The 38 Essential Los Angeles Restaurants, October 2015

Spanning Westside to Eastside, with eateries clustered around the best dining neighborhoods, this collection of elite restaurants aims to answer the question, “Can you recommend a place?” Eater will continue to update restaurants every few months, adding in eligible places that have been open for at least six months. Instead of a typical alphabetical order, which has worked in years past, the map is configured from a west to east direction.

In this fall 2015 edition, we take off beloved Alma just ahead of its impending closure in Downtown on October 24, also Faith & Flower because Michael Hung has departed (we’ll wait and see how things pan out before possibly adding the grand Downtown restaurant back on), Josef Centeno’s trusty (and ever crowded) Bar Ama for another Centeno place on the block, and Cliff’s Edgeahead of chef Vartan Abgaryan’s departure later this year (though with a new chef it could see a return to the 38).

In their place comes solid neighborhood spot The Corner Door, which has helmed the western stretch of Culver City with fantastic cocktails and more than reliable New American fare. Also new to the 38 are two comeback restaurants from two L.A. duos: TheHatfield’s newest effort Odys + Penelope and Neal & Amy Frasers’Redbird in Downtown. Finally, Josef Centeno’s quality-drivenLedlow, which helms the former Pete’s Cafe space in Downtown.

1 Mélisse

Josiah Citrin’s 16 year old fine dining establishment holds down the high-end side of things on the Westside. With a regal ambiance and world-class service, it’s hard to think of a better place to experience Michelin-level dining in Los Angeles. Opt for a tasting menu and order up a bottle of good wine. You deserve it.

1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-0881
French Restaurant

2 Rustic Canyon Wine Bar

Jeremy Fox revitalized one of the Westside’s strongest restaurants, bringing a Northern California elegance and finesse to a market-driven menu that almost didn’t need it. The result is wonderful set of dishes that doesn’t need fireworks to impress. The ingredients, technique, and chef’s touch speak for themselves.

1119 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-7050
Wine Bar

3 Milo and Olive

Quietly occupying a rather barren stretch of Wilshire Blvd, Milo & Olive serves what might be the most compelling every day food on the Westside, from fantastic pizzas and pastries to market-driven bites that will turn even the hardest skeptic. Thankfully, the space is twice as large, making it even easier to drop by on a moment’s notice.

2723 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 453-6776

4 Gjusta

Is there a better day-time eatery than Gjusta at the moment? Except for the paucity of seating, the fare coming out of Gjusta’s massive kitchen and ovens is impressive from beginning to end, starting with the pastries, breads, and sweets. The smoked fish is some of the best in town while the breakfast offers everything from pork sausage and eggs to flatbread pizzas. For lunch, try a prime rib, porchetta, or banh mi sandwich, the last of which comes loaded with house-made pate.

320 Sunset Ave
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 314-0320

5 Cadet

The Westside’s dining game got a major upgrade when Kris Tominaga paired up with Jeff Weinstein to open this frenetic restaurant along Wilshire. Pitting classic French techniques with a massive wood-fired grill, the food here is both rustic, comforting, and forward-thinking. The rabbit meatballs with biscuits might be the most popular order, but venture into the roasted black cod, ribeye steak, or mushroom pain perdu. And the sides like pommes aligot and wood-grilled rapini might steal the show from the entrees, which is always a good indication of kitchen excellence.

2518 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 828-3300
French Restaurant

6 The Tasting Kitchen

Casey Lane’s Italian-inflected restaurant still maintains an excellent level of quality despite a few years of life on Abbot Kinney. The room is one of the most lovely on the block and the cocktails by Justin Pike stand up to the best in town. Try the pastas.

1633 Abbot Kinney Rd
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 392-6644
New American Restaurant, $$$$

7 The Corner Door

The chefs have changed over the years, but with Waterloo & City alum Ali Haji overseeing a solid pub menu and Beau du Bois managing the standard-bearing bar program, The Corner Door is as reliable a restaurant you can find in Culver City. It’s versatile enough for a weekday date night or a weekend hangout with a large group of friends. The Corner Door is the kind of restaurant that every neighborhood in L.A. secretly wants.

