Eater critic Bill Addison has released his annual list of best new restaurants in America, and three of the 18 picks opened in Los Angeles within the past year: Majordomo, Bavel, and Dialogue. The anonymous eater starts his roundup by saying that these restaurants reflect shifting cultural values, touching on how the chefs’ “creative achievements stoke diners’ imaginations and ambitions.”
That perspective rings especially true with Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis’s Bavel, which reflects a Levantine approach that weaves through Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt by way of Israel. David Chang’s Majordomo draws from LA’s Korean and Chinese communities, employing pristine local ingredients and a massive smoker. On the other hand, Dave Beran’s Dialogue in Santa Monica takes the form of a modernist kaiseki, gleaning ingredients and inspiration from LA’s seasonal produce.
And while Bavel heralds a greater shift to modern Levantine and Middle Eastern cuisine in Los Angeles, Chang and Beran also represent two chefs who didn’t establish their careers in the City of Angels but used LA’s creative milieu to start new chapters. Beran ran the lofty kitchens of Chicago’s Alinea and Next before decamping to the West Coast to spark his own restaurant empire, starting with the ambitious fine dining shoebox tucked away on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade.
Chang now has Majordomo, a West Coast expansion from the Ugly Delicious host’s Momofuku empire. Majordomo started off with a rabid following in early January but continued to endured multiple waves of attention from Chang’s involvement with the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Netflix’s Ugly Delicious, and the launch of a podcast with the Ringer network.
And finally back to Bavel, a restaurant literally years in the making that coalesces the best aspects of Menashe and Gergis’s standout restaurant Bestia: high ceilings, wide open dining room, bustling service, and obsessively-produced recipes. All three restaurants captured different strata of LA’s dining culture — from SGV and K-Town cool kids at Majordomo to suave, artsy types at Dialogue, to sceney Downtowners and Hollywood types at Bavel. Still, all three have become their own dining destinations by compelling Angelenos to leave their parts of town.
With three out of 18 restaurants rated nationally as this year’s best, it’s easy to overlook what’s coming through the pipeline or recently debuted in LA: APL, Kasih, Ma’am Sir, Tesse, Somni, Simone (still unopened), Nightshade (also unopened), and Guerrilla Tacos (opening tomorrow in the Arts District). LA’s culinary scene, already ranked among the best in the country, looks absolutely stacked right now. There’s no better time to dine in Los Angeles, and this year’s Best New Restaurants roundup is proof of that.