Eat your way through the year’s best new dishes
Sure, it’s a bit of a production just for lunch. Bento orders must be placed at least 24 hours in advance, only 16 of them are made each day, and chef Brandon Go toils for hours on end, but when you finally lift the lid off of this traditional Japanese meal, you’ll see what all the fuss is about. The chef, who trained in Michelin-starred kitchens, painstakingly, artfully rolls, folds or delicately tweezers each of your 15 to 19 items into one of his high-end bento boxes, where nothing is an afterthought. Cubes of fried, house-made crab tofu sit snugly against tender agedashi eggplant, while the caramelized, two-day-marinated saikyo yaki black cod outshines Nobu’s famed version. Even the rice, which could easily be mundane, gains flavor from vegetable stock, mitsuba and burdock root—lest you think this bento is filler, not killer. Talk about a power lunch. $46.
It’s all hands on deck when this for-the-table dish arrives. At their new Middle Eastern restaurant, Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis have created one of L.A.’s most interactive plates. When the fragrant, perfectly charred mountain of slow-roasted lamb neck appears, you and your crew will be tearing off pieces of fresh laffa flatbread, sopping up the spiced drippings, adding falling-off-the-bone lamb morsels and topping off the whole shebang with the house-made tahini, herb sauce and pickled turnips. Farewell, flatware. $45.
Forget the half-pound burgers and artisanal condiments you’ll find at a steakhouse: Burgers Never Say Die makes pure, unadulterated patties smashed so thin with crisp edges so fine, they practically disintegrate on your tongue. They’re your childhood summers incarnate. American cheese runs down the freshly ground beef, which is topped with plain old yellow mustard, mayo, ketchup, pickles and white onion—that’s all she wrote, and that’s all we need. No wonder fans wait up to four hours during BNSD’s popular pop-ups. Thankfully, the hot spot is expanding to its very own brick-and-mortar shop, which will open any day now—a godsend for burger purists everywhere. $7.25.
What’s searingly hot, totally unique and L.A. all over? We’ll give you a hint: It started as a special you could snag only by chance or if you were glued to Instagram. But this year, it permanently hit the menus of all three of Kris Yenbamroong’s vibrant Thai restaurants. Night + Market’s regular pad kee mao is a pan-fried party of rice noodles, fish sauce, peppers and basil—but when you add thick-cut pastrami from the iconic Langer’s Deli to the mix? A salty, spicy star is born. $18.
When Teresa Montaño sets out to make paella, she doesn’t focus on the rice or the fideo (though you can order either). For her, it’s all about the broth. Before adding the starches, she’s already whipped up layers of flavor by way of lobster fumet—built like a bouillabaisse—so that the dish wafts shellfish as much as it does saffron, orange peel and star anise. Each grain or noodle absorbs the blend before the whole dish gets finished off with prawns, mussels, squid and small dabs of sherry aioli, making for one flavorful (and picturesque) meal. $32.
Those up for dinner and a show know to hit the NoMad hotel, where the dishes almost look like modern art. (Don’t believe us? Just check out those perfectly composed desserts.) But nothing here is more theatrical than the roasted chicken: After the whole bird gets trotted out—golden brown and tressed with a bouquet of sage and flowers—it goes back to the kitchen for plating, where the breast, stuffed with foie gras, truffles and brioche crumbs, cozies up to seasonal veggies, and the dark meat gets folded into a savory mushroom rice. We’re checking in forever. $98.
Yes, 2018 was a big year for L.A. pizza, but as the radius of delicious pies grows across the city, we’ve got our eyes on the rectangles. Matt Molina draws upon his years of Mozza experience but now opts for scissors-cut, Roman-style squares and rectangles sold by the ounce. For each, the bottom is satisfyingly crunchy, the toppings seasonal and divine. We love the version with Italian sausage, onion and fennel pollen—but due to the by-the-weight format, it’s easy to try a little of everything. Around $1 per ounce.
It’s hard to believe it took this long for a chef in L.A.—the alleged birthplace of the cheeseburger—to invent a bolognese-dripping patty. But who are we to look a sauced-up sando gift in the mouth? Rossoblu’s brunch menu has a few stars, but none shine brighter than the prime beef with pork-and-beef bolognese, gooey fontina and a slaw salad, all on a fluffy, house-baked milk bun. Insert Italian chef’s kiss here. $17.
This weekend special is worth rolling out of bed and coping with Santa Monica’s mayhem—and early, at that. The wood-fired oven at the heart of the restaurant makes only 16 of these massive cinnamon rolls during brunch. What’s more, they are an off-menu item, which means they’re only available to those in the know. First, the treats are baked, then smothered with a tart frosting of cream cheese, buttermilk and crème fraîche; when you order one, it hits the oven again, so it’s served hot and perfectly caramelized. At around six inches wide and three inches tall, these beauties are big enough to share with the table, unless you dare to tackle it all by yourself. $6.
