01
Nov

L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

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L.A. RESTAURANTS 2017

JONATHAN GOLD’S 2017 BEST 101 RESTAURANTS — NO, I AM NEVER EATING AT VESPERTINE — REMINDED ME THAT I HAVEN’T AMENDED MY OWN BEST-IN-L.A. LIST IN QUITE SOME TIME. WE STILL HAVE OUR OLD FAVORITES, PLACES WE RETURN TO FREQUENTLY, BUT SO MANY WONDERFUL NEW SPOTS HAVE OPENED UP THAT IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO CELEBRATE THEM AS WELL.

WHAT’S EXCITING NOW ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN L.A. IS THAT WE ARE GETTING AN EQUAL NUMBER OF MID-PRICED RESTAURANTS AS THE EXPENSIVE JOINTS SUCH AS OTIUM, MAUDE AND 71 ABOVE. AND, IN OUR EXPERIENCE, THE CHEAPER ONES ARE BETTER.

AS FAR AS THE STANDBYS ARE CONCERNED, WE STILL LOVE JOSEF CENTENO’S BACO MERCAT, BAR AMA, ORSA&WINSTON, AND HIS MOST RECENT ADDITION, THE VEGETABLE-CENTRIC P.Y.T.  SAME GOES FOR THE MOZZAPLEX, ALTHOUGH FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, WE PREFER CHI SPACCA TO THE ADJACENT OSTERIA. WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES AT SALT’S CURE, IN IT’S NEW LOCATION ON HIGHLAND, ESPECIALLY SINCE CHRIS ADDED THE CONFITED DUCK LEG TO THE LUNCH MENU.  BECAUSE OF THE NOISE LEVEL, LUNCH IS THE ONLY TIME WE’LL EAT AT FACTORY KITCHEN WITH IT’S WONDERFUL FIRST-COURSE SALADS AND PASTA DISHES.  AT ADRIA AND CLAUDIO BLOTTA’S MARKET PROVISIONS AND ALL ‘AQUA, DON DICKMAN CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US WITH NEW INVENTIONS AS WELL AS STANDARDS SUCH AS OCTOPUS SALAD AND SPAGHETTI WITH CLAM SAUCE.  CLAUDIO’S WINE LISTS ARE AMONG THE MOST ORIGINAL AND BEST-PRICED IN TOWN.  WE FREQUENT SYCAMORE KITCHEN FOR THE CHOPPED SALAD AS WELL THE SHORT RIB SANDWICH AND KAREN HATFIELD’S IRRESISTIBLE BUTTERCUP.  IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE SMOKED SALMON TARTINE OR THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH AT RÉPUBLIQUE; AT DINNER, WE OPT FOR THE BACK ROOM WHERE WE CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WHILE DEVOURING WALTER MANZKE’S SUCCULENT ROAST CHICKEN.  CONNIE AND TED’S WINS THE LOBSTER ROLL CONTEST AND I RARELY ORDER FRESH OYSTERS ANYPLACE ELSE.

WE ARE WEEKLY REGULARS AT SANAMLUANG NOODLE SHOP WHERE WE ORDER ROAST DUCK NOODLE SOUP, SPICY SQUID SALAD AND FRIED SPARE RIBS.  IF MY WIFE WERE NOT SO AVERSE TO HOT FOOD, I’D FREQUENT  JITLADA MORE OFTEN WITH ITS ELEGANT NORTHERN THAI DISHES, BOTH SPICY AND NOT.  FOR CHINESE WE HEAD FOR THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WHERE DUCK HOUSE SERVES THE BEST PEKING DUCK IN TOWN IN AN INTIMATE SETTING WHERE THEY PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ.  A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, WE LIKE CHANG’S GARDEN AND FOR DIM SUM SEA HARBOR IN ROSEMEAD.

