LA

Happening Right Now: New LA Restaurant Intel

PHOTO: Jakob Layman

You already have the Hit List, our regularly updated guide to the best new restaurants in LA. But based off Team Infatuation's recent restaurant experiences, here’s our newest intel:

2/27/2017 Update

  • We recently stopped back into the Mercado La Paloma (the vastly overlooked food hall south of downtown), and had the Mexican seafood lunch of our dreams at Holbox. The seafood counter/raw bar was just opened by the same people who do Chichen Itza next door, and is bringing great fresh seafood to an area of town that doesn’t have much of it. Think ceviche tostadas, chile rellenos stuffed with yellowtail, and raw oysters by the dozen. Don’t you dare leave without getting those lobster tacos.

  • Ayara is one of the few decent Thai spots west of the 405, and now the owner’s kids want to extend their family’s monopoly. Around the corner from Ayara, they’ve opened Ayara Luk, a pop-up with a small menu of Thai favorites (excellent khao soi) and more modern stuff (a lobster pad thai, duck flatbread). It’s pretty bare bones and still looks like the chalet-themed German restaurant it once was, but is worth the trip to Westchester if Thai Town seems like the other end of the earth.

  • If you’re going to open another ramen spot in this ramen-saturated city, it better be some damn good ramen. Ramen Roll in Culver City is not. From the same guy who started Umami Burger (which should give you some indication of what we’re dealing with here), this place is a ramen and hand roll concept (which should give you some indication that it’s a total mess). The menu is long and confusing (it involves doing things like “amplifying” your ramen with cheese or foie gras), the hand rolls are fine at best, and the ramen itself tastes like a bland version of your aunt’s chicken soup. Put together with a cold and corporate room, this one should be on your avoid list.

  • There’s a tiny new bakery open on La Brea, and we’re into it. Located next door to an oil change shop, this French import isn’t going to immediately grab your attention, but take note because La Tropezienne is serving some pretty stellar breakfast pastries. The small, all-white space feels slightly sterile in a modern art exhibit kind of way, but is ultimately welcoming because the (very French) people behind the counter are as nice as can be. Skip the namesake Tropezienne tart and go straight for the almond croissants and baguettes.

  • Dune in Atwater Village serves some of the best (and biggest) falafel in LA, and just opened a new shop downtown. Right around the corner from the Ace Hotel, the little space has a handful of tables and a whole lot of falafel, hummus, and killer fried chicken shawarma. When Grand Central Market gets to be too much, or you just need a little quiet time, Dune should be your new DTLA lunch move.

  • Uplifters Kitchen on Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica is the kind of anonymous-looking place you could drive past a hundred times and never give a second thought. Which would be the wrong thing to do. The coffee is great, and the menu of pastries, salads, and sandwiches is simple and delicious. You’ll be finding excuses to get here on the regular just to eat the biscuit breakfast sandwich.

  • There’s many a fancy barbecue spot in Los Angeles, but Belle Belle’s Cue in Chinatown is not one of them. Hidden in a completely generic building, it has a chalkboard menu, TVs on the walls, and a general airline lounge feeling. But the barbecue is worth checking in on if you’re in the area. The ribs and pulled pork are great, the mac & cheese is very tasty, and you should be saving room for the pecan pie. They don’t always have it (it wasn’t ready when we visited), but we hear it’s possibly better than the meat. We’ll be back to test this hypothesis.


1/25/2017 Update

  • When the Cliff’s Edge chef peaced out last year to man the restaurant at 71Above, you might have been concerned (we were) that the Eastside’s best restaurant had run its course. Breaking: It’s doing just fine. The new menu won't blow you away, but it's still full of things you're going to enjoy. We went back recently and had a solid chicken liver mousse, an octopus dish that was actually memorable, and very good cocktails. Oh, and that safari treehouse they call a back patio? Still one of the best places to have dinner in the city. We plan to check it out again soon and update our review.

  • When we heard the people from Madcapra were opening a restaurant with help from the Animal team, we were pretty excited. And Kismet in Los Feliz does not disappoint. This Middle Eastern-inspired all-day spot has a big focus on vegetables, and serves some of the tastiest food we've had this year. The broccoli toast is a stone cold stunner, and if we could only eat one thing for the rest of our lives it might just be that flaky bread with labneh and honey. Go here, now.

