchen doors with a massive basket of produce and invented her recipes on the spot. If that sounds a little like Alice Waters, it’s for good reason. Goin began her career at Waters’ Berkeley restaurant and then brought that ethos down the coast, saucing her vegetable-oriented plates with more vibrant flavors and turning up the fire on the grill. Pull up a patio chair, order most of the small plates, as if you’re assembling a mezze feast, then a few of the centerpiece dishes — something with olives or stone fruit or smoked butter — and wine to match, remembering that you’ll need to save room for a wedge of fruit galette, maybe a vacherin and some cheeses. As you settle in under the leaves, it will occur to you, not for the last time, that Lucques is our Chez Panisse.— Amy Scattergood
Meals by Genet
Genet Agonafer’s almost 20-year-old Ethiopian restaurant, on the southern end of L.A.’s Little Ethiopia neighborhood near LACMA, is a study in contrasts. Agonafer is still the only...
Genet Agonafer’s almost 20-year-old Ethiopian restaurant, on the southern end of L.A.’s Little Ethiopia neighborhood near LACMA, is a study in contrasts. Agonafer is still the only cook in the tiny kitchen, running the place like the one-woman catering business it originally was, after she came to L.A. from Addis Ababa. The rustic food — the doro wat and kitfo and tibs that are eaten by hand, scooped up with bits of the injera flatbread that’s also your plate — is served in a dining room that looks like a Paris bistro: white tablecloths on the tables, napkins folded into wine glasses, low candlelight and framed art on the walls. The doro wat, long-stewed chicken cooked in a berbere-spiced sauce the color of mahogany, is the best in town, a magnificent amalgam of spice and heat and flavor. In the years since the chef went vegan, she’s added a version of tibs with tofu that’s almost as addictive as her showpiece dish. And fittingly enough for the cuisine from the birthplace of coffee, there are affogatos for dessert.— Amy Scattergood
Night + Market
When Night + Market first opened, Kris Yenbamroong was known for challenging Thai food — full of...
When Night + Market first opened, Kris Yenbamroong was known for challenging Thai food — full of blood and bitterness, with incendiary chile heat. But as his empire has grown, he’s relaxed and switched gears: He makes food you want to eat again and again, authenticity be damned. Sure, there’s still a recognizable northeastern Thai backbone to what he does, but there’s also duck pizza at the Venice location and a take on crab rangoon in Silver Lake. Somehow it all works, and better than it should. You will not want to leave any of his three restaurants without at least one order of the nam khao tod crispy rice salad. The dish is a study in textures: rice puffed up and fried until it turns into golden crunchy kernels, slivers of red onion, raw ginger, fresh herbs, Yenbamroong’s version of Spam, chile and a tart, electric dressing of lime and fish sauce. But whether it’s the khao soi, the fried chicken sandwich or the larb gai, he has managed to coax flavors that you want to keep coming back to. And he and wife and partner Sarah are among the city’s top pushers of natural wine. These are wines that are off-center, easy to drink and pair splendidly with his food. Before you know it, that crispy rice salad is gone, so is that bottle of wine, and you’re plotting to make your way back.— Jenn Harris
Odys + Penelope
The first thing you see when you open the doors to Quinn and Karen Hatfield’s restaurant is the open-fire grill where most of your dinner will be cooked, next to...
The first thing you see when you open the doors to Quinn and Karen Hatfield’s restaurant is the open-fire grill where most of your dinner will be cooked, next to an impressive stack of firewood that makes you forget you’re in the Fairfax neighborhood. You’ll want to order large plates for sharing: tri-tip, whole branzino, pork ribs, smoked and grilled Mary’s chicken — all of which will come trailing the scent of that massive grill. Eat your vegetables, as they too come out of the fire before being dosed with sauces: charred broccolini with beet remoulade and hazelnut dukkah, say, or roasted spaghetti squash with salsa cruda. Do not forget dessert, as Karen is one of the best pastry chefs in the country and her chocolate rye pie one of the best desserts in town. The dishes are hearty and rustic, but you won’t forget that the Hatfields met at Spago and that their previous restaurant, Hatfield’s, had one star in the Michelin guide, back when Los Angeles had one.— Amy Scattergood
There are myriad reasons to frequent Walter and Margarita Manzke’s Hancock Park restaurant: the amped-up French bistro food, which includes...
There are myriad reasons to frequent Walter and Margarita Manzke’s Hancock Park restaurant: the amped-up French bistro food, which includes what is arguably L.A.’s best roast chicken, handmade pasta sauced with uni and black truffles, foie gras torchon on toast, Green Goddess salad built with local lettuces, Channel Islands black cod with gnocchi. Margarita’s desserts are terrific riffs on classics — a towering chocolate cake the color of obsidian, say, that’s so good you’ll forget to Instagram it. If you come in the morning, there are pastry cases and shelves of baked goods that transform the restaurant’s entryway into one of the best bakeries in the city. Inside, the place is as breathtaking as the food — it looks like a cross between a French farmhouse and a tiny cathedral — and the hanging charcuterie, wine cabinets and wooden communal tables encourage you to order more than you responsibly should. No worries: Any extra chicken will make a great sandwich, and you can probably pick up a baguette on the way out. If there are any canelés de Bordeaux left from the morning’s baking, get them all.— Amy Scattergood
Ricardo Zarate has always cooked exemplary food, whether it was at his modest stall at the Mercado La Paloma or when he was running his trifecta of modern Peruvian...
Ricardo Zarate has always cooked exemplary food, whether it was at his modest stall at the Mercado La Paloma or when he was running his trifecta of modern Peruvian restaurants: Mo-Chica downtown, Picca in West L.A. and Paiche in Marina del Rey. Those restaurants are gone after a split between Zarate and his investors, but the chef is still very much a force in the L.A. dining scene. His restaurant Rosaliné, which opened in 2017, is his best one yet. The West Hollywood hot spot sits on one of the trendiest stretches of Melrose Avenue, as pretty as the customers it attracts. The striking center room feels like a greenhouse, with voluminous hanging plants and white herringbone tiled walls. Zarate is churning out excellent versions of Peruvian classics here. His ceviches — try the kampachi with ají pesto and sweet potato — are intensely tangy, his seafood paella fully loaded with tender clams, prawns, scallops and calamari. To finish, the chancay con leche, a Peruvian cake with goat’s milk, coconut milk, guava frozen yogurt and toasted meringue, might be the greatest dessert you have all year.— Andrea Chang
At a good sushi bar, the kind that makes you swoon, the first piece you are offered is the tell, a statement of purpose that should...