12477 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 313-5810
American Restaurant

8 Tsujita Annex

Ramen is currently king in terms of casual food in Los Angeles, and perhaps no place reigns over Tsujita, a duet of eateries in Sawtelle, one of the busiest dining neighborhoods in town. While the original now offers day through evening Hakata-style ramen with thin noodles and superb tsukemen, the ANNEX is the place to try LA’s take on the legendary Jiro-style ramen popularized in Tokyo that spawned dozens of imitators. Simply put, this is the most intense ramen LA has ever seen. The tsukemen is a great choice for starters while the regular ramen bowl packs are garlicky punch.

2050 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 231-0222
Ramen / Noodle House

9 Kiriko Sushi

There’s plenty of amazing sushi in Los Angeles, but Kiriko has just the right mix of every day affordability (at least compared to some of the super high-end places) along with a casual ambiance that makes it easy to slip in for lunch or dinner. The sushi is both expertly prepared and humbly served, though aficionados can take comfort in finding some really obscure fish upon request.

11301 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 478-7769
Sushi Restaurant

10 N/Naka

Her work recently featured in Netflix’s Chef’s Table, Niki Nakayama has been toiling away at this quiet spot in Palms for years now. Bringing a fresh dose of creativity and innovation to the kaiseki format, especially in the form of bolder flavors and ingredients, it’s a pricey, but refined way to dine in L.A. The wine program is also stellar.

3455 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 836-6252
Japanese Restaurant

11 Fishing with Dynamite

Continually packed, this focused seafood endeavor in Manhattan Beach has everything from pristine shellfish to imaginative composed dishes that span world flavors. While the gumbo and steamed clams, or blue crab cake, would hold their own anywhere, dishes like the koshihikari rice, laden with rich chicken dashi, or the hamachi with avocado and ponzu, will be sure to re-align your thoughts on what great seafood can be on the plate. Make a reservation and take a drive to this destination-worthy restaurant, then take a stroll on the beautiful Strand after a meal here.

1148 Manhattan Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 893-6299
Seafood Restaurant

12 Spago Beverly Hills

Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills flagship still has a compelling tasting menu that would stand up to the city’s best. Throw in a star-powered crowd with world-class service, and you have one restaurant that will appeal to high end diners and people watchers alike.

176 N Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 385-0880
New American Restaurant

13 Maude

Curtis Stone’s excellent tasting menu-focused restaurant in Beverly Hills has been a critical favorite since day one. With just 25 seats in the diminutive restaurant, Stone takes one ingredient per month and makes an entire nine-course tasting menu based on that seasonal ingredient. But act fast —the first of every month (for the next month’s tables) opens up phone lines (and now Tock ticket systems), with seats filling up within hours, making this truly one of the hardest reservations to get in the city.

212 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 859-3418

14 Sotto

With chef Steve Samson now running things at this stalwart restaurant on the southern edge of Beverly Hills, the Southern Italian fare is as good as it’s ever been. The pizzas are top notch, the wine program is next level, and the cocktails are worth boasting about. But the pastas and plates are really what brings people back every day and every week.

9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 277-0210
Italian Restaurant

15 Lukshon

Sang Yoon put together one of the most impressive dining rooms in the city, but somehow the fare didn’t quite knock it out of the ballpark with diners when Lukshon first opened. That’s changed over the years, as Yoon has been refining and revising the menu so that it’s worthy of a weeknight meal or even a big weekend celebration. Try the dan dan noodles, khao soi noodles, spicy chicken pops, and even the massive rendition of beef with broccoli. All the flavors will seem familiar, but come presented in a more thoughtful way.

3239 Helms Ave
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 202-6808
Asian Restaurant

16 Guerrilla Tacos

Wes Avila eschewed fine dining for a taco truck, something in plentitude in Los Angeles. But Guerrilla Tacos embues that fine dining sensibility with seasonal ingredients in a mobile package that simply cannot be matched in L.A. Yes this is a rolling restaurant with relatively predictable locations around town (in front of coffee shops), but Avila’s talent merits inclusion. Quite simply, there are fewer innovative taqueros in America than Wes Avila.

Culver City, CA
 Taco Place

17 ink.

Michael Voltaggio’s avant garde restaurant on Melrose is one of the spots that will truly impress a diner that’s been through the classics and wants more. Prepare for the mind to be warped and even toyed with, as Voltaggio blends traditional technique with unexpected ingredients.