  • Michael’s, the restaurant in Santa Monica that's probably been around longer than you've been alive, had felt stuck in a time when Will Smith was the Fresh Prince. But with a new chef, Michael's is clearly hoping to entice the under-55 crowd again. While the huge back patio is one of the nicest places on the Westside to eat, the food is still kind of old-fashioned - most of what we ate on a recent trip back was too rich or too sweet or both (and we didn't even get to dessert). The atmosphere can't be beat though (you will be visited by Michael himself over dinner), so we'll be back at some point to see if these are just growing pains.

  • A few years back, you might have had a banh mi at Hero Shop in the Historic Core, only to go back and discover it had turned into Ohana Poke Co. The same people are behind both concepts, and now they’ve flipped back into Hero Shop again. The menu at this little daytime spot is a simple, affordable mix of banh mis and coconut rice bowls that should definitely be in your lunch rotation if you work nearby. They’re labeling the setup as a pop-up, but with $5 chicken banh mis this good, we have a feeling they'll be around for a while.

  • A new speakeasy recently opened on Melrose, and we’re here to report it’s downright disappointing. Melrose Station's space itself is very nice, but after securing an “invitation" online, waiting 10 minutes outside, being escorted to the back of a hookah lounge, through a bookshelf and past another secret door, it hits you - people just don't want to drink like this anymore. Not to mention the drinks themselves are all $16+ and pretty terrible. Perhaps this place will eventually find its way, but right now, it’s just trying to be like everybody else - in 2011.

  • We stopped by the new Drago Ristorante inside the Petersen Automotive Museum, and we can tell you it looks and feels very much like the kind of restaurant that would be in a museum. The space is sleek - in an airport priority lounge kind of way - and largely dominated by random groups of people who are there to look at old cars. The casual Italian food, while good, isn’t exactly going to stop you in your tracks. But if you get the urge for some linguini while looking at some Model T’s, Drago does the job BECAUSE IT'S AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT IN A CAR MUSEUM.


12/19/2016 Update

  • The kings of Korean BBQ in LA (Kang Ho Baek Jeong) have opened a new restaurant in Ktown and we’ll tell you this - it’s fancy as sh*t. But also pretty good. Located next door to that Denny’s on Wilshire you go to after seeing shows at the Wiltern, Terra Cotta is big and beautiful (there are glass chandeliers), with a menu that can best be described as expensive American-Korean fusion. Think hamachi with wasabi slaw, uni fried rice, and a really excellent steak tartare.

  • If you're a member of the Eggslut fan club/cult, their new spot in Venice near the Boardwalk has an excellent feature you need to know about: no lines. And while the menu of egg sandwiches is the same, on our visit here we came to the realization that we're actually not that into Eggslut. Our Fairfax sandwich pretty much fell apart and we were still kind of hungry when we were done. Maybe we just caught them on a bad day, but we'll be back to both locations to reassess.

  • NYC pizza place Roberta’s, on the other hand, has always lived up to the hype. After a couple of one-day pop-ups around town, they’ve landed at Culver City’s Platform (AKA an actually cool outdoor mall) where they’ll be serving their wood-fired, thin crust pizzas until sometime in January. Get here earlier than you think - the lines are constant.

  • What was once Status Kuo in Mar Vista has now split into two, although it’s still operated by the same team. One half has become Accomplice, an excellent new cocktail bar, and the other is Little Fatty, a mostly-takeout Taiwanese spot. There’s a mix of classics - Kung Pao chicken, beef and broccoli, scallion pancakes - and some holdovers from Status Kuo, like their duck pizza. We weren’t blown away on our first visit, when some of the flavors felt a little off. We're hoping these are just early opening pains, because it's high time Mar Vista had some cool places to eat. We'll be back soon to see if things improve.

  • If you were turned off by the idea of the molecular gastronomy situation at Ink, you should know that times have changed. Seemingly overnight, Ink turned into essentially a steakhouse and we are extremely into it. The new beef section is fantastic, but their pork rib is the reason to come. And if you've always been an Ink fan, know that there are still plenty of old favorites on the menu (read: salt and charcoal potatoes).

  • If you’ve been to the intersection of La Brea and Wilshire recently, you probably remember one thing - traffic. The ongoing Purple Line subway construction has made the area a complete headache, but that hasn’t stopped Commerson from opening at the bottom of a giant mixed-user and giving the neighborhood a serious new dinner spot - this mostly-seafood restaurant is really good. The space is sleek but casual, and the scallop dish is an absolute must-order. Your new date spot has arrived.