At a good sushi bar, the kind that makes you swoon, the first piece you are offered is the tell, a statement of purpose that should let you know whether you are in for an hour of bliss or an hour of sake-lubricated sadness at the happiness that might have been. The first piece that chef Morihiro “Mori” Onodera nestles onto my plate at Shiki, a specialist in washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine exquisitely tuned to the seasons, is a slash of Japanese sea bream on a narrow pillar of body-temperature rice — softness not quite collapsing into richness, a breath of acid, a lick of salt from the kelp in which it has been marinated, a fine, searing filament of heat that vanishes as quickly as it appears. This is what sushi devotees are looking for when they save up their nickels, a definitive experience that exists only for the lifetime of a sigh. In addition to Onodera, until recently without a restaurant since he sold his Michelin-starred Mori Sushi in 2011 to focus on pottery, Shiki has attracted star chef Nao Sugiyama. If you were lucky enough to visit his kaiseki restaurant, Sugiyama, in Manhattan’s theater district, you may recognize some of the courses — maybe kumquat suspended in a cube of clear jelly; simmered baby abalone served with a bit of its liver and an atomic-strength yuzu kosho, a citrus-chile condiment; or braised enoki mushrooms under a blizzard of smoky shaved fish.— Jonathan Gold
Somni / The Bazaar
Chef José Andrés’ various spots inside the SLS Beverly Hills have always felt a bit over the top: There’s lots of dry ice as well as molecular gastronomy olives that burst in your mouth and a dessert bar out of “Alice in Wonderland.” At his newest restaurant here, Somni, which replaced Saam, diners buy $235 tickets in advance and sit side by side at a semicircular chef’s counter facing a deep exhibition kitchen. A dozen chefs and cooks, including head chef Aitor Zabala, are on display as they prepare, plate and present 22 or so intricate courses, Spanish-influenced and hyper-modern. Each visually stunning dish is served to every diner at precisely the same time before a cook takes center stage and carefully explains what is on the plate (or wooden mannequin hand, as the case may be — the restaurant takes liberties with its service pieces). That might include a turbot wing served in a bowl resembling a fish, a pigtail curry bun or a nori empanada shaped like a Chinese fan. The Bazaar, another José Andrés restaurant that you walk through before entering Somni, offers trappings of the same unreality in a more affordable à la carte menu.— Andrea Chang
Steve Samson’s pizzas are exactly what you want when you’re craving a Neapolitan-style pie: A chewy, flavorful crust completely covered in...
Steve Samson’s pizzas are exactly what you want when you’re craving a Neapolitan-style pie: A chewy, flavorful crust completely covered in crisp leopard spots of char just out of a wood-fired oven. The pizzas arrive blazing hot, with toppings such as Calabrian chiles, house-cured pork jowl and fennel pollen scattered artfully across them. Order a side of burrata, and within minutes a server will whisk a bowl full of the milky cheese over to your table. Add dollops to your pizza, to your meatballs, to your pasta, to whatever you like; it makes everything better. The dining room is dark enough so that you can eat like no one’s watching. Kick it off with a stiff Negroni and end with an order of cannoli and you’re on your way to a pretty great night.— Jenn Harris
The patio dining room at Spago can feel like the center of the L.A. restaurant universe, a serene place where you will be attended to by a staff as well-trained as a theater troupe and where...
The patio dining room at Spago can feel like the center of the L.A. restaurant universe, a serene place where you will be attended to by a staff as well-trained as a theater troupe and where, as often as not, Wolfgang Puck himself will stroll through, greeting both neophytes on a sightseeing trip and folks who may have been Spago regulars for more than 35 years. Spago has changed locations, added fancy art and a retractable roof over the patio, even switched chefs a few times — though some of the crew have been with Puck for decades — but its excellence remains constant. You will be presented with an introductory tuille cone filled with tuna tartare, as long-running as Puck’s Home Shopping Network collection, and then all bets are off. The menu, engineered by executive chef Lee Hefter and chef de cuisine Tetsu Yahagi, is surprising, especially if you’re expecting smoked salmon pizza and spaetzle. There could be handmade agnolotti with shaved truffles under glass; a veal chop with black garlic and preserved lemon; a côte de boeuf with pommes aligot; or impossibly fresh chirashi presented like bright gems in a jewelry box. There will probably be caviar, definitely a series of exquisite desserts — Della Gossett helms the pastry kitchen as expertly as Sherry Yard did — and a tiny box of chocolates to end your meal, as if you’re already in a swank hotel for the night. The tourists will be impressed, but so are the rest of us, year after year.— Amy Scattergood
San Fernando Valley
From San Fernando Road in Glendale to several neighborhoods along the slope of the Santa Monica Mountains, the San Fernando Valley offers three of this year’s favorite restaurants.
A wave of modern Middle Eastern cooking has recently taken root in Los Angeles, so now it’s possible to find foie gras halvah with black sesame or something called...
