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LA's 17 Hottest New Restaurants, Fall Edition

By Lesley Balla
September 16, 2013
Photo by: Hakkasan

We've seen an amazing group of newcomers appear around the Los Angeles dining scene this year. Big names have hopped into town from New York, London and San Francisco. We now have more raw bars than you can shake a perfectly shucked oyster at, and cheesy churros from one of the city's top chefs. Add to that a globally inspired forage-friendly bistro in the Valley helmed by a Top Chef-er, plus yet another Italian stunner Downtown. It seems like something exciting opens every other day, so much that it's almost impossible to keep up. Still, here's an updated list of the some of the hottest new restaurants on the scene right now. We can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings.

  • Photo by: Lesley Balla

    Rao’s

    Debuting this week (September 17) is the famed New York City Italian stalwart, one of the oldest family-operated restaurants in the country. The East Harlem original has only 10 impossible-to-get tables, and the Las Vegas location has more than 400. This new Hollywood spot, which takes over the former Hollywood Canteen, rests firmly in the middle, with a similar menu of lemon chicken, pasta with red sauce, great meatballs and martinis. Chef Nicole Grimes, who ran the Vegas outpost, runs the show, adding seasonal specials that jibe with the Los Angeles palate. Rao’s is only open during the week, Monday through Friday - no weekends, just like the original.

    1006 Seward St.; 323-962-7267

  • Photo by: Hakkasan

    Hakkasan

    Having gone through weeks of previews, the splashy new Chinese import also makes its debut in Beverly Hills this week (September 19). Founded in London in 2001, there are now outposts in New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco and other cities, all serving elevated Chinese fare, including dim sum, crispy duck salad and truffle-scented roast duck. Walking through can be a maze, with all the tables secluded by decorative wood panels, and it’s dark and swank, with a long bar for sipping cocktails. Celebrity sightings probably will be de rigueur. Be prepared for the high 90201 price tag too. Hakkasan opens for lunch Monday through Friday, with dinner added on the weekends. The bar stays open until 1 AM.

    233 N. Beverly Dr.; 310-888-8661

  • Photo by: Susan Goines Becerra

    Acabár

    Walk through those tall brass doors, and this stunning newcomer really transports you to another place. You really have no idea you've just hopped off of Sunset Boulevard nor that this was once Dar Maghreb, the long-standing Moroccan dining hall. The grand space is pretty lavish, with a new bar in the center and a dining room and lounge flanking each side. The original zellige tilework and carved plaster columns remain, and beautifully ornate hand-painted ceilings have been added. Unlike Dar Magreb, you can now head in just for cocktails at the bar - the menu, created by Josh Goldman and Julian Cox, features things like the Sherry Cobbler (dry Amontillado sherry with seasonal fruits) and kegged cocktails like the tiki-classic Zombie. For food, Octavio Becerra (Palate Food + Wine) and Kevin Luzande (Playa) are creating "Spice Trail" dishes like Turkish cured salmon with caraway potato latkes and shaved Persian cucumber, and whole Indochine duck served with chayote greens, roasted turnips and plum confit.

    1510 N. Stanley Ave.; 323-876-1400

  • Mercado

    Having a go at the ever-changing location on the corner of West Third Street and Fairfax, a second outpost of Mercado debuted in late summer. The food and drink mimics the Santa Monica original, which Jesse Gomez (Yxta) with chef partner Jose Acevedo debuted last year, but the space is completely different - this new location has two distinct rooms, a much bigger bar, lounge areas, covered patio space, fireplaces, cool murals around big leather booths, and a garage door that opens to the sidewalk, giving the whole space a feel of the outdoors. For now the menu is the same, but once Acevedo settles in, he’ll add seasonal specials and brunch, still contemporary takes on traditional Mexican dishes with a nod to local seasonality.

    7910 W. Third St.; 323-944-0947

  • Bucato

    Chef Evan Funke (ex Rustic Canyon) and Kosaku Kawamura opened this pasta laboratorio in the former Beacon space in Culver City. The open kitchen, handmade pastas (no machines), seasonal dishes and sleek, minimalist design, including a cool map of California outlined in kitchen knives along one wall, are just the beginning of what you’ll find here. You’ll also find there's a very non-negotiable policy of no cell phones and no photos - no Instagram for you.

