LAReview

photo credit: Jakob Layman

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9.0

Damian

Mexican

Arts District

$$$$Perfect For:Impressing Out of TownersOutdoor/Patio SituationSpecial Occasions

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LA is no stranger to nepo babies. Names like Brooklyn Beckham and Tracee Ellis Ross are commonly understood to be renowned by association. And then there's Damian, a Mexican fine-dining spot in the Arts District that comes from the chef behind Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in NYC. Famous siblings are cool and all. But remove them from the equation and you’re left with something more impactful: a restaurant that's a star in its own right. Even in a town full of incredible Mexican food, Damian stands out for Baja seafood dishes worth every cent of their budget-busting price tags.

Damian image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Rémy Martin

photo credit: Jakob Layman

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photo credit: Jakob Layman

Damian image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Damian image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Damian image
Rémy Martin
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Damian image
Damian image

Rather than tossing truffles in an enchilada, charging $50, and calling it “boundary-pushing,” Damian interprets tradition with a jolt of the unexpected. Mexican dishes like al pastor, guacamole, and grilled fish you’ve eaten 400 times in LA suddenly feel new again. In the case of the creamy uni tostada, a medley of lettuce, parmesan, and caesar dressing keeps the buttery sea sludge in check. Lobster al pastor glows red and oozes juices from its trips around the trompo, which blend in nicely with the dollop of fluffy pineapple butter on the side. Like Damian’s tight menu—a sub-20 item list that shows off citrusy crustacea and simply seasoned vegetables—the dining experience as a whole thrives on obsessive attention to detail.

The cement-lined room has just enough fine-dining DNA to satisfy the genre’s purists: soft spotlights pointing down on every table, rare bottles of sotol, and servers that are attentive without feeling overbearing. As is typical for most restaurants where you spend $200 per person, the staff moves to a distinct rhythm. Everyone on the floor is so perfectly in sync, it's as if their brains practically touch. The difference is, at Damian, you won’t feel like you’re in a high-end funeral home. Although the early days of untenable reservations may be over, Damian feels alive and well. This dinner destination has only gotten better over the years, substituting pretension with the illusion of settled, carefree ease. Walk in around dinnertime, and you'll see people who can pull off bangs catching up over mushroom mole and mezcal margaritas in curved back chairs, while a table of angel investors work their way through a seafood-packed feast on the patio around back.

A meal here will live in your memory (and maybe your bank account's memory) for years to come. The success of the restaurant on a day-to-day basis—as a place to celebrate an anniversary or simply ball out—has nothing to do with its famous owner’s resume. It could have been a mediocre copycat that relied on its familial privilege, but instead, it's a refreshingly bold Mexican establishment that treats warm tortillas and barbecued fish like royalty. How many other nepo babies can say the same? 

Food Rundown

Damian image

photo credit: Araceli Paz

Duck Carnitas

This $98 dish never leaves Damian’s menu. That's convenient, considering you should order it every time you’re here. You’ll get half of a juicy, roasted duck served in a cast-iron pan with a pile of warm tortillas for DIY tacos. Share it with a group of friends or someone who freaks for crispy duck skin.
Damian image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Guacamole

This is no ordinary guacamole. It’s large enough to count as an entrée—a softball-sized mound of creamy avocados, sliced jalapeños, a heap of cilantro, and enough lime to make your hands smell like a mojito. Order this for the table, even if you’re the only person at the table.
Damian image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Uni Tostada

A caesar salad tostada topped with uni and cheese sounds like a Sweetgreen order gone haywire. But, somehow, Damian pulls it off gracefully. The medley of shredded lettuce comes in three distinct shades and melds with the nutty, salty parmesan and uni quite nicely.
Damian image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Pescado A La Brasa

Before this branzino arrives, servers will start by leaving earth-toned bowls filled with mole, salsa cruda, and pale green chayote at the table. Then comes the glorious barbecued fish, roasted over the embers of the grill until the skin crisps up. It's a smoky, juicy stunner of a seafood plate, and the warm tortillas on the side only make things better.

Ceviche

The fish changes depending on the season (we most recently had rockfish) and floats in a bright sauce made from yuzu and olive oil. The tart Japanese citrus slices straight through the richness of the fish and mingles with the tiny sungold tomatoes in a way that makes us do a little jig in our chair.
Damian image

photo credit: Araceli Paz

Drinks

Damian’s drinks are just as creative and delicious as the stuff you'll consume with a fork. Tequila is infused with dill and absinthe in “The DTLA.” In the kimchi martini, fermented cabbage mixes it up with some gin, distilled habanero peppers, and a bit of sherry. For those not in the mood for liquor, Damian also offers equally complex non-alcoholic cocktails, like the carrot-tinged pine nut and the upgraded horchata made with toasted amaranth.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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