THR ranks the town's buzziest dining spots — from Delilah to Wally's — for the month of December.
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 December, say hello to Manuela, Red Herring and Horse’s Mouth. Serafina, Citizen and Mardi 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 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 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 Nick Erven, who drew a cult following with his short-lived if much-buzzed-about foodie sensation Saint Martha in Koreatown, blows out that restaurant’s brief experiment in veganism into the m.o. of this meatless mecca in Santa Monica. Inventive cross-culturalism finds the kitchen sending out seaweed "Doritos," Korean "gnocchi" and heart of palm tamales with beet mole and a lime-horseradish gremolata. The chocolate donut with potato chips is a gut bomb for dessert.
INSIDE DISH Fittingly, the address was previously home for 24 years to pioneering vegan spot Real Food Daily, which closed in April.
QUICK PITCH Koreatown – suddenly the site of a bumper crop of must-try new spots, from Terra Cotta to Here’s Looking at You – has quietly opened this under-the-radar charmer with the vibe of a gastro pub and the rigorous finesse of a far more ambitious destination. There’s oysters and prawns and a signature beer on tap (Hitachino Nest). The crispy skin duck is the necessary order. Expect serious tea service.
INSIDE DISH Chef Charlie Yusta’s catering business Chefs on the Run likely cooked your last dinner party in the hills. Dustin Hoffman is one of its backers.
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 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 Eagle Rock’s young-family Togetherness demo gets its date-night prayers answered with this stylishly accessible, lively-but-not-rowdy offering from chef-owner Dave Woodall. (The place has the sophisticated-homey neighborhood spot feel of Blair’s in Silver Lake, where he used to work.) Woodall’s seasonal New American fare is simultaneously on-trend and timeless: house-made ricotta toast, butter lettuce salad with thick cuts of bacon, buttermilk fried chicken and waffles. Ask for a table on the second floor overlooking the street.
INSIDE DISH Co-owner Alexis Martin Woodall – Dave’s wife – has been Ryan Murphy’s longtime producer, from Nip/Tuck and Glee to Scream Queens and American Horror Story.
QUICK PITCH In a stripped-down room in a dumpy strip mall a few blocks northeast of the Paramount studio lot, chef-owner Kwang Uh – whose resume includes a stint at Daniel and a stage at Noma – is entrancing acolytes and bewildering everyone else with avant-garde Korean offerings: kimchi fried rice with Spanish chorizo, a version of the traditional mold nuruk featuring macadamia nuts. It’s (frequently gluten-free) fermentation cuisine. Unsurprisingly, there’s more than enough kombucha to go around.
INSIDE DISH Wary diners should order the comfortingly hearty and notably spicy faux oxtail ragu with puffs of tendon.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
QUICK PITCH Chef Wes Whitsell, a vet of Gjelina, has conceived a menu rooted in his rural Texan childhood. Like fellow buzzy Arts District redoubt Bestia, the crowd skews early thirties across the sprawling central courtyard space in the austere new Hauser Wirth & Schimmel blue-chip gallery complex. Lean into the spirit: deer burgers, hushpuppies with molasses butter, fried dill pickles, smothered home fries with hot sauce.
INSIDE DISH The restaurant is named after the gallery’s Swiss partner Manuela Wirth, who along with husband Iwan is one of the most powerful people in the art world.
QUICK PITCH The seafood super-scene that originated in Manhattan's Meatpacking District has bowed on a lush, expansive rooftop across the street from the Pacific Design Center and incited an immediate feeding frenzy. Find A$AP Rocky powwowing with Chris Brown, Sylvester Stallone and Jerry Bruckheimer each holding court, along with half the Clippers in residence on a single night. (Everyone from Ari Emanuel to Kendall Jenner have also been in.) No wonder the place has quickly grown polarizing for its rare-for-L.A. restaurant doorman.
INSIDE DISH Given the overwhelming popularity, Catch's owners say they've temporarily suspended its OpenTable account, opting only to accept reservations from would-be diners they know.
QUICK PITCH John Terzian, who’s been leveraging lush midcentury nostalgia at the popular Nice Guy on La Cienega Blvd. for two years, melds his childhood memories of Hollywood dinners at Chasen’s with a meticulous Baz-does-Gatsby swoon for Art Deco. The menu is contempo-traditional American brasserie, where there’s an expertly cooked filet mignon but a Portobello mushroom steak with chimichurri dressing and yucca fries too. Don’t miss the carrot soufflé.
INSIDE DISH Six years ago, when the place was still S&M-themed club Voyeur, the Republican National Committee erupted in scandal over a $2,000 tab filed with the Federal Election Commission.