    3280 Helms Ave.; 310-876-0286

  • Terroni

    This long-awaited second outpost of the Beverly Boulevard Southern Italian restaurant is a stunning space fashioned out of a 1924 bank building. Shereen Arazm, Max Steffanelli and owner Cosi Mammoliti have outdone themselves - the ceilings soar, the high-arched windows let in loads of light, and a huge bar in front welcomes all. The main dining room is centered by the open kitchen, with extra private dining rooms in the back and upstairs. There's a lot of Italian everything, from the chandelier mimicking the Formula One Italian Grand Prix racetrack, to the wall that's like a map of favorite dishes and ingredients (pannetone, capon 'mbuttunato, carote, fagioli) and the disco-y soundtrack bouncing off all that marble. The menu is similar to the original's with all the handmade pastas - we forget the name of the shape we had, but it was like a penne with fried zucchini - fresh salads, pizzas you cut yourself and secondi. The wine list is still very good, with some eclectic Italian wines (white Barbera, anyone?), new specialty cocktails and a "fai da te" menu where you get to pick your own booze, mixers and garnish.

    802 S. Spring St.; 323-954-0300

  • Girasol

    Taking over the former 8 1/2 Taverna space on the border of North Hollywood and Studio City, the tallest Top Chef and fan favorite, Chris "CJ" Jacobson, is creating global eats with seasonal flair and hints of his Noma stage. That means dishes like fava bean purée with housemade chorizo, bright cherry tomatoes and warm flatbread; grilled octopus with long-roasted eggplant and toasted lovage; and beautiful ribbons of fresh raw summer squashes with fresh green garbanzo beans. It's the kind of food you don't see in the Valley too often, but people in the neighborhood are clamoring for it. It's good enough to seek out too, especially for things like the standout whole crispy fried fish.

    11334 Moorpark St.; 818-924-2323

  • Water Grill

    When this venerable restaurant transformed to its current, more casual incarnation in Downtown LA, we thought it looked like it could be dropped in any city in any part of the country. We can say about the same for the new Santa Monica location, but at least you can almost hear the waves at this one. You'll get all the same seafood dishes - fish 'n' chips, chowder, lobster rolls, steamed mussels, whole fish prepared in a variety of ways, oysters and plenty of other chilled seafood specialties - at the new WG, which took over the former Ocean Avenue Seafood space. There's more of a shantylike vibe with reclaimed wood and things like an antique pulley system, with white subway tiles and a copper-topped oyster bar. The view here is nothing like Downtown's - you can actually see the ocean from the wall of windows and expanded patio.

    1401 Ocean Ave.; 310-394-5669

  • Little Sister

    Chef Tin Vuong and Jed Sanford (Abigaile, WildCraft Sourdough Pizza) opened this midpriced Southeast Asian spot in the former Hampton's space. With its stenciled walls, mismatched chairs and cool little bar, it's more Singaporean shophouse than South Bay. The menu too has influences from the East and West, with everything from a sesame baguette with Echiere butter to beef randang and Myanmar okra curry.

    1131 Manhattan Ave.; 310-545-2096

  • Photo by: Nikita

    Nikita

    Nobu has a new neighbor in Malibu - nothing wrong with that considering the water view you have at the two PCH spots. This new Mediterranean restaurant features a menu from chef Massimiliano Blasone (Michelin-starred from London's Apsleys) and Israeli pastry chef Tal Hausen, both a tea and wine sommelier, and a cocktail program from NYC's Greg Seider (Summit Bar). But really, it's about that view, and you get it from two patios, on the roof, or from just about any seat in the house - it's all windows, tall ceilings and bright, breezy and light. Oh, and the name: Nikita is owner/Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's girlfriend.

    22716 Pacific Coast Hwy.; 310-456-3274

  • Salt Air

    Just about on schedule, restaurateur David Reiss (A-Frame, Sunny Spot, Littlefork) debuted the breezy, seafood-centric restaurant in the former Capri space on Abbot Kinney. The room is all whitewashed brick, light and dark wood, and earthy tones. There's a small sidewalk patio and lots of light inside, plus a window-view into the kitchen and communal seating in the dining rooms. Chef Greg A. Daniels, who worked in the Jean-Georges Vongerichten machine as executive sous-chef at Perry St in New York, has things like fresh peas and ricotta on toast; fish-skin chips with harissa and smoked onion dip; linguini and clams; whole fried snapper; and of course, lobster rolls. Brian Butler, who does the drink programs for some of Reiss' other restaurants, created beer and wine cocktails like a Shandy made with passion fruit and sour beer.

    1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd.; 310-396-9333

  • Connie & Ted’s

    Building a restaurant from the ground up is no easy feat, which is why this new “seafood shack” from Providence’s Michael Cimarusti and Donato Poto hit a few snags along the way. The restaurant was slated to open earlier in the year but finally opened at the beginning of summer, which makes its menu of chilled giant shrimp or oysters from a well-stocked raw bar, two different kinds of lobster rolls, fried fish sandwiches, real steamer clams, linguica-stuffed clams and other true New England-style seafood delicacies appropriate. But there are some meaty items as well, plus a full bar with specialty cocktails and craft beers. And as a bonus, the place is absolutely stunning.