It’s Adam Perry Lang’s signature dish for a reason or, as the case may be, for many reasons: The remarkable product of nearly 10 hours of cooking, the sliced, Flintstones-sized beef rib oozes smoky, unctuous flavor under that thin outer crust of spices. Not only that, it’s accompanied by a briny, herbaceous pickle salad. It’s a showstopping large-format dish that will wow your table. Hooray for Hollywood, indeed. $143
Not up for the splurge? APL’s walk-up window offers meaty sandwiches, gourmet chili dogs, and the occasional beef rib at around $2 per ounce during weekday lunch (11:30am–3pm).
Brooklyn’s cool-kid pizzeria made a spicy-sweet pie so legendary, word traveled all the way to L.A. years ago. Now that we have our own location, Angelenos can finally bite into Roberta’s fluffy, blistered crust that’s painted with tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella, crisped soppressata, chili flakes, basil and a thin sheen of drizzled honey. It’s creamy, it has some heat, it’s charred, and it’s floral. If this is a bee sting, how do we upset the hive? $19.
Take one part tradition and another part California seafood, and you have Ma’am Sir’s spin on lumpia. Charles Olalia shakes up Filipino classics at his first full-service spot, but none are as fun as the spring rolls he fills with lardo and shrimp mousse, then finishes with an entire piece of uni and a sprinkling of chives. Try not to guzzle the accompanying garlic vinegar. $14.
We’d bet dollars to dry-roasted cuttlefish that Scratch Bar’s tasting menu would impress you, but our money’s better spent on another dinner for ourselves. The highlight of the 15-course meal? The whimsical, eccentric desserts from pastry chef extraordinaire Margarita Kallas-Lee. Her most arresting dish is the hollowed-out bone marrow piped with a white-chocolate–and–bone-marrow custard that’s been dotted with pine-needle meringue and candied parsley. If you’re squeamish about bones, we’ll gladly take this one off your hands. Tasting menu $145.
Andrew and Michelle Muñoz’s roving operation is worth Instagram-stalking, which is the best way to find their Texas-style, Mexican-inspired BBQ. Moo’s has become a citywide phenomenon since its early 2017 launch as an East L.A. backyard pop-up, but the finest bite of all might be the newest: Team Muñoz has been boldly experimenting with smoked sausage, stuffing one with brisket trimmings, jalapeño and cheddar cheese and another with fire-roasted poblanos and Monterey Jack. If you want a bite that oozes flavor, smoke, beef and pork grease—basically, all the good stuff—this is a can't miss. Various locations. Per link $5.
The dish looks more like a terrarium than a pile of potatoes and soft egg, but looks are deceiving at Echo Park’s most ambitious coffee shop. Dig through the olive-oil foam and the tangle of herbs—sometimes ice plants and purple basil, sometimes microgreens—and you’ll discover the smashed-and-fried potatoes with mustard seed, the runny egg and the garlicky romesco skordalia sauce. Every forkful is different and so is every visit, as the ingredients change seasonally. $16.
Many native Angelenos didn’t grow up with preformed hard-shell tacos filled with ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheese and sour cream—you know, the kind of meal that came out of a box and sat at the center of a lazy Susan. But all Angelenos, including homesick transplants, can and should make up for lost time with this take on the grocery-store staple. The hearty picadillo filling features clove-scented ground chuck and the dairy topping is gourmet crema, but the rest keeps it classic, making a taco so fun and flavorful that it rivals the menu’s Baja-leaning options. Per plate $18.
Australia’s Roy Ner brings years of experience in Israeli kitchens to his first California concept, one of the highlights of the new Fields LA food hall. At Akko Port, the menu is limited and looks predictable (mostly wraps and hummus bowls), but the smoked hummus is silken and earthy in a way we’ve never tasted before. When paired with its topping of bright Turkish salsa and creamy baba ghanoush, it forms a healthful, hearty dish we can’t get enough of. $8.
Imagine the best burrata-and-tomato salad of your life, then cover it with wisps of grated truffle, chilled plum wedges and a house-made Japanese dashi gelée. It’s sweet, salty, creamy, earthy and a definite always food. You’re in Reika Alexander’s house now or, more specifically, her low-lit bungalow at the edge of the Chateau Marmont. The restaurateur behind this classy new stunner brings Japanese staples to the table, done with California flair. (We’ll take an order of that uni ice cream, too.) $28.
Sure, this new spot serves some of the best pizza Atwater has ever seen, but don’t even think about leaving without a slice of the grilled Basque Cake, a holdover from predecessor Journeymen. Instead of filling the Spanish dessert with a layer of fruit preserves—per tradition—Hail Mary serves house-made seasonal curd with a dab of tart yogurt on the side, balancing the dense almond-cake slices. $8.
Oriel’s ceramic cauldron of decadent beef-and-onion soup rivals even the most established takes around town (and, trust us, it’s hard to compete with Petit Trois’). Settle in at the bar or at a table under the neon-pink lighting and tuck into this classic done right. Are you in Paris? Are you in a rose-hued scene from Drive? Who even cares? What matters is that you’re witnessing the cheese pull of your dreams, starring the broiled, 15-month-aged Comté that’s draped over the soup. $11.