A wave of modern Middle Eastern cooking has recently taken root in Los Angeles, so now it’s possible to find foie gras halvah with black sesame or something called “hummus bling bling” — creamy chickpea spread enhanced with brown butter and pickled raisins — on trendy restaurant menus. The reinventions are great, the new restaurants deserving of the hype, but it can all feel like a bit of a scene when you just want dinner. On those nights, escape to Adana, a mid-priced 21-year-old Middle Eastern restaurant on a deserted stretch in Glendale. Owned by chef Edward Khechemyan, Adana has an expansive menu that incorporates Armenian, Iranian, Turkish and Georgian influences. There are three eggplant dips and a cheese platter with a delightfully ropy, curd-like cheese; it comes with an assortment of greens — basil, mint, peppers and cucumbers — that Khechemyan advises should be used to wrap the cheese “like a little sandwich.” Kebabs are fragrantly spiced, served with a gargantuan mound of saffron-tinged rice on a plate the size of a steering wheel; the chicken and salmon in particular are splendid.— Andrea Chang
Set in a strip mall on one of the most sushi-dense streets in America, the venerable Asanebo continues...
Set in a strip mall on one of the most sushi-dense streets in America, the venerable Asanebo continues to be the star of Ventura Boulevard. The Studio City restaurant was opened in 1991 by the Nakao brothers, Tetsuya and Shunji, who along with Nobu Matsuhisa were the original chefs at Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills; nearly three decades later, the trio are still among the most successful sushi masters in town. Shunji now runs his own namesake place in West L.A., but you can regularly find Tetsuya behind the counter at the cheerful Asanebo. Sushi restaurants sometimes take a hard-line approach with their customers — no rolls, no tempura, and don’t even think about asking for spicy tuna — but Asanebo tries its hardest to please everyone, with an exhaustive multi-page menu. The best play, of course, is to pick one of three levels of omakase for $95, $140 or $240. But if you still want a California roll afterward, they’ve got you.— Andrea Chang
Scratch Bar & Kitchen
All the fine-dining tropes at play in Los Angeles right now are on display at Scratch Bar. Will you start in one part of the restaurant before...
All the fine-dining tropes at play in Los Angeles right now are on display at Scratch Bar. Will you start in one part of the restaurant before moving to another partway through the meal? Yep. Use your hands to eat some of your 20-plus courses? Of course. Interact directly with the chefs because there are no servers? You’ll be pals by night’s end. The restaurant, run by Phillip Frankland Lee of “Top Chef” fame and his wife, pastry chef Margarita Kallas-Lee, moved from Beverly Hills’ Restaurant Row to the second floor of one of those monolithic suburban corner mini-malls in 2015. Expect top-notch versions of such tasting menu mainstays as foie gras, duck breast and Wagyu beef, and luxurious garnishes of truffles and uni. If all of that sounds standard, there’s literally magic hidden inside the place: On Monday and Tuesday nights, Lee hands over a secret back room at Scratch Bar to a roster of magicians who put on a pop-up show for 16 people. Is it all an illusion? Because the hidden space transforms into an omakase sushi spot, also run by Lee, on other nights.— Andrea Chang
Hollywood - Silver Lake - Echo Park
Take a ride along Sunset Boulevard from the historic heart of the film industry to Echo Park.
After years of teasing us by doling out his barbecue from a portable smoker in Jimmy Kimmel’s backlot, Adam Perry Lang finally...
After years of teasing us by doling out his barbecue from a portable smoker in Jimmy Kimmel’s backlot, Adam Perry Lang finally opened an actual restaurant, a swank steakhouse in Hollywood. This is the kind of temple to beef where it seems fitting that Kimmel would drop by; where the front door opens to actual sidewalk stars; where there’s an aging room and a man cave downstairs; and where the steak knives, made by Perry Lang himself, are called “felony knives” because stealing the $950.01 cutlery is a felony. The chef, who cooked for Daniel Boulud and Guy Savoy before swapping his toque for a ball cap, has paired his tomahawk chops and 100-day-aged rib-eyes with old-school sides that wouldn’t be out of place in a Paris bistro — small tureens of creamed spinach and whipped potatoes, plus the kind of sauces that would make Carême happy. And if the road to excess isn’t well-paved enough, there’s a wedge salad to end all wedge salads. The size of a Nerf football and strewn with blue cheese dressing, it’s draped with a massive slab of house-cured bacon that looks as illegal as one of those knives.— Amy Scattergood
Freedman’s would have been the favorite restaurant of your late Uncle Morris, the guy who had a favorite room at the Sands and a chilled seltzer gun in the fridge. The wood is dark, the bar is ready...
Freedman’s would have been the favorite restaurant of your late Uncle Morris, the guy who had a favorite room at the Sands and a chilled seltzer gun in the fridge. The wood is dark, the bar is ready to make a whiskey sour or a fancy martini, and you can get smoked dates served in a splash of smoked foie gras fat. Tiny latkes, “pommes Freedman,” are tricked out like tater tots. There is house-smoked pastrami — good if not quite Langer’s — and what may be the best sliced deli tongue you have ever tasted, cured in the manner of corned beef but with a bounciness and depth that corned beef rarely approaches. The $105 brisket for four, a showcase dish sliced table-side with an electric knife, is luscious, juicy and soft enough to eat with a spoon. Still, this may be the only deli in existence whose signature sandwich involves ripe avocados and fried chicken skin, which is delicious in ways it may be difficult to explain. The best meal at Freedman’s might be weekend brunch, when the soft, dense Toronto-style bagels are freshly baked, the cream cheese may be blended with whitefish or roasted Hatch chiles, and the streaky scrambled eggs are airy and light. You can get pancakes with crème fraîche and salty shreds of hot-smoked salmon; the spectacular hash is made with corned tongue and diced potatoes. Three-tiered smoked-fish platters, served with a tower of bagels, are the equivalent of a first-class plateau de mer.— Jonathan Gold
Australian brothers Curtis and Luke Stone own one of the most opulent dining rooms in the city, a throwback to Old Hollywood, with its...
