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. 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.”
2. 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 housed in the former rectory of the old St. Vibiana’s cathedral officially opened last week. 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.
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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Lunasia Pasadena
One of the San Gabriel Valley’s most popular dim sum restaurants has landed smack dab in Old Town Pasadena, serving its famous overstuffed shu mai and BBQ pork buns. The menu of Chinese favorites is less extensive than at the original Alhambra location, but larger than anything else available to Dena residents. You won’t find alcohol just yet, but the two-story space is equipped with several big-screen TVs for catching some sports action.
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.
9. 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.
10. Spread PB
Love the idea or hate it, Studio City’s new gourmet peanut butter and jelly bar is gaining some attention amongst Valley moms for its adult- and kid-friendly items, like house-made chocolate almond butter, marshmallow fluff, and graham cracker crust. Or you could opt for something like peanut butter, bacon, and pickles on a bagel. At this boutique sandwich shop, you can have your nostalgia prepared many ways.