LA's dining scene continues to flourish, with creative new concepts (restaurant-bar-gastropub), breathtaking settings (overlooking the ocean) and some of the most talented new chefs in years. Of course, none of this means much without exceptional food and here, too, Angelenos have been spoiled with innovative dishes ranging from hyper-seasonal fare to new twists on old favorites. Revisit some of LA's best new restaurants of 2012, and choose your favorite.
*Voting ends April 1 and the winners will be announced at the Food & Drink Awards on April 10.
Chef Ari Taymor combines hyper-seasonality with almost confounding modernism that may look odd on paper but works startlingly well in execution. Crisp pears are accompanied by sprouted peanuts, and smoked duck is finished with a small cupful of coffee, poured over the dish at the table. Time will stop as you try to decipher exactly what astounding flavors you're tasting. You'll figure it out: It tastes like 2013.
Bestia has it all—the neighborhood, desserts, wine, cocktails and the best Italian food around. You'll have to make a reservation if you want to dine at a table, since Bestia is packed every night. But the bar is also a happening place to be not only for dinner but also for drinks, with mixologist Julian Cox behind the seasonal libations. Ori Menashe, a longtime Angelini Osteria chef, is the brains behind Bestia’s thoughtful, ingredient-driven Italian menu that doesn’t shy too far away from California.
Mozza's popular Salumi Night finds a permanent home at Chi Spacca, offering the city's first certified dry-cure program from chef Chad Colby. The gloriously simple restaurant has an uncomplicated, meat-centric menu of perfected salumi and meats from the olive wood-powered hearth. Reserve up to a month in advance and for the best view (and perhaps best service), sit around the open kitchen where Colby will personally serve you.
Chef Jason Travi makes a splash in Hollywood with his inspired ode to New England seafood. Clams can be found in chowder ($9) or in cakes ($6), while oysters are served on the half shell or in delicious sliders ($10) layered with pickled hot peppers and tartar sauce. Small plates are the way to go so you can try the flavorful variety Travi's cooked up. But do yourself a favor by slipping in an order of the brisket, plated with three types of mustard and slices of bread for the ultimate DIY sandwich.
Nobu Matsuhisa's relocated restaurant could win numerous awards: Best Ocean View, Best Romantic Getaway, Best Bathroom... Formerly housed in the Malibu Country Mart, the new place—overlooking Surfrider beach and the Malibu Pier—is so close to the beach, you can see the footprints in the sand. The restaurant's minimalist aesthetic creates an understated feel that complements its environment; likewise, the menu is as stellar as its surroundings.
Chef Casey Lane heads Downtown to this laid-back, two-story English-inspired gastropub where the food is hearty and the drinks are stiff. To get a good feel for the place, sit on the upstairs patio beneath a lovely shade tree, order a couple rounds of deviled eggs and fried olives and a strong cocktail. Llike so many of the best new restaurants in the area, cocktails are given equal billing to the food. Is it a bar? Is it a pub? Is it a restaurant? The lines are seamlessly blurred inside this oasis of urban cool set to an eclectic rock-n-roll soundtrack.