Australian brothers Curtis and Luke Stone own one of the most opulent dining rooms in the city, a throwback to Old Hollywood, with its glittering pair of spiral chandeliers, sweeping arches and Art Deco-meets-steampunk vibe. You’re here to eat meat, though, not to ogle the gorgeous space or the many defeathered or defurred creatures hanging upside down in the adjoining butcher shop. Gwen opened in 2016 on Sunset Boulevard with a required five-course tasting menu for customers seated in the main dining room; it has since switched to a more accessible à la carte format, though there’s still an $85 “Taste of Gwen” available. The house-made charcuterie board is a nice way to kick off the evening before the heavy-hitters arrive: Creekstone bone-in rib-eyes, dry-aged for 30 or 80 days, hanger steak, Kurobuta pork or any one of the Blackmore Wagyu cuts — there’s a separate menu devoted to the Australian beef — are sure to give you happy meat sweats later. It’s a different scene at lunch, when the restaurant is closed but you can swing by the butcher shop, order a sandwich and enjoy it in that grand dining room.— Andrea Chang
The Hearth & Hound
I have friends I respect who refuse to set foot into the Hearth & Hound because the chef, April Bloomfield, was said to have...
I have friends I respect who refuse to set foot into the Hearth & Hound because the chef, April Bloomfield, was said to have brushed off complaints about allegations of sexual misconduct by restaurateur Ken Friedman at the Spotted Pig, the Manhattan restaurant they ran together. But the choice is not simple. If you boycott the Hearth & Hound, are you silencing an important woman’s voice? The line is not mine to draw for you, but Bloomfield, who seems to have dissolved her partnership with Friedman and taken control of the Hollywood restaurant, is a wonderful chef, a force in American cooking. Inside the old expat pub Cat & Fiddle, she serves a changing seasonal menu that might include whole roasted beets smeared with creamy blue cheese, Moroccan-ish roast lamb with carrots and black lime, and possibly the best chicharrónes I had ever tasted outside of Baja. My favorite dish was a wedge of steamed, lightly pickled cabbage flavored with meaty beef drippings and slumped onto a puddle of a briny oyster purée — the dish tastes like a marvelous sea creature you have never before encountered but can’t wait to taste again.— Jonathan Gold
The L.A. restaurant world lost one of its biggest stars last year with the passing of Jitlada co-owner Suthiporn “Tui” Sungkamee, who died of lung cancer at 66. Years before diners...
The L.A. restaurant world lost one of its biggest stars last year with the passing of Jitlada co-owner Suthiporn “Tui” Sungkamee, who died of lung cancer at 66. Years before diners were setting their taste buds on fire at Howlin’ Ray’s or Chengdu Taste, the king of curry was pushing the limits of spice tolerance at the Thai Town restaurant he took over in 2006 with his sister, the perennially sunny Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong. The siblings attracted a cult following of Hollywood types and regular folks who came for Jitlada’s expansive southern Thai menu, a daunting tome of curries, pillowy green mussels and “adventurous bizarre foods” in addition to the Thai standards found everywhere else. Today, Singsanong and other family members are carrying on, but Sungkamee’s presence continues to be felt in the jumbled dining room plastered with framed cartoons by “The Simpsons” creator and Jitlada superfan Matt Groening. One section of the menu is dedicated to his seafood specialties and another to the “dynamite spicy challenge presented by Chef Tui” — a dare so sweat-inducing that it comes with a warning label.— Andrea Chang
Kali began as a refined underground pop-up dinner series before evolving into a full Californian restaurant on Melrose Avenue in 2016. It is a reliable crowd-pleaser, appropriate for...
Kali began as a refined underground pop-up dinner series before evolving into a full Californian restaurant on Melrose Avenue in 2016. It is a reliable crowd-pleaser, appropriate for all kinds of dining scenarios: date night, weekday business lunch, family celebration or solo walk-in dinner at the bar. As such, Kali does its best to be flexible: There are tasting and chef’s menus (Kevin Meehan, the chef, worked at Cafe Pinot and Patina downtown before launching Kali) as well as a robust à la carte menu with several dishes that can be ordered half-size. Meehan’s food is familiar but not. Yellowtail crudo is practically a menu staple of fancier places in L.A.; his stands out in a pool of smoked bone broth, scattered with edible flowers and charcoal rice crackers that look like Asian shrimp chips. A “risotto” grain bowl is made of black barley, fermented black garlic tea and wheat-grass oil — the brownish sludge is not much to look at, but the umami-rich notes and chewy mouthfeel of the nutty barley are a savvy rethinking of how to deliver on the promise of risotto with a completely different set of ingredients.— Andrea Chang
There is a lighthearted tone at play on the menu at Kismet: One section is labeled “salad-y,” the malawach is simply called “flaky bread,” and the...
There is a lighthearted tone at play on the menu at Kismet: One section is labeled “salad-y,” the malawach is simply called “flaky bread,” and the “Turkish-ish breakfast” comes with “all the things.” And, truth be told, nearly all the things at Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson’s all-day, Middle-Eastern-with-California-flair restaurant are good. Every meal at the Los Feliz space — a minimalist dining room with white walls, white tables, white counter, white-blond wood and hipster-looking shrubs — should begin with that flaky bread, so intoxicatingly buttery that you, in your desperation to grab a piece as soon as it hits the table, are all too happy to scald your fingertips on it. The bread doesn’t show up on the dinner menu, but the kitchen will make it if you ask, so order it and the savory pies filled with loosely ground chicken, pine nuts and citrus notes. Then move on to the fatty lamb belly and the roasted eggplant slathered with diced peppers. On the side, you’ll want the jeweled crispy rice, a mound of currants and toasted pumpkin seeds adorning the golden layer of intentionally overcooked rice, a runny egg yolk buried deep inside.— Andrea Chang
Think of Ma’am Sir not so much as the latest of L.A.’s new wave of wonderful Filipino restaurants but as...
Think of Ma’am Sir not so much as the latest of L.A.’s new wave of wonderful Filipino restaurants but as the triangulation of chef Charles Olalia’s career. The first two points were Joachim Splichal’s Patina, where the young Filipino American was executive chef, and Rice Bar, the seven-stool lunch counter Olalia left the fine-dining universe to start, an ode to the comfort food of his Manila childhood. From those two points, Ma’am Sir is what you get to, if you’re a chef of Olalia’s talents. There are the homey dishes, the adobo and sisig, the kare kare and lumpia. But now that the chef has a big, well-staffed kitchen, his classical training (he also cooked for Guy Savoy and Thomas Keller) is coming through. The lumpia is built with shrimp mousse, uni and lardo. The mango-jackfruit tapioca dessert comes in the form of an actual verrine. The milkfish inihaw, split whole and grilled, the top caramelized until it has the crackle of crème brûlée, is so good you’ll actually dream about it.— Amy Scattergood
Some of my best nights in Los Angeles are spent hopping around Nancy Silverton’s Mozzaplex, the cluster of restaurants on the edge of Hancock Park that...
