L.A.’s Top 10 Hot Spots (September)

Naka

n/naka 
Where to eat now in Los Angeles. Four-pork pizzas, star chefs, an 80s flashback, a hushed kaiseke hideaway, and the best burger in town. These are the 10 restaurants that should definitely be on your radar this month. 

ink.
8360 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, (323) 651-5866
I haven’t actually eaten at ink yet because it’s been impossible to get a reservation. The restaurant is fully booked 30 days in advance, and I’m still trying to get a seat. But I’ve eaten enough of Michael Voltaggio’s food in the past (at The Bazaar at SLS and, even better, The Dining Room at The Langham) to know that he’s one of L.A.’s most original talents. And his menu at ink certainly sounds intriguing: blue prawns with green papaya and finger limes; veal cheek with red curry and coconut rice; short ribs with smoked marrow toast and ras al hanout…

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Next Door by Josie 
Next Door by Josie
2420 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 581-4201
Josie Le Balch has opened a casual offshoot to the original Josie, next door, hence the name. The menu is chockfull of affordable choices: beer-and-bacon caramel corn, shrimp and grits, deviled eggs with duck cracklin’s, dry-rubbed pork riblets, and one hell of a burger. (In fact, heads-up to every burger joint in town: This is currently the one to beat.)

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Farmshop (Rick Poon/Kat Nguyen)
Farmshop
Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th Street, Santa Monica, 310-566-2400
Now that the beer/wine license has been approved (wow, that took forever!), Jeffrey Cerciello is finally serving dinner. And if the set four-course menu (no choices, just come and eat) sounds a lot like Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, well, that’s because Jeffrey basically created that place when he was Keller’s longtime culinary director. Sunday night is fried chicken night! And don’t forget the soju cucumber martini—so good.

n/naka
3455 S. Overland Ave., L.A., 310.836.6252
This Japanese newcomer is one of the most exciting restaurants of the year—and easily one the most luxuriously serene restaurants since Sona (R.I.P.). Rising star chef Niki Nakayama is a protégé of Morihiro Onodera (of Mori Sushi fame), and here she’s serving not sushi but incredibly refined kaiseke-style tasting menus. It’s expensive (the 10-course menus start at around $110 and go up from there), but damn it’s good.

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Urbano Pizza Bar
Urbano Pizza Bar
630 W. 6th St., L.A., (213) 614-1900
I don’t put a lot of stock in “reality” TV shows like Top Chef, but for what it’s worth, former cheftestant Ilan Hall (of Gorbals) has taken over the kitchen here, and he’s introduced an open-faced, hot, sloppy, messy meatball sandwich sort of thing that is truly fantastic. And don’t worry, he hasn’t touched the pizza dough, which was created by Nancy Silverton’s former head baker—so, not surprisingly, the crust bears a striking resemblance to Pizzeria Mozza’s.

Fat Spoon
29 E 1st St, L.A., (213) 621-7890
Frankly I didn’t expect much from this casual newcomer in Little Tokyo, what with a concept that marries Japanese curries with Italian pastas—like, um, how could that possibly go wrong? And, frankly, the place doesn’t look like much—rather fast-foodish. But the food really works. The chef is Hiroyuki Fujita, formerly of fine-dining spots Kumo and Hamasaku. There’s a near perfect fettuccine carbonara served alongside perfect Japanese to
nkatsu (fried pork cutlet).

Rivera
1050 S. Flower St., L.A., (213) 749-1460
John Sedlar has been celebrating the 30th anniversary St. Estephe (his original ground-breaking restaurant from 1981, long-since closed) by resurrecting his original menus (where the American Southwest met modern France), on offer at Rivera the entire month of September. It’s been an interesting trip down memory lane (especially the wacky caviar presentation), but it also reminds us just how far Sedlar has come as a chef and artist.

Bar Pintxo
109 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 458-2012
Joe Miller’s tapas bar (the most authentic patatas bravas and gambas al ajillo in L.A.) has been around for a few years, but they just got their full liquor license last month, which makes me love this place even more.

The Strand House
117 Manhattan Beach Blvd., 
Manhattan Beach, (310) 545-7470 
Whenever I’ve tried calling, this new gastropub has been booked at least two or three days in advance for prime-time tables. No wonder. Chef Neal Fraser consulted on the menus: spit-roasted suckling pig with spätzle, sautéed halibut with pea risotto, hand-torn pasta with lamb sausage, fingerling potatoes fried in duck fat… 

Larry’s
24 Winward Ave. Venice. (310) 399-2700
It’s got a rockin’ patio next to the beach. Lots of beers on tap. Great charcuterie. And a smart pub-style menu—beef cheek BLT, lamb burger, four pork pizza—from Waterloo & City’s Brendan Collins. What’s not to love?

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