By Mijune Pak
Three top dining experiences in the City of Angels
LA is one of my favourite cities to dine, and so I visit annually. It offers a global perspective in dining with its culturally diverse offerings and international chefs.
And even the Michelin Guide recognizes it. After nearly a decade, the Michelin Guide returned to Los Angeles last year.
Two of my favourite LA restaurants, Somni and Vespertine, achieved a well-deserved two Michelin Stars, but the tough reservations and fast-to-sell-out tickets may require back-up plans for dining enthusiasts.
Nonetheless, I wouldn’t call any of the following recommendations “back-up plans” because all three are worthy of experiencing when visiting LA.
Nightshade: New to the LA dining scene, Nightshade, by Bravo Top Chef winner Mei Lin, opened in January of 2019. You might think I’m biased since I am part of the Top Chef family, but believe the hype. This restaurant has stars and is reaching for one too.
Big bold flavours, well-seasoned food and a beautiful room, it offers the whole package. Some of chef and owner Lin’s flavours reflect her Chinese heritage, so I was charmed by references to childhood dishes. The food is comforting, yet elegant and refined, and the desserts are worth a visit alone. They are modern and avant-garde in style, inspired in flavour, and labour-intensive in execution. Pastry chef Max Boonthanakit is one to watch.
Recommendations: Oysters with Passion Fruit Leche de Tigre, Hokkaido Scallops with Coconut Vinaigrette, Prawn Toast with Cantonese Curry, Bone-in Angus Short Rib Lettuce Wraps and the Almond Sorbet.
The Bazaar by José Andrés: This is one of the two fantastic restaurants located inside the SLS Beverly Hills hotel. Somni is the other, but with only 10 precious seats and two seatings a night, it’s a formal occasion that requires planning.
The Bazaar by José Andrés has two locations, but this one is the original, and both offer different concepts. It’s known for molecular gastronomy and playful twists on traditional snacks and Spanish tapas. The whole experience is theatrical with a lively nightlife crowd and swanky Beverly Hills ambience.
The signature tasting menus are very generous and it’s ideal to come with four people since the menu is designed for four. However, it’s priced the same for two to four people and the portions do not change, so it’s really an incredible offer for any party size.
Recommendations: One of the tasting menus will cover many of chef José Andrés’ greatest hits, but favourites include: Beef Tartare, “Not Your Everyday” Caprese Salad, Philly Cheesesteak and Wild Mushroom Rice.
Capo: There are many al forno-style steakhouses and Italian restaurants in LA, but this is one of the Santa Monica local favourites. Capo serves modern and traditional Italian cuisine with almost half the dishes cooked over the wood-fired oven. The pastas are handmade, ambience cosy and food consistent with a solid wine list, yet steep in price.
Recommendations: Romaine Al Forno Caesar Style, White Corn Ravioli, Veal Scaloppini, and The California “Long” Short Rib.
There are endless restaurants to celebrate in LA and programs like dineL.A. help make dining out more accessible. This 15-day dining event — which occurs twice a year — showcases many of LA’s finest restaurants, embracing various neighbourhoods throughout the city. In the summer of 2019, a record-breaking 433 restaurants participated in dineL.A.
Where to stay: SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Beverly Hills. Not only is it convenient to have excellent restaurants at the hotel, but luxury shopping and other fine restaurants are also within walking distance. The rooms are spacious, stylish and chic, and Condé Nast Traveler readers rank it among their top three hotels in LA.