Where to Eat Now: Hot ‘n’ Fresh L.A. Restaurants, 12/18

Get your fill of this week’s dining buzz

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. Otium
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.

2. Hanjip
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.

3. Baroo
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.

4. Charcoal
How do you follow up a two Michelin-star restaurant that has been the city’s fine dining monolith for the better part of two decades? If you’re Josiah Citrin, you might start by grilling up some chicken. At Charcoal—his beachside-ish, semi-casual restaurant that opened in Venice on Tuesday—the white tablecloth toting chef is cooking up large-format animal proteins like skirt steaks, pork chops, loup de mer, and a 48 oz dry-aged porterhouse (if you can pony up the $185) and serving them with a quartet of house-made condiments. Keeping with the theme of, you know, the name of the restaurant, most of the veggie dishes will be flame-kissed or imbued with smoke. There’s even a charcoal infused margarita.

5. 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.

6. 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. 

7. 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.

8. Viviane
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.

9. 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.

10. E.R.B.
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.