The Best Meals We’ve Eaten in LA So Far This Year

From the country’s best pork chop to a 65-ounce wagyu steak

August 8, 2023 6:15 am
The Palm's lobster dinner special
The Palm's lobster dinner special
The Palm

For over 20 years, a steady stream of regulars have booked tables every night at Jar, an unassuming fine-dining outpost on Beverly Blvd. In a world where TikTok personalities and ever-savvier diners demand something shiny, bright and new every week, trends have washed over this particular corner of Beverly Hills without impact. Here, chef Suzanne Tracht’s menu reigns: pot roast, whole fishes, mussels, Kansas City steak, ribeyes and most importantly, her pork chop. 

The Jar Char Sui Pork Chop has been praised before. It was featured on the Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Cooking Channel, and Jonathan Gold once wrote that “Tracht cooks as if pork chops have always been cured like Cantonese char siu.” In fact, this dish actually precedes Jar; before opening the restaurant, Tracht operated an Asian-fusion spot called Jozu alongside Preech Narkthong, who became her longtime chef de cuisine at Jar. The pork chop is a dish they ported over from that menu, and with good cause. The marinade process turns this Berkshire pork into something so tender it makes a bite of perfectly salty, tender ribeye eaten right after seem tough.

We spend plenty of time hailing the next great new restaurant — but an important part of supporting a vibrant local dining culture is honoring the veterans among us. Chefs like Tracht, who has been delivering the same unflagging excellence for two decades and counting, deserve the spotlight, too. With that in mind, here are some of the best meals to be had in Los Angeles in 2023 so far, with special interest given to institutions. 

Jar's Char Siu Pork Chop
Jar’s Char Siu Pork Chop

Restaurant: Jar

What you’re eating: Char Sui Pork Chop

Served alone on the plate, with a single half onion filled with oil and herbs, this succulent, char-grilled pork chop has been marinated within an inch of its life. And then some. All that deliberate, delicious soaking created a piece of meat that’s tender enough to completely reconfigure your idea of what a pork chop tastes like. For sides, savvy diners go for balance: marinated pea tendrils, a hit of umami-laden duck fried rice and the signature light and crispy onion rings. 

Restaurant: Osteria Mamma

What you’re eating: Tableside cacio e pepe prepared in a cheese wheel 

This dish was a daily special during my most recent dine, so availability may vary, but there are few things more quintessentially Italian than a waiter wheeling his cart of cheese over to your table with a slight rush in his step so the noodles don’t go cold. This is cacio e pepe in its finest state: salty from the cheese, with perfectly al dente fresh pasta and satisfying chunks of ground black pepper. Since 2010, Osteria Mamma has been a family-owned, authentic Italian joint in the no-man’s-land between Hollywood and Silverlake. But they’ve made the area their own, and this lovely spot is one of the absolute best places to grab a real sit-down lunch on the east side. 

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tomahawk wagyu steak
Leña’s tomahawk wagyu steak

Restaurant: Leña at Sendero

What you’re eating: A 65-ounce Australian double tomahawk wagyu steak, with tableside carving, a choice of four sides, sauces and pebete (Argentinian soft wheat buns) 

Sendero might be a newcomer, but chef Kevin Luzande cooks like he wants to get the city’s attention — and keep it for the next 20 years. Located on the 24th floor of The Ritz-Carlton hotel in downtown Los Angeles, both the steakhouse Leña and another concept, the seafood-focused Corteza, offer views alongside contemporary Mexican and Argentinian preparations. But the trophy goes to the double tomahawk, with all the pomp and circumstance of tableside slicing and an army of sides and sauces — plus a skillet of pebete, a Parker roll dupe that outperforms the original. 

The Palm's lobster dinner special
The Palm’s lobster dinner special
The Palm

Restaurant: The Palm 

What you’re eating: The lobster dinner special 

The Palm has been an institution for so long that Fred Astaire reportedly danced on the bar at the original West Hollywood location near Dan Tana’s. Now, it’s spread across the country, but the Beverly Hills location has the history and legacy of service that will make you feel like you’re in a ’60s movie. If the lobster special isn’t on when you go, create it yourself with an order of lobster bisque and Caesar salad to start, followed by a jumbo lobster with a vat of clarified butter on the side for maximal dipping pleasure. Add a steak, creamed spinach or their “half and half” appetizer for onion straws and homemade potato chips if you crave more crunch. The lobster, though, is the showstopper here: Eager waiters will even bib you up themselves before you start cracking claws; that’s how old school this place is.

Best Bet's Godzilla pizza
Best Bet’s Godzilla pizza
Best Bet

Restaurant: Best Bet Pizzeria

What you’re eating: The Godzilla pizza 

There’s pizza, and then there’s mad-scientist, developed-recipes-for-years, makes-three-different-styles-of-pie, minimum-five-disparate-ingredients-included pizza. If you bet chef Jason Neroni makes the former, you’d be correct. Jesus Christ, can this man make a pizza! Neroni, of Venice stalwart The Rose, makes pizza the way some chefs work on tasting menu layouts, or dry-aged beef cuts: He brings a level of precision and mastery that goes so far beyond the idea of a dollar slice it’s almost laughable. 

The Godzilla is my current favorite pick, which might morph considering the Culver City spot hasn’t been open long. On this monster, a wood-fired crust comes alive with green garlic sausage, bacon and pepperoni, miso mayo, black garlic sauce and togarashi to top it all off. It is a meat lover’s colossus, but the true test of excellence? The crust holds up under the weight of those toppings, so each bite is a thrill.


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