Because every Angeleno loves to eat, even if he has to valet, we bring you Table Stakes: a series that answers man’s eternally recurring question (“Uh, what’s new?”), and recurs once every lunar cycle or so. Bon appétit.
That’s the number of restaurants we hit this year for Table Stakes.
Conclusions: good year for craft cocktails, seafood and eating outside. Bad year for our waistbands.
From tamales stuffed with lamb neck to crossfire-broiled burgers to a hickory-grilled short rib of Flintstonian proportions, here are the best highlights from a year’s worth of Table Stakes.
Dine on and drink well, fellas.
Chef Ray Garcia may prep his corn tortillas in the traditional fashion at Broken Spanish, but beyond that, tradition gets a serious kick in the pants: as in, he serves them alongside a spreadable, salted fat or savory refried lentils with Oaxacan cheese. The ambience inside is as convivial as it gets, with windows and seats that open to the street. As for what to try? You can’t go wrong with the rabanada, aka foie gras spread on an eggy pan dolce that expertly treads the line between sweet and savory. The lamb neck tamale is rich and soft and something your correspondent has actually dreamt about. This spot goes at the top for good reason.
1050 S. Flower St., (213) 749-1460, (map)
The first time we went to Cassia, we thought, “Okay, cool, but... ” Upon a few return visits, though, we can’t recommend Chef Bryant Ng’s uber-modern take on Asian fusion highly enough. Don’t miss: the charcuterie fried rice and egg custard with sea urchin roe. And as an added bonus, it’s right next door to Esters, a wine bar ideal for pre- or post-prandial drinks.
1314 7th Street, (310) 393-6699, (map)
The first thing you’ll notice at Odys & Penelope is the smell: the place reeks (in the best possible way) of the hickory wood that Chef Quinn Hatfield imports from out-of-state so that his grilled meats have the same kick-ass flavor as those in his native North Carolina. The massive bone-in short-rib is a must-taste. And the sides — creamy cauliflower principle among them — always amaze. Make sure you leave room for Chef Karen Hatfield’s desserts, too.
127 La Brea Avenue, (323) 939-1033, (map)
What we love most about Chef Andrew Kirschner’s Santa Monica Yacht Club is how he pairs Pacific influences (from California to Thailand) with the Italian stylings associated with New York's take on surf for a style that is distinctly Californian. Required eating: the striped bass ceviche, served Kilawin-style with red chilies and curry in a chilled coconut. Pro tip: carve some of the chalky white coconut meat onto your spoon alongside a hunk of tender, fresh-caught bass to make your eyes roll back in your head. The Mai Tais pair nicely with everything.
620 Santa Monica Blvd., (310) 587-3330, (map)
Head through the kitchen of Chef Eric Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese and you’re in Maré, a quaint, Spanish-style outdoor restaurant that closes
when if it rains. Lots to share here. Plan on making a mess of your table with a couple pots of shellfish and broth and the crispy but tender branzino. Then plan enter the Melrose Umbrella Club via the backdoor. Also, don’t plan on driving. Heavy pours lie ahead.
7461 Melrose Ave, (323) 592-3226, (map)
Christine Page (Short Order) bought the naming rights, crossfire broiler and patty maker from classic Koreatown cafeteria Cassell’s Hamburgers and relocated it to the Normandie Hotel. The burgers are ground in-house from prime beef and sandwiched between Parker House buns. Soft. Rich. Understated. We love the greasy patty melt, too. And that banana chocolate pie on display in the pie case? Otherworldly.
3600 West 6th St., (213) 387-5502, (map)
Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Brunch. Late night. An afternoon of drinking and eating with intermittent beach strolls. You can knock out all the above at Viviane, the Continental French spot in the newly renovated Avalon Hotel. Chef Michael Hung is confiting duck, rolling a mean ricotta ravioli and doing a Kabocha squash and tofu ragu that’ll make a vegetarian of the most red-blooded of eaters, if only for a day. And pineman Ryan Wainwright’s cocktails? Strong but delicious. Trend alert: your patio for summer 2016.
9400 West Olympic Blvd, (310) 407-7791, (map)