Some of my best nights in Los Angeles are spent hopping around Nancy Silverton’s Mozzaplex, the cluster of restaurants on the edge of Hancock Park that includes Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, Mozza2Go and Chi Spacca. She’s taken over the southwest corner of Highland and Melrose avenues and turned it into Nancyland, a place where you can get a bubbly pie and a Negroni at the pizzeria, move on to a bowl of oxtail ragú, a good bottle of Barbaresco and one of Dahlia Navarez’s divine sweets at the Osteria. And lastly to Chi Spacca, to a 36-ounce costata alla fiorentina and a focaccia di recco cooked in a handmade copper pan that would make an Italian nonna weep. Would the Los Angeles dining scene be what it is without Silverton? Most certainly not.— Jenn Harris
It’s often said that the mark of a good chef is how well he or she handles eggs. That bodes well for Ludo Lefebvre, whose name has become synonymous in L.A. with a damn good...
It’s often said that the mark of a good chef is how well he or she handles eggs. That bodes well for Ludo Lefebvre, whose name has become synonymous in L.A. with a damn good French omelet. The custardy eggs languish over low heat for longer than any home cook has patience for before being tucked around a log of Boursin cheese and sprinkled with chives. Deceptively plain-looking, the omelet has a silky-soft mouthfeel, as decadent as the superb butter that comes with your baguette. Unlike sister restaurant Trois Mec next door, Petit Trois is unabashedly French. You’ll find expertly executed bistro favorites such as croque-madame and steak frites, plus a few Lefebvre creations that have become legendary: the confit-fried chicken leg doused in brioche butter and, of course, the Big Mec. This is a knife-and-fork burger: a $25 double-patty monstrosity that oozes a waterfall of foie gras bordelaise sauce and drippy melted cheese. Lefebvre expanded the brand’s footprint this year by opening Petit Trois Le Valley in Sherman Oaks. The escargots are as plump and garlicky as ever, only now you get to enjoy them in a much larger space with reservations and actual tables, under a painting of Lefebvre depicted as Louis XIV.— Andrea Chang
Even after 13 years, Michael Cimarusti’s Melrose restaurant continues to be an evolving expression of fine dining in Los Angeles. His is hyperseasonal cooking that is...
Even after 13 years, Michael Cimarusti’s Melrose restaurant continues to be an evolving expression of fine dining in Los Angeles. His is hyperseasonal cooking that is built on a foundation of sustainable local seafood brought to shore by his sustainability-driven seafood company Dock to Dish Los Angeles. On a recent evening, there were monkfish liver tacos wrapped in shiso leaves resting precariously on a branch, salmon rillette bursting out of rye crackers, and Cimarusti’s signature spot prawns, encased completely in salt and cooked for about 90 seconds. One of the most delicious bites of the evening was actually disguised as a garnish: a piece of potato skin fried in Wagyu fat until it turned into the world’s most amazing chip. Cimarusti is one of the best chefs in the world, one cooking at the height of his powers, as he has been for years. That his restaurant isn’t packed with even more awards or ranked on worldwide lists is a criminal oversight, but one that makes the place even more special: It is probably Los Angeles’ best restaurant, and it is all ours.— Jenn Harris
Sapp Coffee Shop
When you sit down at your table, the first question your server will ask is not if you’d like something to drink. Or if he or she can take your order. The only thing he or she wants to know, really, is “how many orders of...
When you sit down at your table, the first question your server will ask is not if you’d like something to drink. Or if he or she can take your order. The only thing he or she wants to know, really, is “how many orders of jade noodles?” Because when you find yourself in this tiny Thai Town strip mall, in a lot that will give the most agile of drivers a reason to squirm, there is only one objective: Order the jade noodles. And really, order your own bowl, because you will not want to share. It should be noted that the boat noodle soup and the crispy pork with broccoli are great too. But you came here for the jade. The sage-colored noodles are thin, springy and easily slurpable. Someone in the kitchen artfully arranges slices of barbecued pork and roast duck, shredded crab meat, crushed peanuts and chile flakes, wedges of Chinese broccoli and a handful of chopped herbs around the bowl. And that spoonful of sugar off to the side is not a mistake. Use your chopsticks to mash it all together, and make each bite the very best bite. Then suck down a first-rate Thai iced tea and go and attack your day.— Jenn Harris
Sqirl is a place you want to dislike: It is too popular, and the people who eat there are too hipster. It is a place...
Sqirl is a place you want to dislike: It is too popular, and the people who eat there are too hipster. It is a place you swear you’ll never go on a weekend morning. But there you are, posted up in a line down Virgil Avenue, trying to decide if you’re going to get a $9 piece of toast nearly drowning in what seems to be a jar’s worth of lovely apricot jam and house-made ricotta, or maybe the long-cooked chicken and rice porridge with frizzled onions. Will you add a poached egg for $2.50? You know you will. Years after Jessica Koslow opened her groundbreaking all-day spot, Sqirl is as insanely trendy as ever; the sorrel pesto rice still the grain bowl against which all others are compared (add the house-made sausage and avocado); and the scones and cookies and other pastry case goodies worth breaking whatever gluten-free diet you’re on. Sqirl has been described as New Californian cooking. But Koslow’s hyperlocal, whimsical, seasonally driven style feels more like New Los Angeles — cooking that is uniquely of this time and place.— Andrea Chang
A breakfast of eggs and potatoes is about as ordinary as it gets, so there is a certain expectation that when such a dish arrives, it will be...
