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Where to Go Next: Southern California

Los Angeles

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California’s most talented chef, Wolfgang Puck, and acclaimed architect-designer Richard Meier have created an airy dining room that looks more like a modern art gallery than the steak house in a grand hotel that it is. Nobody in America imports superior (or pricier) Japanese beef, and the dry-aged American steaks are perhaps even better. And who can resist the fried egg on top of the creamed spinach? DETAILS The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, 9500 Wilshire Blvd.; 310-276-8500.

Katsuya

For much of the past decade, Katsuya Uechi has been the San Fernando Valley’s reigning sushi king. Now he’s launched one of the most exciting restaurants to open in Los Angeles in years. Besides searing pristine yellowtail collar, wagyu tenderloin and tender rice balls over a 1,700 Japanese-style robata grill, Uechi’s serving longtime signatures such as albacore sashimi with frizzled onions, and crispy rice topped with spicy tuna—a dish that’s been copied all over town. Designer Philippe Starck used bento boxes as inspiration for the white-on-white dining room, paneling the floors, walls and ceilings with lacquered wood; he’s also designed a Hollywood outpost, which is set to open in early summer. DETAILS 11777 San Vicente Blvd.; 310-207-8744.

Opus Restaurant

A mere $30 buys one of the city’s best three-course dinners. Chef Josef Centeno (who cooked at Aubergine) prepares an internationally influenced menu, pairing items like octopus with crispy warm pork belly and turning Cream of Wheat into a divine polenta-like base for braised beef short ribs. Instead of white linen, tables are topped with chic black leather covers, and everyone wants to sit at one of the tables framed by oversize leather love seats. DETAILS 3760 Wilshire Blvd.; 213-738-1600.

Pizzeria Mozza

La Brea Bakery founder Nancy Silverton and star chef Mario Batali have opened the first of two restaurants here. The noise level is unfathomably loud, but the puffy-crust pizzas are very good—especially the one topped with house-made fennel sausage—and every one of the 50 wines on the all-Italian list is less than $50 a bottle. The more serious Osteria Mozza, opening in the spring, will have a mozzarella bar and elegant pastas. DETAILS 641 N. Highland Ave.; 323-297-0101.

The Polo Lounge

Chef Robert Allen has transformed the menu at this beloved haunt—for instance, the tortilla soup that is a staple of the Nancy Reagan set now has a serious rival in the silky pea-and-truffle soup. Allen’s new five-course Cal-French tasting menu might well include exquisite asparagus and morels, served in a tiny cast-iron crock, and L.A.’s most beautiful cheese plate. DETAILS The Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd.; 310-276-2251.

L.A. Standout

Hatfield’s

Chefs Karen and Quinn Hatfield (who worked as a pair at Los Angeles’s Spago, and separately at Manhattan’s Gramercy Tavern, Jean Georges and Bouley) have opened an adorable neighborhood restaurant that can accommodate no more than four dozen diners at a time—tiny by local standards. He prepares the savory side of the menu (olive oil-poached halibut and date-and-mint-crusted rack of lamb), while she looks after the desserts (sublime buttermilk panna cotta with citrus) and greets guests at the door. DETAILS 7458 Beverly Blvd.; 323-935-2977.

Orange County

Stonehill Tavern

At his Tony Chi-designed restaurant, Michael Mina serves the same sort of dishes that keep his eponymous San Francisco dining room packed. Appetizers feature ingredients prepared three ways: Lobster, for example, is presented as a bisque, tempura and sashimi. The main-course whole chicken is deep-fried in duck fat and carved tableside. The big difference between Stonehill Tavern and Mina’s San Francisco place? Stonehill’s view of the sun setting over the Pacific. DETAILS St. Regis, 1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point; 949-234-3318.

San Diego

Addison

On the grounds of a golf course that’s being transformed into a luxury resort, the brand-new Addison overlooks the perfectly manicured 18th hole. Chef William Bradley applies Mediterranean techniques to local ingredients in dishes like veal with cinnamon-roasted sweet potatoes, and a sumptuous crab-and-truffle gratin. Sommelier Jesse Rodriguez’s list includes surprises like a dessert wine made with Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa’s Klein Constantia. DETAILS 5200 Grand Del Mar Way; 858-314-1900.

Palm Springs

Blend

Chef Kevin Kathman, who spent three years at the French Laundry in Napa, and his pastry-chef wife, Kori, have teamed up with sommelier Bret Fenton to bring sophistication to a country cottage in the desert. Kathman makes a wonderful rabbit terrine with celery-root salad; his miso-and-sake salmon is an inspired take on the Nobu classic. Fenton specializes in hard-to-find vintages of cult Napa Cabernets like William Cole and Zahtila. DETAILS 78-073 Calle Barcelona, La Quinta; 760-564-4771.

Published March 2007
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