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The Biggest LA Dining Surprises in 2017, According to Local Food Writers

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What shocked the LA restaurant world in 2017?

Vespertine, Culver City
Anne Fishbein
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Caroline Pardilla, Eater LA contributor, Caroline on Crack

So many! When Besha Rodell left for Australia, Lesley Suter stepped down from LA Magazine (on to bigger and better things at Eater!). And then LA Weekly fired its editors, effectively eliminating one of the best sources for food coverage in the city. Don’t know if this counts as a “dining surprise” but the news that made me go “OMFG” was the news of sexual assault charges against formerly well-respected barman Marcos Tello. WTF? That was an “open secret” in the cocktail community?

Jeff Miller, Founding editor, Thrillist LA

SGV-level Chinese food dropping mid-city. Northern Cafe and Tasty Noodle Co opening within a couple miles of each other is a total blessing for soup dumpling fans.

Pat Saperstein, Variety and Eating LA

That we would be considering the sexual harassment record of the owners before deciding where to eat.

Zach Brooks, Midtown Lunch LA

I only went to the Westwood Panda Express twice for an orange chicken burrito this entire year. Also, Vespertine unseating Providence on JGold's 101. But mostly the Panda Express thing.

Esther Tseng, Estar LA

Though it was probably the most inevitable direction as the now-regarded best food city in the U.S. (the only direction left being "up"), it was a big surprise that L.A. would have its turn at elevating the fine dining and tasting menu scene. We've now got this other worldly experience at Jordan Kahn's Vespertine. But we have also added Dialogue with Dave Beran the same year, and Wolfgang Puck increasing experimentation in the kitchen with The Rogue Experience not long before that. The successes of other fine dining mainstays that have made their imprint in L.A. in the last handful of years such as Maude and Orsa and Winston have continued the trajectory of institutions such as Melisse and Providence.

Garrett Snyder, Food Editor, Los Angeles Magazine

Vespertine, everything about it

Katherine Spiers, Host of Smart Mouth podcast

I wouldn't have guessed that all of sudden we'd have a bunch of truly good Italian restaurants.

Hadley Tomicki, UrbanDaddy

Probably the full bottles of amyl nitrate awaiting us at a certain recurring, peripatetic dinner party. They paired beautifully with the oysters. Being locked in a closet at the Willows also caught me off guard a bit.

Joshua Lurie, FoodGPS, Eater LA contributor

Chefs and restaurateurs are now being held accountable for their egregious sexual harassment. Most diners (and food writers) didn't know the extent of the emotional and physical damage these men have inflicted, but now that victims and publications are shining spotlights on these offenses, it's clear that this reckoning has been in the works for far too long. Now that chefs are being forced to step away from their restaurants for abusing their power, it's hard to imagine the revelations stopping anytime soon. Hopefully this movement drums out more perpetrators and leads to less toxic work environments where employees no longer need to be fearful.

Nicole Iizuka, Writer, Brit + Co.; Filmmaker, Tastemade

I say this with absolute JOY but the growth of immersive and experimental dining experiences rocking LA right now! From (and no I haven't been... yet) Vespertine's contentious spot on J Gold's 101, to Justin Fix's dangerously intriguing dinner party at The Willows, Infinite Dinner Society's "Midnight Snacks," and Intro Art Gallery & Chef's Table — it feels like the city is ready to embrace the unusual and push itself past the comfort zone of the familiar. It's exciting and I can't wait to see what 2018 brings to the scene.

Andy Wang, Contributor, Food + Wine

How the 818 is getting almost every kind of restaurant but still doesn’t have a great modern Italian restaurant.

Gary Baum, Senior writer, The Hollywood Reporter

The decimation of LA Weekly’s dining coverage.

Euno Lee, Eater LA contributor

I'll indulge the industry: Whatever the hell happened to the LA Weekly. This was formerly the home of J-Gold. B-Rod. Now it's... well I don't really know. Also: Huge shout-out to the Ricardo Zarate comeback. This city needs his food.

Farley Elliott, Senior Editor, Eater LA

Uovo. Pasta that isn't made here, cooked in less than a flash, and ordered while sitting on uncomfortable stools — but it's great, busy, and a forward-thinking model for future success.

Crystal Coser, Eater LA Associate Editor

The tragedy of Besha Rodell leaving Los Angeles, and the subsequent implosion of LA Weekly. LA needs more critics!

Matthew Kang, Editor, Eater LA

The changes/upheavals in LA food media, from LA Magazine (which seems to have returned to form, especially in print) to LA Weekly (oof) to LAist (RIP). Vespertine’s ridiculous and absolute ambition, answered by waves of positive critical responses. The effect of Instagram on LA’s dining culture: basically don’t make food unless it photographs well. Can we make #uglydelicious the food hashtag of 2018?


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