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The Ride-Along Report: First Takes From Last Night’s Dinner

As you might imagine, we at The Infatuation go out to eat almost every night. To answer your FAQs about that: No, we don’t usually go as a group, because we try to divide and conquer. No, the restaurants don’t know we’re coming. Yes, we use fake names. Suggestions for those are welcome. No, we don’t have rules about ordering a specific percentage of the menu - we just order a little more than seems responsible. Yes, we pay for it all ourselves. Does that cover it? Good.

Once we’ve successfully slept off the previous day’s meat sweats, we’ll be putting our first impressions on the places we’ve been in this post. It’ll be updated as often as we eat in new places. And the best new places will end up on the Hit List as we go.

If you like following along here, you’ll probably also enjoy following our live Restaurant Review Ride-Alongs on Instagram on @infatuation_la and @infatuation. They’re like the write-ups below, but with more (possibly poorly-lit) pictures of everything we ate and amateur artistic scribblings.

2/13/2018 update

Jaffa

Beverly Grove
8048 W 3rd St

What It Is: A modern Israeli restaurant on 3rd Street

Perfect For: Literally Everyone, Date Night

Jaffa just opened in Beverly Grove, and is already our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant to open in LA since Mh Zh. Located in the middle of 3rd Street, Jaffa serves modern Israeli food that’s definitely on the healthier side - but doesn’t taste healthy. From their housemade kubaneh bread to the North African chickpea stew to the lamb couscous, this food is exactly what you want in the middle of a tough week. The very pretty space feels sort of like a fancy ocean-adjacent cafe, and would be great for anything from date night to after-work snacks to drinking wine on the front patio.

Verdict: A restaurant we can confidently say is perfect for just about everyone. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

What It Is: A new pizza-by-the-slice spot in Highland Park

Perfect For: Dining Solo, Cheap Eats

After a recent stop into Triple Beam, we can tell you this order-at-the-counter spot in Highland Park (opened by Nancy Silverton and the Everson Royce Bar people) is serving some of the best new pizza LA has seen in a while. It’s Roman-style, meaning the pieces are rectangular and cut by scissors, everything is priced per ounce, and you dictate the size of your piece simply by holding up your hands. And since there are only five different pizzas, you can order the whole menu for under $30. There’s also a great back patio and plenty of wine, making this a great, low-key spot to grab dinner with friends.

Verdict: This is some of the best new pizza to hit LA in quite some time. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Photo: Amanda Proudfit

Night + Market Sahm

2533 Lincoln Blvd

What It Is: A new casual Thai spot in Venice from the people behind Night + Market and [Night + Market Song}(https://www.theinfatuation.com/los-angeles/reviews/night-market-song)

Perfect For: People Watching, Casual Weeknight Dinner

Venice isn’t exactly a hotbed of quality Thai restaurants, so it’s a big deal that one of LA’s best Thai spots, Night + Market, just opened their third location down near the beach. We visited on a Saturday night a week after opening, and abandoned our plans when faced with an hour and a half wait. We walked right in on Monday night at 6pm, although 30 minutes later they were already full. So plan ahead. Menu-wise, much is the same as at the original - fantastic Thai food with a modern twist (the personal-sized peking duck pizza did not disappoint, and yes they do have the fried chicken sandwich), and the atmosphere is both a party and family-friendly.

Verdict: An excellent, much-needed place for quality Thai on the Westside. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Photo: Kimberlyn Gonzalez

Inko Nito

Arts District
225-227 S Garey St

What It Is: A modern Japanese restaurant in the Arts District

Perfect For: Big Groups, Birthdays

Inko Nito is a new Japanese restaurant in the Arts District, and while the massive space is very pretty to look at, the food is very mediocre. The menu is robata-style, meaning everything is slow-cooked in a giant charcoal grill in the middle of the restaurant, which, again, is very pretty to look at. There were highlights like the beef short rib and coconut soft serve at the end, but ultimately, we didn’t eat anything we would drive back to the Arts District for. This place seems more geared towards big groups of club-goers looking for familiar food before a night out than anything else.

Verdict: You probably don’t need to try this place. Unless you’re here for the after party.

Photo: Inko Nito / Facebook

2/7/2018 update

Majordomo

Chinatown
1725 Naud St.

