When it comes to food culture, Los Angeles can be tough to define.
New Orleans has Creole. Kansas City has barbecue. Charleston has Lowcountry. But there’s really no easy shorthand for Los Angeles cuisine.
It’s a great place to eat, of course, with its ocean-side location making it an easy access point for fresh ingredients. And as a major international cultural center – including high Korean, Mexican, and Pacific Island populations – some of the world’s greatest chefs call Los Angeles home.
So it’s no surprise that our list of Los Angeles’ 15 Best Restaurants is not only loaded with some of the top spots in the nation — an impressive 10 of them made our 101 Best Restaurants list released earlier this year — but that every corner of the globe is covered on our countdown.
Asia is represented by Japanese sushi master Nobu Matsuhisa, whose longtime sushi-focused Matsuhisa lands on our list, as well as Thai spots Jitlada and Night + Market, and East-meets-West Asian-fusion restaurant Hinoki & The Bird.
From Europe, there’s upscale Italian, with kissing-cousin Mario Batali spots Chi Spacca and Osteria Mozza both carving out room, Spanish and Mediterranian influences on display at Bäco Mercat, Lucques, and José Andrés Bazaar, and modern spins on classical French cuisine from Ludo Lefebvre’s Trois Mec.
ink. from Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio, and Animal from Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s make a case for Los Angeles as a hotspot for culinary invention and one of best places to be a young, innovative American chef.
We’d be remiss to leave out the King of California, Wolfgang Puck, who with Spago, helped put the phrase “California cuisine” on the map. Puck continues building on his reputation for excellence with his modern steakhouse, CUT, named America's best steakhouse by The Daily Meal.
It’s a lot to take in — the results of our list are akin to a thick Jackson Pollock painting that’s all at once strange, eclectic, impressive, and fascinating to stand back and take a look at.
Considering the sheer number of eateries in the Los Angeles area it was incredibly difficult narrowing the field to just 15. So while the results can be endlessly debated, there’s no doubt the list is a cross section of one of America’s most interesting food cities.
15) Chi Spacca
Let’s get two things out of the way off the bat. There are two dishes on the menu that are each nearly $200 and take nearly an hour to prepare: the 42-ounce bistecca Fiorentina ($175), and the 50-ounce costata alla Fiorentina ($210). These two dishes pretty much best summarize chef Chad Colby’s 30-seat, dinner-only restaurant Chi Spacca. This Osteria Mozza offshoot overseen by Nancy Silverton is not cheap, and the meat (these two spectacular and talked-about dishes in particular), is what you’re here for. You’ll want to order the baked shell beans, the cured-meat board, the testa frittata, and the “tomahawk” pork chop too, so find three other people to share them with you, dig in, and if they’re not great eaters, well, you’re set for tomorrow night when you’ll finally be hungry again.
All the standard Thai dishes are done very well at this well-known storefront restaurant in Thai Town, but the southern Thai specialties, many of which are found nowhere else in America, are the real draw. Try the oxtail soup, crisp catfish salad, softshell crabs with yellow curry, sea bass with caramelized garlic, and whatever else proprietor Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong recommends — even the beef curry called khua kling Phat Lung, quite possibly the spiciest dish in L.A.