photo credit: Jakob Layman
Here's Looking at You
We don’t need to remind anyone how dark the news is these days. Which is why when some actual good news happens unexpectedly, it can feel a bit surreal—like at the start of 2022 when Here’s Looking At You reopened after being closed (seemingly permanently) for the past two years. After an extended hiatus, it’s a minor miracle that this genre-bending Koreatown restaurant not only has the lights back on, but is operating at the top of its game once again. Whether you were an old HLAY regular or have never heard of the place, we recommend getting there ASAP.
The most important thing to know about this iteration of HLAY is that it’s picked up right where the original left off—a buzzy neighborhood spot with great cocktails and creative food you’ll be thinking about all week. It’s still located at the corner of 6th and S. Oxford and the interior is decorated with the same random art photography and long gray window curtains that wouldn’t look out of place at the LAX Ramada. Diners without reservations line up nightly waiting for the doors to open at 6pm. By 6:30pm, the bar is packed with regulars drinking delicious tiki-inspired cocktails, and tables are filled with friends all trying to decide if they should order the chicken liver mousse and spicy frog legs like always or try something new.
HLAY pulls influence from Los Angeles in two ways, drawing from the different cultures that inhabit it—Mexican, Peruvian, Thai, Vietnamese, etc.—but also staying rooted in California produce and ingredients. The result of those two perspectives coming together is a menu of truly distinctive dishes, ones which feel like they could only exist at HLAY.
There's the sweet-salty steak tartare seasoned with red chili and tamari, shishito peppers dusted in preserved dried plums, and summer tomatoes topped with bagna cauda and crispy lap xuong. HLAY’s dishes mostly arrive as smaller shared plates, but don’t think for a second you’re in for a night of dainty two-bite sideshows. This is hearty food, packed with bold flavors and sauces that make every dish—no matter how big the actual portion is—feel substantial.
There’s a nice mix of old favorites and new standouts on HLAY’s current menu—the crispy duck confit is another must—but you probably shouldn’t get too attached to anything here. Dishes get swapped out often, but the good news is they almost always reappear down the road. And that’s why HLAY has become such a singular LA dining experience. It’s a place that puts emphasis on familiarity and community—a major reason why regulars pop in nightly—and yet, also continues to push its own creative envelope. You might come here to fulfill a months-long craving for an old dish, but you’ll walk out mostly thinking about all the new dishes you tried—and how soon down the road you’ll be reappearing to eat them again.
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Uni Panna Cotta
This dish has a fairly mild uni flavor—making it a big crowd pleaser and a great palette cleanser to start off the meal. Our favorite element is the crispy wild rice on top, which lend a crunchy balance to the creaminess underneath.
It might seem like the tart passion fruit broth in this dish would overpower the delicate raw scallops, but the sourness of the tropical fruit actually punches up the butteriness of the plump, cloud-like scallops. If you’re with three or more people, order at least two of these—they’ll go quick.
This is one of HLAY’s most iconic dishes and a must-order regardless if it’s your first or 100th visit. The roasted legs themselves are meaty and succulent, but what brings the dish together is the salsa negra. Earthy and intensely spicy, this is the kind of sauce that’ll stay on your lips for hours—no matter how many times you wipe them down with the provided wet cloths.
We get it—LA’s steak tartare craze is somewhat played out these days. But this version—made with red chili, tamari, egg yolk, and turnip—is good enough to reignite your love for the dish. It’s sweet, fragrant, and light enough to still leave room in your stomach for several more dishes.
If HLAY ever put their chicken liver mousse on the dessert menu, we wouldn’t blame them. Thanks to a heavy dollop of apricot jam, this is a particularly sweet version of a great appetizer. But thanks to the savoriness of the liver mousse—and the thick, crunchy Bub & Grandma’s bread served on the side—everything evens out to make a well-balanced, memorable dish.
The confit half duck is one of the newer dishes at HLAY and one of our recent favorites. When you bite into a piece—put the silverware down, it’s best eaten with your hands—the skin crackles and snaps, giving way to moist meat underneath. Served with a sweet-spicy aji amarillo sauce on the side, it also nods to the legendary rotisserie chickens spinning down the street at Pollo A La Brasa.