There’s a different kind of energy buzzing in LA this month. Masks are dropping (for some), and even the most reluctant are venturing back out into the world for a quick bite or to celebrate a special occasion. In the dining world, old favorites popping up in new neighborhoods, and old spaces playing host to brand-new concepts. There’s a sense that people are ready to dine again, and restaurants are stepping up with their A-game to welcome guests back.
Here are our picks for some of the best openings in the last month or so.
Married chefs Katianna and John Hong have years of experience at Michelin-starred and James Beard-honored restaurants between the two of them, including Melisse, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Alinea, and The Charter Oak. Now, the couple has struck out on their own, with all that fine-dining background informing their more casual new project, Yangban Society. Playfully named after the Korean aristocratic ruling class, this downtown deli and mini-mart is anything but snobbish — but the food is still fit for a king. Twice fried, soy-garlic wings, honey walnut carrots and braised beef “galbi” ribs are just a few of the delights this menu holds. Plus, a new “Yangban-style” dinner option beginning in late March offers guests a family-style, prix-fixe curated by the owners, combining hot dishes and deli favorites like housemade pickles and pea shoot salad. Don’t forget to pop by the mini-mart before dinner for cold beverages, locally made products from Asian vendors, and — why not? — a Korean face mask or two.
Vinyl District (Hollywood)
Romain Zago knows hospitality — his Miami Beach hot spots Mynt Lounge and Myn-tu have made that abundantly clear. But Zago’s flair for bringing dining and nightlife together has never been more self-assured than at his Hollywood “clubstaurant” MainRo. Here, the food is not simply an afterthought, but an elegant mix of Japanese, French, and Vietnamese dishes, all served with a dancer floating and flying on a trapeze just above your head. With an abundance of high-tech chandeliers outfitted with digital screens, the supper club is a flickering mecca of drinks, dancers, and dishes. Wagyu and truffle “nigiri” takes sushi and turns it on its head, while seafood favorites like rock shrimp and yellowtail hamachi are essential. Finish with a bone-in tomahawk and some martinis to keep your energy high for a night of dancing, as the dinner portion of the evening fades and the club takes over.
Fans of Uncool’s previous iteration as Uncool Burgers on Larchmont will be thrilled the fast casual burger joint has re-opened in West Hollywood — this time, complete with a full bar, with drinks designed by Ice & Alchemy’s Joshua Suchan. Keeping in mind the many dietary restrictions of our city’s most conscientious eaters, chef Jonathan Katz has crafted a rice flour batter for all his fried chicken offerings — including a whopping 17 kinds of wings. That’s gluten-free indulgence that tastes exactly like the real thing — perhaps just a little on the crunchier side. Get them Chamoy-style for a surprising salty-sour twist, and make any visit an instant hit with an order of the massive quesobirria fries. That’s brisket, chipotle aioli, and mozzarella on your potato of choosing, fry or tot.
It’s only fitting that this hand roll staple is setting up shop in one of the city’s best neighborhoods for Asian cuisine. Just do yourself a favor — don’t drive to K-Town; the parking remains practically impossible to deal with. Instead, get in an Uber and roll up to the counter at KazuNori’s sixth location on 6th Street and Kenmore. As part of Sushi Nozawa Group’s Sugarfish empire, KazuNori continues to serve some of the best hand rolls in the city, with set menus that are surprisingly affordable. Go with a five roll set to try lobster and crab along with more standard toro and yellowtail offerings. This new location also features the debut of the Ankimo hand roll, made with monkfish liver and housemade miso, for more adventurous eaters. And since you didn’t drive, round the visit out with some sake and Sapporo.
Taking over the old Nightshade location, chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George have turned the space into one of the best (and prettiest) French restaurants in Los Angeles. With decadent classics punctuated by influences from Southeast Asia, courtesy of both chefs’ backgrounds, a saucy tartare comes with tempura herbs on the side instead of bread, the lobster is dressed in coral bisque, and a chicken au jus is the platonic ideal of the dish, served in thick slices and tempered with thyme. Boonthanakit, who previously served as the pastry chef at Nightshade, makes the dessert menu one of the best parts of the meal with a standout chocolate hazelnut souffle in a teacup and marzipan with Meyer lemon ice cream. Don’t miss the sophisticated Provence martini: a vodka and vermouth drink washed with olive oil and herbs, served with martini accoutrement and a big enough sidecar that it amounts to two drinks, not one.
This article was featured in the InsideHook LA newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Southland.