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.
Remember two weeks ago when Stephane Bombet opened a restaurant that everyone swooned over 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 with Terrine and Viviane, 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.
2. 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.
3. 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. will be 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. Don’t bother trying to call and make a reservation, Pok Pok—à la Maude and Trois Mec—is exclusively using the ticket system.
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.
5. Button Mash
The balls are back! After a few years of bouncing around semi-permanent pop-ups and doing event gigs, chef Thi Tran and banana suit-rocking husband Nguyen finally found a permanent home for their signature green tofu balls in Echo Park. But the food at Button Mash extends far beyond that. There are small snacks like tamarind chicken wings and mac and cheese topped with Fresno chilies; the duo is cooking up large-format Vietnamese classics like bun cha ha noi; and a double cheeseburger even sneaks its way into the eclectic menu. If you get thirsty saving the Earth from alien scum in Space Invaders, there’s local craft beer on tap and wines by the glass.
6. Aburiya Raku
Eateries along the Las Vegas strip seem to fall into three categories: regionally specific zeitgeisty fast-casual chains (looking at you, Shake Shack and In-N-Out), sprawling monuments to celebrity chefs (ahem, Giada, ahem), and all-you-can-eat sushi and prime rib buffets (bless them). That’s why you had to go off the strip to find Vegas’ real gems like the the Izakaya-style Raku, which just opened a location in West Hollywood. Think yakitori and robata skewers galore, house-made agedashi tofu, plates of mountain yam with poached egg, and foie gras egg custard all being overseen and executed by Raku founding chef Matsui Endo.
What does former Osteria Mozza chef Matt Molina do when he’s not confined to Italian? Find out at E.R.B. (short for Everson Royce Bar), the new Arts District drinking and small-plates destination from Silver Lake Wine owner Randy Clement. It’s a dream team of sorts: Clement, a sort of manic wine wizard, is popping the bottles; Chris Ojeda, a Varnish vet, is on the jiggers; and Molina, a James Beard Award winner, mans the grill. Surprise! There’s a mozzarella dish, with tomato and cucumber. But there are also potato taquitos, crispy shrimp and pork dumplings, and buttermilk biscuits with honey butter. The kitchen serves till 1 a.m., so we expect this to become a serious chefs hang.
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.
9. Maple Block Meat Co.
Culver City has scored one heck of a ‘cue joint, with pitmasters Adam Cole and Daniel Weinstock hailing from Ink. and Spago, respectively. All meat is butchered in-house from whole animals (Cole worked at shuttered boutique butcher Lindy & Grundy) before being smoked over local peach wood. The results include chopped pork shoulder, bone-in prime rib, a brisket sandwich, pork spare ribs, and more. Craft beer will wash it down, but expect the smoke will stick with you.
10. The Bellwether
The Valley’s food scene scores another point with the Bellwether, from executive chef Ted Hopson and beverage director Ann-Marie Verdi—both graduates of the Fathers’ Office/Lukshon line. Charred octopus- and Greek yogurt-topped tabbouleh and roasted carrots with chamomile-carrot jus are among the small plates, which share equal billing with drinks like the white negroni and house-infused booze. The look is sort of modern Tudor (yes, that’s a thing) thanks to architect Anna Henton.