THR ranks the town's buzziest dining spots — from Verlaine to Fleishik's — for the month of May.
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 May, say hello to Verlaine, Pizzana, The Flats, Bone Kettle and Fleishik’s. Petit Trois, Gjelina, The Edmon, Cassia and Double Take 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 Hollywood Jews break challah alongside Hasids at this casual, order-at-the-counter kosher spot a few blocks east of CBS Television City. (Fleishik is Yiddish for meat.) Chef-owner Eric Greenspan – a veteran L.A. restaurateur who also runs chic vegan concept Erven in Santa Monica – is modernizing elements of the canon. Sandwiches with names like the Hillcrest Club and the Teddy Hertz (after Israel's founding father) are loaded with crispy chicken skin gribenes and beet horseradish. Compliment them with sides of tzimmis slaw and pillowy kugel bites.
INSIDE DISH Customers may partake of "Netilat Yadayim" (ritual hand washing out of a special sink) when they order.
QUICK PITCH Indonesian-born chef Erwin Tjahyadi, co-owner of the Westside's Komodo (known for such au courant gastro-multiculturalism as the pho burrito), takes ownership of the local bone broth trend in this bright, minimalist Old Town Pasadena dining room. His deeply flavorful bowls of hand-torn ramen noodles are paired with rich proteins: braised ox tails, fatty briskets and beef ribs. The menu is rounded out by East Java specialties, including gado gado (a fried rice cake salad served with a tamarind-peanut sauce).
INSIDE DISH The striking mural of clashing warriors that dominates the restaurant is by the rising L.A.-based artist Cleon Peterson.
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 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.
INSIDE DISH Modernica, the massive industry prop house (a favorite of Mad Men), is a block away.
QUICK PITCH George Abou-Daoud, one of resurgent Hollywood’s pioneering neighborhood restaurateurs (Bowery, Delancey), has reworked the longtime Magnolia address into a vibrant, homey modernist room named after his grandmother where he alternatively pays homage and remixes the Mideast flavors of his youth. Aiming for the pre- and post-ArcLight crowds, the kitchen sends out lavender baghrir crepes with honey and chicken shawarma baguettes smeared in spicy tahini. Don’t miss the lamb awarma and hummus preparation featuring beet chips, pickled turnips, figs and cracklings.
INSIDE DISH Within its opening week Sting was ordering takeout for a performance down the street at the Palladium.
QUICK PITCH Chef Kyle Schutte retains some of the edgy ambition of The Flats' eastern-edge-of-Beverly Hills predecessor Red Medicine with his highly visual presentations, including a Jackson Pollack-like arrangement of squid ink-braised octopus and a deconstructed bagel and lox in the form of a cannoli. The fennel and citrus salad with crunchy cornbread is the must-order.
INSIDE DISH In 2001 Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were investors at the Continental at the same address. Then they pulled out after suffering financial losses due to a misappropriation of client funds by their disgraced money manager Dana Giacchetto.
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 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 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 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 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 The TAO Group, known for its glitzy operations in Manhattan and Vegas, brings one of its gild-the-lily concepts to Hollywood's Cahuenga Corridor with this bacchanalian 10,000-square-foot club-staurant heavy on poke tacos, bone-in ribeye steaks and a whole lot of champagne. Chef-partner Chris Santos’s postmodern polyglot fusion cuisine aims to crowd-please. (Think grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings, or Mexican street corn ravioli.)
INSIDE DISH It's 2017 and we're still in the grip of the fetish-fad for faux-speakeasy entrances, so you'll be arriving through an ersatz pawn shop in an alley off Selma Ave.
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 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.
QUICK PITCH Candace Nelson and her husband Charles, the husband-and-wife duo behind Sprinkles Cupcakes, have turned their attention to pies – the savory kind – in Brentwood. Naples-born chef Daniele Uditi specializes in neo-Neopolitan thin-crusts, utilizing his unique "slow dough" fermented for two days. (Order the Amatriciana with crispy prosciutto crudo.) The menu’s secret star, though, is the artichoke starter: charred sliced hearts covered in fried leaves, toasted pine nuts, parmigiana and lemon citronette.
INSIDE DISH Pizzana arose out of Sunday night dinners at the home of actor Chris O'Donnell, now a partner. The Nelsons were guests and Uditi was in charge of the backyard pizza oven.
QUICK PITCH Prolific L.A. restaurateur Stephane Bombet (Faith & Flower, Hanjip) has pivoted his indoor-outdoor Cali-French brasserie Terrine into this elegantly by-the-book Italian spot that recalls the Beverly Grove address’ years-ago industry prominence as Pane e Vino. (The twinkle-lit rear patio is in full effect.) New York chef Scott Conant is in charge of the kitchen, which means his pasta al pomodoro – the cult favorite at his shuttered Scarpetta at the Montage – is back.
INSIDE DISH Italy’s romance with the after-dinner digestif amaro manifests itself in bar program director Ryan Wainwright’s nearly 70 offerings of bitters, including a variety of rare and vintage bottles.
QUICK PITCH Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson, Brooklyn transplants (they made their names at Glasserie) who first opened the new-school falafel stand Madcapra at the revivified Grand Central Market, have stepped up their game with this avant-garde Mediterranean mash-up in Los Feliz. The Instagram force is strong with this one. (That jewel-box white-on-light dining room helps.) Romantic, layered dishes incorporating shaved Kohlrabi, Persian cucumbers and labneh target everyone with a well-worn copy of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi's Jerusalem cookbook.
INSIDE DISH Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, responsible for several other restaurants currently on this list, are management partners in the endeavor.
QUICK PITCH Prominent Baja California chef Diego Hernandez, whose Corazon de Tierra has spent several years on the prestigious World's 50 Best list, brings his distinct modernist Mexican cuisine to the U.S. on a lushly atmospheric patio in West Hollywood. Smoke and ashes swirl through a menu marked by tamales with sorrel juice, chochoyotes with pickled pig trotter and whole baby beetroot with hibiscus powder. Aaron Melendrez, previously at the more casual Salazar across town, heads up the similarly ambitious cocktail program.
INSIDE DISH Verlaine replaces the resurrected Dominick's, which had been financed and frequented by Frank Sinatra in its original incarnation.