THR ranks the town's buzziest dining spots — from Gwen to Paley — for the month of September.
(Pictured: A dish from Kettle Black on Sunset Blvd.)
Though few things are more fickle than the entertainment business, the foodie-focused dining scene that serves it surely fits the bill. Ingénue restaurants debut every week, yet their moment in the spotlight often is brutish and short. The Hollywood Reporter ranks the hottest Los Angeles spots on a monthly basis as these dining stars shine and dim.
In September, say hello to Miro, 71Above, Cassia and Kettle Black. Au Fudge, Wexler’s, Winsome and Sawyer have fallen off the chart.
Note: While this list considers the traditional core dining metrics (food, service, value and atmosphere) of the best restaurants, great weight is placed on an ephemeral quality that the entertainment industry treasures: the buzz factor. Think of it as an edible heat index.
QUICK PITCH Named for its perch in the former CBS Columbia Square, William Paley’s state-of-the-art midcentury broadcasting facility (now the Hollywood home to NeueHouse, as well as the corporate headquarters for Viacom and Fender), this New American cuisine specialist picks up where the late Ammo left off — as an appropriately grown-up midway rendezvous point for Valley-Westside lunches. Its high-toned, efficiency-minded menu services the intent: composed salads, seitan sandwiches, wood-roasted chicken and "canoe harvested" wild rice entrees.
INSIDE DISH Designed by the firm Bishop Pass – which also did Curtis Stone’s Maude – the room incudes a perforated metal wall referencing early radio microphones.
QUICK PITCH Chef Gavin Mills (most recently of Hollywood’s Wood & Vine, and before that a Suzanne Goin protégé) has opened the most reliably accomplished new kitchen in downtown’s Financial District in some time. He’s cooking rigorous, refined Italian with Mediterranean departures in an austere street corner space across from the under-construction Wilshire Grand Center, soon to be the tallest building west of the Mississippi. The house-made charcuterie is on point.
INSIDE DISH There’s a tucked-away deluxe whiskey room downstairs at Miro with a selection of rarities to put the nearby speakeasy Bar Jackalope within Seven Grand on notice.
QUICK PITCH A former auto body shop in Atwater Village next to the revitalizing Los Angeles River has been converted into a stylish indoor-but-mostly-outdoor ode to mesquite-grilled Mexican cooking: tacos, frijoles, esquites, the occasional heirloom tomato salad. All about al fresco, Salazar’s hang-loose patio offers both surprisingly cheap beer and serious cocktails, the latter from Aaron Melendrez, who’s also behind the bar program at The Normandie Club.
INSIDE DISH Modernica, the massive industry prop house (a favorite of Mad Men), is a block away.
QUICK PITCH Chef Mike Williams, formerly of Venice’s talked-about The Tasting Kitchen, heads to West Hollywood with this keyed-in blender of today’s L.A. most popular gastronomy trends. House-made charcuterie! New Dixie Chic influences! Wood-fire grill obsession! They’re all executed with precision. Don’t forget to order the uni butter poached shrimp with smoked tomato. (Of course there’s uni butter.)
INSIDE DISH Norah’s interior is by Thomas Schoos, the veteran local designer – he’s done homes for everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Courteney Cox – whose trademark clean-lined organic style has been a consistent presence in WeHo restaurants since debuting with Koi in 2002.
QUICK PITCH Longtime Ludo Lefebvre protégé Sydney C. Hunter III – first way back at L’Orangerie and Bastide, more recently at Petit Trois – has stepped out on his own with this stylish, straightforward Silver Lake neighborhood trattoria focused on handmade pastas (consider the pappardelle with maitake mushrooms) and wood-fired pizzas (go with the ‘nduja-studded polpette). The Italian wine program is by certified European sommelier Dario Dell’Anno (Mozza). Check out the house-made, Italian-style vermouths.
INSIDE DISH Partner Beau Laughlin, who also has the several-month-old Sawyer two doors away, is married to actress Lindsey Gort.
QUICK PITCH Downtown L.A.'s US Bank Tower has debuted its first sky-high restaurant 950 feet above its lobby level, on the 71st floor – just as it relinquishes its tallest-building-west-of-the-Mississippi status (to the nearby upcoming Wilshire Grand Center) a quarter century after it first opened. Chef Vartan Abgaryan (most recently of Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake) delivers showy, seasonal, three-course fixed menus: think an oyster with uni, caviar and champagne.
