Where Hollywood Eats: L.A.'s 20 Hottest Restaurants Right Now (December 2018)

6:30 AM 12/7/2018

by Gary Baum

THR ranks the town's buzziest dining spots — from Bavel to Elephante — for the month of December.

Bavel - Publicity - H 2018

Though few things are more fickle than the entertainment business, the foodie-focused dining scene that serves it surely fits the bill. 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 Openaire and Mister O’s. Crustacean and Eve 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


    QUICK PITCH Santa Monica's desire for a rooftop hangout has been fulfilled with Elephante, a spacious restaurant bar helmed by owner Nick Mathers (Eveleigh, Goldie's) and general manager Jake Rose, formerly of EP/LP. The airy space stuns with sleek decor and a Southern Italy-inspired menu. Order pizza and the branzino, but stay for the ocean views.

    INSIDE DISH Mathers, who counts DJ Steve Aoki as an investor, designs all his restaurants and selects residential projects, including Jimmy Kimmel's Hollywood Hills home.

  2. 19

    Punta Cabras

    QUICK PITCH Escape south of the border at this Baja-inspired SaMo spot. Chef Daniel Snukal (Urusawa, LudoBites) is at the helm with a menu that boasts all things seafood. Order the suffed baked crab and costras — tacos made of crispy melted cheese ‚ plus libations from aguas fescas to the cheeky "Doves Cry" cocktail, featured a Prince mug.

    INSIDE DISH The concept began as a buzzy taco shop a few miles away known for its Baja fish tacos, which are still available by request. 

  3. 18

    Petit Trois Le Valley

    QUICK PITCH The impossibly tiny Highland Ave. location of Ludo Lefebvre’s loving homage to both the fare and fanfare of traditional French bistros has been a magnet for the likes of Jimmy Kimmel and Jeffrey Katzenberg since it opened in 2014. Now the chef has opened a far larger edition a baguette’s toss from his Sherman Oaks home. It boasts a comparatively expansive menu, including a killer trout almondine.

    INSIDE DISH If all goes well, the space next door may become a Petit Trois bakery and market.

  4. 17

    Guerrilla Tacos

    QUICK PITCH L.A.’s most charmed food truck success story this side of Roy Choi’s Kogi — Wes Avila, a Pico Rivera native who trained under Alain Ducasse before electing to sling tacos and tostadas on street corners — has parked a brick-and-mortar spot in downtown L.A.’s Arts District. An expanded menu (accompanied by a serious slate of cocktail offerings) includes the favorites that made him famous: sweet potato-and-feta tacos and Hamachi-and-stone fruit tostadas topped with uni.

    INSIDE DISH A corner booth features an illustrated silhouette of the Pulitzer-winning dining critic Jonathan Gold, who championed Avila and whose death coincided with the restaurant’s opening. 

  5. 16

    Mister O's

    QUICK PITCH This throwback charmer specializing in neo-midcentury Americana has bowed a short stroll from CBS’ Radford lot in Studio City. Restaurateur Michael Cardenas, who launched chef Josef Centeno to L.A. fame at Lazy Ox Canteen, has now bet on Mario Alberto, previously the executive chef at Laurel Hardware and Ysabel. The menu swerves from shrimp Bolognese with fennel jam to scallops with sunchokes and walnut aioli.

    INSIDE DISH Mister O’s may boast the most striking breeze block Instagram moment this side of the Parker Palm Springs entryway.

  6. 15


    QUICK PITCH A decade after Jose Andres opened The Bazaar at the SLS Beverly Hills, he’s rechristened the experimental Saam — his tasting-menu-only restaurant-within-a-restaurant — as Somni. Basque chef Aitor Zabala, an Andres disciple who’s helped his boss teach a cooking course at Harvard, is in charge. (Zabala’s also worked under Ferran Adria at El Bulli.) Expect ultra-modernist interpretations of everything from tomato bread to mocha rice pudding. 

    INSIDE DISH The striking animal head sculptures at Somni are by the noted Spanish pop surrealist artist Okuda San Miguel. 

  7. 14


    QUICK PITCH Midtown Manhattan’s A-lister Acropolis of high-gloss Greek cuisine has bowed a West Coast outpost at the former Hakkasan address in the heart of Beverly Hills. It’s attracting a Bravo-watching and -appearing demo, seemingly each ordering the signature towers of crispy zucchini and eggplant chips to dip in tzatziki sauce.

    INSIDE DISH David Rockwell, the Manhattan-based architect and designer behind the glitzy-airy space, has won a Tony for Best Scenic Design and twice was entrusted with executing Academy Awards ceremony stage sets.

  8. 13


    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.

  9. 12


    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.

  10. 11

    Viale dei Romani

    QUICK PITCH West Hollywood's new Kimpton La Peer hotel has put Cecconi's on notice with this similarly stylish and buoyant coastal Italian dining room engineered for the urges of its high-powered patrons. Chef Casey Lane of Venice's well-regarded The Tasting Kitchen is responsible for the menu, sending out an often lemon-accented array of pastas, crudos, salads and pizzas.

    INSIDE DISH Busy Lane, a James Beard Award nominee, is also behind the Catalan-leaning Breva, which recently bowed at the revamped Hotel Figueroa in downtown L.A.

  11. 10

    The NoMad

    QUICK PITCH Daniel Humm and Will Guidara (of NYC’s officially designated “World’s Best Restaurant” Eleven Madison Park) are responsible for all of the dining options at the new downtown L.A. outpost of the stylish NoMad Hotel. For $98 guests can try the duo’s signature black truffle roast chicken for two with brioche stuffing.