ON WITH THE NEW.  STEPHEN KALT SPENT 30 YEARS COOKING IN N.Y.C. WITH STINTS AT LE CIRQUE AND DANIEL BEFORE OPENING HIS OWN MOSTLY-ITALIAN RESTAURANT.  SPARTINA ON MELROSE IS BEHIND WHAT USED TO BE JOHNNY ROCKET’S IS ALSO MOSTLY-ITALIAN.  KALT IS A MASTER PASTA MAKER AND HIS SAUCES SUCH AS OCTOPUS AND BONE MARROW OR THE WAGYU BEEF BELLY WITH MUSHROOMS AND THAI BASIL HAVE LAYERS OF FLAVOR AND REAL HEFT.  SPARTINA IS ONE OF THE FEW PATIOS WHERE I WOULD CHOOSE TO DINE ON A WARM NIGHT.  WE WERE BEREFT WHEN CHEF TIM CAREY ABANDONED PAPILLES, WHICH IS FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE, TO OPEN LOST AT SEA IN PASADENA.  BUT AFTER TWO PERFECT SEA FOOD DINNERS IN THE FRIENDLY BUT ELEGANT SPACE ON HOLLY, ALL IS FORGIVEN.  CAREY’S SOUPS REMAIN MEMORABLE AND NOW EMBRACE A SAFFRON-LACED BOUILLABAISE AS WELL AS VELVETY VELOUTÉ FOR THE BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER.  AGAIN TIM HAS PARTNERED WITH SANTOS UY, WHOSE WORLD-RANGING WINE LIST IS BOTH ADVENTUROUS AS REASONABLE.  THEY RECENTLY OPENED FOR LUNCH.   THE SAME TEAM WHICH BROUGHT US FACTORY KICHEN, MATTEO AND FRANCINE-DIAMOND FERDINANDI, OPENED OFFICINE BRERA IN A SPECTACULAR INDUSTRIAL SPACE (FORMER GAS METER STORAGE FACILITY) AROUND THE CORNER ON 6TH.  ANGELO AURIANA, THE CHEF AT VALENTINO FOR 20 YEARS, FOCUSES ON THE HEARTY CUISINE OF MILAN.  I’VE NEVER HAD BETTER RISOTTO THAN HIS, BUT HIS SALADS SUCH AS HOME-MADE LARDO OVER BITTER GREENS ARE EQUALLY DELICIOUS.  AND IF YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING GRILLED, OFFICINE BRERA WILL SATISFY ANY CARNIVORE.

KISMETIN SILVERLAKE, MIGHT BE CALLED THE ANTI-BRERA, WITH ITS LOVELY LIGHT DISHES OF MOSTLY VEGETABLES, BOTH RAW AND COOKED, FLAVORED WITH LEBNI AND MIDDLE-EASTERN SPICES.  MY BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL, BOTH FORMER CHEFS AT SONA, TOOK OVER A DEFUNCT JAPANESE RESTAURANT AT 2040 HILLHURST.  THAT’S ITS NAME, TOO.  THE EVER-EXPANDING MENU IS BOTH PROSAIC (FABULOUS CORNED BEEF SANDWICH) AND SOPHISTICATED (HANGER STEAK TARTARE WITH A QUAIL EGG AND CHUNKS OF PICKLED VEGETABLES).  SAVE ROOM FOR ONE OF KAREN’S SCRUMPTIOUS PASTRIES AND TAKE HOME SOME CROISSANTS FOR BREAKFAST.  IN PLACE OF PANOS BAKERY ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, WE NOW HAVE THE SUPER-FRIENDLY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  THEIR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES INCLUDE HOUSE-MADE CROISSANTS AND EGG DISHES; LUNCH, TOMATO SOUP, GRILLED CHEESE, SALADS, AND A PERFECT BLT ON THEIR OWN WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH, WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN BIG OVAL LOAVES AND TAKE HOME.

TRAVELING WEST, STOP FOR LUNCH OR DINNER AT FUNDAMENTAL ON WESTWOOD BOULEVARD.  THEIR SANDWICHES ARE BIG AND WONDERFULLY COMPLEX.  THE DINNER MENU IS MORE EXTENSIVE AND EQUALLY SATISFYING WITH SOPHISTICATED CALIFORNIA CUISINE DISHES SUCH AS ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHILE LIME VINAIGRETTE AND JIDORI CHICKEN “ADOBO” WITH TOMATILLO, CHARRED ONION AND AVOCADO.

JOINING RÉPUBLIQUE AND SYCAMORE KITCHEN ON MY LIST OF LA BREA FAVORITES, IS NONG LÁ, A MODERN VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, WITH A PLEASING PALE WOOD INTERIOR AND A DECENT WINE AND BEER LIST.  THERE’S NOTHING STRIKING ABOUT THE MENU; SPRING ROLLS, PHÓ, BANH MI SANDWICHES, BUT THE BROTH, MADE FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS, IS RICH AND FLAVORFUL AND THE GREENS, CRISPY FRESH AND ORGANIC.

OUR NEWFOUND LOVE AFFAIR WITH LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE’S PETIT TROIS IS A TESTAMENT TO HOW MUCH WE ARE WILLING TO PROSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR A DECENT MEAL.  OUR DINNER AT TROIS MEC, SOME YEARS AGO, SOURED US ON LUDOVIC, BUT WE’D BEEN GETTING SO MANY GLOWING REPORTS ABOUT HIS LITTLE BISTRO NEXT DOOR THAT WE FINALLY CAVED.  WE’VE BEEN BACK THREE TIMES FOR MOULES MARINÈRE, ONION SOUP AND FRISḖE AUX LARDONS, ARGUABLY THE BEST IN TOWN.

THIS YEAR PROMISES NEW DISCOVERIES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS BY DANIEL HUMM (ELEVEN MADISON PARK), DOMINIQUE ANSELL (EVER HAD A CRONUT?), SAN FRANCISCO’S INCOMPARABLE TARTINE, NOT TO MENTION ALL THOSE RESTAURANTS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF EATALY.

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Categories : RESTAURANTS

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