INSIDE DISH 71Above knows which side its bread is buttered on. Diners can book specific views based on a seating chart available on the restaurant’s website.
QUICK PITCH Restaurateur Stephane Bombet (Terrine, Viviane) has gentrified Koreatown’s BBQ experience at this humming Culver City spot blocks from the Sony lot without losing spice, funk or creativity (bone marrow corn cheese, chicharron with kimchi aiolo). Beef, pork and seafood selections are admirably extensive. At lunch the artfully composed tuna poke bowl, loaded with salmon roe, is a light alternative.
INSIDE DISH Chef Chris Oh won both Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen and Esquire Network’s Knife Fight.
QUICK PITCH Like Bestia, this newcomer has an industrial lofty-chic interior in downtown L.A.’s Arts District and Italian countryside cuisine leaning hard on the handmade pastas and the wood-grilled oven. But Officine Brera is relatively less loud and, at least for the moment, quite a bit easier to book a reservation. The chicken thigh salad with butter lettuce and candied oranges is an understated winner.
INSIDE DISH Beware the traffic-diverting closure of the historic Sixth Street Bridge (a frequent shooting location, from Grease to The Amazing Race) a gnocchi’s toss away. Its demolition, begun in February, will last through the fall.
QUICK PITCH Veteran sommelier Christian Navarro – who’s got the ear, and tongue, of everyone from Michael Ovitz and Ken Ziffren to Diane Keaton and Tom Cruise – bought the Wally’s brand from founder Steve Wallace in 2013. Then he opened this understated-glam Beverly Hills vinoteca (visitors sit on stools and dine on Carrera marble countertops) whose casual Provencal-meets-California cuisine is handled by David Feau, late of Pasadena’s acclaimed Royce. Everyone is into the beet, blueberry and grape salad.
INSIDE DISH Maurice, Paul and Armand Marciano of the Guess clothing empire now back Wally’s.
QUICK PITCH Marcel Vigneron, notorious for his molecular gastronomy obsession a decade ago (when he was second-season runner-up on Top Chef), has dramatically shifted his focus at his new spot a block from Fairfax High, which has already made fans of the likes of Discovery group president Rich Ross. Expect a globally minded menu rooted in California produce. The best bet sounds deceptively boring: A side of crispy potatoes.
INSIDE DISH The property previously was home to Table 8, the breakthrough restaurant of Govind Armstrong (now of Post & Beam and Willie Jane), who likewise is a vet of Top Chef and Iron Chef.
QUICK PITCH Chef Kris Tominaga, most recently of Santa Monica’s short-lived Cadet, made his name rethinking New Dixie cooking through a California lens at The Hart and The Hunter at the Palihotel on Melrose Ave. – making fancy biscuits an L.A. dining fad in the process. Now he’s rejoined hotelier Avi Brosh in the courtyard of West Hollywood extended-stay sister property Palihouse with this loosely European-garden-party concept. The rabbit ragout with ricotta and arugula dumplings is a must.
INSIDE DISH The folks at Wally’s curated the wine list.
QUICK PITCH Geoffrey Zakarian’s sure-footed resurrection of the former Scarpetta in the Beverly Hills Montage, Georgie (named after his son) goes head-to-head with Canon Dr. heavyweights like Bouchon and Spago. The TV chef’s Provencal-leaning Mediterranean cuisine is presented with SoCal gloss. (Expect a $59 Dover sole.) Request a table next to a fiddle leaf tree for privacy and order the cumin-spiced soft shell crabs while still in season.
INSIDE DISH Booths come equipped with digital device ports to facilitate working lunches.
QUICK PITCH Chef Kevin Meehan, last seen running the show at Patina, has hung his own shingle steps from Paramount. The low-key space is home to ambitious, astutely refined updates on a circa-1990s ideal of – as its name implies – California cuisine. His explorations (a "risotto" comprised of wheat berries in lieu of rice, a toasted meringue gelato sprinkled with grated candied yolk) revitalize a mostly mothballed movement.
INSIDE DISH Meehan and his business partner, wine director Drew Langley (he previously ran Providence’s wine program), first met in kitchens run by pre-fame Ludo Lefebvre at the late L’Orangerie and Bastide.
