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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week, March 2020

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Follow Eater editors each week as they share their favorite dishes around town

Pork chop at Bar Avalon in Echo Park.
Pork chop at Bar Avalon in Echo Park
Farley Elliott.

The editors of Eater LA dine out several times a week, if not per day, which means we’re always encountering standout dishes that deserve time in the limelight. Here now, the very best of everything the team has eaten recently.


March 9, 2020

Lobster bolognese at Citrin in Santa Monica

Lobster bolognese at Citrin in Santa Monica.
Lobster bolognese at Citrin in Santa Monica
Matthew Kang

Josiah Citrin’s reformulated Santa Monica restaurant has been split into two concepts: a more casual Citrin and a formal Melisse. Citrin carries a superb energy from a moneyed Santa Monica crowd and offers essentially the same level of fine dining execution as Melisse but with the versatility of an a la carte selection. The lobster bolognese, a carryover from Melisse, is an incredible dish that Josiah thought up when he was trying to use extra bits from all the lobsters he was going through. Citrin might be the best upscale California restaurant in LA at the moment, and this dish is exhibit A. 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Suite A, Santa Monica. —Matthew Kang

Clam chowder at Prawn Coastal inside Grand Central Market in Downtown

Clam chowder at Prawn Coastal inside Grand Central Market in Downtown.
Clam chowder at Prawn Coastal inside Grand Central Market in Downtown
Mona Holmes

We’ve got rain in the forecast this week, so comfort food calls. Soups and stews make the chilliest days better, and an ideal spot to assist with that is right in Grand Central Market at Prawn Coastal. Head towards the east end of the market, grab a stool, and ask for the seafood chowder. The presentation is ideal and hearty as hell, with clams, bacon, potatoes, and a kabocha squash purée. Served in a sourdough bowl, there shouldn’t be a single drop of soup or bread when finished. 317 South Broadway, Los Angeles. —Mona Holmes

Pork chop at Bar Avalon in Echo Park

Pork chop at Bar Avalon in Echo Park.
Pork chop at Bar Avalon in Echo Park
Farley Elliott.

It was a full house at Bar Avalon late last week, not coincidentally on the same day that the LA Times dropped its positive review of the Echo Park restaurant. The cozy strip mall neighborhood surprise has been slowly ramping up — not only with more customers, but with bolder pushes into surprising fare like prawns in piri piri sauce and a wildly decadent pork chop with a pickled green tomato relish. The latter is a surprisingly lush piece of pork that chews almost like wagyu beef, and is best used as an anchor around a circle of lighter dishes and salad-y sides. Add in some surprising and affordable wines to make a night of it at one of LA’s many underrated, hiding-in-plain-sight gems. 2112 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. —Farley Elliott

Heritage pig plate at Redbird in Downtown

Heritage pig plate at Redbird in Downtown.
Heritage pig plate at Redbird in Downtown
Cathy Chaplin

There is much to adore about Redbird, Neal and Amy Fraser’s magnificent downtown standby. From the Vibiana’s majestic grounds to the inviting wraparound bar and of course, the tremendous cooking, it’s no wonder this restaurant continues to thrive in its sixth year of business. My heart never fails to skip a beat whenever I see offals on the menu, so there was no question that the heritage pig plate was a must-order on a recent night out. Comprised of four different pork preparations — thinly sliced headcheese, a pork belly terrine, marinated pigs ears, and cotechino sausage — the sampler was a pork lover’s dream. All that was needed was a slowly sipped spirit-forward cocktail to curb the platter’s intrinsic richness. 114 E. 2nd St, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin


March 2, 2020

Leek chawanmushi at Melisse in Santa Monica

Leek chawanmushi at Melisse in Santa Monica.
Leek chawanmushi at Melisse in Santa Monica
Cathy Chaplin

Fine dining-goers weren’t sure what to expect when chef Josiah Citrin closed Melisse about a year ago. After retooling for most of 2019, Melisse reemerged last December as an intimate 14-seat restaurant. The tasting menu, which features a dozen or so courses, takes diners on a familiar fine dining journey — with lighter seafood-centric dishes at the start and heartier proteins like roasted quails and wagyu beef to finish. There is a lot to like about the new dining room and menu, and particularly great was the leek chawanmushi. Following a flight of canapes, the delicate egg custard arrived in an ornate serving vessel. Fortified with Hokkaido sea urchin, the chawanmushi tasted simultaneously of the land and sea. The buttery bread crumbs and Osetra caviar on top added interest, texture, and pure lusciousness. 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. —Cathy Chaplin

