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Where to Go in L.A. for Guacamole Topped with Sea Urchin and House-Cured Charcuterie

Where to Go in L.A. for Guacamole Topped with Sea Urchin and House-Cured Charcuterie

Los Angeles's new restaurant A-list includes Ludo Lefebvre's Trois Mec. Photo © Rick Poon

Los Angeles is home to incredible bakery-cafés and delicious global cuisine. Here, 12 fantastic new places to check out.—Reported by Jennifer Sommer

Ludo's Ticketed Tasting Menu: Trois Mec
Ludo Lefebvre has been an L.A. celebrity since he launched his roving pop-up restaurant, Ludo Bites, in 2009. Those dinners sold out almost instantaneously. Now Lefebvre has a brick-and-mortar restaurant, in an old pizza place in a tiny strip mall, and it's still impossible to get in: You have to buy tickets online, and they disappear within minutes. For the lucky few who snag a seat, Lefebvre wants Trois Mec to feel like eating at home with him. "You eat what I want to eat, you listen to my music, you have fun." He installed mirrors everywhere, so that no matter where you sit, you can see the action in the kitchen, where he and his team prepare a five-course, French-accented tasting menu. (He was born in Burgundy and trained at three-star spots in Paris.) A favorite dish is his take on classic pommes aligot, potato pulp with brown butter and grated cheese. The chef puts fat French fingerling potatoes through a ricer, garnishes them with brown butter powder and, before serving, grates a mountain of salty French Salers cheese on top. troismec.com

Sweet-and-Savory Bakery-Café: Sqirl
Chef-owner Jessica Koslow (a one-time producer for American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance) is best known for her exquisite jams and preserves, such as blackberry-lemon verbena jam and Gravenstein apple butter, served alongside pastries like scones and burnt brioche toast. Still, one of the most popular dishes at the destination café Sqirl is the savory rice bowl. It's a mix of chewy Kokuho Rose brown rice, sorrel pesto, fermented hot sauce, creamy feta and a poached egg. sqirlla.com

Food Hub
LAX used to have the worst food of any major airport in the country. Now the new Tom Bradley International Terminal is becoming a great place to eat. At Ink.sack, F&W Best New Chef 2013 Michael Voltaggio makes sandwiches like his best-selling cold-fried chicken. Umami Burger offers an LAX burger with blue cheese spread. 800 Degrees serves customized Neapolitan pizzas with toppings like buffalo mozzarella and bacon marmalade.

Inspired Mexican Street Food: Petty Cash Taqueria
Tijuana circa 1986. Mexican staff meals. A Tom Petty/Johnny Cash cover band called Petty Cash. These three things inspired local hero chef Walter Manzke's raucous taqueria. "I grew up in San Diego; I wanted to capture the great energy of nearby Tijuana," he says. Petty Cash serves buzzed-about dishes like thebomb.com: chunky guacamole topped with sea urchin and chicharronés (Manzke got the idea at a preopening tasting, when bowls of all three items randomly sat next to each other on a table). People are also talking about the tacos, like the crispy pork belly carnitas. A few blocks away, Manzke has launched another very different project, République, a French bistro and bakery in the venerated Campanile space. pettycashtaqueria.com

House-Made Italian: Bestia
Down a long, alley-like street, in an area full of warehouses, is one of the city's most fun, high-energy restaurants, Bestia. Chef Ori Menashe didn't start cooking until he'd gotten out of the Israeli army and found work in Italian restaurants like L.A.'s Angelini Osteria. Yet the homey, delicious food he prepares tastes like it comes straight out of a grandmother's kitchen in southern Italy. Menashe house-cures the charcuterie at Bestia and makes much of the pasta, like pistachio fusilli, which is tossed with lamb ragù and garnished with ricotta salata, also made in-house. bestiala.com

Peruvian-Japanese Innovator: Paiche
Ricardo Zarate is on a mission to make everyone love Peruvian cooking. Five years ago, he opened Mo-chica in a modest food court downtown. Now the Lima-born F&W Best New Chef 2011 has three restaurants; Paiche is his newest and most dressed up. Here, Zarate has ramped up his Japanese technique: For his ceviche, he slices the fish sashimi-style. He uses miso as a marinade for paiche, an Amazonian fish that was almost extinct before Peruvians found a way to sustainably farm it (the recipe on p. 122 calls for easier-to-find black cod). Zarate is so proud of the paiche's resurgence, he named his restaurant after it. "I wanted to show off Peruvian ingenuity," he says. paichela.com