What It Is: A new modern Korean-ish restaurant in Chinatown

Perfect For: Big Group Dinners, Impressing Out-Of-Towners

Majordomo is a new restaurant in Chinatown from the team behind Momofuku, the group of Korean-inspired restaurants born in NYC. Getting a table here is harder than getting tickets to Beyonce’s Coachella right now, but know that it’s worth the wait. The drinks are excellent, the service is already a well-oiled machine, and the menu, while a bit all over the place, is soul-curingly fantastic. Focus on the bing section (grilled bread and dips), the vegetables, and the section where everything is just massive cuts of meat that feed four to six people. Definitely come to Majordomo with a group.

Verdict: A tremendous new restaurant that feels different than anything else in LA right now. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Photo: Molly Matalon

1/26/2018 update

What It Is: The main restaurant at the new NoMad Hotel in DTLA

Perfect For: Date Night, People Watching, Special Occasions

The NoMad is a fancy hotel from New York, and its LA location just opened downtown. It includes two restaurants, three bars, and a whole lot of velvet. It’s very over-the-top, and also entirely fun. The upstairs restaurant, The Mezzanine, is the main event, and serves a bunch of famous dishes from the NYC original, including a roast chicken for two with truffle stuffed under the skin. We checked this place out barely two weeks after opening, but the whole operation already feels like a well-oiled machine, with fantastic food, excellent service, and a crowd that ranges from people doing after-work business drinks to dates sharing one of the cocktails for two that comes served in a giant rooster.

Verdict: A fantastic, very not-boring spot for a special occasion dinner. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Photo: NoMad Los Angeles

What It Is: A new brewery/restaurant/coffee shop in DTLA from Modern Times (the beer company)

Perfect For: Craft Beer, Day Drinking

If we could eliminate the word dankness from the English vocabulary, we would. But we can’t, so here we are with The Dankness Dojo, and at least this new downtown brewery/restaurant/all-day coffee shop from Modern Times (the beer company) is still great. The colorful space is big and open, filled with a low-key crowd all there to do one thing - drink really good beer. The plant-based/vegan food menu is, unfortunately, not very good, so we’d recommend eating elsewhere.

Verdict: A cool space serving excellent craft beer. It’s going on the Bar Hit List.

Rinjani

Glendale
107 E Broadway

What It Is: A casual Indonesian restaurant in Glendale

Perfect For: Lunch, Casual Weeknight Dinner

We headed to Glendale for lunch to see what was happening at Rinjani. Turns out, good things are happening at Rinjani. It’s a modern space, just off Brand, doing pretty classic takes on Indonesian staples. Which means excellent satays, solid nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), and a beef rendang we’re still thinking about. It’s a friendly spot - the owner/chef will probably wave at you from the kitchen - and a great new option for lunch if you work in the area or for dinner when you’re looking for something different.

Verdict: Excellent Indonesian food in a casual setting. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Coni'seafood

Marina Del Rey
4532 S. Centinela Ave.

What It Is: The Marina Del Rey location of one of our favorite places for seafood

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner

If you’ve read our review of the original Coni’Seafood, then you know that we’re big fans of this seafood-heavy Mexican restaurant. We went to check out their new Marina Del Rey location and found an industrial space, and the same great menu. That said, we also experienced very slow service (our dinner lasted about an hour longer than it needed to) that we’ll chalk up to there being two servers and an almost-full house. In terms of food, go straight for the marlin tacos, the fried fish, and any of the shrimp dishes. This will most likely end up as a place that’s perfect for a casual midweek dinner with a few friends, as soon as it has time to work out some operating kinks.

Verdict: Great food, but still needs some time before it makes the Hit List.

Photo: Jakob Layman

What It Is: An all-day restaurant inside the new La Peer Hotel

Perfect For: Lunch, Impressing A Client

We headed over to the new and very pretty La Peer Hotel in West Hollywood to try their all-day Italian-ish restaurant called Viale Dei Romani (from the same people behind The Tasting Kitchen). While we’ll always take our lunch sitting next to a pool, it’s clear this place is still a work in progress. The service was slow, and nothing on the menu really stood out, save for a chickpea crepe with falafel. That said, we’ll be back to try their pasta-heavy dinner menu.

Verdict: A decent hotel restaurant, and an ideal setting for a client lunch.

Point Five

Fairfax
7965 1/2 Melrose Ave

What It Is: An Australian cafe on Melrose

Perfect For: Breakfast, Coffee & A Light Bite

When yet another Australian cafe opens, we generally get there pretty quickly - and not just because one of us is Australian and misses good coffee more than you could ever know. Point Five is the newest place that wants to show you the wonder that is Aussie breakfast. Mostly that means fat slabs of bacon, a fried egg sandwich that fills you up but won’t make you feel like you need to run it off immediately after eating it, and a better-than-the-weird-version-they-make-at-Starbucks flat white. On our visit, it was quiet, even with most tables filled (half of them with fellow Australians looking for something familiar), making this an ideal spot for a low-key meal or coffee.