11/29/2016 Update

  • The breakfast burrito competition is pretty fierce in LA, but The Rooster, a new-ish food truck regularly parked outside Blue Bottle on Abbot Kinney (but they pop up all over town), is right up there with the best. Despite being loaded with egg, bacon, avocado, multiple cheeses, salsa, crema, and tater tots, the burrito itself never gets fall-apart soggy. And yes, we did say there were tots inside this burrito.

  • We’ve had East Hollywood spot DeSano on our list for a while and finally made it over to try their Neapolitan pizza. Needless to say, it delivered. The pizza itself is fantastic, but the massive space with large community tables and Italian guys screaming at soccer games on TV only added to the experience. If you’re on the quest to find the best pizza in LA, it’s time to add DeSano to the list.

  • Kind of out of nowhere, The Edmon opened in a weird, old hotel at Melrose and Wilton and delivered us a bar/restaurant straight out of a Great Gatsby fever dream. The large, art deco bar is a total panty-dropper, and while the food is a bit all over the place (falafel and pierogies?), the burger is great. You don’t need to do a full sit-down dinner situation here, instead just cruise up to the bar, grab a cocktail (and said burger), and live your best 1920’s life.

  • Way before Highland Park became LA's new favorite place to eat, there was Good Girl Dinette, which puts out diner-style versions of Vietnamese classics and a tasty weekend brunch. We popped into this spot just off Figueroa again recently, and remembered why we love it. The vermicelli salads are fresh but filling, and if you’re looking for something a little less good for you, the bacon and pâté banh mi is one of our favorite sandwiches around.

  • Sometimes it feels like the ramen spots of LA are just trying to outdo each other, with their iPad ordering systems and straight-from-Japan authenticity. Ramen Room in Sherman Oaks is having none of this one upmanship, and just concentrates on the noodles. It looks like any other generic Valley restaurant, and is perfectly happy just to give you a bowl of very good spicy miso ramen without any bells and whistles. And we're perfectly happy to eat it.

  • It’s probably better to call Catch a nightclub with food than an actual restaurant. From day one, this NYC-import has been pulling in every actress/model/DJ looking for an agent within a 15 mile radius of West Hollywood. and every night is a certifiable party. The most surprising part is that Catch seems to care about the people who are actually there to eat. The seafood-focused menu is solid, the service is astonishingly friendly, and you’ll probably also see Larry King.


11/7/2016 Update

  • If you know anything about eating pasta in LA, you know that Angelini Osteria is among our very best spots. Well guess what? They just opened an order-at-the-counter cafe, Angelini Alimentari, right next door on Beverly and it’s great. They’ve replaced the pasta with sandwiches, the coffee is phenomenal, and the housemade gelato might be the best in town.

  • It’s basically impossible not to like the original Go Get Em Tiger in Larchmont, and the new outpost in Los Feliz is just as enjoyable. The space is much bigger, and there’s a ton of seating on the patio out front. Plus, the new location's menu is expanded (with things like grain bowls and an excellent chicken salad sandwich), and the coffee is as good as ever. If you’re a local, expect to be here a lot.

  • NYC restaurant The NoMad is opening in DTLA next year, and while their space is under construction, they’re tooling around town in a blue food truck to give everyone a sneak peak. In addition to their foie gras-infused chicken burger, they’re bringing in local chefs to create their own every month. First up is a chicken dumpling burger from Roy Choi - which, speaking from experience, does indeed taste like a dumpling. Leave room for the milk and honey soft serve - it’s possibly the best thing on the menu.

  • In the not too distant future, this city will be at complete poké overload. But until that moment arrives, please draw your attention to Da Kikokiko in Playa Vista for some of the best we’ve ever had. The tiny joint isn’t all just bowls of fresh fish though - their Hawaiian-style shaved ice situation is worth the trip alone.

  • Plan Check, one of our go-to first date spots, has landed a new location right on Ocean Ave in Santa Monica. That alone isn’t cause for alert, but the fact that it has a seafood-leaning menu different from any other location is. Dynamite crab dip? Hamachi crudo? Fresh oysters? All present. But not to worry, that burger still is too.

  • There’s a lot of competition for the all-day “work” from home crowd in Venice, and it seems like Dudley Market can’t keep up with the rest. After their opening chef left, they’ve moved to a brunch-style menu that’s way less interesting than it used to be, and the locals have stopped showing up. We’re sad to see such a promising spot fade.


10/3/2016 Update

  • Another day, another restaurant opening inside the Far East Plaza in Chinatown. This time it's Lao Tao Kitchen, a fast casual Taiwanese place we love. Its second-floor location isn't exactly prime real estate, but the food is already bringing in the lunch crowds anyway. The Beef Ban Main (flat noodles in a spicy bone marrow broth) and twice-fried popcorn chicken are absolute must-orders.