    8171 Santa Monica Blvd.; 323-848-2722

  • Petty Cash Taqueria

    Completely off the radar, chef Walter Manzke partnered with Bill Chait to open a new Mexican restaurant in the former Playa space without anyone really knowing what was happening. Once it opened, everyone got to see the new space - more communal tables, walls covered in colorful text by street artist RETNA, a shuffleboard in back - plus food you’d see on the streets of Baja, only created with a Manzke pedigree. That means housemade Clamato for the aguachiles, nachos with crispy pig’s ears, heritage pig for the tacos and some of the most amazing chicharrones we’ve ever had. The bar program (à la Julian Cox) sports tequila Old Fashioneds on tap and agave spirits new to the U.S., like raicilla.

    7360 Beverly Blvd.; 323-933-5300

  • Little Beast

    Taking over the former Larkin's bungalow in Eagle Rock, husband and wife team chef Sean Lowenthal (who did time at Chateau Marmont) and Deborah Schwartz bring seasonal fare to the Northeast LA nabe. It's a pretty simple space, just a few tables and banquettes - the best are near the windows - and a walled patio with metal chairs and wood benches. The vibe matches the menu which is both familiar and casual with a few twists, including duck liver mousse with caramelized sweet onion; wild salmon tartare with sesame basil guacamole; English pea risotto with Meyer lemon; and Belgian chocolate pudding with Chantilly cream for dessert. It's not too overreaching, and even the beer and wine list is tailored, which fits Eagle Rock; prices are on point too, with mains topping out around $22.

    1496 Colorado Blvd.; 323-341-5899

  • Photo by: Mari Vanna

    Mari Vanna

    The transformation of the formerly haute Bastide into a bubbe-chic cottage in West Hollywood isn't the most interesting thing about this new Russian-inspired restaurant that came to the West Coast via New York, DC, and St. Petersburg. It's not even the goblutzi (filet mignon and rice stuffed-cabbage), sweet or savory blinis, or vodkas infused with everything from horseradish or dill to pineapple, prune or lingonberry on the menu. It's the keys that VIPs get to use on Monday nights after the restaurant officially closes. For everyone else, it's dinner only for now until lunch and brunch are introduced.

    8475 Melrose Pl.; 323-655-1977

  • Fishing With Dynamite

    Manhattan Beach has a new oyster bar from chef David LeFevre, just doors away from his super-popular MB Post. The place might be small - only 36 seats, including those at the raw-bar counter - but the menu is huge. We don't mean it has too much on offer - it has just enough, really - but with all the oysters, Dungeness crab, sea urchin, lobster, chowdah, crab cakes, steamed clams, a few meaty dishes (pork belly!), sides and desserts, there's definitely something for everyone. Add in cocktails like the Chaperone (G'Vine gin, Dolin dry vermouth, pickled onions and Castelvetrano olives) or the sparkling Innocents Abroad (sparkling wine, passion fruit, lavender and Thai basil), a few craft beers and artisanal wines, and you've pretty much covered it all.

    1148 Manhattan Ave.; 310-893-6299
     

  • Trois Mec

    The newcomer from Ludovic Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo finally hit the scene, and as you can imagine, seats are pretty tough to get. Mostly it’s because there are only 26 seats in the room, but also because the reservation system only releases seats every two weeks, and you must buy ahead of time, like tickets to a rock show.

    Look for the Raffallo’s pizza sign in that strip mall behind a gas station on the corner of Highland and Melrose, then walk in the door and you’ll get a rousing "Bonsoir!" (much like hearing "Irasshaimase!" when you walk into a sushi bar). There's an open kitchen, with chefs hand-delivering your food across the counter and even at the tables. The five-course menu changes monthly, but you’ll always get a series of amuse-bouche, things like fried salt-and-vinegar buckwheat “popcorn” or morels with ramp butter, and then dinner begins. It’s fun and playful but incredibly serious when it comes to the menu and wines. It’s a whole new experience for all involved.

    716 N. Highland Ave.

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Places Mentioned

Rao's

Italian • East Harlem

Food21 Decor17 Service21 Cost$83
 
 
 
Acabar

Mediterranean • Hollywood

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Connie and Ted's

Seafood • West Hollywood

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Fishing with Dynamite

Seafood • Manhattan Beach

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Trois Mec

French • Hollywood

Food- Decor- Service- CostVE
 
 
 
Little Sister

Asian • Manhattan Beach

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Mari Vanna

Russian • Beverly Grove

Food- Decor- Service- CostVE
 
 
 
Petty Cash Taqueria

Mexican • Fairfax

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Nikita Malibu

Malibu

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Water Grill

Seafood • Santa Monica

Food26 Decor24 Service25 Cost$64
 
 
 
Girasol Restaurant

New American • Studio City

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Bucato

Italian • Culver City

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Terroni

Italian • Downtown

Food22 Decor20 Service19 Cost$35
 
 
 
 
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