Where Hollywood Eats: L.A.'s 20 Hottest Restaurants Right Now (September 2017)

6:00 AM 9/8/2017

by Gary Baum

THR ranks the town's buzziest dining spots — from Rossoblu to Gwen — for the month of September.

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 Rossoblu, Vespertine, MTN, Hayden and Uovo. Delilah, Bestia, Lunetta, The Rosy Oyster and Officine Brera 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.

  1. 20
    20

    Gwen

    6600 Sunset Blvd. (Last month: No. 18)

    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. 

  2. 19
    20

    Manuela

    907 E. 3rd St. (Last month: No. 15)

    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.

  3. 18
    20

    Uovo

    1320 2nd St. (New to list)

    Courtesy of Uovo

    QUICK PITCH Several of the folks behind Sugarfish and sister restaurant KazuNori have applied the polished structure and well-honed vibe of those slick yet affordable concepts to a hand-made pasta endeavor in downtown Santa Monica. The focus is on unadorned presentations of strict Bologna and Roma specialties – tortellini in brodo, tonnarelli carbonara with guanciale. Sides are spare: roasted broccolini and cauliflower, plus baby artichokes; don’t expect bread. The wine list is highly limited but workable and thoughtful.

    INSIDE DISH Design is by Marmol Radziner, whose clients have included Tom Ford, Demi Moore and Bradley Cooper.

  4. 17
    20

    Salazar

    2490 Fletcher Dr. (Last month: No. 14)

    Courtesy of Subject

    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.

  5. 16
    20

    Catch

    8715 Melrose Ave. (Last month: No. 12)

    Courtesy of Subject

    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 its overwhelming popularity, Catch initially suspended OpenTable reservations for a period, but the restaurant — with another West Coast location "on the horizon" — is now back online.

  6. 15
    20

    Beauty & Essex

    1615 Cahuenga Blvd. (Last month: No. 10)

    Courtesy of Beauty & Essex

    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.

  7. 14
    20

    Nerano

    9960 S. Santa Monica Blvd. (Last month: No. 11)

    Courtesy of Rob Stark

    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.

  8. 13
    20

    Here's Looking At You

    3901 W. 6th St. (Last month: No. 9)

    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.

  9. 12
    20

    The Ponte

    8265 Beverly Blvd. (Last month: No. 8)

    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.

  10. 11
    20

    Verlaine

    8715 Beverly Blvd. (Last month: No. 7)

    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.

  11. 10
    20

    Hayden

    8820 Washington Blvd. (New to list)

    Courtesy of Katie Gibbs

    QUICK PITCH This super-stylish Culver City counter-service spot in the year-old Platform complex is a quintessentially L.A. nexus of Japanese, Spanish and deluxe California farm cuisine. Chef Ari Kolender, who came up at Providence before opening up his own place in Charleston (where he was nominated for a James Beard award), presents a narrow but precise menu of necessities, from toasts to conservas.

    INSIDE DISH Prior to his stint back east, Kolender was the chef de cuisine at the since-shuttered Red Medicine, run by Jordan Kahn, who now has Culver City’s buzzy Destroyer and Vespertine.

  12. 9
    20

    Kismet

    4648 Hollywood Blvd. (Last month: No. 6)

    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.

  13. 8
    20

    Pizzana

    11712 San Vicente Blvd. (Last month: No. 5)

    Courtesy of Amy Neunsinger

    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.

  14. 7
    20

    Rosaline

    8479 Melrose Ave. (Last month: No. 4)

    Courtesy of Forkedup

    QUICK PITCH Ricardo Zarate — who emerged from a humble marketplace stall near USC to entrance the L.A. dining world with downtown's Mo-Chica and the Westside's Picca before they both suddenly shuttered in a business implosion — has returned with another expression of his ultra-contemporary Peruvian cuisine at the former West Hollywood home of Comme Ca. The humming modern space, filled with hanging plants, features a mix of decidedly updated standards, from beef heart skewers to lomo saltado.

    INSIDE DISH The humorous artisan tiles used as trivets at tables are from the famed factories of Dolores Hidalgo in Mexico. 