  • The new restaurant Destroyer is very cool. It's in a part of Culver City where we imagine lots of architects work. They project their menu onto a wall. They serve breakfast and lunch food that looks like it came out of a lab. Instead of avocado toast, there's avocado confit, and the oatmeal is served raw. Most importantly, everything tastes good. You should probably wear all black, though.

  • Bakery and breakfast spot Lodge Bread Co. in Culver is by no means new, but we finally stopped in recently and were blown away. Obviously the bread is good, but there’s also shaksushka, avocado toast, and the best and biggest cinnamon roll we’ve ever had. They're usually only open during the day, but on Sundays they open back up at 5pm for pizza night, serving only one kind of pie until they sell out. We'll be back to check it out.

  • It’s no secret we love Hollywood’s Mud Hen Tavern - it’s on our guides to outdoor eating, last minute dates, and even our bottomless brunch directory too. But all that love wasn’t quite enough, because they’re closing for good on October 11th. Get there in the next week for one last round of chicken and waffle croquettes. And then maybe another one.

  • You've probably seen San Francisco's Mr Holmes Bakehouse, their cruffins, and their “I got baked in San Francisco" sign all over Instagram. All these things - including an LA version of that sign - made the jump south when Mr Holmes opened in Highland Park this past weekend. We plan to stop in to see if the cruffins are worth the unavoidable wait.

  • Thai Town was badly in need of a beer and wine bar, and the new spot Tabula Rasa is here to serve. The bare-bones space is a nice change from the usually-stuffy wine bar vibe, and its tiny snack menu is excellent. Get the Cubano and the chocolate mousse.

  • Remember Luna Park? That great little spot on La Brea and Wilshire? It closed last year, but the same team is back with the new seafood-based Mexican restaurant Pata Salada. And while the service and space are solid, they have some major food kinks to work out. The scallops we tried were so drenched in a green sauce you couldn't taste them, and the octopus was inexplicably mushy. We'll be checking back in on this place again to see if they've turned things around.


9/6/2016 Update

  • TikiFish comes to Palms courtesy of the same people as Phorage, and is conveniently located right next door. Yes it’s another poké place, and while the poké is good, we are all about their Mexican style ceviche, served with a big tostada - and plenty of hot sauce added on top.

  • Beefsteak recently opened as the vegetable-loving sister restaurant to the meat-centric Wolf on Melrose. While we'd be lying if we said this city was in need of another healthy, vegan-friendly restaurant, our first couple meals here have been very good. Its casual, order-at-the-counter set-up is ideal for a quick lunch.

  • Georgie, the new restaurant in the Montage hotel, is very Beverly Hills. A table on the patio is likely to be flanked by ladies who are lunching on one side and a power meeting on the other. But, the food here is better than it needs to be, even if it comes at BH prices. The deconstructed greek salad is actually phenomenal.

  • Erven recently took the place of the Santa Monica Real Food Daily and continues to fly the healthy food flag. There’s both a grab and go section and a proper dining room that serves sandwiches and salads for lunch (and a very tasty gazpacho) and more interesting-sounding dishes at dinner. We’ll be back.

  • Remember Nighthawk, the breakfast-themed bar in Hollywood that closed (through no fault of their own) as quickly as it opened? They’re back and as good as ever in Venice, and even serving brunch on the weekends now.


8/2/2016 Update

  • We recently stopped into the brand new Here's Looking At You in Ktown and had a fantastic dinner. The bright, modern space has a great energy, an excellent new American menu (seriously, that steak tartare), and cocktails that'll certainly get the mood going. Your next great date spot has been found.

  • Status Kuo in Mar Vista just reopened after a refresh, getting larger in the process and transitioning from that place you got to-go rotisserie chicken from to a full-out modern izakaya. Big changes indeed. The menu is a real mix of things - there’s shishito skewers, gochujang wings, pasta, and even a cheeseburger. It all sounds a little nuts, so we’re looking forward to heading in and checking it out.

  • The Alma at The Standard pop-up is no longer temporary - they're taking over all food operations at the Sunset Strip location. We love what they've been doing at The Standard - it still feels like the original DTLA Alma, but way more relaxed - so we're intrigued to see how their approach translates to the usually boring category of hotel restaurant.

  • We'll be honest here - the food at El Tejano is pretty mediocre. But that's not why you should come here. You should come here because this rowdy new Mexican cantina in the heart of Noho has one of the better outdoor patios we've seen in a while (corn hole anyone?) and margaritas served in goblets the size of your head. Party on.

