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.
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 in soft-open mode. 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 are Laurel Almerinda are doing the desserts.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Rice Bar
With Rice Bar, Santos Uy (owner of Papilles and Mignon) and Charles Olalia (Patina and Terranea Resort’s mar’sel) have brought a new star to DTLA’s burgeoning restaurant row on 7th Street. They’ve also added another notch in the belt to the city’s growing Filipino food scene. Get familiar with the Asian nation’s cuisine with Rice Bar specials like thick red sausage slices with pickled papaya and a fried egg on a bed of heirloom rice. A slice of Manila in the Financial District.
5. The Arthur J
David LeFevre’s latest addition to the Manhattan Beach dining scene is the chef’s take on a retro steak house. Wet and dry-aged USDA Prime and Certified Angus beef cooked over wood fire form the centerpiece of a menu that includes chef-driven on other staples (think a yuzu kosho butter steak topper, Emmental popovers, and even Swedish meatballs). A classically inspired cocktail list lubricates the throwback Beach Cities’ vibe.
Hidden in a small space behind Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese is the newest project from chef Eric Greenspan, an intimate European bistro called Maré. Pass through the sandwich shop up front to enjoy a quaint patio and dishes like clams in vadouvan green apple broth, fried smelt, and skirt steak with chimichurri sauce. The menu is as compact as the space, but packs a variety of bold flavors.
7. BierBeisl Imbiss
Bernhard Mairinger is introducing Downtown diners to his unique take on traditional Austrian cuisine. After his first restaurant—the original BierBeisl in Beverly Hills—shuttered in early 2014, Mairinger decided to revive the concept with a more casual, sausage-centric menu (In German, imbiss refers to a type of small food cart). The menu boasts a litany of Austrian sausages, beers, schnitzels, and, if you happen to be taller than six-foot-eight Mairinger, the food is on the haus.
8. 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.
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.
Akasha Richmond, chef and owner of Culver City’s Akasha, has expanded next door to recently vacated Ford’s Filling Station space to launch her new Indian fusion concept, which blends house-made curries and regional dishes from the subcontinent with lighter Californian fare. Expect lots of action from the kitchen’s wood-powered tandoori oven.