A breakfast of eggs and potatoes is about as ordinary as it gets, so there is a certain expectation that when such a dish arrives, it will be business as usual. At Triniti, chef and co-owner Joseph Geiskopf’s modernist Echo Park cafe where the coffee is bold and the food bolder, there is no discernible trace of potatoes and only the faintest hint of egg in his rendition of the all-American breakfast combo. Rather, it looks like a bowl — a very pretty bowl — of overgrown garden weeds. A furtive poke into the dense forest (a mix of local farm greens, edible golden flowers and brassicas, arranged into the shape of a spring wreath) unearths a hidden layer of chunky roasted potatoes, a runny poached egg and a mound of skordalia, a thick Greek garlicky dip so good it’ll make you regret all those mornings you reached for ketchup. Food this precious and unexpected is everywhere at Triniti, Geiskopf’s first restaurant after he pinballed around the industry for years, including stops at Noma in Copenhagen and at Destroyer in Culver City. Don’t skip the pastry case, which contains revelatory canelés and buckwheat banana bread that has been slathered in honey, then pan-seared. A black sesame cappuccino is the perfect complement.— Andrea Chang
Trois Mec is ostensibly a fine-dining establishment, but N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton” is reliably pumping out of the dining room sound system. It is also ostensibly...
Trois Mec is ostensibly a fine-dining establishment, but N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton” is reliably pumping out of the dining room sound system. It is also ostensibly a French restaurant, but the first bite on the recent fall tasting menu is a cube of fried tapioca that tastes like Italian arancini. The grilled lobster tail and lobster mousseline-stuffed zucchini blossom arrive in a Thai-inspired sauce. The loveliest dish of the night is dubbed California ceviche: luscious late-season quartered tomatoes, thin slivers of watermelon radish and cucumber, and a single berry each of raspberry, blueberry and blackberry, all partially submerged in a thin yellow pool of leche de tigre, the mouth-puckering Peruvian marinade. This is formal cooking done Ludo Lefebvre’s way — a bit wild, conceived by a roguishly charming chef who colors outside the lines but manages to stay on the page. More than five years in, Lefebvre, who runs Trois Mec in partnership with pals Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, still hasn’t taken down the old Raffallo’s Pizza sign above the door. In case you were seriously starting to doubt the Frenchness of the meal, know that the bread basket comes with crepes and three kinds of butter.— Andrea Chang
Have you tried chicken oysters, the true nuggets of the poultry world? Tsubaki has them, skewered five to an order, wonderfully flavorful ovals of...
Have you tried chicken oysters, the true nuggets of the poultry world? Tsubaki has them, skewered five to an order, wonderfully flavorful ovals of dark meat excavated from a pair of crevices in the bird’s back. The meat is grilled until the ring of skin is blistered and browned, making the oysters look a bit like pigs in a blanket, and then topped with a dab of yuzu kosho for a low-grade kick. They’re among the many highlights at Tsubaki, an intimate, under-the-radar izakaya that opened last year, tucked just off Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. It’s a tranquil, deep-blue-walled space, no heavy air of smoke from the grill or diners getting rowdy from too many sake bombs. The menu is largely categorized by cooking method: steamed, fried, grilled, yakitori. Choose one or two from each — the California abalone with shiitake mushrooms and brown butter, maybe, or the 48-hour braised short ribs with furikake and a heavy shower of scallions — and don’t miss the restaurant’s comprehensive sake list. It is easily one of the city’s best, with about three dozen different bottles available nightly.— Andrea Chang
Koreatown - Westlake
Travel Wilshire Boulevard from Highland Avenue to the 110 Freeway and explore Korean barbecue, vegetarian dishes and classic pastrami sandwiches.
This isn’t so much a Mexican restaurant as it is L.A.’s Oaxacan cultural center, the place you go if you want a plate of chicken mole, a shot of excellent...
This isn’t so much a Mexican restaurant as it is L.A.’s Oaxacan cultural center, the place you go if you want a plate of chicken mole, a shot of excellent mezcal, a supply of toasted grasshoppers for your margarita party or to watch the World Cup with a couple hundred new friends. Housed in a giant orange building in Koreatown, the restaurant is the culmination of years of work by the Lopez family, which opened the first iteration of the restaurant in 1994. It’s the kind of restaurant where you could theoretically never leave. Go for a breakfast of huevos rancheros; move on to tlayudas, the Oaxacan answer to pizzas, for lunch; then spend the evening with plates of mole coloradito and barbacoa while you check out the local music scene: The restaurant has live music every night. Did we mention the mezcal? Settle in, and don’t forget to get a jar of mole to go.— Amy Scattergood
I grew up spilling pickle juice on the vinyl booths at Langer’s Delicatessen. During my childhood, my dad, a real estate broker who has worked just blocks away from the restaurant, would take me to the deli. And so I’ve been eating the...
I grew up spilling pickle juice on the vinyl booths at Langer’s Delicatessen. During my childhood, my dad, a real estate broker who has worked just blocks away from the restaurant, would take me to the deli. And so I’ve been eating the No. 19 sandwich here since I could chew solid food. But my experience with Langer’s is not unique. There’s a palpable energy during the lunch rush, and you get the sense that all the people in the booths around you are in on the secret. Jonathan Gold frequently extolled the virtues of the Langer’s pastrami sandwich, calling it the best in the country. And he was right. The pastrami, made by RC Provisions to owner Norm Langer’s specifications, is fatty and rich, piled onto the restaurant’s famous, hot double-baked rye bread. Jonathan liked his with a squirt of yellow mustard. But the No. 19, with Russian dressing, coleslaw and a slice of Swiss cheese, is the stuff of legend.— Jenn Harris
Practically every chef in Los Angeles claims to be vegetable-forward, but few lovingly tend to fresh produce the way Gary Menes does. He grows much of...
