The 6 Best Restaurants That Opened in LA This Spring
From a glitzy Peruvian-Chinese hybrid to a seafood shack in Silver Lake, in-house dining is very much back
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.
Our last Table Stakes column, showcasing L.A.’s best and brightest new restaurants, ran on February 28, 2020.
Obviously, during the 14 months that followed, the restaurant industry has undergone cataclysmic changes — with far more restaurant closings than openings to announce. And even though some formidable outliers soldiered on, MacGyvering a way to keep their doors open, those stalwarts were the exception to an apocalyptic rule.
Luckily, things are now looking up for the dining world — and for the L.A. residents who love to keep in the know about all the brand new eating options around them. This month’s installment focuses on the most exciting new restaurants of the past few weeks and months.
The premise: With friends like Solange Knowles already on board and the kind of interiors that make people drive slow to look in the windows, fashion darling and Opening Ceremony co-founder Humberto Leon’s new spot in Eagle Rock is the name on every LA foodie’s lips. Landing a spot on CN Traveler’s list of the world’s best new restaurants, the kitchen’s Peruvian-Chinese fusion is somehow good enough to top even the dining room’s splashy decor and the owner’s famous friends.
What you’re eating: Mapo tofu, full stop. Some of the best in the city, and it even uses the vegan substitute OmniPork without carnivores noticing a difference. The braised spare ribs are also unmissable, cooked to fall-off-the-bone succulence and so distractingly good that eating with your hands won’t even feel embarrassing. Dan dan mian noodles were also excellent, as were the black pepper prawns served head on. For traditional consumption rules, lose the head before eating, but keep the rest of the shell on — it locks in flavor. Finish it all off with the surprising, salty-sweet black sesame cheesecake tart. Just keep in mind that Chifa doesn’t have their liquor license yet, so you’ll have to imbibe somewhere else later on. Plan accordingly.
The premise: Mei Lin’s more formal sit-down restaurant, Nightshade, had been closed for months due to the pandemic when she finally decided to bite the bullet and open Daybird, the fast casual spot she’d been prepping with partner Francis Miranda. Initially slated to open in August 2020, Lin delayed her opening until this spring. As soon as the fried chicken cafe opened for takeout in Silver Lake Plaza, a line had already formed. Whether you go for chicken tenders or the gargantuan sandwich, make sure to specify your spice level or risk a world of pain.
What you’re eating: You can technically get just the tenders here, but there’s simply no reason not to go for the sandwich. Served on a fluffy milk bread bun with a slaw of green and red cabbage, cilantro and pickled chilis, the fried chicken thigh itself is so big it extends so far out of the bun it’s like an extra tender or two. And there’s a reason people stand in line for it, the tender, crispy, spicy chicken comes together with the veggies and bun for a God-level bite. The spice ranges are: No Heat, Mild, Medium, Hot and Extreme — but even medium was spicy for me, a hot sauce lover, so tread lightly. Also, definitely pay the extra 50 cents for either the habanero ranch, Daybird sauce (like chipotle mayo), or hot honey; the sandwich is a little too dry without it.
The Blvd Privé
The premise: If you’re looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion but are still feeling unsure about venturing back indoors, look no further than the Beverly Wilshire hotel’s clever outdoor popup, The Blvd Privé. Did I mention that your dinner will be illuminated by gas lamps imported from a castle in Edinburgh at a table sitting atop polished cobblestones? Sidewalk tables and cheap, portable chairs have made dining during COVID-19 sometimes feel like a glorified picnic setup, but this is the place to come for outdoor elegance.
What you’re eating: It’s a Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, so you really can’t go wrong. Splurge for a glass of bubbly before the appetizer course to pair with creamy burrata, and continue the decadence theme with classics like cacio e pepe or a bone-in ribeye, topped off with a side of lobster mac and cheese. For dessert, simply return to the cocktail menu and finish the evening with an expertly-prepared negroni, sidecar, or mojito. Sure, we’ve all learned how to shake together a drink at home, but drinking an expensive cocktail made by a real mixologist in a chic environment hits different post-pandemic.
The premise: Restaurateur Scott Cooper wanted to open a spot that wanders through cuisines the way seasoned travelers like to skip through different countries — and his cozy new spot in El Segundo does just that. Nomad Eatery cherrypicks all the best dishes from the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and Latin America, paying homage to the indigenouous preparations and updating them with modern twists. Cooper’s years of backpacking around the globe obviously paid off, and the result is an oh-so satisfying fusion concept with dynamic coursing options and something for everyone.
What you’re eating: Starters, skewers, and hand-helds (read: burgers and wraps) are all presented as snackable options alongside main dishes, and these periphery items are not to be missed. Between the crispy coconut jumbo shrimp with mango-peach chutney and a skewered lamb wrap doused in parsley and tahini, it’s easy to get caught up on the first course. But venture on for the crispy whole branzino, and make sure to pair it with a pateras like the green papaya salad for good measure.
The Garden at Manuela
The premise: One of the worst things about the pandemic has been the lack of casual, spontaneous spots to grab a drink (plus maybe a nibble), and just sit and linger with friends indefinitely. The Garden at Manuela seeks to eliminate all the formality that scarcity can bring on, offering Manuela patrons a cozy spot to wait for their tables or get a nightcap after their CDC-recommended 90-minute limit expires, while also drawing in the more laissez-faire downtown patrons who don’t want to deal with the rigamarole of a dinner res. You will be sitting under the stars, next to the chicken coop, but with the chef’s own hip-hop playlist blasting and fellow wanderers settling in for another round of drinks, the vibe is high.
What you’re eating: Grilled chili de arbol chicken served over fries with bread and butter pickles and white barbecue sauce reads like a strange combo, but it’s the perfect accompaniment to a few glasses of orange wine sangria or a couple rounds of herbaceous gimlets. If you want to stay away from the stronger stuff, grab a Barcelona — vermouth with an olive, an orange peel, and a massive cube of ice. But even after a few of those, more snacks like shrimp and grits or black beans with queso fresco and chips will do nicely.
The premise: Replacing the former tenant El Siete Mares with an updated mariscos concept, this new seafood snack shack from the Guisado team is quickly earning its stripes as one of the neighborhood’s go-to joints for a casual meal or a mess of cheap, delicious takeout. With a simple six-item menu and nothing over $20, they opened just in time for lounging during the summer months.
What you’re eating: Papas taquitos are the perfect deep-fried take on potato tacos, smothered in red salsa and sliced avocado. Pair these with the half-moon quesadillas packed with tender shrimp and gooey Monterey jack, then dipped in spicy brown salsa on the side. If you’re still hungry, grab a tostada stacked with ceviche — either fish, shrimp or mixto — and refresh your palate with something citrusy and fresh. All that will barely run you $15, so keep this place in mind as a saving grace when your bank account is running low.
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