At his first West Coast restaurant, David Chang has given L.A. a little bit of everything, and that is exactly how you should order. Every meal here ought to begin with the mix-and-match bing—Chinese wheat discs somewhere between pancakes and flatbread—which allows you to pick and choose from a rotating cast of accoutrements. Go simple with the hozon (fermented chickpea spread), go classy with the box of uni or the cave-aged butter and sturgeon caviar. Or go baller and spring for it all. $6-$52.
If you stop by Christina Tosi’s new bakery at peak hours, the long line may make you feel like you’re at Disneyland, but the treats inside are far more delicious. In her move to L.A. from NYC, the two-time James Beard Award–winning pastry queen has crafted a few L.A.-only items, including her spin on the Adventureland classic, Dole Whip. The Fo’Sho Whip is a dairy-free soft serve that whirs together pineapple and lime juice for a slightly tarter and creamier take on the Tiki Room’s iconic treat (with no squawking birds in sight). $5.50.
Chef Ria Barbosa blends her Filipino heritage with Paramount Coffee Project’s Aussie ethos, resulting in the kind of culture-crossing cuisine that makes L.A. food so exciting. Case in point: Barbosa’s take on the sausage roll, a Down Under classic, here made with her family recipe for lumpia filling, served with a sweet fish-sauce chili dip. The whole dish is hearty and funky and bright, and a perfect snapshot of our dining scene's surge in flavor innovation. $10.
To learn more about Barbosa's family recipes, where she eats Filipino food in L.A. and just what's in this sausage roll, click your way right over here.
Shirley Chung’s cheeseburger potstickers first made an appearance on Top Chef, but now that she’s opened her first L.A. restaurant and slid them onto the menu,
you can bet they’re making an appearance
at our table during every visit. These massive handmade dumplings, served three to an order, are juicy and meaty and ooze cheese—like any great burger—and come adorned with crispy cheddar and bacon jam. Of all Chung’s Chinese-American food mash-ups, this is the hands-down winner. $10.
At this all-day café, eating your vegetables is something that the picky child in all of us can look forward to. The dish starts with a hearty plank of Bub and Grandma’s sourdough bread, which gets a smear of locally sourced, roasted-then-puréed carrots. From there, chef-owner Royce Burke adds a rainbow of herbs and seasonal accoutrements, including organic roasted beets, mushrooms, leeks—you name it—for a slab so stunning, it’ll excite even the most toast-unfazed Angeleno. $9.
Wes Avila may be known for his genre-bending tacos, but when the chef traded his food truck for a brick-and-mortar shop, he expanded the menu—and our waistlines. Avila’s new specials sometimes take the form of cemitas, the piled-high Mexican sandwiches, here served on freshly baked buns (though they’re more like pan de elote). They come stuffed with thick wedges of pork belly, fried egg, juicy carnitas and more, but whatever the protein, there’s always a rush of flavor from the pickled onions, chile de arbol purée and other fixins. Around $12.
Be warned: This might just be the messiest item on our list. Grab a more private seat in the corner and face the wall to hide your shame.
Of course the Lodge Bread Co. team’s hummusiya would serve some of the best pita in the city, but, truth is, we’ll scoop up their creamy, tahini-heavy hummus with anything we can find. The Israeli- and Moroccan-leaning restaurant sports an all-kosher menu of pita sandwiches, shakshuka, and roasted and pickled vegetables, all worth an order. Our pick? One gargantuan bowl of hummus decorated with either wild mushrooms, stewed chickpeas, smoked paprika or seasonal veggies. No matter your choice of topping, a hearty squeeze of the restaurant’s own hot sauce is always the pro move. $10-$13.
The everything–in-house ambition of Downtown’s knockout of a new bar is a marvel: All the drinks include small-batch, made–on-site liqueurs, vermouths or bitters, and some of the cocktails contain up to 60 ingredients. The Banana Cream is a rich, funky blend of bourbon, fermented bananas, dill-and-caraway liqueur, lavender-and-rose vermouth, orange crème fraîche, grapefruit, lemon and vanilla bitters. $16.
Is it strange that one of the city’s most modern restaurants is giving us an 18th-century throwback? Not at all, considering that Benjamin Franklin’s crystal-clear, sherry-based milk punch, served here in a sleek milk carton made of glass, looks about as contemporary as it gets. In mid-2018, Bar Centro launched a six-drink cocktail tasting menu, complete with Franklin’s 1763 recipe. Unusual for the Bazaar, there’s no molecular gastronomy at play: The tart, creamy concoction becomes opaque thanks to the natural mingling (okay, curdling) of milk and fresh lemons, resulting in a soft, citrus-forward punch. Tasting menu $55.
Whether you’re catching a plane, a train or an automobile, Union Station’s new arrival will get a drink in your hand without delay to get you on your way. Helmed by vets from the Varnish, the Streamliner’s program is classics-oriented, with efficiency in mind: Take the mint mojito, which combines rum with premade “bricks” of lime, sugar and water, then whips it all together with an immersion blender for a quick-and-easy drink that takes seconds to make. Who says travel has to be stressful? $8.