The best things in life are often hiding right under your nose.
In the world of L.A. restaurants, that sometimes means a bar within a bar. Or a talented toque tucked into a seedy strip mall. Or a vegan magician tinkering away on the third floor of a Japanese shopping center.
These are those places. Nothing as exclusive as, say, Totoraku, but every bit as good and capable of sating your hankerings while impressing fellow diners.
When they ask how the hell you found out about these places, just say, "I know a guy."
Kato is the newest restaurant to this list, and should be at the top of yours. As of now, the tiny boîte doesn’t serve booze. But it does set a five-course meal for $48 that is exquisite and won’t leave you hungry so long as you do the two add-ons: pork rice and a truffle burrata grilled cheese on a brioche bun.
Necco is our new go-to restaurant for a healthy, delicious meal. It’s also very romantic, so it works well for a date night. Meat and sushi are on the menu, but it’s Chef Kenji’s vegan dishes that will blow your mind. To wit: Satoimo agedashi, aka deep-fried mashed taro with edamame and shiitake mushroom in shojin dashi stock.
Another vegan pick, Shojin is a Japanese restaurant that makes reducing the amount of meat in your diet easy as (dairy-free) pie. Just try the dynamite roll and marvel at how incredible it is that various fish and meat flavors and textures can be replicated with vegetables. Don’t forget to order the tempora shishito peppers.
Marvin is the neighborhood French bistro that should be on your short list. Need to grab a glass of vino with an old friend? Visit their small bar. Need some comfort food? There’s a chicken roasting for you. Need a last minute romantic dinner? Call them.
The bartenders at Room 31 have mixed for many of the hot spots downtown, and they recently opened this back-room haunt behind 5 Line Tavern, a sports bar. Room 5 is the opposite: it features seasonal mixology and a mellow vibe. But the two pair well, especially for those of us who like a good cocktail and football.
Daily Dose is far from new. But it’s often overlooked because A) it’s tucked in an off-the-beaten-path alley in the Arts District and B) its kitchen looks too small to crank out high-quality food. But it does so in spades. Stop here for the Jive Turkey next time you’re in the Arts District, or just go for a lazy breakfast.