Don’t let anyone tell you Los Angeles is only good for juice cleanses and kale smoothies. The City of Angels has a lot happening on the food front, in particular with big-name chefs. From Aussie darling Curtis Stone to Top Chef runner-up Marcel Vigneron to Neal Fraser of Redbird fame, the culinary heavyweights have been making their mark on LA with restaurants that cover the spectrum, from rustic American to innovative international, moreish meat-centric and contemporary Californian. Take a look at the coolest places to eat in LA right now…
Koreatown cool kid
What do you get when two veterans from Animal team up on a Koreatown spot? A creative, progressive American restaurant that blends African and Japanese design elements with innovative takes on classic dishes, cheeky cocktails and influences as wide-ranging as Vietnamese, Middle Eastern and Mexican. SoCal food is what co-owners chef Jonathan Whitener and Lien Ta are serving in their intimate 50-seat spot. Must-orders include the mezcal, cynar and watermelon Known Associate libation, signature beef tartare (with red chilli, ramps and cress) and sturgeon served with aged rice porridge, buttermilk, caviar and chicken skin. As with the entire concept, it’s wholly original.
With the help of Thomas Schoos, a former nightclub space, down the street from stalwarts Sunset Tower and Chateau Marmont, was transformed into a sexy, bright restaurant with dishes that are seriously addictive. Take, for example, the cast-iron skillet cornbread, served with rosemary honey butter that defines melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The roots and burrata (vibrant baby carrots, beets and pistachio purée) and cider-glazed heritage pork are also winning recipes. Sidle up to the marble bar for something like the Hug Cartel, which combines pisco with tamarind, cherry and coconut cream.
Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard is full of hot spots – Gjelina and The Tasting Kitchen to name two – but this new opening proves there was room for more. The fully meat-free menu at this New York transplant has vegetarians and vegans feasting guilt free on creative stone-oven pizzas, roasted rainbow carrots with maple balsamic glaze and cauliflower T-bone in droves. Brunch is popular, too (think hearty avocado toast with a fried egg and a fresh juice flight), when locals crowd the airy, hippie-inflected restaurant and its long plant-bedecked bar area.
Hungry like the…
West Hollywood – home to the hidden-away Chamberlain – is where it’s at right now. Marcel Vigneron, the runner-up on Top Chef Season 2, took time opening his very first restaurant and careful planning clearly paid off. Wolf serves a refreshingly small, curated menu that changes along with the season’s best ingredients, and a collection of fresh, refreshing cocktails (like the Thai Hi-Five, with gin, raw coconut oil, house-made lemongrass soda and citrus). Don’t leave the candlelit space without trying the mushroom risotto with pancetta, tropical burnt carrots or, if it’s on special, the ‘uni-corn’, which cleverly features uni and a variety of corn.
For a guaranteed Instagrammable meal, try Kali in Larchmont Village. Each dish by chef Kevin Meehan is prepared artfully and vividly, whether it’s the oh-so-Cali-sounding charred avocado, adorned with pistachios, lemon juice, honey, shaved veggies and fine herbs, or the beet tartare, packed with flavour from the crimson root along with capers, black garlic and local almonds. Sommelier (and co-owner) Drew Langley was previously at Providence and has curated a can’t-miss list, that includes accessible wines from the great state, as well as small runs from local private collectors.
So much meat
For anyone but Curtis Stone it would be hard to follow up Maude, his sought-after spot serving a new tasting menu based off a single ingredient each month. But Gwen on Sunset Boulevard lives up to expectations. The meat-centric restaurant is named for the Aussie superstar’s grandmother, whose life on a farm outside Melbourne gave him an appreciation of livestock farming. The butcher case is front and centre, but the five-course tasting menus include salad and pasta courses, along with items like whole grilled lamb. A ‘Butcher’s Scraps’ a la carte menu is available at the teeny six-seat bar and mezzanine bar.
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