The City of Angels’ food culture is growing, no doubt in part because of the consistently fresh produce and top-quality ingredients that can be found in the state of California. The region of Los Angeles is vast, and many restaurant-goers find themselves traveling to all different parts of town to check out the hottest eateries.
In downtown LA, the arts district is the area to watch. While still gritty and rough around the edges, the area has seen a surge in great restaurants, cocktail bars, and lounges, such as Church & State, whose cocktail program and wine list are both outstanding.
Santa Monica continues to offer great hotel dining at restaurants like Shutters and Casa del Mar, but newcomer aestus is offering something special: an intriguing seasonal menu crafted by executive chef Alex Ageneau and owner and sommelier Kevin O’Connor.
Old favorite The Bazaar by José Andrés in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills still offers a flawless dining experience, and Bar Marmont is dishing out some serious eats, like the smoked trout in crispy potatoes and Wesley’s spicy chicken with a Greek yogurt dipping sauce.
It’s safe to say that the cuisine in Los Angeles and its neighboring regions is only getting better, beckoning eaters from around the country to come and take a look.
Seared Ahi Tuna Over Dirty Rice at Esterel in the Sofitel Hotel
Up-and-coming chef Victor Boroda is behind the new menu at Esterel. You’ll find a range of dishes that reflect the Mediterranean-meets-California vibe that this spot is going for. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a quiet and cozy atmosphere, and boasts an outdoor lounge. One of my favorite dishes was the chef’s ahi tuna seasoned with salt, pepper, sumac, and Greek yogurt, paired with black rice and English peas and topped with a fennel-cucumber slaw. Be sure to swing by for the breakfast buffet, which is filled with delicious cheese, fruits, and charcuterie, as well as a knockout eggs Benedict topped with salmon. The hotel also offers a variety of gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options.
Escargots de Bourgogne en Croûte at Church & State
At the edgy/chic Church & State, French cuisine reigns supreme. Executive chef Tony Esnault has an exceptional résumé, having worked for mentor Alain Ducasse at the world-renowned Le Louis XV in Monte-Carlo. At his current outpost, he’s producing French bistro flair with a twist. I enjoyed a variety of his classics, such as the roasted bone marrow with marinated radish salad. But the dish that blew me away was his escargots de Bourgogne. Usually, this dish is finished with a puff pastry, but in this case, the chef topped it with a radish. The dish was every bit flavorful, and I felt less guilty for eating something lighter. I would go back there simply for a plate of those. And while I’m usually a fan of food and wine pairings, the food and cocktail pairings here are impeccable. The evening I visited, the Jacob’s Ladder was the special of the evening, and the menu boasted mainstays like PB&J constructed with Selvarey rum, peanut orgeat, strawberry, and lime.
Beef Tartare with Smoked Beets and Horseradish at aestus
When I was told that I should try the beef tartare at aestus, I thought it would be like any other beef tartare I’ve had in my life: good, not great. I seem to eat many of the same old French bistro-style dishes that I’m over it, for lack of a better term. Then out comes chef Ageneau’s version and I became a believer. Firstly, it was topped with thinly sliced beets that almost looked as though they were the beef itself. Underneath was a deliciously spicy and well-seasoned tartare. I am gluten-free, and the chef even prepared lettuce cups instead of toast for me to pair with the dish. All in all, it was a unique and wonderfully refreshing take on an old classic. I also thoroughly enjoyed the grilled lamb chops with asparagus, cumin, and tapenade — it was light and decadent at the same time.
Almond-Crusted Sea Bass at Bar Marmont
Bar Marmont is located just down the street from the famed celebrity hangout Chateau Marmont. With a full dinner menu and an inventive cocktail list, it should not be overlooked during a night out on the town. The menu has great small bar bites like Wesley’s spicy chicken and smoked trout with crispy potatoes topped with crème fraîche and capers — both can easily be devoured while throwing back a few glass of prosecco at the bar. For those sitting at a table, the dinner menu is just as satisfying, if not more so. I fell in love with the almond-crusted sea bass with haricots verts and a garlic sauce (minus the breadcrumbs for me). The garlic and almond combination was simple and powerful, packing just the right amount of flavor to stand up to the sea bass.
Organized Caesar at The Bazaar by José Andrés
Perhaps there’s no better way of describing a meal at Jose Andrés’ The Bazaar than as simply an experience. From the moment you step foot into the restaurant you understand that you are, essentially, along for the ride. I hoped that my dining companions would be as adventurous as I am, but would also respect my dietary restriction. No need to worry; The Bazaar was a real treat. While we sampled over 10 outstanding dishes that often left me feeling inspired and perplexed simultaneously, I was most taken with Mr. Andrés’ dish known simply as the organized Caesar. The dare-I-say deconstructed dish included quail egg and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and left me hoping there were three more helpings coming out from the kitchen next.