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The Biggest LA Restaurant Surprises of 2015

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One restaurant seemed to capture the hearts and minds of LA food experts.

Lodge Bread, Culver City
Lodge Bread, Culver City
Wonho Frank Lee

Pat Saperstein, EatingLA and Senior Editor, Variety

The lack of excitement about Pok Pok LA's opening.

Kat Odell, Eater Drinks Editor

That LA wasn't the first city to have its own matcha bar.

Jeff Miller, Editor, Thrillist LA

Baroo. Bar none.

Tony Chen, Eater LA Contributor

Pickles from Maple Block.

[Maple Block Meat Co, Culver City, photo by Wonho Frank Lee]

Eddie Lin, Deep End Dining

Three words: Nashville hot chicken--specifically, Howlin' Ray's Nashville hot chicken. Who would've thought this regional spicy, fried chicken served on soft white bread would be one of 2015's greatest hits? Chef Johnny Ray Zone, that's who. Look for his brick n' mortar in early 2016 at Chinatown's Far East Plaza.

Esther Tseng, EstarLA

For a long time, it was easy to roll your eyes at "fusion" because there was this flatness to the way that cuisine was Asian-influenced. It was kind of Japanese Lite. This year, our scene has really benefited from a wider appreciation of a diverse set of Asian food from Vietnamese and Chinese to Indian...and of course Korean, Thai, and yes, even more Japanese. There's been a fantastic proliferation of refined, original cooking with these flavors while really showcasing Southern California's wealth of great ingredients. We've got a great set of dining-out Angelenos that are eager to try these new things, so there's that demand, and it's been really exciting to see. Sambar, Cassia, E.P. & L.P., Maru, Hanjip are on the Westside and you've got Little Sister & Simbal in DTLA.

Lesley Balla, LA Magazine, Angeleno, Zagat

How many bakeries have opened, especially for bread, like Lodge, Clark Street and Seed. I love that people still think LA is a carb-a-phobe town, and it really isn't. Maybe it is, but someone's eating all the bread! And that Cake Monkey finally opened their own storefront, a story I've been following since, well, since I worked at Eater.

Euno Lee, Eater LA Contributor

The success of B.S. Taqueria and Broken Spanish. A certain chef (undoubtedly new to the city) had the audacity to say Mexican food in L.A. "has been relegated to being this very cheap commodity stuff." And chef Ray Garcia was all like, "lol" (OK, so he didn't say it... but he should have).

There's a way to elevate a cuisine or re-contextualize it in a way that absolutely justifies steeper prices, and Ray Garcia has been doing just that. I found the financial temerity to pony up ~$15 for a lamb neck and king oyster mushroom tamale at Broken Spanish a few weeks ago — but what surprised me most was that when I considered the execution, the timeliness of the dish and the subtle balance of comforting flavors and textures without repeating the sentence "Euno, you're paying $15 for a tamale" in my head... it somehow ended up completely worth it.

Lucas Peterson, Eater LA Contributor

​Baroo. Chef Kwang Uh is a mad fermentation scientist​

Zach Brooks, Midtown Lunch, Food is the New Rock

Baroooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Caroline Pardilla, LA Magazine, Eater Drinks

Closure of Alma.

Bill Esparza, LA Magazine, Streetgourmet LA

Cassia. I grew to enjoy the Spice Table, but wasn't prepared for the giant leap made by chef Bryant Ng and wife/partner, Kim Luu-Ng.

Hadley Tomicki, Urban Daddy LA

In a year of so many carpetbaggers hungrily eying LA, it was great to see Roy Choi's continued commitment to his hometown with concepts like Locol and 3 Worlds Café. LA Son is an LA hero.

Baroo Menu Los Angeles

[Baroo Menu, photo by Matthew Kang]

Nicole Iizuka, Senior Producer, Popsugar

Baroo! Just amazing. Can't wait to see what they'll do next.

Farley Elliott, Senior Editor, Eater LA

Baroo. Popping up almost literally overnight, in the middle of a (mostly) restaurant wasteland, and utterly changing the way LA should be thinking about the future of food.

The Offalo

That Hanjip is just as good as the top KBBQ places in Koreatown, and not more expensive for being on the Westside!

Stacey Sun, DineLA

Gjusta, specifically in the evenings. That is the best time to go because it's much calmer. Their chicken dumpling soup and minestrone soup are so good, especially when they're paired with their crusty bread.

Crystal Coser, Associate Editor, Eater LA

Charles Olalia leaving Patina and mar'sel to pay homage to his Filipino heritage at Rice Bar. Awesome.

Lesley Bargar Suter, Food Editor, LA Magazine

I expect this will be a repeat: Baroo.

Joshua Lurie, FoodGPS

I was surprised to see poké take hold to the extent that it did. For decades, this regional classic has more or less been limited to Hawaii. In 2014, I wrote a guide to Top Los Angeles Poke and struggled to find 10 good options in the entire county. Now the Westside alone could field a strong squad.

Meghan McCarron, Associate Features Editor, Eater

I lived in LA ten years ago, and it's been really fascinating to re-visit neighborhoods and see which restaurants have survived the test of time, and which have a completely new slate of tenants. So, let's call these the surprises of the past decade? It blows my mind that both downtown and Culver City are such restaurant hot spots. And I'm also both comforted and confused by how little the stretch of Vermont in Los Feliz has changed since I lived there.

Matthew Kang, Editor, Eater LA

I don't want to say Baroo but damn, Baroo just came out of left field. It's fantastic, and all the haters can keep hating because they don't understand what Kwang Uh is doing there. More than anything, it's advanced, thoughtful cooking at a bargain price, which I think only LA can cultivate right now. But otherwise, I was surprised by how popular food became with the millennial and hipster set in 2015. Thanks to Instagram and Snapchat, everyone's talking about restaurants in a way that people weren't just a few years ago. A friend of mine who works in fashion told me: "ugh I'm so over fashion. Food is so much cooler right now." Hm, okay.

Cassia

1314 7th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (310) 393-6699

Alma at the Standard

8300 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069 323-822-3131

Patina

141 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 213-972-3331 Visit Website

Rice Bar

419 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014

Baroo

5706 Santa Monica Boulevard, , CA 90038 (323) 929-9288 Visit Website

Broken Spanish

1050 Flower Street, , CA 90015 (213) 749-1460 Visit Website

Far East Plaza

727 North Broadway, , CA 90012 (424) 207-4459

Spice Table

114 S Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 620-1840 Visit Website

Pok Pok LA

978 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

B.S. Taqueria

514 7th Street, , CA 90014 (213) 622-3744 Visit Website

Gjusta

320 Sunset Avenue, , CA 90291 (310) 314-0320 Visit Website

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