8360 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(323) 651-5866
American Restaurant

18 Animal

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo captured a certain idea that’s remained at the prime place of restaurant culture in L.A. Minimal, pure, adventurous, controversial and comforting. Shook and Dotolo’s Fairfax restaurant doesn’t feel bad about serving offal meat or unusual animals. Many have attempted to copy their approach, but few have succeeded.

435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 782-9225
American Restaurant

19 Jones Hollywood

A classic West Hollywood late night hang, the overall vibe and ambiance are hard to beat at this twenty one-year-old red checkered table establishment. The fare won’t wow you, but the reliably good pastas will bring you back, especially the spaghetti and meatballs and rigatoni carbonara. Plus, the apple pie is a reason to come on its own. Served on a sizzler platter and laid out over a pool of caramel, it’s a decadent after-dinner treat.

7205 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
(323) 850-1726

20 Odys and Penelope

Quinn and Karen Hatfield have hung up their fine dining banner, for now, and have focused on this modern meat-centric restaurant along La Brea. The dining room is one of the most impressive in town, filled almost every night with a steady slew of sharp-looking diners. On the menu, expect a balance between creativity and familiarity.

127 S. La Brea
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 935-2977
American Restaurant

21 République

When Walter and Margarita Manzke took over the iconic Campanile space, they knew the stakes were going to be high. And who in LA would have thought they would’ve succeeded this much, offering a swell breakfast to dinner menu with a French point of view. Throw in some pockets of New American and even Asian influences and the bill of fare will likely appeal to everyone. The desserts, breads, and pastries by Margarita are near perfect while the charcuterie board is sure to stun anyone.

624 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(310) 361-6115
French Restaurant

22 Petit Trois

Ludo Lefebvre (who’s working in conjunction with partners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo) has perfected this Parisian facsimile of a bistro right next to his first effort, Trois Mec. With near ideal renditions of classics (though, with some leeway here and there), Petit Trois has already become the most talked about French restaurant in the city. Try the omelette, steak frites, escargot; pretty much everything on the tight menu is worth ordering.

718 Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 468-8916
French Restaurant

23 Trois Mec

Ludo Lefebvre paired up with chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo to create a musical version of Led Zeppelin – a supergroup of uber-talented culinary minds that produces one of the best tasting menus in town. Purchase tickets on select days and watch Lefebvre create some of the most creative, expressive cuisine in Los Angeles.

716 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 468-8915
New American Restaurant

24 Butchers & Barbers

The Houston Brothers have beautifully redone this small space in Hollywood and added in their first full-on restaurant to their slate of lounges and clubs. With chef Luke Reyes at the helm, the refined pub fare is both impressive and approachable, with a great burger and market-fresh vegetables on the menu. Cocktails are also next level for a place in Hollywood, so be sure to order one (or two).

6531 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 461-1464
New American Restaurant

25 Providence

Michael Cimarusti’s ode to seafood-centric fine dining is still churning out some of the best food in Los Angeles. The tasting menu restaurant is an easy choice for a celebration or special occasion, though menus prices will reflect the quality.

5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 460-4170
Seafood Restaurant

26 Pot at the Line Hotel

Roy Choi has numerous restaurants in town at the moment, but his Korean restaurant inside the Line Hotel might be the best at the moment. With a wide variety of traditional plates served with a chef’s mentality, POT is the ideal place to introduce Korean cuisine to those who might not be as familiar. Bring a large crew, order up a storm, and don’t forget the soju.

3515 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 368-3030
Korean Restaurant

27 Jun Won

There are more than few great Korean restaurants in Los Angeles, but Jun Won, nestled along a nondescript building on 8th Street, has quietly been churning out some of the most reliable, and delectable, Korean fare in the city. Try the spicy braised black cod, pan-fried fish, tofu stew, and expertly-made bossam (pork belly). Be prepared to wait during prime hours.

3100 W 8th St
#101, Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 383-8855
Korean Restaurant

28 Sqirl Kitchen

Jessica Koslow realized that the Eastside was bereft of a great every day breakfast and lunch spot, and SQIRL was the answer everyone was waiting for. Tucked away on a sleepy stretch of Virgil, this seasonal kitchen produces surprising cuisine that balances flavor with superb ingredients. Don’t miss the desserts either.

