Unfortunately for the city of Los Angeles, Besha Rodell is no longer the food critic at LA Weekly. The loss leaves a gaping hole in the critical side of the dining scene here, with no full-time anonymous diner around to dole out stars. Thankfully Rodell’s voice hasn’t completely disappeared from the LA landscape over the past few weeks, as she’s been slowly rolling out her final act: a collection of the best restaurants in all the land. Now, there is a winner.
Not that this needed a spoiler alert notation given the information is publicly available for free over at LA Weekly, but Rodell decided to give this year’s top restaurant honors to none other than n/naka. The California kaiseki restaurant is a gorgeous ode to the culture of Japanese dining, but it’s also an intensely personal restaurant for chef-owners Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida. Rodell herself calls the menu “lyrical musings on season, tradition, newness and the meeting of California and Japan, both culturally and in terms of ingredients.”
Beyond the number one slot, Rodell worked down to a top 20 lists that includes names like Providence, Melisse, and Q Sushi. Others — Dialogue and Vespertine among them — were too new to be considered, Rodell says, while Maude is in the midst of an overhaul that also kept them off the list. Newer names like Felix did end up on the list (but not before Silver Lake Italian star Alimento), while more casual places like Parks BBQ and Baco Mercat earned high marks as well. The whole list, predictably, reads like a who’s-who of great dining options around Los Angeles, and really shows off — both in its inclusions and exclusions — the range of dining possible in Los Angeles right now.
The whole package of restaurants marks Rodell’s final act as an employee of LA Weekly, and it coincides with the drop of the alt weekly publication’s drop of their annual overall Best Of issue, which is available now.