Nancy Silverton Meat Mecca: Chi Spacca
Not everyone would look at the narrow Chi Spacca space and think "restaurant." Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (who also own Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza next door) originally used it as a mini cooking school, Scuola di Pizza, where they hosted weekly themed dinners. One theme was especially popular—pork. So in early 2013, the trio opened Chi Spacca with chef Chad Colby. The menu emphasizes meat, from offcuts like braised lamb neck to 42-ounce grilled pork chops, but Colby takes vegetables seriously too, serving cauliflower with potent bagna cauda. chispacca.com

Breakfast and Baked Goods Epicenter: Helms Bakery
For almost 40 years, Helms was L.A.'s major bakery; its loaves traveled on Apollo 11 to become the first bread on the moon. Now Sherry Yard, Spago's ex-pastry chef, and Sang Yoon, the Father's Office burger impresario, are turning the old Helms space into a three-story food hall that will be the city's epicenter for baked goods and breakfast. "Why don't chefs serve beautiful vegetables with their eggs? Why just a lame piece of toast?" Yoon asks. For the 25-seat counter, he's experimenting with savory oatmeal, adding cherry tomatoes and Parmesan. Yard is more involved with making vintage jams. "You'll be able to compare the 2013 and 2014 raspberry jams," she says. "Are there good years for fruit? Heck, yeah." 3220 Helms Ave., Culver City

Monumental Sandwiches: Top Round Roast Beef
If you're looking for L.A. sous-chefs when they're not at work, just head over to Top Round Roast Beef, the sandwich and frozen custard stand that looks like it comes straight from a 1950s sitcom. The to-the-point menu has just three sections: roast beef; curly fries cooked in beef fat; and frozen custard, which is available as a sundae or as a concrete with assorted toppings blended in. To make sandwiches like Beef on Weck, the cooks slow-roast beef for more than 10 hours, then slice it thinly and serve it au jus with horseradish cream on a toasted, buttery, caraway-studded bun. Each sandwich is $5.95 and extra beef is only $1 more, which might be why sous-chefs love it here. toproundroastbeef.com

Rising Star's DIY Menu: Alma
It's set on a block that's remained gritty, even as the surrounding downtown neighborhood gentrifies. Nearby is a strip club parking lot. Still, Alma has become one of the city's top dining rooms, perhaps because it retains the exuberant energy of the DIY pop-up it was two years ago. And because chef Ari Taymor, who is only 28, obsesses over every ingredient on his ingenious, modern menu. One of Taymor's first cooking jobs was at La Chassagnette in Arles, France's first certified-organic, Michelin-starred restaurant. Now he relies heavily on his forager, Courtney Guerra, who also tends a tiny garden in Venice. He uses the marigolds and tarragon she provides to garnish his English muffin with uni and burrata. Soon Taymor won't have to travel to West L.A. for greens: Alma is negotiating for a rooftop garden, near seedy South Broadway. alma-la.com

Japanese-Italian Fusion: Orsa & Winston
Wolfgang Puck's wood-burning stove from the early 2000s is an inspiring piece of kitchen equipment. When Josef Centeno discovered that stove, sitting in a restaurant warehouse, he grabbed it. "I designed the Orsa & Winston kitchen around that 3,000-pound object," he says. The chef, known for his brilliant sandwiches at nearby Bäco Mercat, is now evoking the kind of fusion cooking that Puck pioneered with his menu of Asian-Italian hybrids. His signature dish, a starter of risotto-style Koshihikari rice with uni and pecorino cream, "captures the spirit of the place," says Centeno. "It's a melding of Italian soul and Japanese sensibilities." orsaandwinston.com

Brilliant High-Style Asian: Hinoki & the Bird
Century City was once a culinary wasteland, best known as the place to find some of the country's priciest condos. Now it's home to this restaurant from chefs David Myers and Kuniko Yagi. Their clever Asian-styled menu includes dishes like apple-marinated grilled short ribs. Myers and Yagi have even created a signature scent for the restaurant by smoking black cod with aromatic hinoki wood; the smell of cypress pervades the place. hinokiandthebird.com

Related: Los Angeles Travel Guide
L.A. Neighborhood Guide: A Design Expert's Top Arts District Spots
Roy Choi's New L.A. Hotel Has Dim Sum Room Service

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