The rain is finally gone, and so are listless days spent ordering takeout to eat on the couch. Spring has arrived, with all the super blooms and music festivals — and that chaotic, pre-summer energy. Of course, that means there’s never been a better time to get back out to exploring LA’s restaurant scene. In that spirit, here are five of our favorite openings all over LA.
From the mastermind behind Petit Trois, Trois Mec, Saaam and most recently, Bar Restaurant (RIP!), Doug Rankin’s latest opening is an unobtrusive Pasadena spot that has no right to be as great as it is. A carrot salad leans Thai with lime leaf and coconut dressing, and braised spinach in brown butter will change your mind about eating your greens. By the time you get to the Ibérico pork chop, it’s clear that this Spanish/French bistro is more than just a precursor to an evening at the Pasadena Playhouse — it’s evidence of one of the most creative food minds in the city back at work and better than ever.
It’s all seafood, all the time at this inventive new coastal Mexican kitchen in the heart of one of the east side’s latest culinary hubs. From the owners of Cha Cha Cha, the indoor/outdoor vibe of the setting keeps things casual, while stunning plates like prawn tacos, aguachile, a myriad of tostadas (go for the scallop) and even a lobster torta are elevated with outstanding sauces. Since they only serve coastal fare, you might think the menu would be repetitive, but every dish is seasoned with a completely different flavor profile. Go for the large format zarandeados plate to get rice, black beans, avocado, escabeche, tortillas, salsas and quesadillas alongside a protein of your choice. And you might want to grab one of their sweetly balanced drinks to go along with your meal — the spice level gets deliciously high on some dishes.
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Though they technically only moved next door, it’s not every day that a 21-year-old West Hollywood staple gets a makeover, so consider this a rebirth of sorts. Menu-wise, the tried and true sushi rolls are still in place, as is the crispy rice with spicy tuna or wagyu, the salmon and black truffle carpaccio and the fluffy baked crab rolls (which go well with the leftover truffle sauce from the salmon). While vying to get a table at the elegant new dining room, don’t be surprised if multiple diners who are there to pick up takeout waltz past you with bags and bags full of rolls. We all know the biggest green flag for any sushi restaurant is when the takeout business is just as robust as the dine-in crowd.
This cozy little French bar popped up in Venice at just the right time, as the urge for steak frites, mussels and platefuls of soft farm cheese and crackers has hit us all. Start with the expertly grilled prawns or the zucchini beignets to be reminded that the best French food is also the simplest, or go for the whipped farmers cheese and bibb lettuce if you need something lighter. For mains, a fancified hot dog dubbed “l’haute dog” is already stealing hearts, but the steak frites have a bit of magic in them as well. Go for mussels if you’re in the mood for a less traditional coconut milk and lentil preparation, and finish everything off with a make-your-own-sundae array of toppings to anoint a tower of perfect vanilla soft serve.
The Call Mom hospitality group has a knack for resurrecting old-school classics, and La Dolce Vita is their latest venture. What was once a haven for Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack-era crew has become an elegant red sauce restaurant with classic red leather booths deep in the heart of Beverly Hills. With the spirit of Ol’ Blue Eyes ever-present — particularly at his old favorite table, demarcated with a placard — the menu is full of Italian staples that range from spaghetti and meatballs to stuffed manicotti for four and veal parmigiana. Needless to say, the cocktails are stiff and cold, and dining here is much more an occasion than just a meal.
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