Each Friday, the Digest surveys the burgeoning L.A. restaurant scene and compiles a list of the newest, most hyped and heralded restaurants in town this instant. Whether big or small, near or far, these are the restaurants that have people talking—us among them. Snag a seat at these hotspots while you still can.
1. Ramen Tatsunoya
The Kurume, Japan-based ramen chain has been laying the foundation for its L.A. debut for a while now; they did pop-ups at Mitsuwa marketplace and even entered a pigs-head ramen at the Yokocho ramen festival in 2014. The fruits of their labor have resulted in consistent lines out the door of hungry Pasadenans waiting to get their chopsticks in a bowl of rich, fatty tonkatsu broth. The chashu pork belly is tender, the ajitama is salty-sweet with a custard-like yolk, and the noodles are firm but springy. For those too North of convenient driving range to Daikokuya and Tsujita, Tatsunoya is a welcome hit.
Chef Stephen Kalt opened up the original Spartina in New York in the mid ’90s, and now he’s reviving and modernizing the concept on Melrose. The menu takes a produce-forward approach to Italian cuisine and you’ll see classics like wood grilled octopus and margherita pizzas alongside not-so-classics like grilled avocado with Moroccan lemon, Calabrian chili oil, and ricotta salata. If you need any further convincing, the grillin’ godfather himself Bobby Flay, called Spartina the best new restaurant in L.A. on Twitter.
3. Scratch Bar & Kitchen
The restaurant opened in early December, but thanks in part to Phillip Frankland Lee’s newfound Top Chef stardom it’s as buzzing as ever. This is the second iteration of Lee’s (mostly) tasting menu concept after relations with his business partner in the original Beverly Hills location somewhat famously went south. The new Encino restaurant is completely devoid of servers and the chefs and cooks themselves serve you your food directly. The mashed potatoes here are aerated and spurted out through an iSi canister and the sake shooter is sitting atop a layer of uni and avocado mousse.
This is an impressive restaurant from an even more impressive chef in the city’s most impressive space. Suffice it to say: we’re impressed. But everyone knew that would be the case when it was announced that Bill Chait and Timothy Hollingsworth—former chef de cuisine of The French Laundry—were building a Broad Museum-adjacent restaurant. The menu is filled with artfully plated crudos and small plates; the “pastrami sandwich” is actually a smoking bowl topped with scattered vegetables and cured fish; a funnel cake is crowned with strawberries, red vein sorrel, and dollops of foie gras mousse. Scenesters and one-percenters alike will swoon over Julian Cox’s ambitious cocktail program.
Remember not too long ago when Stephane Bombet opened Viviane and it landed at the top of our Hot ‘N’ Fresh list? Yeah, that happened again. But now that the restaurateur has two French-ish hits in a row including Terrine, he’s going a bit out-of-the-box. As in Korean BBQ in the heart of Culver City with a $120 tomahawk steak that’s topped with foie gras butter out-of-the-box. Even though Hanjip just opened November 6, with its Korean-inflected small plates like corn cheese with bone marrow and steamed egg topped with uni, and its impressive list of meats and banchan, people are already buzzing about chef Chris Oh changing the face of KBBQ in L.A. for good.
Sitting non ironically in a Hollywood strip mall—right next to a nail salon and just across the street from Tony’s Liquor—this 19-seat hole-in-the-wall is the last place you’d expect to find elderflower meringue, lemongrass coconut foam, and an assortment of lacto-fermented pickles that would make the Vlasic family blush. But chef Kwang Uh, fresh off a stage at Noma, doesn’t seem to care about his first restaurant’s lack of white tablecloths and valet parking. Baroo’s menu is full of funky fermented ingredients, heirloom grains you’ve never heard of, and some of the most mind-blowing flavor bombs in L.A. And that’s what really matters.
7. Pok Pok
Portland has officially invaded L.A.—and we’re not mad about it, mainly because it’s bringing things like Salt & Straw and Pok Pok along with it. Located in historic Chinatown’s Mandarin Plaza, chef Andy Ricker’s first full iteration of Pok Pok in L.A. is serving up the same kind of food that reeled in a Michelin star in New York. Think charcoal grilled boar collar, catfish with sour rice, and Chang Mai sausage with Burmese curry. The restaurant has officially ditched the ticketing system Tock to go the standard reservation route with OpenTable while strongly encouraging walk-ins.
8. Trois Familia
The third collaboration among chefs Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo, and Ludo Lefebvre is now slinging breakfast and lunch grub in Silver Lake. A few white picnic tables fill the former Alegria space, where everyone and their bearded brother is gathering for French-ish, sorta Mexicany, thoroughly L.A. food. There are double-decker potato tacos, sushi rice with salt cod cream, hash brown chilaquiles with chorizo jam, and a galette with compte cheese, ham, and a squiggly green sauce they call avocado milk. No boozey brunching here though, folks. Instead, there’s fancy horchata and icy Nutella malts.
9. The Rose
An institution reborn! Jason Neroni, formerly of Superba Snack Bar, helms the revamped kitchen at thirty-six-year-old Rose Cafe in Venice with the backing of Bill Chait’s Sprout Restaurant Group. To calm the fear that the beloved neighborhood classic would be completely done away with, Chait is partnering with the original owners to make sure it stays true to its roots. Alongside the Italian favorites that made chef Neroni’s career, like smoked bucatini carbonara and New York-style pizzas, The Rose will also be dishing up some original breakfast and lunchtime favorites like a sandwich with juniper-braised bacon, cheddar, and egg, and roasted avocado with fish sauce.
There are few things more indulgent than eating foie gras poolside, and Viviane has no problem indulging you. When chef Michael Hung left Faith and Flower so he could get back to “doing more upscale and refined cuisine” he fell into the right hands with Stephane Bombet and the right space with Beverly Hills’ Avalon Hotel. The dining room sprawls out to the outdoor pool area where people are sipping on Ryan Wainwright’s classic cocktails—Cosmos are totally making a comeback!—and noshing on steak tartare with mushroom conserve. A 12-oz rib-eye with bone marrow gremolata anchors the classic French-leaning menu. Viviane officially opens for dinner this Sunday.