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Los Angeles: Home of America's Hottest Culinary Scene



From the beach to downtown and everywhere in between, the culinary offerings in Los Angeles are literally endless. You'll find dining choices on almost every block – and food trucks pulled up to the curb, too. It's a city of blended nationalities (with people from 140 countries who speak over 200 different languages at last count), which means every ethnic group is represented. It's the heart of California cuisine, a unique fusion of French, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese and other gastronomies, with a focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Famed chefs like Spago's Wolfgang Puck, Nobu Malibu's Nobu Matsuhisa and Patina's Joachim Splichal call the city home, along with plenty of "Top Chef" and Food Network stars. Southern California is even the birthplace of some of the world's most famous fast-food joints, including McDonald's and In-and-Out. The competition is fierce to be the best here and restaurants come and go like the ocean tide, so to rise to the very top takes a winning combination of exemplary food, cool design, hot buzz and – especially for the ones that make it for the long haul – consistency in all aspects of service and fare.


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The Bazaar by José Andrés


Branded "Top Newcomer" by Zagat Los Angeles in 2010, Chef Jose Andres dreams up a multi-course tasting menu to titillate your tastes at The Bazaar, ranging from traditional to contemporary flavors. Philippe Starck's simple, elegant décor is an excellent compliment to the chef's creativity and presentation skills. This is the restaurant located inside the SLS Hotel that GQ Magazine called one of the "10 Best New Restaurants in America" in 2010; the quality and innovation continue to today. Newest up? Tapas on the Terrace, an al fresco happy hour that serves up craft cocktails and plenty of light bites. The $12 Endless Sangria is a steal.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The crazy design motifs that lead you into Chef Jose Andres' The Bazaar contain fanciful products can be purchased before or after dining.

Jenny's expert tip: Leave room for dessert.

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Miracle Mile/Fairfax District
République
Photo courtesy of République, photo by Ryan Tanaka.

République took over the spot on La Brea Blvd. that once housed Campanile and proved at once that it is a worthy successor to that Mark Peel/Nancy Silverton effort that lived in the space for over 20 years. Those two famed chefs are divorced, but the République pair â€" chefs Walter and Margarita Manzke â€" are going strong with this French-with-a-California-tinge bistro. Their French fries are the stuff of legend already, and while it may sound strange, try the Eggs on Toast appetizer, a heady mix of Uni and soft-scrambled eggs. Actually, it is basically impossible to find a less-than-stellar dish at this convivial place, but if house-made charcuterie (terrines, pates and meats) is in your wheelhouse, you will not find better in Los Angeles. Terrific braised short ribs, truffle risotto, and Thai lobster soup prove that you should expect the unexpected at this "French" bistro.

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Patina
Photo courtesy of Patina Restaurant


Patina calls itself "a quiet haven from the stress and tumult of everyday life," so leave your cell phone behind and dive into this famed restaurant that makes its home just inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A. It's the place that made Chef Joachim Splichal famous, where the German-born, award-winning tocque melds French and California cuisine into something uniquely his. The menu is ever-changing, but if his Octopus á la Plancha is available, don't miss it, for it's some of the best we've ever tasted. Try the tasting menu, six courses for $120, or go for the famed Pepper Crusted Jidori Chicken, the plump and sweet Diver Sea Scallops or the crispy Wild Striped Bass served with a potato confit. The Peanut Butter Torte tops off any entree with a flourish with a mix of sensual flavors; the whole dining experience at Patina is practically orgasmic!

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Acclaimed Chef Joachim Splichal began his vast restaurant empire with Patina in 1989 and it remains one of L.A.'s landmark eateries.

Jenny's expert tip: Perfect for dinner before the show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall; but make a reservation, as the place fills up fast on concert evenings.

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Mélisse
Photo courtesy of Melisse Restaurant

Ever since Mélisse opened its doors in 1999, Chef-Owner Josiah Citrin has pushed for excellence in every element of this fine-dining experience â€" and has succeeded admirably. His restaurant is the kind of place where patrons dress for dinner, the silver is real and every dish is precisely made to the exacting standards of French haute cuisine. Constantly showered with accolades, Mélisse led the way toward seasonal menus sourced via local farmer's markets (Citrin is a fixture at the famed Santa Monica market) and continues to innovate. Try the legendary Dover sole made tableside in the summer or share the Cote de Boeuf Roti for two, made with a beef rib dry aged for 35 days. Make sure to pair your whole meal with wine, as Melisse has one of the best cellars in the city.

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Lucques
Photo courtesy of Lucques Restaurant


From the moment Lucques opened on Melrose Avenue near La Cienega in 1998, Chef Suzanne Goin's rustic bistro has been a hot spot for those that love French food. Her Steak Frites (made with Niman Ranch beef and paired with perfect house made French fries) is legendary and always on the menu; otherwise, Goin follows the seasons, so don't expect her delicate sweet corn soup to be served in December. But whatever is on the menu, it is certain to be delicious. Goin cemented her status as one of the top toques in Los Angeles with her 2006 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Pacific Award and has a number of other top-ranked restaurants around town, including a.o.c, The Hungry Cat, Tavern and The Larder at Maple Drive. Visit every one if you have time!

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A perennial classic since 1998, this is the French bistro that launched Chef Suzanne Goin onto the international culinary stage.

Jenny's expert tip: Sit at the bar and order the Steak Frites Bearnaise and pair it with one of Lucques' special farmer's market inspired cocktails.