Verdict: A nice place for a quiet and delicious breakfast, especially if you live nearby.

1/22/2018 update

Triniti

Echo Park
1814 W Sunset Blvd

What It Is: An Echo Park coffee shop that serves good food

Perfect For: Lunch, Keeping It Kind Of Healthy

When we dropped into this little coffee shop recently, we immediately thought of Destroyer. Similar minimalist menu, similar bowls containing hidden things, same coffee machine that looks like a spaceship. Which all makes sense, considering that the chef used to work at Destroyer. This place has more of a neighborhood hangout feel, with the added bonus of serving great food. The menu changes regularly, and is heavy on the fancy salads. We particularly liked the little gems with avocado and an XO dressing we’d happily eat on its own.

Verdict: This is a great spot when you’re in the mood for a not-boring salad. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Photo: Jakob Layman
MAP

What It Is: A rum distillery in the Arts District

Perfect For: Left-Of-Center Date Night

Lost Spirits is a new rum distillery in the Arts District and before you say you gave up rum in college or have little interest in understanding how it’s made, let us stop you. Lost Spirits is not just a distillery. It’s an art installation/jungle cruise/science experiment, with plenty of drinking, and it’s one of the coolest experiences you’ll find in LA right now. In an effort to let you be as awestruck as we were, we’ll withhold any specific details, but just know the $35 admission price is beyond worth it. Each tour lasts around 90 minutes, and you should book tickets well in advance on their website.

Verdict: A must-experience whether you’re into rum or not. It’s going on the Bar Hit List.

Pollen

Echo Park
2100 Echo Park Ave
8.1
MAP

What It Is: An(other) all-day Australian cafe in Echo Park

Perfect for: Brunch, Lunch

Pollen in Echo Park is a mostly-outdoor cafe that serves a killer breakfast. Killer is an Australian word, which is appropriate because this is an Australian cafe. This means they serve a lot of avocado (like the one crusted with sesame seeds that comes with the bacon and egg), excellent coffee, and some ricotta pancakes that are fluffy and not-too-sweet. This place is full-service, with a small patio that will probably fill up on weekends. Come here with a friend or two for a laid-back brunch or weekday breakfast.

Verdict: An excellent addition to Echo Park’s breakfast/brunch scene, and also to LA’s Australian cafe takeover. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Photo: Jakob Layman
MAP

What It Is: A new Highland Park cocktail bar

Perfect For: Action At The Bar, Big Groups

Over the weekend, we checked out Checker Hall and found exactly where you need to be planning your next big group bar outing. Located on the second floor of a former Masonic Lodge, the space is really just one giant room with big booths and a triangular bar in the middle. But the crowd is low-key, the cocktails are fantastic, and if you get hungry, there’s a solid food menu. It also has a great balcony overlooking Figueroa, and a separate live music venue in the back.

Verdict: A great bar with a cool crowd, good music, and even better drinks. It’s going on the Bar Hit List.

Photo: Rachel Ayotte

All Time

Los Feliz
2040 Hillhurst Ave

What It Is: A new cafe in Los Feliz

Perfect for: Breakfast, Coffee And A Light Bite

All-Time looks more like a cool coffee shop than an actual restaurant, but this new spot on Hillhurst serves great breakfast food you should keep in mind when you don’t want to wait for any of the nearby brunch spots. Order your breakfast burrito at the counter, then head out to their shady patio. It’s the kind of place you could read the paper (or your phone) while drinking coffee for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning.

Verdict: Ideal for a quick breakfast followed by a couple of hours of hanging on the patio.

Apotheke

Chinatown
1746 N Spring St
MAP

What It Is: A new cocktail bar in Chinatown

Perfect For: Impressing Out-Of-Towners, See And Be Seen

If the name Apotheke sounds familiar, you might know it as the speakeasy/jazz bar your friends took you to in NYC. Update: There’s one in LA now. Much like the NYC original, all the cocktails at this Chinatown bar are apothecary/medicinal-themed, and fantastic enough to soften the blow of the $16 price point. The interior is fairly small, but there’s a big patio in the back with its own bar that we predict everyone will be drinking at by summer. Or next weekend. Go now before the line’s down the block.

Verdict: One of the coolest cocktail bars to open in LA in a while. It’s going on the Bar Hit List.

