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.
Former Wilshire executive chef, Mélisse saucier, and Top Chef alum Nyesha Arrington now has a spot of her own in tony Venice Beach. The produce-forward, progressive Californian menu features dishes like the coctel mixto with tomato-watermelon jus and brick chicken with roasted apricots. But Arrington is also cooking fare that hits closer to home: The slow-braised bulgogi short rib and lamb belly wontons are an homage to her mother’s Korean heritage. Wife and husband development team—and first-time restaurateurs—Breegan and Kristian Vallas helped carve some tasteful beachside swagger into the old Canali Café space.
Starting his official comeback tour is Ricardo Zarate, once the king of L.A.’s Peruvian food scene who lost his restaurants Paiche and Mo-Chica in a rather dramatic fall last year. He’s already back consulting on the menu at Smoke.Oil.Salt, and Once (pronounced ON-seh) is his brand new Peruvian pop-up taking place every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Santino’s in Santa Monica. A nightly a la carte menu will feature 11 Peruvian-esque small plates like lomo saltado, cheviches, and tiraditos.
We were crushed when Brynt Ng’s Spice Table closed in DTLA almost two years ago (to make way for a subway station). Finally, we have a reprieve: Cassia, his new Santa Monica spot, is now open. A collaboration between Ng, his wife Kim Luu-Ng, Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, Cassia has the chilled seafood bar and charcuterie plates you’d expect from a French brasserie along with Ng’s take on Southeast Asian specialties, like kaya toast, jellyfish salad, and pot-au-feu, what Ng calls “a precursor to pho” that includes short ribs, bone marrow, and veggies. Zoe and Laurel Almerinda are doing the desserts.
4. Hatchet Hall
We may finally be at a point where Brian Dunsmoor and Jonathan Strader can no longer be referred to as “the guys from Hart & the Hunter.” At Hatchet Hall—situated in the grand Culver City space that was formerly home to Waterloo & City—chef Dunsmoor takes on a manly hunter-fisher menu heavy with game (grilled rabbit, tea-smoked duck, roasted game hen), as well as local stone crab, ridgeback prawns, oysters, and market produce. The through line is the wood-fired grill that lends a smoky char to most dishes. Take a seat at the “Old Man Bar” for a root beer G&T.
5. Broken Spanish
It’s fitting that the former home of Jon Sedlar’s Rivera—which brought modern Mexican cuisine to the forefront in 2009—is where chef Ray Garcia is now serving up his own contemporary take on the foods of his heritage. Heirloom corn tortillas come smeared with beans or what the chef calls carnitas fat. The same pedigreed masa forms the bulk of tamales stuffed with lamb neck and oyster mushrooms or peas, favas, and the herb hoja santa. There’s a whole slow-roasted lamb’s draped in pickled onion and cabbage, but also a version of a chile relleno, stuffed with kale, lemon, and sauerkraut. How perfectly L.A.
How many wine shops sport polished art deco digs and a menu of wine soakers from Rustic Canyon’s Jeremy Fox? One—this one. Kathryn and Tug Coker are behind the stuff in the bottle, which you can take home to drink with a small selection of take-out sustenance or sip there with charcuterie, kouign aman cheese twists, a summer panzanella, and potted smoked local sablefish with pickled ramps.
7. Jon & Vinny’s
One of the most anticipated openings of the past few weeks was Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s all-day Italian restaurant on Fairfax, and we’re still excited. The menu focuses on classic red-sauce fare, including crisp-crust pizza, fresh pasta with bolognese, and meatballs. There’s tiramisu for dessert. Tucked behind the dining room is where you’ll find Helen’s, a small wine shop.
8. Dudley Market
Hopping on the multi-concept restaurant-market locomotive is Jesse Barber (formerly of Barnyard), the chef behind the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and grab-and-go menus at this all-day spot. In the morning there’s avocado toast, bien sûr, and a classic omelet with chives and rapini. Lunch brings a crab Louie salad and banh mi smeared with chicken liver and pork rillettes. The scene gets heavy at night, when pork loin and lamb belly are served in a 20-seat dining room. Shelves are lined with gourmet granolas and olive oils for those with fancy pantry needs.
9. 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.
L.A.-native Shawn Pham returns from a four-year sojourn in Vietnam to open Simbal in Little Tokyo. Sweetbreads glazed in fish sauce and a short rib pot pie perfumed with lemongrass an annatto reflect Pham’s pedigree, which includes stints at Sona, Craft, and the French Laundry. Fermented tofu-marinated duck and tamarind fish soup bobbing with far-flung aromatics like sawtooth herb and rice paddy herb speak to his time in the Far East. Look forward to sherry cocktails and tropical sweets.