Los Angeles: On Watch

Posted June 30, 2016

The Los Angeles food scene is exploding right now, with young cooks clamoring to leave their mark on the city’s restaurant landscape. Local chefs and restaurateurs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo call out a few names to know.

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Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson of Madcapra and Kismet

Rising rents drove young chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson from New York City, where they had worked together at Glasserie in Brooklyn. They introduced their modern perspective on Middle Eastern flavors to Los Angeles when they opened Madcapra in Grand Central Market in 2015. It was an immediate hit, thanks to excellent falafels loaded with toppings like harissa, pickled fennel and heaps of fragrant herbs, all wrapped in fresh, warm flatbread. “They make people comfortable in a world of food that not everyone knows yet—they make Middle Eastern flavors accessible the same way we made veal brains accessible,” says Vinny who connected with the women via social media as soon as he heard they were moving to LA. “We’re both fascinated by their style, and their approach to and interpretation of food,” he says. Vinny and Jon threw their support behind the pair: They plan to open Kismet—Kramer and Hymanson’s first full-fledged LA restaurant—as partners this fall.

Madcapra: Grand Central Market, 317 S Broadway, Los Angeles; 213-357-2412; madcapra.com

Kris Yenbamroong of Night + Market

Kris Yenbamroong grew up in LA, the son of Thai restaurateurs who spent 30 years preparing their ancestral food at Talesai in West Hollywood. After film school in New York, Yenbamroong returned to the family business and began exploring Thai street food, adding his discoveries to the menu at Talesai. Those early experiments eventually merited their own stage, and Night + Market was born. Today the chef’s delicious, detail-obsessed Thai food regularly tops best-of lists; decadent curries, fiery mortar-pounded papaya salads and fermented Isaan sausages crowd the tables at his two white-hot LA restaurants. “Thai cuisine was big in LA before Kris was doing it, but he really bridged the gap from the mom and pop places. He put this food on a national level,” says Jon. “To me, Kris is a hometown hero,” adds Vinny. “He has his own distinct voice in Thai food and it feels very of the moment.”

Night + Market: 9043 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles; 310-275-9724; Night + Market Song: 3322 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles; 323-665-5899; nightmarketsong.com

Micah Wexler of Wexler’s Deli

Another LA native, chef Micah Wexler’s palate was shaped by the traditions and flavors he first encountered during family meals at the historic Jewish delicatessen, Langer’s, in Westlake. Although he worked his way through fine dining kitchens—like L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon—he ultimately returned to his roots, opening Wexler's Deli at Grand Central Market in 2014. His commitment to homemade quality—he cures his own pastrami, smokes his own fish and simmers his own matzo ball soup—has made Wexler’s a sensation, and a second location just opened in Santa Monica in late May. “Micah is the first person of our generation taking a swing at Jewish-style food in LA,” says Jon. “There are places that have been at it for years, so it is amazing and worth acknowledging someone who can step up and compete in that world.”

Wexler's Deli: Grand Central Market, 317 S Broadway, Los Angeles; 213-620-0633; 616 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles; 424-744-8671; wexlersdeli.com

Zach Pollack of Alimento

LA native Zach Pollack was studying architecture at Brown, when a culinary epiphany at a market in Florence changed the course of his career. He worked his way through kitchens in Italy and Los Angeles, culminating those experiences in 2014 with the opening of Alimento in Silver Lake. The menu is a deeply personal synthesis of his regional Italian knowledge, his respect for the seasonal rhythms of Southern California and even his own Ashkenazi heritage: dishes like smoked Yellowtail collar with capers and sour cream are reminiscent of Jewish deli traditions. “Zach is a smart cook who is unbelievably passionate,” says Vinny. “We are always tipping our hats to people that are contributing to the food culture of LA, [rather than] diluting it. I think Zach is fully committed to what he is doing, and really contributing to what’s happening on the East Side of LA.”

Alimento: 1710 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles; 323-928-2888; alimentola.com

Jeremy Fox of Rustic Canyon

Unlike the other chefs Jon and Vinny have called out as ones to watch, Jeremy Fox isn’t new to success. He was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2008, recognized for the skills he’d honed in the kitchen at Manresa and that he brought to bear at his own venture—the acclaimed vegetable-forward restaurant Ubuntu in Napa. But Fox’s personal circumstances brought his time at Ubuntu to an end, and he spent a few years in limbo, eventually surfacing at Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan’s beloved Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica. “Whether you’re a painter or a blacksmith or a cook, as an artist your work will be off if you aren’t able to focus on what you’re doing and use all of your senses,” says Jon. “Jeremy went through that period after Ubuntu, so that makes us appreciate what he is doing now all the more. In a way he is having his second coming at Rustic Canyon.”

Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen: 1119 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles; 310-393-7050; rusticcanyonwinebar.com

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