The 5 Best Restaurants That Opened in LA This January
Oysters, vampire tacos and "the Wagyu of pork." Let's review.
To keep tabs on every Los Angeles restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a monthly rundown of the five (or so) must-know spots that have swung wide their doors in the past thirty (or so). Let’s eat.
Although we strive to keep tabs on all of the new, worthwhile restaurant openings in Los Angeles, our territory is vast, and sometimes, best good ones slip through the cracks.
One such spot is Bar Avalon, a hidden gem located in the back corner of a strip mall in Echo Park. It opened last summer, a time when many big-name chefs were also launching new restaurants. But little-known places like Bar Avalon deserve some love, too: they do a delicious pork chop as well as an interesting Indian dessert made of carrots and coconut cream that’s been embedded in our memory ever since.
It’s among the five restaurants you’ll find in this month’s Table Stakes. Also on the menu: the Border Grill gals opened an all-day joint with a mean Vampiro Taco and Red Herring’s downtown location is serving up savory sweetbreads. But we’ll start with oysters and lamb meatballs …
You’re here because: You’re on a date or one-on-one with a friend. There aren’t enough cozy bars like the Found Oyster in LA. The place is just the bar and some two-tops that hug the wall. The energy is hopping, and the friendly servers along with the tunes will buoy anyone’s spirits.
You’re dining on: The lobster roll is mandatory. They boil the crustacean then slow-cook it again in a reduction that renders it insanely succulent before packing it into a warm, pillowy potato roll. The oysters come with a cilantro mignonette that’s co-owner Adam Weisblatt’s mom’s recipe, a fresh take on a classic sauce. The tostada is another fun item, and perhaps the most LA-centric dish. The clam chowder has a dash of sherry on top, a nod to Chef Ari Kolender’s Charleston roots. We’ll be back soon to try their little neck clams, which had sold out by 7:00 p.m., if that tells you anything.
4880 Fountain Ave. (map)
You’re here because: You’ve got a group dinner with friends. This is a very comfortable and convivial restaurant, the sort of spot where you can lean into the pillowed benches and have easy conversations with your waiter.
You’re dining on: Dishes like lamb meatballs and whipped goat cheese with harissa have an Afro-Mediterranean feel, while the kofta and the chickpeas all take you eastward. The octopus lists toward Spain. In other words, the menu has the multicultural stamp that most great LA restaurants do.
1539 Sunset Blvd. (map)
You’re here because: You’re going out with friends. This is a great location for anyone hitting the Broad, Walt Disney Hall, etc. And at the same time it’s a stones throw to Seven Grand and the new Alamo Drafthouse movie theater.
You’re dining on: Sweetbreads. You don’t see enough sweetbreads on menus these days, and Chef Dave Woodall uses nice, thin cuts that are pan-fried and placed over stewed chickpea hummus that’s creamy enough to fool you that you’re eating potatoes. The mackerel and the chocolate torte are other standouts.
770 Grand Ave. (map)
You’re here because: You want a great casual date spot (for two or more), where you can hear each other speak over the Albert King riffs while savoring some tasty food and well curated wines.
You’re dining on: The pork chop. Bar Avalon uses a Mangalitsa pig, an Eastern European breed that owner Nathaniel Muñoz quips is “the Wagyu of pork.” It does have some sensational fat on it, and Muñoz and co. cut it with pickled green tomatoes and mustard seed, which is added after they’ve aged it a bit and added some smoke before grilling the bad boy. It’s heavenly. Also divine? Their Carrot Halwa, an Indian-style dessert that gives carrot cake a run for its money. They shave carrots and cook them down in coconut milk and cardamon, then serve it with whipped coconut cream (so it’s vegan).
2112 Sunset Blvd. (map)
You’re here because: Too many reasons. This is the all-day place Santa Monica needed. You could see coming here for a quick lunch or breakfast (counter service), a business lunch, drinks (hopping bar), dinner with friends or a boozy brunch.
You’re dining on: Depends on your mood. If you’re looking for something healthy, the ensalada del campo is a mixed green salad with veggies and not-too-much quinoa (we add salmon). It’s straight-from-the-farm-fresh, delicately dressed and doesn’t make you feel like you’re eating as healthy as you are. On the other end of the spectrum, the vampiro tacos are a Tijuana-inspired dish in which they fry the cheese into the tortilla before adding steak, shrimp and a macha salsa that’s both spicy and garlicy — it’s mind-blowingly delicious.
1920 Santa Monica Blvd. (map)