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Where To Eat In Los Angeles

Amber Gibson

Contributor

La-La Land has long been home to the best and most authentic Mexican, Korean and Chinese food in the country, not to mention the most creative and delicious vegan food. Michelin published their first state-wide guide to California this year, recognizing lesser-known restaurants in smaller towns, but the nexus of Southern California's culinary scene is still undoubtedly Los Angeles. In recent years, an endless onslaught of fantastic new restaurants from fast casual to highbrow make a strong case that LA is America's new foodie capital.

Tasting Menus

Beverly Hills' new crown jewel Da Lat Rose tells the inspiring story of chef Helene An through a 12-course gastrobiography tasting menu that begins with her tumultuous childhood during the Vietnam War and chronicles her journey to building a Vietnamese fusion empire in California, achieving the ultimate American dream. From juicy razor clams grilled over white coals to begin and stone crab claws dipped in lemongrass garlic butter to Mama An's famous garlic noodles topped with sweet, creamy Santa Barbara sea urchin, each course is paired with vibrant cocktails and world-class wines. Servers tell their matriarch's story with love, pride and plenty of theatrics along the way. Red tilefish scales puff up instantly when 400-degree canola oil is poured overtop the tender fillets tableside and Mama An's protégé Tony Nguyen puts his own Los Angeles street food twist on the final savory course. Rarely do you find a tasting menu served with this much soul and in such an exquisite jewel box setting.

There are no servers at Somni. Instead, the cooks themselves enthusiastically deliver and describe more than 20 courses to just 10 guests each night. Diners are seated in a dramatic half moon around the kitchen for a behind-the-scenes peek at the creation of each plate. Chef Aitor Zabala's Spanish heritage is evident in dishes like his savory reinterpretation of Catalan panellets, replacing marzipan with Manchego. Zabala has a modernist touch yet balances technique and playful whimsy with pure, intense flavors that bring the concept of dining as theater to life with panache.

Sushi

With just 10 seats, the counter at Q Sushi is among the most exclusive – and best – sushi in the city. This is sushi for purists, served in a matter-of-fact rapid procession of 20 courses. Pieces of sashimi and nigiri are served plainly with no fancy flourishes of truffles, gold leaf or caviar. These accoutrements aren't necessary though when the fish is this fresh and the rice perfectly vinegared.

Sushi Note is an underrated gem in Sherman Oaks with the best wine list of any sushi restaurant in town, plus great sake. The $60 half note sushi sampler is a great value, including miso soup, edamame, eight pieces of signature nigiri and a handroll. Then supplement your meal with a few pieces of seasonal specialities listed on the chalkboard by the door.  

Italian

The year-round outdoor rooftop terrace at Terra is the highlight at Eataly LA, where diners delight in housemade burrata, local dungeness crab salad and fresh pasta, plus whole grilled fish and dry-aged ribeye from the wood-burning grill. A roaming gelato cart tempts each table for dessert. Fior di latte gelato is the perfect foundation for sophisticated sundae toppings including balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil with sea salt.

Celebrities love The Nice Guy for its dark, intimate setting, comfortable booths and old-school Italian comfort food. Photos are prohibited, although there's a photo booth in the corner if you want a souvenir to commemorate the evening. Perfectly al dente pastas are a must, and although most of the food is heavy and rich – think arancini, meatballs and chicken parmesan – they also serve an impeccable grilled branzino and veggie sides like charred broccolini for lighter appetites.

Vegan / Plant-based

Toronto-based Fresh just opened their first LA location in November on Sunset Boulevard and they've already become a local favorite for cold-pressed juices and hearty but healthy meals. Goddess bowls with ginger chili tempeh, dragon fries with miso gravy and crispy cauliflower tacos are just a few creative favorites that even carnivores will enjoy. Botanical lattes, cacao elixirs and zero-proof kombucha cocktails make for one of the most interesting non-alcoholic drink menus in town, although there's also craft beer, wine and juice-forward cocktails.

Gracias Madre is a fun spot for vegan Mexican food in West Hollywood with a large courtyard for dining al fresco. The quesadillas, chile rellenos and jackfruit carnitas tacos are so rich and tasty, you'll forget that it's cashew crema and not cheese you're eating. Crossroads Kitchen is another vegan classic, known for excellent house-made pastas, artichoke oysters and “crab cakes” made from hearts of palm. The late night bar menu includes Impossible sliders and buffalo maitake mushrooms.

Contemporary American

You can choose your own tasting menu at Auburn, opting for four, six or nine courses from the 12-dish menu accompanied by wine pairings or glasses of Bollinger champagne poured from a magnum. Everything from Brandywine tomatoes with seaweed marmalade and 30-day dry-aged ribeye to hearth-charred eggplant sprinkled with puffed grains and black garlic is a home run, so hopefully your dining companions are happy to share. The minimalist dining room keeps your focus on chef Eric Bost's artfully plated food. (Editor's note: Auburn has closed for business due to Covid-19)

ROW DTLA has become a retail and culinary hotspot in downtown Los Angeles, home to a new generation of talent and LA debuts for a couple of great San Francisco chefs. Michelin-starred chef Melissa Perello just opened M. Georgina in November, serving local California flavors with flavors of smoke and fire, anchored by a hearth and wood-burning oven. The Manufactory is an impressive collaboration between James Beard Award-winning chefs Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of San Francisco’s iconic Tartine Bakery and Chris Bianco of Phoenix’s equally legendary Pizzeria Bianco. The 40,000 square-foot space includes a bakery, market, coffee lab and dinner-only restaurant Alameda Supper Club.

Desserts

Lady M is known for their mille crepe cakes and green tea sweets. The West Hollywood cake boutique is a cute spot for afternoon tea, but they also deliver throughout the city so you can enjoy the delicate crumb on their strawberry shortcake and green tea and dark chocolate checkers sponge cake.

Serious chocoholics will appreciate the spectacular selection of Belgian bonbons and drinking chocolate at Lady Chocolatt. Boozy, fruity, nutty, sweet or herbaceous – there's a bonbon for every palate.

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