Taco Window

2622 W Jefferson Blvd

What It Is: An actual taco window in Jefferson Park

Perfect For: Quick Eats, Dining Solo

When we went to check out Taco Window, we found both a real taco window, and also two French guys cooking some of the better tacos we’ve tried in a while. The menu is small, with only five or so different tacos, some chips and salsa, and churros, but there isn’t a weak spot on it. And at $2.50 a piece, you can pretty much order the whole menu for $15. The fish taco, the carne asada taco, and the short rib taco are our favorites.

Verdict: Excellent, affordable tacos worth the trip to Jefferson Park. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

What It Is: An upscale French restaurant in Highland Park

Perfect For: Date Night, Dinner With The Parents

Though Côté Est is in a restaurant space that sees more turnover than a seasonal Halloween store, we feel like it’s going to stick. On our recent visit, the very pretty restaurant was absolutely packed with people drinking wine and having a good time. Most of the food hovers right around pretty good, but it’s all crowd-pleasing. Their back patio is made for date night.

Verdict: A solid place for an upscale date night in Highland Park, but not quite impressive enough to make it onto the Hit List.

East Garden

Chinatown
750 N Hill St

What it is: A big new Chinese restaurant in Chinatown

Perfect for: Lunch

East Garden is a pretty big new Chinese restaurant in a strip mall off Hill St. in Chinatown. The menu is full of standards like cashew chicken and beef with broccoli - plus a page of Hawaiian-influenced food like chicken in lotus leaf (our favorite thing here) - and it’s decent for a quick (but heavier) lunch. But it’s not somewhere we’d go out of our way to eat again.

Verdict: Decent Chinese and Hawaiian-influenced food, with portions big enough to be eaten again at dinner.

Bestia

Arts District / DTLA
2121 E. 7th Pl.
9.1
MAP

What It Is: Modern Italian (but you already know that)

Perfect For: Date Night, Eating A Full Meal At 11:15pm

You know what Bestia is. Even if you’ve never been, you’ve listened to your friends brag about finally getting a table and taking photos of their cavatelli for the last six years. This modern Italian restaurant in the Arts District is a complete scene every night of the week, and one of the more expensive meals you’ll eat downtown. But guess what? It’s all still worth it. We went back to check on it recently, and found an expanded space (two new patios), excellent service, and best-in-city food. Important: we were able to get a prime time reservation same-day, so keep your eye on Opentable. Last-minute tables are definitely possible.

Verdict: Still one of the best special occasion restaurants in LA.

1/8/2018 UPDATE

What It Is: A tiny Peruvian spot on the border of Koreatown and East Hollywood

Perfect For: Lunch, Cheap Eats

We’ve been wanting to check out this new spot for a while, and we finally stopped in last week for lunch. Turns out this tiny place is serving incredible Peruvian food. We tried a bowl of leche de tigre we had to keep ourselves from picking up and drinking from, and lomo saltado that was super tender and flavorful. There’s not much to the space itself, but the food more than makes up for the simple atmosphere.

Verdict: Come here for excellent, affordable Peruvian food. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Photo: Jakob Layman

Cal Mare

Beverly Grove / West Hollywood
8500 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

What It Is: An upscale Italian place inside the Beverly Center

Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents, Corporate Cards

Yes, Cal Mare is in the Beverly Center, but it doesn’t really feel like a mall restaurant. First off, it’s actually good. The seafood-heavy menu has house-made pastas, a carbonara pizza that you should absolutely be ordering, and fresh, flavorful fish. That being said, the large space goes heavy on the coastal theme, with lots of turquoise and pictures of fish - and there’s no scene to be found. They’re still working out some kinks (it took us a long time to get seated with a reservation and there was a sitcom-length lull between the pasta and pizza), but once they’ve been in action for a little longer, we could see this becoming a good place for dinner with parents, or for your boss who wants something other than a steakhouse.

Verdict: The Italian seafood is good, but we’re not ready to add it to the Hit List yet. We’ll be back to check in on it again soon.

What It Is: A casual pizza spot on Melrose

Perfect For: Casual Midweek Dinner

Whether you think deep dish pizza is god’s gift to humanity or a heinous pile of Italian treasony, one thing is certain - LA needs more great versions of it. Blackbird Pizza Shop opened late last year along Melrose and unfortunately, this version is not great. However, it is decent and their craft beer list is great, so if you’re in the area, this casual spot is good to have in your back pocket.

Verdict: A solid spot for beer and pizza while you shop. Not making it onto the Hit List.