Practically every chef in Los Angeles claims to be vegetable-forward, but few lovingly tend to fresh produce the way Gary Menes does. He grows much of what winds up on the plate at Le Comptoir, shuttling it from an organic garden in Long Beach to his narrow 10-seat, counter-only, $89 tasting-menu restaurant inside the Hotel Normandie. For a course simply called “vegetable and fruit plate,” Menes and his tiny team painstakingly, in tweezer-assisted assembly-line fashion, arrange some three dozen ingredients that change by season: a tuft of purple cauliflower, a blistered shishito pepper, a slice of sweet plum. It’s a nod to the gargouillou by French chef Michel Bras, an iconic dish that has been replicated in high-end kitchens around the world. All eight courses at Le Comptoir are vegetarian, although in a couple of cases you can swap out a dish for a supplementary charge and put meat — maybe grass-fed beef or crispy pork belly — in the mix. But why bother? For those of us who are not vegetarian, the best kind of all-vegetable meal is the one that sneaks up on you, so captivating and satisfying that you don’t even miss the meat.— Andrea Chang
Are you familiar with the term “meat sweats”? It’s a glorious condition brought on by gas- and charcoal-fueled grills overflowing with glistening meat, and a...
Are you familiar with the term “meat sweats”? It’s a glorious condition brought on by gas- and charcoal-fueled grills overflowing with glistening meat, and a table crammed with banchan and frosty mugs of Hite. There is probably no better place to experience the #meatsweats than at Jenee Kim’s Park’s BBQ. Her Korean barbecue restaurant is a neighborhood institution, replete with celebrity visitors’ pictures on the walls and with a staff that, once you’ve been in enough times, welcomes you back when you return. Kim is known for introducing Los Angeles to a certain level of Korean barbecue that may be commonplace now but was practically unheard of when she opened the restaurant 15 years ago. You can’t not order the marinated galbi. Her American Wagyu rib-eye steak is marbled through and through. When the meat hits the grill and sputters to life, the fat melts into the steak and bastes itself while it cooks in front of you. There are seasoned pork belly, prime beef tongue, seasoned shrimp and ggot sal too. The banchan (cucumbers slashed with chile, spaghetti strands of spicy raddish, good kimchi and caramelized anchovies) are better than most and change frequently. Every meal here is the ideal Korean barbecue experience. Bring your friends, and bring on the meat sweats.— Jenn Harris
Porridge + Puffs
For the last few years, Minh Phan’s bowls of ethereal porridge have been elusory, appearing very infrequently as part of a pop-up event, but mostly as...
For the last few years, Minh Phan’s bowls of ethereal porridge have been elusory, appearing very infrequently as part of a pop-up event, but mostly as either memory or promise. Phan first presented them in 2014, as a short-lived project called Field Trip connected to the Hollywood farmers market. When it closed, we waited, and waited. That wait finally ended in August, when Phan opened a bricks-and-mortar in Historic Filipinotown, near downtown: a pretty space centered around a long communal table, a perfect setting for the bowls of porridge and plates of rice-flour doughnuts. In a city awash in congee and juk, Phan’s sticks out because of how she tricks hers out, with the kinds of things you’d normally find on a forager’s fancy tasting menu: soy-braised poultry, hibiscus-shiso pickled eggs, five-spice short ribs, black-eyed pea miso, plus a catalog of house-made pickles and edible flowers. This is not some grandmother’s gruel, but porridge elevated to an art form.— Amy Scattergood
In many Asian cultures, there is no greater expression of heartfelt hospitality than a table where every inch is filled with food. Koreatown’s Soban embodies that in a way...
In many Asian cultures, there is no greater expression of heartfelt hospitality than a table where every inch is filled with food. Koreatown’s Soban embodies that in a way few other restaurants do. Not long after you place your order, your table will be covered with 15 or so banchan, the litmus test of the meal to come in any Korean restaurant. Here the side dishes might include seasoned soybean sprouts, cubed radish kimchi and eggplant flecked with sesame seeds. When your main dishes arrive, the server will inevitably play a game of table Tetris, moving the little bowls this way and that to make everything fit. The food here is noteworthy: The raw marinated crab, ganjang gaejang, that Jonathan Gold called the best dish in all of Ktown will make you feel a bit like a sea otter as you pry the gooey flesh from the shells (don’t bother digging around with chopsticks; the best method is to suck the meat right out). The galbi jjim, the crowdpleasing braised short rib, will fall apart beautifully. And the thick medallions of braised black cod — a well-rounded combination of sweet, salty and spicy — should not be missed. But it is the banchan, and that full-table hospitality, that will keep you coming back.— Andrea Chang
Sun Nong Dan
The galbi jjim at this Koreatown strip-mall restaurant is everything. It is the reason you braved the parking lot and...
The galbi jjim at this Koreatown strip-mall restaurant is everything. It is the reason you braved the parking lot and waited almost two hours for a seat at the tiny restaurant. (Jonathan Gold’s full-throated endorsement of the place has a lot to do with that.) The super-extra rendition of the short-rib soup arrives scalding hot, the red broth threatening to bubble up and over the sides of its cauldron, to overtake the heap of meat, bone, vegetables and rice cakes filling it to the brim. It’s hot to begin with, and if you order it spicy, be prepared for a wave of chile heat that will warm you down to your toes. Although it doesn’t really make it taste any better, you can add cheese — yes, cheese — to your galbi jjim, and your server will cover your soup in fistfuls of shredded white mozzarella-ish stuff, then melt it with a blowtorch, a perversion built for Instagram likes and late-night revelry. To that end: Know that this place is open 24 hours — because there’s nothing like a trough of spicy short-rib soup to knock you out of a karaoke- and soju-fueled stupor — and no shorter lines than when you show up for breakfast to help you recover from one.— Jenn Harris
Try Vietnamese food in Garden Grove, a traditional French restaurant in Newport Beach and tacos and tamales in Costa Mesa.
Is it preposterous to drive an hour in traffic for a plate of grilled-pork spring rolls? Not really. Especially if...
