After the closing of Scarpetto, Chef Scott Conant's Los Angeles presence shifted east to Beverly Boulevard where he's now partnering with restaurateur Stephane Bombet (Faith & Flower) at The Ponte. Opened in February 2017, the mostly Italian menu includes Conant's popular Spaghetti Pomodoro as well as an Instagram-worthy charcuterie platter, pizza and veggies prepared in a wood-burning oven, along with the not-to-be-missed polenta with mushrooms and truffle sugo from the appetizer menu. The space is warm, with yellow velvet booths and a European feel, the bar is lively (albeit loud) and the piece de resistance is the outdoor back patio, one of the most magical in the city.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: The Ponte is a great LA meeting place given its mid-city location, hip (but not too hip) interior and creative cocktail menu.
Wendy's expert tip: Unless you're gluten free, give the pasta and pizza proper attention and finish the meal off with a rich, creamy Butterscotch Budino with rum caramel and toffee.
Belly on up to the buttermilk biscuits at this hip hotspot on Canon Drive (right next to Spago). The biscuits, served with sides of chipotle maple syrup and pimento cheese, fly out of the kitchen as one of the many popular small plates on this menu by Chef Scott Howard. Other noteworthy options include the duck breast with kumquat sweet and sour glaze and the amazing roasted brussel sprouts with almonds, pomegranate and pecorino. The macramé-strung décor, as well as the cocktail menu, are reminiscent of days gone by, the latter includes a selection of tiki drinks as well as the "Three Martini Lunch." The crowd here skews young and hip (think man buns) and the large space opens to an outside dining and lounge space where you can see and be seen among the Beverly Hills crowd.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Beverly Hills needed a more relaxed (not cheaper, mind you, but more chill) place to meet for drinks and tasty tidbits. Now they have it.
Wendy's expert tip: The Burrata with grilled grapes and La Quercia ham is a tasty and unique twist on the cheese/fruit/prosciutto combo. It's worth a try, as are the short rib tacos.
Celebrity Chef Eric Greenspan is often on site at the new Silverlake location of Maré, which opened in early February 2017 following outposts on Melrose and in Santa Monica (those locations recently closed). The Mediterranean/seafood-focused menu features whole branzino with fig and pomegranate glaze and their popular shellfish entrée where guests choose their seafood (clams, mussels or shrimp) and broth (from a variety of intriguing options, including vadouvan curry and green apple). The broth is served with pasta and a poached egg, the latter of which is dramatically peeled and combined tableside into a seafood soup. Most memorable was perhaps the trio of sorbet that included champagne, blood orange and a rich, irresistible chocolate.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: The vibe says hip (this is Silverlake, after all) but the food says fine dining. The trio of sorbets alone is worth a visit.
Wendy's expert tip: Check out the three to four specials (and cocktails) on the chalkboard, which are usually a good bet.
Sitting on the patio of Georgie, where the ceilings are high and the lights are low, it's easy to feel like you've been transported to a posh resort in the south of France. Rather, this is Beverly Hills (The Montage Hotel to be exact) where the Food Network's Geoffrey Zakarian has opened his first L.A.-area restaurant. The American-style menu includes standouts like Hamachi crudo with cranberry relish, cucumber, Fuji apple and crispy shallots. The Dover sole in a piccata sauce with chanterelle mushrooms and fingerling potatoes is also a standout. For dessert, the rich chocolate soufflé with crème anglais won't disappoint. For those partial to martinis, order the signature drink from Georgie's martini cart and watch it prepared tableside.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: The ambience, menu and service (not to mention the fashionable staff attire) are top notch.
Wendy's expert tip: Reserve a table on the outside terrace and sit back with a martini, prepared tableside from Georgie's rolling martini cart. The Hamashi crudo and Dover sole will leave you wanting more.
Even if you're not on the hunt for a vegan meal, it's worth braving the chaotic traffic and parking of downtown Santa Monica to check out this hotspot at the corner of 5th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard. Chef Nick Erven has garnered critical acclaim for his creative cooking with dishes like a beer-battered tofu sandwich, black garlic-chickpea fritters with yuzu and Aleppo pepper and the standout Korean "gnocchi" with kimchi Bolognese, green apple and celery. There's a takeout counter with to go items in the marketplace or you can dine among an oversized piece of art depicting Mick Jagger and Ghandi in a lip lock. Unlike many LA vegan hotspots, this one is more yuppie than hippie.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Chef Nick Erven's creative (but limited) vegan menu is consistently noted as one of L.A.'s best (along with Tal Ronnen's Crossroads Kitchen).
Wendy's expert tip: The Korean rice-based (not potato) gnocchi is chewy and layered with complex flavors and textures, while the beer-battered tofu with pickles and slaw on a toasted bun might have you craving vegan on a regular basis.
