Each Friday, the Digest surveys the burgeoning L.A. restaurant scene and compiles this (highly unscientific) list of the most hyped and heralded restaurants in town this instant. Whether old or new, big or small, near or far, these are the restaurants that have people talking. Whatever that means. Anyway, we recommend getting a seat at these places while you still can.
1. Odys + Penelope
Fresh off the closure of their acclaimed fine-dining restaurant Hatfield’s, husband-and-wife duo Quinn and Karen Hatfield wasted no time launching Odys + Penelope, a more casual, grill-centric restaurant that channels the type of cooking the Hatfields like to eat in their own home. There are Argentinian-style and Uruguyuan-style grills, offering different levels of char for meats and vegetables, along with a churrasco and a smoker. Don’t forget Karen’s renowned dessert items either.
Neal Fraser’s long-awaited restaurant has opened in the former rectory of the old St. Vibiana’s cathedral. Fraser’s ambitious multicultural roster of dishes includes a riff on pozole with crisp pork belly and chiles, spot prawns with sea urchin and wasabi “snow,” Delicata squash salad with feta and hazelnuts, and a Thai-style Dungeness crab soup.
3. Ramen Champ
Chinatown’s Far East Plaza, currently home to Chego, Pok Pok Phat Thai, and ice cream shop Scoops, is welcoming another new vendor: Ramen Champ. Alvin Cailan of Eggslut is turning his attention to Japan’s most beloved noodle soup, focusing on profoundly porky tonkotsu ramen and izakaya-style dishes like fried chicken karaage and takoyaki “tots.”
4. Le Comptoir
Inside an unmarked space inside Koreatown’s recently refurbished Normandie Hotel is the new (and permanent) home of Gary Menes long-running pop-up, Le Comptoir, which serves a vegetable-centric menu to 10 guests at an intimate kitchen-side counter. Much of the produce is sourced from Menes’ farm in Long Beach, allowing diners to taste the ultimate in farm-to-counter cooking.
The latest surprise to hit Santa Monica is Aestus, a mid-century modern restaurant helmed by former Royce chef Alex Ageneau. On the menu are seasonal dishes like fried smelt with crudites, a house-made charcuterie board, grass-fed beef with sunchokes, and a fire-roasted half chicken. Cocktails are available, but don’t neglect the wine list, curated by the co-founder of Santa Rosa winery Lioco.
Former Eva chef Mark Gold takes a trip to the beach with his new dockside restaurant at the Marina del Rey Hotel. He’s serving up comfort Californian favorites like shaved radish chilaquiles, lobster rolls, Baja-style fish tacos, and fried chicken sandwiches. Plus, there are mojitos and you can watch the sailboats go by—glorious.
7. Pok Pok Phat Thai
Fans of the Portland-based Thai food empire that is Pok Pok have reason to celebrate. Chef Andy Ricker and his crew are slinging wok-fried plates of pad thai and other street-style stir-fry dishes inside Chinatown’s Far East Plaza. The quick-serve concept will keep hungry crowds busy while the larger, main branch of Pok Pok L.A. opens further north in Chinatown. In the meantime, try the Stumptown Thai-style iced coffee, or one of the tangy drinking vinegars.
8. Cassell’s Hamburgers
Koreatown’s historic burger counter, which first opened in 1948, has been reborn at the newly refurbished Hotel Normandie. Chef Christian Page (Short Order) is serving house-ground, grass-fed burgers broiled on an old-fashioned griddle, along with classic diner fare like patty melts, hotcakes, and frozen custard, plus a selection of beer and cocktails from the bar for late-nighters. But as with the O.G. Cassell’s, there aren’t any french fries on the premise, only big scoops of potato salad served on the side.
The most exciting development in L.A. mall food in perhaps forever, chefs Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin Del Campo have officially opened their quick-service stand inside the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The focus is on crispy fried-to-order rolled tacos topped with the variety of sauces and moles that the duo have become known for at Bell’s La Casita Mexicana. Their larger full-service restaurant next door, Mexicano, is scheduled to follow Flautas by opening in the next few weeks (hopefully).
10. Prova Pizzeria
The team behind Long Beach favorite Michael’s on Naples have taken their Neapolitan pizza talents to WeHo with this new casual pizzeria located off Santa Monica Boulevard. Offering pies ranging from the classic margherita to a pistachio-and-mortadella creation made with stracciatella cheese, Prova gives locals a reliable place to snag their 90-second-baked pizzas paired with a glass of wine or beer.