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Providence
Photo courtesy of Providence Restaurant


Providence, the award-winning seafood restaurant on the southern edge of Hollywood earns high points for a creative menu and superb quality, which is why it gained two Michelin stars back when those awards were still given in Los Angeles. Now over 10 years old, the Michael Cimarusti-helmed seafood spot remains one of the city's best. Only the freshest seafood makes its way to Providence's coveted tables. This charming New American spot serves a mixture of excellent hot selections and raw, cold ones, too. Start with an indulgent appetizer of black truffles over risotto before feasting on seasonal dishes like vermilion rockfish with coconut and jalapeno. For an exquisite dining experience with gorgeous presentation in an intimate setting, Providence is one of SoCal's primo spots for dining.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: One of the city's acknowledged masters of cuisine, Chef Michael Cimarusti hss been proving his talents at Providence for over a decade.

Jenny's expert tip: Go with the Chef's Tasting Menu for a sublime experience.

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Nobu Malibu
Photo courtesy of Nobu Malibu photo by Henry Hargreaves


Los Angeles is where it all began for Nobu Matsuhisa, the acknowledged king of Japanese cuisine, who now has high-end eateries all over the world. His first restaurant, Matsuhisa, is a tiny place on La Cienega Boulevard; Nobu Los Angeles is further north up that same street; and the prettiest of them all, Nobu Malibu, is perched right on the sand on Pacific Coast Highway in the heart of that posh beach community. Malibu gets our vote for the best of three solely on location, for the gorgeous ocean views and sleek restaurant design somehow make Nobu's signature dishes like Black Cod Miso and Yellowtail with Jalapeno seem even more delicious when eaten there (and they are seriously fantastic no matter where you taste them).

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Nobu Matsuhisa began his restaurant empire here in Los Angeles; there are three places to sample his food here, but Malibu has the best views.

Jenny's expert tip: Time your visit to Nobu Malibu to see the sun set, for since moving to its new beachfront location on Pacific Coast Highway, there's no better view in town.

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Crustacean
Photo courtesy of Crustacean photo by Ian Bailey


Chef Helene An and her family escaped Vietnam as the Communists Chef Chef Helene An escaped Vietnam as the Communists overran Saigon in 1975 and the rest really is history. She carried along the secret recipes that have made Crustacean one of the top Asian fusion restaurants in Beverly Hills for decades; and she's even got a secret kitchen-within-the-kitchen where only the few in the know are allowed. Her garlic noodles with prawns are legendary, as is her huge Dungeness crab roasted in secret spices. With a recent $10 million redesign, Crustacean has reopened and is better than ever, with Chef Tony Nguyen joining An in the kitchen. There are delicious dim sum offerings too, ranging from pho soup dumplings to a langoustine spring roll and a filet mignon beef satay. The new look is open and bright, and the fish tank walkway built into the floor remains the same, thank goodness, for it really wouldn't be Crustacean without that.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Crustacean has been a Beverly Hills fixture for over 20 years and remains the place to find the best Asian cuisine in Southern California, hands down.

Jenny's expert tip: You simply must have An's Famous Garlic Noodles and An's Famous Roasted Crab. There's a reason they are famous â€" they are fabulous!

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Spago
Photo courtesy of Spago


Sit in an inside booth or out at a garden table, there's not a bad seat in the house at Spago, the jewel in Wolfgang Puck's culinary crown. Now in Beverly Hills, the restaurant began its life in West Hollywood in 1982 and for more than 30 years has delivered consistently delicious, innovative dishes. Puck, who recently received the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, led the way in creating "California cuisine" â€" the fusion of different ethnic foods (Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French, Mexican) all made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Be sure to taste the signature dishes: the Spicy Tuna Tartare, the Pizza with House Smoked Smoked Salmon, the Hand Made Agnolotti and the massive Grilled Veal Chop. And be sure to look around, too, for there's likely to be a famous star sitting at a nearby table.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Wolfgang Puck started his culinary empire with Spago and it remains the touchstone by which all other L.A. restaurants are judged.

Jenny's expert tip: Stop in from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday for Spago's "Reverse Happy Hour" at the bar and make sure to order Puck's signature Spicy Tuna Tartare served up in crunchy miso cones.

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CATCH LA
Photo courtesy of CATCH LA


CATCH LA is the newest outpost of the popular EMM Group seafood restaurant chain that began in New York and has now expanded to Los Angeles (actually West Hollywood), Dubai and Playa del Carmen, Mexico. CATCH LA combines a super-sexy scene � think famous actors, top athletes, Hollywood executives � with some of the most mouthwatering seafood concoctions you have ever tasted. Head upstairs to the indoor-outdoor space with a view of the Pacific Design Center next door, and choose the patio or the indoor section, which on a clear evening will have its roof retracted, revealing a moonlight view. Then try selections from the various menus sections: Raw Bar, Signature Cold, Cold, Skewers, Rolled, Hot and Signature Vegan and it is hard to go wrong. Pick Hamachi Spinach with its amazing ponzu sauce, go for the light Branzino in butter, and don't miss the Truffle Sashimi.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A hot social scene combined with world-class seafood and other dishes to be shared puts CATCH LA at the top of the Hollywood heap.

Jenny's expert tip: Order the "Signature Cold" dish of Truffle Sashimi and taste what just may be the most delicious seafood dish on the planet.

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Meet Jenny Peters

Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good...  More About Jenny

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