  • This week we made the long overdue visit to Sri Siam, the 30-year-old Thai staple in North Hollywood, and it did not disappoint. Home to the original crunchy rice salad, this no-frills family Thai spot is one place you need to put onto your list immediately. Expect more coverage very soon.

  • We popped into Zafran Pot, a new-ish Indian spot in a Culver City strip mall for lunch and came away pretty satisfied. The combo #2 involves an appetizer, your choice of three curries, rice, and naan - and at $9.45 it’s a total steal. The Chicken Tikka Masala is amazing, and it’s worth stopping in on Fridays or the weekend for a big serving of Lamb Dum Biryani - the only times this signature dish is available.


7/11/2016 Update

  • Santa Monica needs another fast casual restaurant like Meryl needs another Oscar nomination, but in comes Flower Child to change our mind. Heartier than Sweetgreen, less terrible than Lemonade, and with table service once you’ve placed your order at the counter, there are a lot of choices here, most of them good. Also, it’s very, very, pretty.

  • Pingtung Market is a neighborhood gem that has completely flown under the radar, and we’re kind of mad about it. Check out this Asian fusion spot on Melrose for excellent dumplings and the best patio you never knew existed.

  • Insanely popular Brooklyn food market Smorgasburg has just started a permanent run in LA. Head downtown to the Alameda Produce Market on Sundays for all kinds of bites, including those weird Raindrop Cakes you’ve seen on Instagram. Just be prepared for crowds.

  • Charcoal has been doing their grill-heavy thing in Venice for a little while now, but only started serving brunch last month. And it’s very good. Eggs Benedict comes with a charcoal hollandaise, which despite looking like ink from that pen you snapped in half is actually delicious.

  • The first part of Curtis Stone’s restaurant and butcher shop, Gwen, opened a week or so ago. Mimicking the standalone butchers that are in every neighborhood in his native Australia, there are all kinds of meat available (including sausages made in-house), and friendly staff to help you decide on your order. You can pick up a $15 sandwich and a coffee for lunch, and grab a peek at the rest of the space, set to open at the end of the month.

  • Craft brewery Ballast Point opened down in Long Beach just in time for last week’s holiday. Expect the usual brewhouse-type eats (burgers, tacos, wings), and many, many beers on tap.

  • It was only a matter of time before NYC’s always-slammed (and actually really good) vegan counter-style restaurant by CHLOE came to its spiritual home, the Eastside of Los Angeles. So in the new, less expensive Whole Foods (sorry, "365 by Whole Foods") in Silver Lake, there she is, serving up vegan meatball sandwiches that aren’t terrible.

  • If you’ve spent any length of time in NYC, you’ve definitely been told to visit The Halal Guys. If you’re into their legendary shwarma, you no longer need to fly across the country - they’ve just opened their first LA outpost in Koreatown. Fingers crossed those combo platters are as good as the original.

  • Ok, so Mardi is a hotel restaurant - a thing that just isn’t a thing in LA. The food is more creative than you’d expect, but still nothing to write home about. It’s also very quiet. However, the patio is a thing of beauty, and a new after-work drinks-and-a-bite place to add into your rotation.

  • We finally made it down to Chica's, which wins the award for best dressed in the increasingly crowded downtown taco world. The tiny spot on Olive is beautiful, with a cool retro vibe. Oh and the tacos themselves? Delicious.


6/6/2016 Update

  • NYC's The Cannibal has just gone bicoastal, opening a butcher and sandwich shop, as well as a full restaurant in Culver City's new Platform development. The General Tso's Pork sandwich at the butcher shop has been haunting us since we stopped in for lunch.

  • We haven’t had a chance to get down there yet, but with the openings of both Chica’s and Sonoratown, the DTLA taco situation is in hyperdrive right now.

  • If you can put up with the sceney crowd, our recent stop in to Laurel Canyon classic Pace proved they're still cranking out excellent Italian dishes.

  • On the other hand, we had a disappointing dinner at Lobster & Beer in Palms. With a name like that, we were expecting great things, but the menu wasn't quite what we expected (no whole lobsters?), and we waited an eternity for food that wasn't overly impressive. We'll chalk it up to opening pains and be back when they settle in a little more.

  • We've been hard at work eating our way through LA's best sushi (more on our findings to come), and one of our standouts so far has been Jinpachi. The omakase we had there included more unusual fish like monkfish and some seriously tasty barracuda.

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