L.A.’s restaurant scene has long been focused on Hollywood, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. And then there’s also the trendy restaurants that saturate popular neighborhoods such as Downtown and Venice Beach. Hungry for something new? It’s high time to hit the burbs, the lesser-known streets and even the mall to discover hip, burgeoning culinary communities and their new foodie hotspots.
Fishing with Dynamite, Manhattan Beach
The South Bay has always been an understated beachside enclave known for pristine streets, sandy shores and cohorts of University of Southern California students running amuck. Smack in the middle of it all, star chef David LeFevre’s Fishing with Dynamite is where you’ll find arguably the best seafood in L.A. County. The snug space is meant to evoke inviting, old timey beach town haunts of the East and West coasts with its colorful striped tiles, eclectic graphic wall art emblazoned with happy mantras (“We Have Everything We Need”) and antique bits with the paint chipping. The tightly edited menu has two main sections beginning with the raw bar, an outstanding selection of oysters and fancy shellfish served on small-to-large mouth-watering towers packed with crushed ice, and housemade condiments from ponzu to saffron aioli. The second half boasts “Old School” comforts (New England Clam Chowdah’) and “New School” entrées (grilled octopus with cranberry beans, date-tomato ragu, preserved lemon and kalamata olive tapenade). The seasonal Lobstah Dumpling Pot Pie, with its buttery homemade biscuit crust, is mildly addictive. Run — don’t walk to this place, which is generally hopping but always welcoming.
Chef Teresa Montaño and restaurateur Loretta Peng are really onto something special with their rare menu that focuses on authentic Basque. In this eatery awash in light and clean-lined dark wood furnishings, you’ll find simple tapas and raciones — standouts include salt cod fritters with lemon cream; crisp chicken croquettes drizzled with membrillo honey; mouth-watering Spanish charcuterie and charred Spanish leeks potato soup — infused with skill, modernity and a whole lot of heart. But if that weren’t enough, there are the dulces (sweets) — olive oil cake with vanilla panna cotta and rhubarb gel, and crema catalana, a custard served with date sauce and pistachio meringue — and hard-to-find Iberian wines. If you can’t book a ticket to San Sebastián, Ración is as close as you’ll get.
Girasol, Studio City
On an unassuming residential corner off the 134 Freeway, executive chef CJ Jacobson takes the idea of local eats to thought-provoking heights in bold modern environs, incorporating wild and foraged herbs, leaves and twigs to render the taste experience of meticulously plated, seasonal dishes more profound. For example, the house bread and butter plate is infused with wild, oven-dried lovage. The Beets and Berries selection begins with whipped goat cheese, but gets a complex bite from leafy herbs and hazelnuts. And the striking whole fried red snapper with greens, fermented Fresno chili, sauce of kumquat, sorrel and citrus arrives hot, crisp, and oh so tempting.
My 2 Cents, Los Angeles
L.A. native chef Alisa Reynolds is a hipster, restaurateur and globetrotter, known in influential celeb circles as the caterer of choice for eclectic cuisine informed by her world travels. She chose the up-and-coming Mid-City district for a unique culinary venture that showcases her point of view and Southern roots in a menu defined as soul food with a health conscious twist. Guests are welcomed by a design scheme that calls Brooklyn to mind — subway tiles, rustic wood shelving and minimalist globe pendants — yet feels friendly and down-home. Word of mouth has created high demand for My 2 Cents’ sustainable, market-driven dishes such as gluten-free fried chicken, shrimp and grits and quinoa mac and cheese from locals, neighborhood artists and major stars such as Lenny Kravitz and Common.
Din Tai Fung, Glendale
When this outpost of Taipei’s famous dumpling house opened at The Americana at Brand mall concept last year, the obsession with the restaurant’s soup dumplings spread to a broad audience. Purists who once made the schlep to the Arcadia locations, curious epicures who wanted to experience the unique bursts of flavor for themselves, and people who simply wanted to be part of the dumpling phenomenon were all drooling for DTF. The hours-long waits and crazy lines have died down now, making it possible to really savor the sleek, dark-paneled airy interior and glassed-in dumpling kitchen responsible for crave-worthy treats such as the delicate chicken noodle soup, fluffy pork buns and truffle xiao long bao (soup buns).
Photos Courtesy Elizabeth Daniels for Caruso Affiliated, Rick Roon and Jesus Banuelos