West Hollywood Is the Place to Eat in 2019
From exquisite crudos to Japanese tasting menus to neo-Neapolitan pizza to next-level dumplings to the West Coast’s first Momofuku Noodle Bar, the area has become one of L.A.'s buzziest dining destinations.
What do you think about when you think about hot Los Angeles restaurant neighborhoods? The Arts District, right? Or maybe you’re enamored with the delicious food and the undeniable energy in Highland Park, Venice, Silver Lake, or Fairfax.
But we’re here to throw another serious contender into the ring. Let’s just say it: West Hollywood has become one of the city’s best dining destinations, and it should get even better as the year progresses. We know you might associate this area, which is actually its own city in Los Angeles County, with overheated nightlife and party-vibe hotels. But look past that chaos and you’ll be able to eat as well as you can anywhere else in Los Angeles. Let’s break it down.
The 2018 roll call was insane.
Viale dei Romani, one of Food & Wine’s biggest restaurant openings of 2018 nationwide, is where chefs Casey Lane and Brian Bornemann serve L.A.’s most exquisite crudos and stellar pastas, including a spaghetti with three types of clams. Other West Hollywood standouts that opened in 2018 include Tesse, which is helmed by Michelin-starred chef Raphael Francois and has one of the most impressive charcuterie programs in the country. Chef Keiichi Kurobe’s Blackship arrived on the scene in December with its excellent Japanese-Italian mashups like karaage tortellini.
Along with Lane (whose restaurants include The Tasting Kitchen and Breva in L.A. as well as Casa Apicii in New York), there were some other bicoastal power players who added heat to West Hollywood last year. Chateau Hanare, known for its elegant kaiseki menus in a bungalow that’s on the grounds of the famed Chateau Marmont hotel, is brought to you by restaurateur Reika Alexander of New York’s En Japanese Brasserie. Barbette, where chef Robert Flaherty serves lovely bistro fare like plump chilled shrimp with fennel aioli, steak frites with chimichurri, and crab rice with saffron and garlic, is a new L.A. venture from New York scenester hotelier/hospitality veteran Sean MacPherson.
Add all this to the West Hollywood restaurants that have opened in recent years, including Peruvian food king Ricardo Zarate’s Rosaliné, an outpost of Vegas off-Strip sensation Aburiya Raku, taco standby Guisados with its braised meats on fresh corn tortillas, and Louis Tikaram’s modern Asian hot spot E.P. & L.P. (which recently started serving a mouth-numbing fried New Zealand whitefish dish with fresh Sichuan peppercorns from California farmer Kong Thao), and you’ve got a dining lineup that rivals anything in L.A.
2019 is off to a strong start, and the best may be yet to come.
In February, chef Danielle Sobel (formerly at New York restaurants including Juku, Yopparai, and Sushi Azabu) opened Pacifique in West Hollywood. Sobel is weaving together Japanese and French influences to create her version of California cuisine, including dishes like frisée salad with Japanese beef lardons.
Sobel's crowd-pleasing take on tsukune is chicken meatballs with cured egg yolk, duck prosciutto, and blood orange. A whole scallop in its shell with Santa Barbara uni, smoked daikon, and soy salt is a briny umami bomb. Her riff on karaage is mushroom-marinated fried chicken with spicy citrus and soy salt, and it’s glorious.
Sobel should have a lot of new high-profile company in West Hollywood soon. Naples-born pizzaiolo Daniele Uditi is planning to open a West Hollywood outpost of Pizzana this spring. His neo-Neapolitan creations, including a cacio e pepe pizza, an amatriciana pizza, a truffle pizza, a carbonara pizza, and a pizza topped with Sunday gravy, are like nothing else in L.A. David Chang’s first West Coast outpost of Momofuku Noodle Bar is expected to open in West Hollywood later this year, and you can expect his ramen and pork buns to be immensely popular here. Alexander, meanwhile, might soon announce the plans she has for a space next to Chateau Hanare.
But there might be nobody betting bigger on West Hollywood than prolific chef/restaurateur Perry Cheung. Cheung recently opened Dumpling Monster and an outpost of TikiFish at a new residential/restaurant complex. Dumpling Monster is a thoroughly modern restaurant that serves pan-fried vegan dumplings and fills soup dumplings with Santa Barbara uni. (Cheung recommends that you don’t dip the uni dumplings into any sauce.) But Dumpling Monster also excels at classics like pork soup dumplings and spicy wontons. TikiFish is a casual seafood spot where chef/partner Lionel Killens serves Hawaiian-style poke and Peruvian and Filipino versions of ceviche.
Cheung is also working to open an outpost of Vietnamese restaurant Phorage in the same development later this year. This will be the first Phorage with a full bar, and it should be delightful to pair cocktails with soul-warming dishes like Cheung’s oxtail pho, Berkshire pork bánh mì, and Jidori chicken broken rice. This Phorage will includes two distinct spaces with their own kitchen. The plan is to make the restaurant quick-service and partition off the additional space for a 30-seat private-dining area that could be used for pop-ups or other events. Cheung says he’d entertain the idea of renting that space to another chef who wants an extended residency in West Hollywood.
Let’s take a moment to talk about the Japanese tasting menus.
With its robata skewers, pristine sashimi specials, creamy fresh tofu, and big sake list, the original Aburiya Raku in Las Vegas might be the country’s best after-hours restaurant. Raku in West Hollywood is open until midnight, which is three hours before the Vegas restaurant closes, but chef/owner Mitsuo Endo (who runs Raku in both cities) is still masterfully playing his greatest hits here.
On top of that, Endo and new chef Takehiro Arakawa have recently added a resolutely Japanese omakase in West Hollywood. This is a meal that simultaneously announces its seriousness and playfulness with an appetizer course of six small dishes. This course is headlined by a caviar tin that’s been scooped out and then re-filled with raw scallop and caviar. There’s also corn with an edible “cob” made out of potato. Later on in the meal, there are luxuries like a hot pot with black truffle atop sea eel. Your choice of main course includes Ishiyaki wagyu rib-eye cap that you cook on a hot stone at your table.
At Chateau Hanare, chef de cuisine Eijiro Nagano has launched a new spring kaiseki with nicely over-the-top flourishes like caviar and gold leaf perched above a lobster-and-avocado salad. A dish that’s simply called uni wagyu includes a generous dollop of Santa Barbara uni over A5 Miyazaki wagyu. On the night we visited, Nagano, who was previously executive pastry chef at New York dessert bar ChikaLicious, ended the meal with a strawberry gazpacho that tasted like the best version of spring.
Don’t forget the Beverly Center.
The Beverly Center isn’t technically part of West Hollywood, but it’s adjacent to it and the dining makeover at this shopping mall can’t be ignored. Chef Joshua Skenes is working on the spring opening of his highly anticipated Angler at the Beverly Center.
Chef Adam Sobel’s Cal Mare has been channeling the Amalfi Coast at the Beverly Center since November 2017, and the restaurant’s signature warm zeppole with mozzarella, prosciutto, and the option to add caviar is always a showstopper. Other notable Beverly Center newcomers include Yardbird, Farmhouse, and Marugame Udon. A modern Korean steakhouse from chef Akira Back, who earned a Michelin star at Dosa in Seoul, is coming later this year.