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. Officine BRERA
This is the second venture from the team that opened Factory Kitchen back in 2013, and, this time, they’re all about the meats. And traditional Northern Italian food. But mainly meats. Tables at the expansive Arts District space, which was previously a warehouse, will be filled with carnivore-friendly dishes like quail with lardo and fennel ragu and braised beef shoulder with anchovy oil, alongside a few veggie options like the gnocchi with castelmagno fonduta. But don’t get married to those dishes—chef Angelo Auriana will be changing the menu often.
2. Knead and Co. Pasta Bar
Finally, you don’t have to go all the way to Pasadena to get Bruce Kalman’s pasta in your mouth. The Union chef opened up his long-awaited Grand Central Market stall serving Italian staples like cavatelli with fennel sausage, bucatini all’amatriciana, and, of course, meatballs with Sunday gravy. The best part is—other than being able to chase your cannoli with a scoop of nearby McConnell’s ice cream—the bowls of pasta start at just $8. And if there’s one thing that Kalman does as well as pasta, it’s porchetta, which Knead and Co. is serving up French dip-style.
3. Kali Restaurant
Kevin Meehan’s roving dinner pop up, Kali Dining, is going brick and mortar along with a little help from friend Drew Langley, formerly the wine director at Providence. Meehan, who used to work at Patina, doubling down on the Michelin creds, is cooking up a $65 tasting menu featuring the likes of rockfish crudo with citrus, green olives, pink peppercorns, and nasturtium; escargot toast points; and tenderloin with burnt onion and fingerling potatoes. Trying to get away from the white tablecloth stuffiness typically associated with tweezer-ized tasting menus, Kali will also be offering dishes à la carte for locals peeking in for a snack.
The burger patties are cut with whole grains, the buns are long-fermented using koji—a cultured grain used in soy sauce production—and the typical soda fountain is replaced with a list of aguas frescas. LocoL is not your typical fast food restaurant, which is why a line of customers has been wrapped around the Watts restaurant every day since it opened. Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson’s revolutionary new quick-serve is trying to promote health over grease while still churning out affordable, top notch munchie-food, resulting in items like a veggie-based chili bowl and a $4 fried chicken sandwich with buttermilk slaw. More importantly, the chef duo is trying to empower the community by hiring all local employees.
5. 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.
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.
10. 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.