Bon Appetit has crowned Alma (952 S. Broadway), a tiny, 14-month-old restaurant in downtown L.A.’s gentrifying Historic Core district, as its 2013 Best New Restaurant in America. The magazine’s nationally renowned restaurant editor, Andrew Knowlton, proclaims that after finishing a tasting menu there, “I was an Ari Taymor apostle,” referring to the prodigy 27-year-old chef.
He continued: “Despite his age and relative inexperience, this guy is cooking on a level I rarely see or taste. … At Alma, I’d experienced something special -- that unique moment when potential meets skill and anything seems possible. I saw a star born.”
The accolade follows a sweep of critical acclaim in local publications, including The Hollywood Reporter, which two months after its opening identified “superseasonal, admittedly esoteric” Alma as part of a new wave of neighborhood dining spots “pushing things over the top.” In May, THR’s inaugural Food Issue named Taymor, the nephew of choreographer-director Julie Taymor, one of the 10 most influential L.A. chefs at the moment, singling him out among them as the “next big thing.”
Known for its surprisingly modest haute cuisine prices, Alma’s seven-course tasting menu that won Knowlton over cost $90. (Compare this to Bon Appetit’s No. 2 selection, Saison in San Francisco, which costs $500 per person.) Taymor is currently constructing a 60,000-square-foot garden on the roof of his restaurant, which sits across the street from the historic United Artists building that itself will soon reopen as a branch of the Ace Hotel.
Bon Appetit laureled L.A. with five total nominations in its 50 Best nominees long list, tying New York City for the highest metropolitan total. The local honorees included Alma, Echo Park’s avant-garde Allumette, new Mozza offshoot Chi Spacca from Nancy Silverton, fresh pan-Asian concept Hinoki & the Bird by David Myers and fellow downtown fixture Bar Ama, a postmodern interpretation of Tex-Mex cooking.