When Chef Sascha Lyon was in Paris scooping up sausage sandwiches piled with fries and condiments, he wasn't anticipating that he'd one day serve a variation of the "sandwich de marguez" at Commerson, his new restaurant on La Brea Ave. The menu features an upscale Knock-off–"A Parisian Diversion," a baguette sandwich with escargot smothered in garlic butter topped with crispy fries. Commerson is a passion project for Lyon, a native Angeleno who cut his teeth at restaurants like New York's Balthazar and has worked alongside Daniel Boulud, Alain Giraud and Michele Richard. Although a bit loud, the space in the up-and-coming south La Brea neighborhood is fresh and lively well into the night (they serve until 1 a.m.). Don't miss the gorgeous pastries and desserts from Pastry Chef Liz Sencion.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Commerson's convenient location, casual atmosphere and upscale food and wine make it a great choice for foodies and foodie friends and family.
Wendy's expert tip: If you're on the hunt for a quality late night meal, this mid-city casual French restaurant stays open until 1 a.m.
One of L.A.'s most prolific restaurateurs, George Abou-Daoud, is at it again with this Middle Eastern style restaurant on a bustling stretch of Sunset Boulevard. Opened in January 2017, Abou-Daoud set out to create a menu with dishes that captured the tastes of his childhood (beyond the typical kebabs). He certainly succeeded with the Mountain Prep Lamb Awarma, which is prepared in traditional Iranian style with the lamb slow cooked then preserved in its own fat (confit). It's served alongside olive oil-cured eggplant, nuts, figs, pickled turnip, feta, a soft egg and more. The flavors meld perfectly with the tender lamb. There are various dining locations, from the colorful front dining room to the more secluded one in the back, as well as lounge areas decorated with vintage Egyptian movie posters and tear sheets from one of Saudi Arabia's first women's magazine.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: It's hard to stand out amongst the chaos of Hollywood but Farida manages to do so with a creative and fun space and excellent food.
Wendy's expert tip: Farida's Babaganoush is heavily infused with smoke and that's not a bad thing. The flavor, combined with crunchy spiced almonds and drizzled with olive oil is a winner. The Lamb Awarma is a must.
Gwen, Chef Curtis Stone's most-recent L.A. project (following Maude), opened in summer 2016 to wide eyes. The massive dining space is a throwback to old Hollywood with high ceilings and a retro art deco design. To say there is a focus on meat is an understatement–you enter through the butcher shop and will likely pass the meat curing room before settling in for a memorable five (or more)-course tasting menu (with wine pairing, if you so choose). Before the meat course, servers will offer you a choice of steak knives and tell you to choose the one that 'speaks to you.' The charcuterie (with rich, complex terrines) course is followed by salad, pasta, meat and dessert courses but be sure to save room for the petit fours, particularly the miniature caramels made with marrow. They've recently started offering an a la carte menu as well.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: There aren't a lot of restaurants offering tasting menus in L.A., much less one with this quality of food and service.
Wendy's expert tip: Guests have the option of sitting at one of four seats at the Chef's counter where you can watch the choreography of the kitchen and listen to chefs shouting "Oui!" every time an order comes in.
71 Above, aptly named for it's location on the 71st floor of downtown LA's U.S. Bank building, is the restaurant that this city has been lacking. With 360-degree views that stretch from the valley to the beach to east L.A. (on a clear day), the floor-to-ceiling windows give you a glimpse of the constant buzz of the city. The menu, which changes seasonally, is a prix fix three-course meal ($70 per person) with approximately five choices per course, not including dessert or beverages. Chef Vartan Abgaryan and his team in the kitchen are churning out well-balanced, creative dishes in portion sizes that don't overwhelm. There are also chef's tables facing the kitchen (but the window views!) if you'd rather see where the culinary magic happens.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: The gasp-worthy views, the food, the cocktails, and the service: all stellar.
Wendy's expert tip: Make a deposit (when you make your reservation) to guarantee a window table because the views will be what you remember most. The deposit will be applied to your check total so you won't be out any extra cash.
This subdued, contemporary and stylish space situated between Beverly Hills and Century City drew in the Hollywood power crowd soon after it opened in November 2016. Sister property to the venerable Toscana in Brentwood, Nerano had an air of intrigue before it even opened. The Italian menu by Executive Chef Michele Lisi includes its namesake Spaghetti alla Nerano (spaghetti with Italian zucchini, squash blossoms, provolone, basil and parmigiana), which is said to be offered at nearly every restaurant in the southern Italian village from which the restaurant takes its name. A wood-burning brick oven turns out perfect Naples-style pizzas, some visually stunning, like the Prosciutto e Rucola where arugula is piled high in the center surrounded by a vertical wall of prosciutto. The secluded BG Lounge is upstairs (accessed via elevator) and throughout the restaurant and lounge is an art collection that could potentially steal your attention away from your dinner date.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Nerano made this list because it's hard to find fault with the food, the drinks, the staff or the environment.
Wendy's expert tip: While the wine list is extensive and includes excellent wines by the glass, Mixologist William Perbellini is crafting drinks that are balanced and memorable. It's worth trying a cocktail at the BG Lounge if you have time.