THR ranks the town's buzziest dining spots — from Nerano to Officine Brera — for the month of February.
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 February, say hello to The Mar Vista and Maestro. Baroo and Georgie 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 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 Pasadena welcomes a small-scale, big-on-ambition meditation on elevated Mexican cuisine in this contemporary room at the northern edge of Old Town. Beet-with-goat-cheese salad is sweetened with pineapple. Skirt steak arrives with a poblano puree. For dessert, a corn cake features cilantro ice cream. The restaurant boasts some of the most forward-thinking cocktails for miles. Try the scotch horchata.
INSIDE DISH A free-range chicken mole with eggplant and queso fresco – seen at most tables – is carefully plated in the shape of Mexico, a choice that reads as much political at this particular moment as aesthetic.
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 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 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 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 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 This grand Koreatown dining room (splashy modern chandeliers descend from double-height ceilings) turns the address next to the Art Deco Wiltern theatre into a destination for the first time since top L.A. chef Josef Centeno made his name at Opus more than a decade ago. It's spectacle presentation executed with care – truffled toro tataki; anticucho hamachi collar; and the coup de grace: squid ink, garlic and kimchee fried rice studded with dayboat scallops and Argentinian prawns.
INSIDE DISH Terra Cotta arguably lays claim to the longest, largest restaurant bar in the city – with an extensive, glowing liquor cabinet to match.
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 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 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 Gentrifying Mar Vista locals, already cheering news of the Santa Monica Airport’s long-hoped-for closure, now can boast a rare destination dining spot offering an assured spin on contemporary California cuisine staples powered by farmer’s market finds. The grape-and-gorgonzola salad with candied garlic is mandatory.
INSIDE DISH Chef D. Brandon Walker, a winner on the Food Network’s Chopped, previously spent nearly a decade as the executive chef at St. Joseph’s Bread and Roses Café in Venice (which serves more than 750 gourmet meals to the homeless each week) while also working as a private chef for Russell Simmons and Helen Hunt.
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 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 A pair of vets from Animal have made off with some of that pioneering late-aughties restaurant's inventive creative energy and neighborhood-establishing vibe as they help fellow newbies Horse's Mouth and Terra Cotta transform western Koreatown into a white-hot dining destination. Expect to find the unabashed New Fusion on display (and an Animal-style no-modifications-and-substitutions policy): stracciatella cheese in league with yuzu kosho, blood mole paired with Asian pear.
INSIDE DISH Nope, the restaurant's oddball name isn't a reference to Casablanca. Co-owner Lien Ta swiped the expression from an old greeting card she saw.
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.
QUICK PITCH Power dining nexus Toscana's spiritual sequel has arrived at the edge of Beverly Hills, across from the Beverly Hilton and a doable walk from Century City. Co-owner Andy Brandon-Gordon conjures the Amalfi Coast in a refined, intimate modernist dining room, leaning hard on a staff pulled from his father Michael Gordon’s pedigreed Brentwood restaurant. The grilled crostino with Apulian burrata and Santa Barbara uni can’t be beat.
INSIDE DISH The deal-making gang's all here (Harry Sloan, Ken Ziffren, Steve Tisch) every night. Meanwhile, the upstarts are flirting upstairs in the cocktail lounge.