Tonight’s debut of Bravo’s Best New Restaurant is sure to have a local feel. Four different spots, from Beverly Hills to Pasadena to Santa Ana are well represented on the show, which aims to take a close look into every aspect of a ‘hot restaurant,’ from the kitchen to front of house duties to the diner’s own experience.
Local faces include The Church Key in West Hollywood, DOMA in Beverly Hills, Little Sparrow in Santa Ana and Bruce Kalman’s Union in Pasadena. Each is competing with other new, hot restaurants from around the country while being overseen by a panel of expert judges, all in an attempt to be crowned the best new restaurant.
On the experts side is Tom Colicchio, Jeffrey Zurofsky and Maggie Nemser from the newly overhauled Blackboard Eats. Eater chatted with Nemser about her role on the show, her restaurant pet peeves and where she likes to dine around L.A.
What made you want to jump on board Best New Restaurant? What could have made me not want to jump on board? It’s a dream opportunity, getting to travel around and try the hottest new restaurants and talk about them. I get to deep dive into seeing what it takes to operate a best new restaurant.
So what exactly are you looking for in a new restaurant? I’m looking for everything. Just taking a real full look, then peeling back some of those layers. Things like service, food, hospitality. If they’re executing on their concept, and if what they’re doing is resonating with diners.
Hopefully they live up to the hype.
Lots of restaurants earn that title of hot new restaurant. Sometimes that’s just hype, sometimes it’s both hype and merit. But it’s a lot harder to scale things as time goes on, so we’re looking at new restaurants that are really getting into their groove as they continue to unfold. Hopefully they live up to the hype.
Did anything stick out to you during filming that you think is really interesting? Well, it’s definitely interesting to look at restaurants alongside Tom [Colicchio] and Jeffrey [Zurofsky]. They each bring such a personality to the show. Obviously Tom has that real chef perspective, and Jeffrey has culinary as well as entrepreneurial experience. I come from the perspective of the diner, so it’s interesting to have those voices together. I really try to learn from them, contribute to what they’re seeing.
Did you find anything with these restaurants that really speaks to the greater dining landscape? I hate those server phrases, like ‘Have you been here before?’ or ‘Let me walk you through the menu.’ In order to get you to spend as much as possible, we’re going to recommend five dishes per person! When you go out to eat, you want to choose your own adventure, but with some guidance from the staff. When you feel pressure, that’s never a good thing.
I hate those server phrases, like ‘Have you been here before?’
Overall, I’m excited about this casual turn in dining. Lots of exciting things are going on in restaurants right now. We’re seeing the elevation of one-dish concepts, and that’s exciting. We’re also seeing iconic dishes that maybe before you only saw in, say, the San Gabriel Valley, pop up on higher-end menus.
You must have a few places you like to dine at around town. Oh, absolutely. I love République. I dream about their beef tartare and Walter’s chicken. I love Saint Martha. I thought Cadet was really exciting. Faith & Flower is cool, and just a really exciting, bustling space. On the Westside, I’m digging Superba Food & Bread on Lincoln. It’s like a hotel lobby for Venice, where you can stroll in any time of the day for a coffee or just to steal some WiFi. It’s a nice addition to the neighborhood.