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

6:45 AM 9/7/2018

by Gary Baum

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

Viale dei Romani
Viale dei Romani
Courtesy of Antonio Diaz

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 September, say hello to Otono. Triple Beam Pizza has 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

    Dialogue

    1315 3rd St. Promenade (Last month: No. 10)

    Lisa Aileen Dragani

    QUICK PITCH Forget back alleys, private homes, decrepit warehouses and tents in the wilderness. For many snooty Angelenos, the most mind-boggling place to come upon exquisite, elaborate tasting menu fine dining — the molecular gastronomy kind — would be along Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. And that's just where chef Dave Beran, who spent a decade at Chicago's esteemed Alinea and Next, has opened this tiny, reserve-long-in-advance stunner.

    INSIDE DISH Yes, you're paying hundreds of dollars per person to eat at a mall, but you're no mall rat. There's a special passcode to keep out the riffraff.

  2. 19
    20

    Otono

    5715 N. Figueroa St. (New to the list)

    Courtesy of Otono

    QUICK PITCH Chef/owner Teresa Montano, who garnered acclaim for her modern Basque cuisine at Pasadena’s Racion, now draws a decidedly younger crowd in Highland Park with her turn toward Catalonia, inspired by time spent in Valencia, birthplace of paella. (Try her scallop fideua — paella’s noodle-based analog — featuring dashi, chorizo, lemon cream and squid ink.) Offerings range from the reassuringly customary, like a presentation of jamon iberico de bellota, to the thankfully reimagined, such as the pan con tomate.

    INSIDE DISH Wine director Katie Putterlik has curated an impressive list of natural Spanish offerings.

  3. 18
    20

    Kismet

    4648 Hollywood Blvd. (Last month: No. 16)

    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 further down this list, are management partners in the endeavor.

  4. 17
    20

    Pizzana

    11712 San Vicente Blvd. (Last month: No. 19)

    QUICK PITCH Candace Nelson and her husband, Charles, the husband-and-wife duo behind Sprinkles Cupcakes, have turned their attention to pies — the savory sort — 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. Now a second branch has been announced for Robertson Blvd.

  5. 16
    20

    Inko Nito

    225-227 S. Garey St. (Returned to the list)

    Courtesy of Frank Lee

    QUICK PITCH A Japanese robatayaki concept lands in downtown L.A.’s Arts District. The austere, high-ceilinged space is sexy. But first-daters beware: Many key offerings (like corn on the cob covered in smoked chili butter) aren’t dainty. Save room for the charred coconut soft serve presented with green tea Pocky.

    INSIDE DISH Arjun Waney, the Indian business mogul behind Inko Nito, launched his international chain of fashionable Zuma restaurants serving Japanese cuisine after he couldn’t get a table at London’s Nobu. 

  6. 15
    20

    The NoMad's Mezzanine

    649 S. Olive St. (Last month: No. 12)

    Courtesy of Benoit Linero

    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. Fanciest fare is at the Mezzanine, where 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.

  7. 14
    20

    Felix

    1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (Last month: No. 14)

    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.

  8. 13
    20

    Rossoblu

    1124 San Julian St. (Last month: No. 18)

    Courtesy of Ed Anderson

    THE 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.

    THE 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
    20

    Barbette

    7511 Santa Monica Blvd. (Last month: No. 6)

    Rob Stark

    THE QUICK PITCH Sean MacPherson and Jared Meisler — the atmosphere-alert hospitality duo behind Bar Lubitsch, The Roger Room and The Pikey — crank the charm up to 11 at this studiously stylish Cal-French bistro in the midst of West Hollywood’s Little Russia section. Menu items run from moules mariniere and steak frites to black cod and crab rice. 

    THE INSIDE DISH Barbette was originally conceived as an oyster bar. But development took so long, and the bivalve trend grew so crazed, that the shellfish numbers no longer penciled out.

  10. 11
    20

    Somni

    465 S. La Cienega Blvd (Returned to the list)

    Courtesy Photo

    THE 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. 

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

  11. 10
    20

    Viale dei Romani

    627 N. La Peer Dr. (Last month: No. 15)

    Courtesy of Antonio Diaz

    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.

  12. 9
    20

    Crustacean

    9646 S. Santa Monica Blvd. (Last month: No. 11)

    Courtesy of Wonho Frank Lee

    QUICK PITCH Helene An's two-decade-old Vietnamese cuisine showcase in Beverly Hills is abuzz again after a $10 million renovation and a relaunch marked by its hosting of Women In Film's pre-Oscar party. Chef Tony Nguyen displays an imaginative levity — think: tuna "cigars" featuring tobiko caviar at their tips — but also plays the hits. (Don't worry, the legendary garlic noodles and out-of-shell crab dish is still available.)

    INSIDE DISH An is set to open a separate upstairs restaurant, Da Lat Rose (named in homage to a provincial Vietnamese town), this fall.

  13. 8
    20

    Petit Trois Le Valley

    13705 Ventura Blvd. (Last month: No. 8)

    Courtesy of Lucy Lean

    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.

  14. 7
    20

    Elephante

    1332 Second St. (Last month: No. 1)

    Stewart Uy

    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.

  15. 6
    20

    Punta Cabras

    930 Broadway (Last month: No. 4)

    Wonho Frank Lee

    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. 

  16. 5
    20

    Majordomo

    1725 Naud St. (Last month: No. 7)

    Rachel Murray/Getty Images

     

    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.

  17. 4
    20

    Avra Beverly Hills

    233 N. Beverly Drive (Last month: No. 5)

    Courtesy of subject

    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.

  18. 3
    20

    Bavel

    500 Mateo St. (Last month: No. 13)

    DYLAN + JENI

    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.

  19. 2
    20

    Tesse

    8500 Sunset Blvd. (Last month: No. 2)

    Wonho Frank Lee

    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. 

     

     

  20. 1
    20

    APL

    1680 Vine St. (Last month: No. 3)

    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.

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