Mi Corazon

Silver Lake
2609 Hyperion Ave

What It Is: A Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake

Perfect For: Big Groups, Girls’ Night Out, Drinks And A Light Bite

The new Silver Lake location of a Glendale Mexican restaurant seems to be very popular with people who enjoy getting up midway through their meal to dance. This is a thing that happened multiple times during our meal here. Occasional tango aside, the place has a cool atmosphere, with lots of Dia De Los Muertos-themed decorations and dark wood. It’s a little pricey for what you get, which isn’t the best Mexican food you’ve had in LA (or Silver Lake), but you’ll still enjoy yourself if you come here with a big group of friends, stick to drinks and some shared appetizers, and wait to see if the mood for dancing strikes.

Verdict: Best for drinks and a few shared plates (and dancing) with friends. Not making it onto the Hit List.

12/11/2017 update

Freedman’s

Silver Lake
2619 Sunset Blvd
8.4
MAP

What It Is: A new-school Jewish deli in Echo Park

Perfect For: Date Night, Casual Midweek Dinner, Brunch

By our calculations, there can never be enough Jewish delis in LA. So when Freedman’s opened in Echo Park, we were excited. Update: It exceeded expectations. Also, it’s definitely not just a deli. It’s a full sit-down restaurant that serves excellent Jewish deli-style dishes you’d just as happily eat hungover by yourself on a Saturday morning as you would on a Tuesday night date. The place is in a random stripmall along Sunset, but the interior makes it feel like a classic spot that’s been around for decades. Get the reuben and smoked fish plate.

Verdict: An excellent modern deli that works for pretty much any occasion. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

What It Is: A Mediterranean/Mexican fusion spot in Boyle Heights

Perfect For: Lunch, Casual Midweek Dinner

One of the better fusion/mashup restaurants we’ve tried recently, X’tiosu Kitchen is a Mediterranean/Mexican order-at-the-window spot that just opened in Boyle Heights. This is fantastic food perfect for lunch or a weekday dinner when you need something good and quick. Your first order of business should be the chicken shawarma tacos, but the chorizo kebab plate (with some really excellent hummus) also needs to hit the table. Just make sure you put their garlicky Toum sauce on everything.

The Verdict: Really good fusion food. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Melody

Silver Lake
751 N Virgil Ave

What It Is: A wine bar with French food in Silver Lake

Perfect For: Date Night, Girls’ Night Out, Group Dinner, Drinks And A Light Bite

If you live in Silver Lake, you should know about a very useful new place: Melody. This just-opened spot on Virgil is in a converted bungalow opposite Sqirl, and is good for many situations. We could see you coming here for date night, sitting in the dimly-lit main room, and having wine and French-ish food (like a chicken cordon bleu sandwich) to share, and there’s also big side patio with heaters that would be great for a group dinner. And a “wine down” happy hour from 5-7pm you could use for after-work drinks with coworkers. The food we tried was good, although not particularly special - but it’s the kind of place Silver Lake people will end up at regularly for drinks and snacks.

Verdict: Good for a lot of situations if you’re in the area, but you don’t need to cross town for the food.

XO

Beverly Grove / Fairfax
7475 Beverly Blvd

What It Is: An Asian fusion market in Beverly Grove

Perfect For: Lunch, Take-Out

XO is a new all-day Asian/American spot (in the space that was formerly Stir Market on Beverly) with a menu full of healthy things that taste good in the middle of the week - like chilled sesame noodles, edamame hummus, and a tuna poke salad, all of which we liked. You order at the register and take a number to your table, but there’s also a grab-and-go section if you’re in a hurry. And a wine and beer bar if you’re not.

Verdict: Healthy-enough food that works for a quick lunch.

Little Ruby

Santa Monica
109 Santa Monica Blvd

What It Is: An all-day Australian spot in Santa Monica

Perfect For: Casual Midweek Dinner, Coffee And A Light Bite, Breakfast

Little Ruby is yet another Australian cafe, and this new Santa Monica spot serves mostly stuff you’d expect: avocado and vegemite toasts, healthy sounding bowls, and of course, excellent coffee. On our visit, we didn’t see a whole lot that differentiates Little Ruby from the rest of the Aussie cafes in LA, except the fact that it’s open at night, when they serve burgers and pastas. Overall, this is a good option for breakfast in Santa Monica, but if you’re specifically looking for an Australian cafe, there are better options around.

Verdict: A fine spot for daytime food, but not the best Australian cafe around.

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