    INSIDE DISH Clearly intent on attaining a certain social stratum in town, the hotel poached Phil Pavel as its managing director after a two-decade stint as the well-connected, celebrity-mingling prince of the Chateau Marmont. 

  12. 9


    QUICK PITCH Santa Monica’s old-school fine dining don Josiah Citrin, who changed things up with his steakhouse concept Charcoal in Venice three years ago, expands to Koreatown with a takeover of Roy Choi’s former greenhouse space Commissary at The Line hotel. His classical French culinary background melds with the neighborhood here, from the foie gras parfait starter to the Snake River Farms sirloin featuring toasted garlic brown butter doenjang.

    INSIDE DISH The end is likely nigh for Citrin’s celebrated white-table-cloth lodestar Melisse. Its 20-year lease ends in 2019.

  13. 8


    QUICK PITCH Restaurateur Bill Chait (Republique, Bestia) is responsible for this 125-seat, predominantly French neo-bistro — one of the most ambitious dining options to arrive on the Sunset Strip in years. Chef Raphael Francois, whose long, Michelin-starred CV includes stretches at the Hotel de Crillion and Four Seasons Hotel Georges V in Paris, is making some of the best in-house sausages in town.

    INSIDE DISH The wine program is run by managing partner Jordan Ogron, who sourced exclusive bottles for Tesse as well a its its wine shop, Boutellier. 

  14. 7


    QUICK PITCH After testing the waters with special events, the scruffy-buzzy pride of Bushwick has bowed this decidedly fashionable West Coast outpost at The Platform in Culver City. Just about everyone seems to be ordering the signature Bee Sting wood-fired pizza (it features sopressata, chili and honey), then filling out their tables with dishes like steamed baby corn with black lime and polenta with Santa Barbara sea urchin.

    INSIDE DISH There’s no reservations. Be prepared for a line out the door at peak times. If you need to bail, Roberta’s sleepier neighbor Hayden is an excellent alternate.

  15. 6


    QUICK PITCH Barbecue master Adam Perry Lang reigns at this Parisian bistro-inspired Hollywood steakhouse with high ceilings and brown leather booths. The pedigreed chef (Le Cirque, Daniel, Guy Savoy) flaunts his knife skills with 100-day dry-aged cuts kept in an underground environmental chamber that houses 20,000 pounds of meat. Try the French onion soup, signature short ribs served with a pickle salad, and updated accoutrements from creamed spinach to duck fat fries.

    INSIDE DISH Jimmy Kimmel, a long-time friend and supporter, hosted Perry Lang's backlot barbecue pop-up series a few blocks away from the restaurant at Jimmy Kimmel Live! in anticipation of the carnivorous mecca.

  16. 5


    QUICK PITCH The team behind Venice’s durable Italian charmer Scopa has branched into downtown L.A.’s Fashion District with a pan-Latin concept in a converted industrial complex across the way from Rossoblu (as well as the production offices of Marvel directors Joe and Anthony Russo). Chef Antonia Lofaso presents linguisas and churros within a striking dining room recalling pre-Fidel Cuban glamour.

    INSIDE DISH Lofaso, who’s appeared on Top Chef and Cutthroat Kitchen, served as an on-air adviser on CNBC’s investment show Restaurant Startup for several years beginning in 2015. 

  17. 4


    QUICK PITCH Jessica Largey, a James Beard winner and vet of the acclaimed Manresa in the Bay Area, unveils one of the season’s most anticipated openings in a 1920s-era DTLA Arts District building. Amid a room filled with Art Deco touches she sends out her Cal-mod cuisine: a Caesar of grilled brassicas, abalone toast, pork collar with n’duja-olive tapenade.

    INSIDE DISH One of Simone’s owners is Marvel director Joe Russo, who made the restaurant’s Emmy weekend opening party a bold-face-name magnet. Attendees included Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Jon Favreau, Kevin Feige, Taika Waititi and Don Cheadle.

  18. 3

    Alta Adams

    QUICK PITCH Daniel Patterson, famed for his three-Michelin-starred Coi in San Francisco, makes his L.A. foray in a decidedly low key. Chef Keith Corbin, Patterson’s out-front protégé, has established a menu of what he’s calling California soul food — black eye pea fritters, pigs foot salad, candied yam gratin, shrimp and grits — in a stylish, lively room on a still-graffitied stretch of West Adams that’s aiming to appeal to diners from Beverly Hills and Baldwin Hills alike.

    INSIDE DISH Corbin and a number of other Alta Adams staffers are alumni of Patterson’s recently shuttered Watts healthy fast-food concept Locol.

  19. 2


    QUICK PITCH David Chang, the man behind the global Momofuku empire and Netflix’s new doc series Ugly Delicious, has elected to open a concept indigenous to L.A. — unlike many Manhattan chefs who simply seek to play their hits for the local audience. His in-your-face yet highly technical cooking is in dialogue with the hardcore flavors of the nearby Koreatown scene.

    INSIDE DISH Brian Grazer, Jon Favreau and Nick Kroll are early arrivals. Bill Simmons can’t stop ordering the smoked bone-in short ribs.

  20. 1


    QUICK PITCH Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis, the married chef-owners behind the acclaimed, raucous Italian phenomenon Bestia in downtown L.A.'s Arts District, have replicated its high-energy, flirty vibe a few blocks away but switched to flat breads, spreads (don't miss the foie gras halva) and all manner of other updated Middle Eastern offerings, from a lamb neck shawarma to grilled octopus with friend squid ink pita and smoked paprika oil.

    INSIDE DISH Kanye West was an early arrival. Now dudes dressed in Yeezy are packing tables.