720 N Virgil Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(213) 394-6526

29 Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant

Yes, the #19 pastrami sandwich is an amazing sandwich, but the pure pastrami on house-based rye is simplicity at its best. There’s a reason why people make pilgrimages to try their pastrami and even corned beef: there is no better version anywhere in town, and perhaps even in the country. Pro tip: try the #54, a blend of both the pastrami and corned beef in one sandwich. And don’t skip the rest of the classic Jewish deli menu – it’s all very well executed in one of the best day-time dining rooms in town.

704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 483-8050
Deli / Bodega

30 Night + Market Song

Kris Yenbamroong built this place from the ground up, and while his original spot in West Hollywood still goes strong, this second rendition in Silver Lake seems to reflect the young chef’s ethos a tiny bit more. With a cadre of excellent Thai dishes in a fun, convivial atmosphere (crack open a tall boy of Miller Lite to start a meal), Night + Market Song is the place to be any night of the week on the Eastside. Just remember that things might be a little spicier than you expect.

3322 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Thai Restaurant

31 Alimento

Zach Pollack’s bustling trattoria in Silver Lake has become the center of the neighborhood’s restaurant scene. While occasionally tough to nab tables, the casual vibe makes it easy to slip in any night of the week and feast of expert-level pasta, near-perfect small plates (like that chicken liver with toast), and robust, shareable large plates like the bagna cauda.

1708 Silver Lake Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 928-2888
Italian Restaurant

32 Canele

L.A. doesn’t have as many great neighborhood restaurants as say, New York or San Francisco. You know, the kind of places where you could slip into a two top, order a bottle of rose, and order up a parade of seasonal American/French bites. But Canele fits the billing nicely in a tiny space in Atwater Village. Brunch is equally fantastic, but be prepared to wait.

3219 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 666-7133
French Restaurant

33 Orsa & Winston

Josef Centeno decided to come back to fine dining with a bang, this time taking over a 40 seat spot right next to his other two restaurants in Downtown. This blend of Japanese and Italian high end restaurant offers medium and larger tasting menus. Either way, the meals here are immediately gratifying and more than reasonably priced for this level of quality.

122 W 4th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-0300
Italian Restaurant

34 Bestia

Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis knew something about finding the perfect spot and offering the area the ideal concept. Think seasonal, meat-driven rustic Italian in an industrial space in the heart of the Arts District. Who knew it was going to be one of the most talked about and constantly booked restaurants in the city despite having a nearly hidden location? The pizzas, pastas, appetizers, and mains all shine, with cocktails and wine as impressive as any restaurant’s in town.

2121 E 7th Pl
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 514-5724
Italian Restaurant

35 Ledlow

Josef Centeno has taken over this beautiful, bright space in Downtown and infused it with a solid collection of American dishes. The idea is quality over quantity, regardless of the price. While that means a bit of sticker shock on the menu, you’ll be surprised by what’s on the plate. From breakfast to dinner, this is the all-day restaurant Downtown has always wanted.

400 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-7015
American Restaurant

36 Redbird

Neal and Amy Fraser took over the aging Vibiana cathedral rectory and turned it into one of the most elegant spaces in the city. With a vast menu of composed plates, plus terrific desserts, Redbird is the elevated Downtown restaurant that works for any occasion that calls for a fantastic ambiance, classic service, and inventive cooking.

114 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 788-1191
American Restaurant

37 The Gadarene Swine

Phillip Frankland Lee and wife Margarita had a vision to create a vegan restaurant that was also compelling from a tasting menu perspective. The Lees’ menu is a triumph for those who eschew meat, or just choose to stick toward a plant-based diet. The preparations are creative and thoughtful, with a push toward flavor at every course. Lunch time makes things a bit more affordable, but even the full tasting menu stays under $100.

11266 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 508-5500
Vegetarian / Vegan Restaurant

38 Union Restaurant

Bruce Kalman has opened the restaurant that finally makes Pasadena residents proud. A seasonally inflected California-Italian restaurant, Kalman does everything from house made pasta to innovative appetizers to hefty mains like the epic porchetta. The wine program is also top notch.

37 E Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 795-5841
American Restaurant
Source: LA Eater