L.A.’s 30 best restaurants
Nearly a decade after opening and Bestia continues to turn tables—and require weeks-out reservations. It shouldn’t be surprising, given chef-owner Ori Menashe’s penchant for nailing straightforward but innovative Italian food, which arrives hot from the restaurant's centerpiece of a wood-burning oven. Some of Bestia’s menu highlights have become modern icons of L.A.’s dining scene: the Spaghetti Rustichella—a small pyramid of noodles under dungeness crab, citrus, Calabrian chili, Thai basil and onion seed—is synonymous with this hard-to-land reservation, as is the currant-and-pistachio–laden dish of Agnolotti alla Vaccinara, filled with rich braised oxtail. The desserts by pastry chef and co-owner Genevieve Gergis are equally iconic, and god help anyone who tries to get in between us and a forkful of chocolate budino tart. The eclectic and oft-rotated wine list is Italian-inspired but interntionally and broadly sourced, providing new and surprising twists to your meal with every visit—though the food menu may (blessedly) remain the same.
For serving a city next to the Pacific, Michael Cimarusti’s Providence somehow still manages to surprise and reinterpret seafood. His mostly aquatic and Michelin-starred menu deftly showcases the bounty of the West Coast, as well as the globe: Big Island abalone, Santa Barbara spot prawns and steelhead trout from the Quinault River in Washington can appear among the varied choices, though the menus change seasonally. Cimarusti might not always earn locavore points, but his knack for finding the best product will make you focus only on the perfect bite hanging from your fork, and nothing else. Multicourse options run the gamut, including a $95 lunch-only tasting menu, but for the truly adventurous—and deep-pocketed—there’s the 10-plus–course Chef’s Tasting Menu ($240) where luxury fare including caviar, truffles and A5 wagyu beef are the catch of the day.
You could say that the Netflix documentary Chef’s Table helped shine a spotlight on n/naka, but the Palms restaurant was already on the map, front and center. Chef-owner Niki Nakayama is a former protégé of the legendary Morihiro Onodera (formerly of Mori Sushi, currently of Inn Ann), though Nakayama focuses her talent on kaiseki: a classical style of Japanese cooking that dictates a specific progression of textures, temperatures, tastes and seasonal ingredients. À la carte is not an option, and when every dish is this good, that’s OK by us. n/naka offers either a 13-course modern kaiseki ($225–$275) or a 13-course vegetarian tasting menu ($200–$225), and both can be paired with wine for $125. The menus change daily and seasonally, but there is always something to delight in: a glass filled with sea urchin and lobster in a bath of chilled dashi, maybe, or a seared diver-harvested scallop cuddled next to a warm okra pod. It can take two or three hours to get through a meal here, but it’s well worth it; Nakayama is one of L.A.’s best talents, and scoring a meal at her restaurant is money and time well spent.
Name a more iconic L.A. fine-dining institution—we’ll wait. Fortunately, after nearly 40 years, Spago is both the old standby and the new kid on the block thanks to an ever-changing menu that makes the restaurant seem altogether fresh. Don’t worry, you can still ask for the smoked salmon pizza if you crave it, and Spago purists will be pleased to hear that Wolfgang Puck’s flagship is still refreshingly old-school when it comes to presentation. The Beverly Hills menu from executive chef Tetsu Yahagi features contemporary additions such as chirashi boxes of sashimi with a yuzu-jalapeño gel; hand-dived scallops with ice plants and kombu; and rye-crusted loup de mer with sea grass, to name a few. The handmade agnolotti is still outstanding after all these years (and don’t forget to opt for the truffle version, when it’s in season). Spago’s been serving stellar cuisine since the Reagan era, proving that age ain’t nothing but a number.
It’s a rare talent to make your childhood flavors feel nostalgic for everyone, but Mei Lin is full of all kinds of talent and surprises. The Top Chef winner’s first solo restaurant is sleek and almost disarming in its modernity, but Nightshade’s signature dishes—carefully laid shrimp toast; truffled crab congee; a mapo-tofu take on lasagna—have very homey, very comforting, very traditional roots in Chinese cuisine. Lin bends the rules and flavor profiles by crisscrossing the globe for some of the most inventive and craveable dishes in all of Los Angeles, paying homage to her roots while always innovating, always keeping us begging for more.
Few restaurants can accomplish what the shoebox setting of chi SPACCA can. With one of the best charcuterie programs in the city and a stunning open kitchen, Nancy Silverton’s temple to meat flame-grills tomahawk porkchops, cures fennel salami and dry-ages massive Flannery Beef steaks so big they almost feel like they rock the table when they land. This is a rustic Italian steakhouse that’s worth the meat sweats, and it’s worth the splurge; you may be spending around $100 on steak, but don’t think about skipping the sides of roasted sustainable veggies—nor that Focaccia di Recco, which oozes stracchino cheese.
Chef Josef Centeno’s built quite the DTLA restaurant empire, strategically planting restaurants near in location but not in theme. There’s sandwich shop Bäco Mercat and Tex-Mex haven Bar Amá, but the shining gem is his Italian-meets-Japanese den, Orsa & Winston. At first, the cozy restaurant began as a tasting-menu concept—since then, it’s evolved to include à la carte weekday katsu sandos and grain bowls at lunch, and on weekends, one of the city’s most innovative brunches. Where else can you find house-smoked fish plates, masterful matcha and yuzu croissants, donabe pots brimming with nuanced soups, and Centeno’s hyper-creative, genre-bending tasting menu?
A restaurant shouldn’t be defined by its previous tenants, but it’s hard to ignore the significance that comes with following Campanile—and Charlie Chaplin’s film company. One step into the gothic-style space and you can feel the history in every brick, and especially at night, what with all of the candlelight, you can really feel the romance. Of course Walter and Margarita Manzke have more than added their own history to La Brea’s lineage: They launched one of the city’s best restaurants and bakeries, a French- and California-inspired bistro so delicious and consistent, there’s a wait at nearly any time of day or night. The pastas and baked goods are of course perfection, dotted with the freshest and finest produce from the farmers market, as are ambitious dry-aged steaks and seafood—but even the basics here are worth an order: We dare you to find a better roast chicken in the entire city.
French technique paired with intricate dishes can tend to feel stuffy, but at Lincoln Carson’s stellar all-day spot, the kitchen’s classic training somehow feels fresh. The modern-day bistro turns out some of the best croissants in L.A., lined up and beckoning from behind the case right as you walk in. As the day wears on, salads, tartines and sandwiches brim with ingredients like short rib, beets, and local figs, and in the evening, Bon Temps shines with exquisite canapés (those uni-and-caviar tartelettes!) and the likes of abalone risotto, a teetering stack of dungeness crab salad with pan de mie, and one of the best large-format dishes of 2019: Jidori roast chicken with stuffed leg and a side of mashed-potato salad (yes, you heard that correctly).
Many of chef David Schlosser’s Michelin-starred dishes require the kind of time, care, delicacy and extreme effort that define kappo cuisine, which is why we’re convinced that the chef must’ve lost his mind to open a kappo-style restaurant—but we all benefit from it. This style of Japanese tasting menu or omakase fine-dining might serve bites of prawn ripened and fermented—for months—in their own juices, or slow-smoked salmon that cooks over cherry bark. In an almost hidden dining room in DTLA, Schlosser grinds nubs of fresh wasabi, and steams pork jowl with California-grown rice in a heavy iron pot, and experiments and waits, patiently, to create some of the most intricate flavors that can take weeks to develop. Order à la carte, or, more recommended, go for the omakase, which starts at $75 per guest—you’ll be in excellent hands. Be sure to sit at the bar to see the master at work.