QUICK PITCH TV chef and critical darling Ludovic Lefebvre’s tiny sparkling French bistro in a drab Hancock Park strip mall – a couple of doors away from his tasting-menu-only Trois Mec – is all about ludicrously refined performance and hyper-compulsive sourcing for the most stupidly fundamental of Gallic specialties. We’re talking escargot, a confit-fried chicken leg, steak frites, a croquet monsieur, the Boursin-stuffed omelette. Even the bread and butter is next-level.
INSIDE DISH There are no reservations for this narrow, counter-service spot, where Jeffrey Katzenberg and Justin Timberlake have been seen rubbing elbows with everyone else. Expect an automatic 18 percent service charge and credit card payment only.
QUICK PITCH The entertainment industry’s go-to downtown L.A. destination restaurant is situated in the warehouse-strewn Arts District, just west of a still-dystopian stretch of the Los Angeles River. The incredibly loud, reliably accomplished, contempo-agro rustic Italian concept – where tattoos and tagliatelle appear to be worshipped in equal measure – is best known for its wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas. Don’t miss the smoked chicken liver pate.
INSIDE DISH By far the oldest spot on this list, Bestia, which opened in late 2012, remains an impossible Saturday dinner reservation (at least at a non-absurd hour) – unless, of course, someone has a connection.
QUICK PITCH Along with nearby sister restaurant Gjusta, chef Travis Lett’s Venice vortex for scruffy beards and sexy grilling (pizza, prawns, peppers) is the Southern California restaurant that New York food snobs most outwardly crush hard on. The lunchtime crowd includes workers from nearby Google and SnapChat; by night, the demo shifts toward Tinderati nibbling on radicchio. Beyonce and Jay-Z have been known to make the brunch scene.
INSIDE DISH The no-substitutions policy is strictly enforced – celebrities included. When she was eight-months-pregnant Victoria Beckham was denied an unadorned smoked trout salad as an aghast dining companion Gordon Ramsay looked on.
QUICK PITCH Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Animal, Son of a Gun) have started elevating red-sauce Italian basics – pizzas, pastas, salads – much like their Trois Mec partner Ludovic Lefebvre did for French bistro classics at Petit Trois last year: amp them up with top-shelf ingredients and finely calibrated technique. Chef director Jon Favreau has already popped into the kitchen while Jimmy Kimmel and Kanye West have each sidled up to the host stand.
INSIDE DISH The Little Nats pizza – pepperoni, tomato, oregano, parmesan – is named after Shook’s two-year-old daughter Natalie with UnREAL star Shiri Appleby.
QUICK PITCH Not since Animal first made its mark in 2008 has a new-breed L.A. meat restaurant caught the city’s attention with as much inventiveness, energy and honed execution as this rollicking, blown-out Culver City extrapolation of the far more cramped, low-profile Manhattan original. Think spicy tripe chili, chicken matcha mousse, cochinita pibil head tostada with pineapple – washed down with a rigorous regional craft brew list. (Still, on-point veggies like the snap peas are the menu’s secret weapon.)
INSIDE DISH The signature move here is the order-ahead large-format whole-roasted feast (pig or lamb), carved tableside, starting with a charcuterie spread.
QUICK PITCH Chef/owner Bryant Ng's expansive, kinetic riff on Vietnamese-French cooking instantly went from date-night popular and local-foodie-approved to national sensation when it became the subject of The New York Times' first-ever beyond-Gotham starred restaurant review on Sept. 6 (Pete Wells bestowed it with a lordly three.) Everyone orders the kaya toast – a holdover from Ng and wife Kim’s previous spot, The Spice Table, in downtown L.A. – and pot au feu.
INSIDE DISH Business partners Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan of nearby Rustic Canyon are, respectively, the brother of Third Point hedge fund chief (and Sony nemesis) Dan Loeb and the daughter of Bones executive producer Stephen Nathan.
QUICK PITCH Right out of the gate the most ambitious and accomplished restaurant in Hollywood by a mile, TV chef Curtis Stone’s successor (with brother Luke) to the far tinier Maude in Beverly Hills is likewise tasting-menu-only. The five-course dinner in the modern-Deco dining room, which begins with a selection of housemade charcuterie, is anchored by what’s broken down at their adjacent custom-and-cut butcher shop (lamb, duck) and then cooked multiple ways. Ben Aviram, previously at The French Laundry and Alinea, runs the wine program.
INSIDE DISH Gwen, like Maude, is named after Stone’s grandmother.