Is it preposterous to drive an hour in traffic for a plate of grilled-pork spring rolls? Not really. Especially if the spring rolls in question are from Brodard Chateau, the fancy Vietnamese restaurant from the Dang family. This is the sort of craveable, full-tilt Vietnamese food available at your favorite spots in the SGV; only it’s served in a two-story building that looks like an ambassador’s residence, outfitted with a marble fireplace and a Real Housewives of Garden Grove staircase. The nem nuong cuon here are divine pork cigars wrapped in a chewy, almost translucent rice paper that teases at the grilled pork, crisp vegetables and ribbons of mint inside. The rolls are meant to be dunked in a bowl of traditional nuoc cham that one inevitably ends up drinking toward the end of dinner. Although there are many other items you should contemplate ordering (moon cake! beef salad! pho!), it is not unreasonable to sit down, order a glass of wine and feast on repeating plates of spring rolls until you’ve had your fill.— Jenn Harris
Marché Moderne has all the accouterments of a grand modern restaurant: the vast, open kitchen and oversized flower arrangements, heavy Laguiole steak knives and...
Marché Moderne has all the accouterments of a grand modern restaurant: the vast, open kitchen and oversized flower arrangements, heavy Laguiole steak knives and a wine list on a leather-bound e-tablet. The music is discreet. The detailed menu entries are in English, spiked with short French translations at their end, in case you’d rather order canard fumé than smoked duck. You will always find foie gras here, sautéed or perhaps in the form of a smooth, cool terrine with preserved cherries, a bit of gingerbread and a dusting of Sichuan pepper. Briefly seared hamachi and Thai-flavored lobster are nods to the times, but the heart of Amelia and Florent Marneau, the proprietor and chef, is in classical French preparations: properly roasted marrow bones drizzled with thick, winy demiglace, and crisp-skinned duck confit with a splash of Banyuls vinegar and burnt-edged caramelized figs. And coq au vin, wine reduced with mushrooms, tiny onions and chunks of bacon to near-blackness, is as splendid as you’d hope.— Jonathan Gold
Sometimes it’s difficult to persuade folks that one of the best and most serious of restaurants in California is a taco joint in an Orange County...
Sometimes it’s difficult to persuade folks that one of the best and most serious of restaurants in California is a taco joint in an Orange County shopping center just off the 405 Freeway, or that a $79 four-course prix fixe menu built around a taco and a tamale is a bargain. And then they have dinner at Taco María, Carlos Salgado’s progressive Mexican restaurant in Costa Mesa, and have the same conversion experience the rest of us did, probably while sitting under a camp blanket on the tiny restaurant’s patio. For the last five years, Salgado has made glorious dishes, either in the form of that revelatory fixed dinner menu, or more casual lunchtime tacos and appetizers, or weekend brunches. Whatever the incarnation, Salgado’s food is the culmination of a childhood spent at his parents’ Santa Ana Mexican restaurant, an adulthood at Bay Area fine-dining palaces, and an obsession with ingredients and techniques. He makes his own masa with heirloom Mexican corn. He engineers crumbs from squid ink. He roasts strawberries over embers to whir into atole, the homey corn drink he sometimes makes for brunch. He drops raw Hokkaido scallops into a broth built from citrus, chiles, cucumbers and avocados for something that goes by the name aguachile but might just be the essence of both sea and garden in one modest bowl.— Amy Scattergood
- Price: $$$
- SoCo Collection, 3313 Hyland Ave., Suite C-21, Costa Mesa
- (714) 538-8444
- Beer and wine. Mall lot parking. Credit cards accepted.
Track down one of these food trucks for your next great meal.
Carnitas El Momo
The food truck chase has become a part of life for a certain kind of gastronomically inclined Angeleno, and Carnitas El Momo is a truck worthy of the pursuit. The specialty...
The food truck chase has become a part of life for a certain kind of gastronomically inclined Angeleno, and Carnitas El Momo is a truck worthy of the pursuit. The specialty of the family-owned El Momo — actually a boxy trailer hitched to a driveable vehicle — is, of course, carnitas: pork that has stewed and bubbled merrily in a gargantuan copper pot for 5 1/2 hours until the meat is goopy and falling apart and glistening with oil, flaps of white-rimmed fat floating on the surface. The “aporkalypse” is a mix of pork butts, skin and stomach, and you can get it in a $2.50 taco. But the $5 mulita is the pro move, a supercharged double-decker stacked taco/quesadilla hybrid that oozes with crispy-edged griddled cheese. Generally speaking, Carnitas El Momo can be found toward the end of the week in one of two Boyle Heights spots. But sometimes it’s downtown or in Compton, maybe parked outside a brewery or reserved for an event. The only way to know for sure is to check El Momo’s Instagram — and to find the truck before the dreaded “sold out” photo gets posted.— Andrea Chang
- Price: $
- Locations vary, typically in Boyle Heights. No alcohol. Credit cards accepted.
Roy Choi and his Kogi BBQ truck forever changed food-truck culture. Many people learned what...
Roy Choi and his Kogi BBQ truck forever changed food-truck culture. Many people learned what Twitter was, and actually signed up for an account, just to find out where the truck would pull up next. Although Choi knows how to rack up the followers on social media, what made you seek Kogi out was his thoughtful, craveable fusion of Korean and Mexican cooking. He stuffed his tacos with your favorite Korean barbecue meats: galbi-ish marinated short ribs, spicy pork and even calamari. And he even did his own spin on a classic bacon-wrapped “dirty” dog, with spicy pork, lettuce, cheese and a touch of mayo. When a craving for a short rib taco or a kimchi quesadilla hit, you’d check Twitter, then jump in the car and go. Now it’s a little easier to get that taco or quesadilla, with the Kogi taqueria staying put in a Palms strip mall, but the revelation of the rightness of spicy, squishy kimchi and melted quesadilla-filling cheese is as fresh as it’s ever been.— Jenn Harris
- Price: $
- Hours and locations vary.
Credits: Maloy Moore, Anthony Pesce, Andrea Roberson and Ben Welsh
For the Record, Dec. 7, 3:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this list said Jimmy Kimmel is an investor in APL. His father, Jim Kimmel, is an investor in the restaurant, but the television host isn’t.