Chef Andrew Carroll
LA has a new hot restaurant. If you’ve driven by the corner of Melrose and San Vicente above which Catch is perched, you’ve noticed the hoards of paparazzi outside. It feels almost like a private club with the near impossible reservations and glitzy clientele. An elevator whisks you up to the top floor that is open to the West Hollywood sky. All this glam had me anticipating a mediocre meal. How could a place with such vibes also have good food? Somehow, they manage. We started with truffle sashimi, black cod lettuce cups, and the mushroom pasta to share. Flavors were explosive. The cod lettuce cups were up to par with Nobu Malibu’s.
The fish in the sashimi was excellent and fresh, topped with caviar and ponzu. Mushroom spaghetti, seemingly out of place on this menu, was excellent with tomato, sugar snap peas, and parmesan. I ordered the fish special for my main and found it simply delightful on a bed of sunchokes and greens. The real highlight was the #hitme chocolate dessert, a dish that was screaming to be photographed. A liquid “klondike,” with roasted white chocolate ice cream, brownie, and devil’s food topped with chocolate tableside offers the perfect end to the meal.
Here’s Looking at You
Fusion-focused and culturally diverse
Chef Jonathan Whitener
I am not usually one for cocktails, but stepping into this new mid-century corner bar cum restaurant in Koreatown had me weak in the knees. Allan Katz and Danielle Crouch have created imaginative cocktails, such as the Folk Hero with persimmon leaf-infused tequila, winter citrus, yuzu, honey, and Swiss Violette, to accompany small plates by Jonathan Whitener. Asian influence is strong here with bagna cauda hiding in the momotaro tomato and Japanese goma-dare and puffed rice with acorn squash.
The highlight of the night was the beef tartare with red chili, ramps, yellow yolk, turnip, and watercress, in a sauce of yuzu and thick slices of nicely charred bread for dipping. Bar diners get a special offering exclusive only to bar seats: homemade pie. Sweet blueberry pie with homemade Chantilly cream was a great end to an avant-garde meal in an increasingly compelling part of LA.
DTLA Arts District
American with a Texan influence
Chef Wes Whitsell
Downtown can feel like a labyrinth if you do not frequent it. The latest restaurant openings seem almost impossible to keep up with, but Manuela is one that is worth seeking out. The arts district is exploding with energy and this new alfresco operation by Osteria La Buca and Soho House New York vet Wes Whitsell just adds to the party. Whitsell’s Texan roots shine through in dishes like the ahi tuna ceviche and the pimento cheese with tortilla chips. Sharing is caring here, until the delicate squash gratin arrived and I wanted it all to myself.
The squash had been cooked to a soft, fork tender texture, layered several inches high, and topped with melted shredded cheese. Pork ragu over polenta gave me a new appreciation for this grain and is a dish worth returning for. Braised collard greens with charred onion and confit tomato were the best I’ve had. The cocktails and wine offerings are just as exciting as the food and the mid-century space.
Chef Michele Lisi
Tucked on a quiet block of Little Santa Monica Blvd just before Beverly Hills meets Century City, Nerano comes from the same family as Toscana in Brentwood. Pop by for a classically European dinner that begins with a cool vegetable crudité or visit the bar upstairs for a surprisingly energetic aperitivo (Italian cocktail hour).
Classics are done well, such as the Spaghetti Pomodoro with Bronze Die’ spaghetti, San Marzano tomato, and basil or the Bianca pizza with stracciatella, California baby artichokes, squash blossoms, and winter black truffle. Upstairs, the refreshing ‘Bicicletta’ cocktail made with Aperol, pinot grigio, and soda pairs perfectly with the grass-fed meatball sliders on toasted brioche.