  15. 6
    20

    The Exchange

    416 W. 8th St. (Last month: No. 3)

    Courtesy of Adrian Gaut

    QUICK PITCH This Israel-by-way-of-California concept has been envisioned by Tel Aviv native restaurateur Elad Zvi and partner Gabriel Orta, along with local chef Alex Chang, an alum of Animal. Joining L.A.’s ascendant Middle Eastern remix wave, the restaurant offers lamb kebabs with stuffed poblano chili and blue crab fried rice. But the focus should be on the sharp small-dish starters, like a chicken liver and foie gras mousse with tangerine jam and fermented date honey.

    INSIDE DISH The lively restaurant's name is derived from the 12-story Commercial Exchange neon blade sign that hangs above it. It's one of the largest in town.

  16. 5
    20

    Jean-Georges

    9850 Wilshire Blvd. (Last month: No. 2)

    Courtesy of Jean Georges

    QUICK PITCH Two decades after opening at Donald Trump's Central Park property, legendary Manhattan chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has bowed a West Coast mirror of the original at the newly debuted Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills. Expect high ceilings in the main dining room and serious space between tables to discourage eavesdropping on fellow diners conducting business, like Jimmy Iovine gabbing with Dr. Dre. The urban-resort comfort cuisine – black truffle pizza, organic chicken with shishito peppers, sesame-crusted salmon – is plated to stun.

    INSIDE DISH Of course it's expensive, but still: prepare for sticker shock on the iced tea, which is $9.

  17. 4
    20

    Felix

    1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (Last month: No. 1)

    QUICK PITCH Evan Funke, who made his name with a porchetta truck, then polished it with Culver City's short-lived if acclaimed Bucato, has taken over the longtime Joe's in Venice. The exactingly handmade pastas are the kitchen's focus, drawing a fizzy crowd with a zeal last seen when Gjelina opened up the street nearly a decade ago. A not-so-secret stunner is the focaccia siciliana with sea salt and rosemary.

    INSIDE DISH The chef's father is Alex Funke, the veteran, Oscar-winning special effects director of photography best known for his work on The Lord of the Rings.

  18. 3
    20

    MTN

    1305 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (New to list)

    Courtesy of MTN

    QUICK PITCH Travis Lett, the polarizing impresario behind Venice’s neighborhood-defining Gjelina and Gjusta, has turned his attention to an ultramodern-Californian take on the traditional Japanese izakaya. Pronounced mountain and walk-in only, the rustic-goth dining room, all high-top communal tables and narrow counter seating, offers a much-touted, idiosyncratic ramen involving artisanal noodles and a Peads & Barnetts pig. It’s fine. But ordering attention should be focused on the grilled seafood and house-made pickles, as well as the sea vegetables sourced from Big Sur.

    INSIDE DISH Lett’s childhood diet — macrobiotic Japanese vegan — is responsible for MTN’s DNA.

  19. 2
    20

    Vespertine

    3599 Hayden Ave. (New to list)

    Courtesy of Vespertine

    QUICK PITCH Pedigreed 34-year-old chef Jordan Kahn, late of Beverly Hills’ shuttered Red Medicine, helms this high-concept tasting menu experience in a postindustrial tract of Culver City. A meal can easily run $500 per person. Expect culinary oddities like crystalline ice plant with lime mist presented on or in minimalist ceramic sculptured dishware whose baffling forms call to mind well-meaning and unreturnable house gifts from the aliens in Arrival.

    INSIDE DISH The atmospheric instrumental score, which suffuses a doomy gloom, is a custom sequence by the same composers who provided music for World War Z.

  20. 1
    20

    Rossoblu

    1124 San Julian St. (New to list)

    Courtesy of Ed Anderson

    QUICK PITCH Bestia’s in the Arts District. Drago Centro’s in the Financial District. Now chef Steve Samson – who made his mark with Sotto – has bowed his own Italian valentine, postmarked from Bologna, in another downtown L.A. quarter, this one a freshly gentrifying southeastern warehouse corridor. Handmade pastas and meats butchered in-house (order the Ilario’s Grigliata, with its belly-on pork chop) arrive in a big booming room.

    INSIDE DISH Rossoblu’s new upstairs neighbor is the production company of Joe and Anthony Russo, the blockbuster-directing brothers whose next project is Avengers: Infinity War.

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