Since we're halfway through the year 2014, we figured it was a good time to look back at some of our most memorable bites. The LA culinary scene continues to evolve and grow, with new concepts from celebrity chefs to the pasta (or pastrami) you can't live without. Read on for a look back at some of the best dishes we've had so far this year, and feel free to weigh in in the comments below and on social media using the hashtag #BestThingWeAte.
Mandilli at The Factory Kitchen
Why We Love It: Although this restaurant slipped quietly onto the scene in late fall, we only got there this spring. The mandilli di seta was already one of the most talked-about pasta dishes in town, and just one bite reveals why. Named for a "silk handkerchief," a sheet of incredibly tender and delicate pasta falls onto the plate enrobed in a pale green pesto. It's so simple and perfect, you'd think everyone could serve this, but simple is never as easy as it looks.
Chicken Sandwich at ChocoChicken
Why We Love It: They somehow did it — chocolate and fried chicken existing as one. The flavor comes from cocoa in the brine and breading, not in a sauce, playing on the bitter, more savory qualities of chocolate. That’s why it works. The fried chicken sandwich is a beast, with two thighs perfectly cooked and topped with coleslaw and pickles on a soft Choco bun. (Yes, there's even chocolate in the bread.) It's so tall it's nearly impossible to eat with your hands, but this dynamite combo earns its heft.
Smoked Salmon Crudo at Cavatina
Why We Love It: There are six different versions of crudo on the menu at the new Sunset Marquis Hotel, which really speaks to the desire of Michael Schlow, the Boston-based chef overseeing the new menus, and chef Roger Eggleston to keep things light and fresh for the West Coast. This beautiful vodka-marinated salmon didn't need much to make it sing (like a rock star cutting an album in the hotel’s recording studio), but the dehydrated wasabi, beet juice and sea beans are a nice touch both for the color and the subtle flavor they impart.
Lobster Crudo at Maude
Why We Love It: It’s sad that you only have one month to enjoy some of Curtis Stone’s specialties at his Beverly Hills restaurant. This was one of the first dishes on the year's first menu — that month celebrating all that is citrusy — and it was just a small taste of what to expect from the tall Aussie. The delicate lobster crudo accented with crimson turnips matching the pretty vintage china, some crisp fresh radish and brioche tuille showed the world that he’s not just a pretty face on TV — that guy can cook. Every month the menu changes based on a special ingredient, so take note: July is for berry lovers.
The OG at Wexler’s Deli
Why We Love It: If there’s anyone really, truly giving Langer’s a run for its money, it’s Micah Wexler. With his new old-fashioned deli at the Grand Central Market, he’s not out to take the pastrami reigns from the MacArthur Park masters, but he’s definitely honoring it with his small-batch smoked meat and fish, sandwiches, bagels and black-and-white cookies. The OG is simply pastrami and mustard on really, really good rye bread. When the meat is this tender, juicy and rich, it needs little adornment.
Rotisserie Rib-Eye at Superba Food & Bread
Why We Love It: Chef Jason Travi makes great use of that rotisserie in his kitchen. The regular menu at the fun Venice spot has some amazing things, like testa and hot pepper jelly toast and fantastic pastries and breads, but we really like the “nightly supper” dishes that change daily. The rotisserie rib-eye served on Saturday nights is an impressive hunk of meat that feeds two or more. The medium-rare steak is served in a dish swimming in olive oil and its own juices, topped with a lemony, herby sunflower-seed mixture that adds flavor and texture.
Oxtail Agnolotti at Faith & Flower
Why We Love It: The plump little pastas filled with tender oxtail meat, draped in bone-marrow butter and tangerine salsa and topped with beef tendon chicharrones exemplify everything that the new Downtown hot spot is: rich, extravagant, comfortable and familiar. Chef Michael Hung’s menu takes twists and turns that are unique to him while staying grounded in what Angelenos want to eat now.
Creamed Corn at Chi Spacca
Why We Love It: Just as Chad Colby and his team of merry chefs, who cook your entire meal in front of you, have a way with giant slabs of meat, they really know how to make vegetables shine. The sweet summer creamless creamed corn makes its appearance sporadically, and we were fortunate enough to catch the first wave of the season. The freshest, sweetest corn is grated, thereby making it creamy, and topped with olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s the very essence of corn, and a must alongside the bistecca, charred short ribs, roasted milk pork loin or tomahawk chop.
Bravas at Smoke.Oil.Salt.
Why We Love It: This is what every morning breakfast should be like. Big mounds of soft yet golden fried potatoes entwined with twirls of Serrano ham and topped with a sunny-side up egg. Mix it all together and sip with a glass of Verdejo while anticipating the tomato toast with sausage, uni flan and paella to come.
Beep Beep at Pot
Why We Love It: It's the essence of just about everything Roy Choi creates — flavor, baby. Out of all of the uni dishes we've had so far this year, and there have been plenty, the Beep Beep uni dynamite bowl is one thing you’ll be hearing about for months and months to come. The spicy, salty rice drenched in creamy sauce with lobes of fresh uni on top is hard to beat.