Throughout the year, Restaurant Editor Bill Addison will travel the country to chronicle what's happening in America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38, and check back at the end of the year to find out which restaurants made the cut.
Los Angeles is fevered with extraordinary restaurants right now. I wasn't dining there in the 1980s, when L.A. chefs helped steer the culinary revolution that changed the way our nation eats, but I can't imagine it was a more exciting time than this. And it isn't just California's fabled bounty. It's the freedom with which the chefs cook. They can look to any point on the globe—Italy, Asia, Latin America, the farm an hour's drive north—and find inspiration that will resonate with the city's cultural spirit. Best of all, these chefs have customers eager to support their autonomy.
I still have scads of eating to do in Southern California. Here, though, are three standouts from my recent feasting. A report from my three final L.A. meals will run on Monday.