Minestra nel Sacco from Rossoblu

It’s been more than two years since Rossoblu first debuted in Downtown, but it’s still hard to find a more satisfying, hearty, family-forward meal anywhere in the neighborhood. Despite the glitzy former warehouse digs found at City Market South in the Fashion District, Rossoblu feels positively personal thanks to Dina and Steve Samson, the friendly-faced owners who preside over the staff, the hearth, and the warming bowls of minestra nel sacco that hit most tables on any given night. As Jonathan Gold once raved, the simple home-cooked meal is “positively exotic,” offered in a heavy-bottomed pot with square dumplings boiled in a bag and poured tableside for all to see. It’s an almost silly bit of presentation, given the showy nature of tableside carving and caviar found across the city right now, but the simple chicken broth and smooth, salty dumplings deserve its own moment in the sun. They get just that at Rossoblu, as the Samsons look on from the background with a smile, happy that yet another customer is coming in to try something so personal for the very first time. 1124 San Julian St., Downtown. —Farley Elliott

Garlic pork at Sutadonya inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Torrance

Garlic pork at Sutadonya inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Torrance.
Garlic pork at Sutadonya inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Torrance
Matthew Kang

One of the new additions to Torrance’s cool new Mitsuwa at Del Amo mall is Sutadonya, a thinly-sliced garlic pork stall. Sutadonya also served at the Japanese marketplace’s previous location. The Yoshinoya-like restaurant specializes in highly seasoned, tender pork shaved almost paper thin and greased with an intense garlic perfume. The whole thing would almost overwhelm with saltiness were it not for the mild bed of white rice. The lunch set also mercifully comes with shredded cabbage to help allay the fiery garlic flavor. 3525 W. Carson St Suite 164, Torrance. —Matthew Kang


February 24, 2020

Breakfast burrito at Monte 52 in Highland Park

Breakfast burrito at Monte 52 in Highland Park.
Breakfast burrito at Monte 52 in Highland Park
Mona Holmes

It’s challenging to try a new breakfast burrito in LA when my go-to spots are solid. But if you have to add another to the list, so be it. This one sits in an unusual little counter at Avenue 52 and Monte Vista in Highland Park. It’s a rare kind of space for LA, with full-on bodega vibes. La Tropicana Market is the well-stocked front market, with Monte 52’s rear food-to-order kitchen. This compact kitchen cranks out stellar fried chicken sandwiches, house made soups, salads, and a breakfast burrito. Monte 52’s breakfast burrito adds all the expected elements, save for a few unanticipated ones like roasted and cubed potatoes, a chipotle sour cream, and a cheese sauce. It’s creamy and wonderfully rich, with flavor that fulfils on any day of the week. 5200 Monte Vista Street, Highland Park. —Mona Holmes

Grilled chicken wings at Eszett in Silver Lake

Grilled chicken wings at Eszett in Silver Lake.
Grilled chicken wings at Eszett in Silver Lake
Farley Elliott

Los Angeles is in love with wine bars at the moment, from Echo Park’s new Tilda to Esters in Santa Monica. One of the best to arrive on the scene of late is Eszett, which took over the former Trois Familia space in Silver Lake not long ago. The strip mall space is dim, cozy, and great for small groups of friends who want to elbow in at the bar or use the standing bar in the middle of the room. There is a big banquette for more relaxed seating, but the real action happens at the bar, where owner Sabrina Bezaire pours fun and colorful glasses of wine all night long. Better still is the peek into the kitchen, where husband Spencer Bezaire turns out elevated snacks and savory dishes, including some surprising grilled chicken wings. Served with just the right amount of char and laced with a warming salsa macha, this is the get-your-hands-dirty finger food that Silver Lake didn’t know it needed in its wine bar scene, until now. 3510 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. —Farley Elliott

Roasted catfish at Sau Can Tho in Rosemead

Roasted catfish at Sau Can Tho in Rosemead.
Roasted catfish at Sau Can Tho in Rosemead
Cathy Chaplin

In celebration of a recent birthday, I gathered the troops for one of the most festive communal feasts ever: roasted catfish at Sau Can Tho restaurant in Rosemead. A medium-sized catfish, which is large enough for three or four, comes with a large platter of herbs and lettuce, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber spears, vermicelli rice noodles, rice papers, and best of all, a tangy-sweet tamarind dipping sauce. The fish’s prized crispy skin, charred in some spots and golden throughout, gave way to moist and tender flesh imbued with honey and turmeric. We garnished, wrapped, and dipped ‘til our hearts were content. All that was left was a pile of bones when we were through. 8450 Garvey Ave. #103, Rosemead. —Cathy Chaplin

Steak fajitas at Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks

Steak fajitas at Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks.
Steak fajitas at Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks
Matthew Kang

Step into the time portal that is Casa Vega. With its red-tinted decor and windowless dining room, it feels like 1972 all over again. It’s no wonder the place was a key scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. But the food still mostly holds up, especially the chicken tortilla soup and steak fajitas, which could’ve used some more tender pieces of beef. But the generous portion contains about one whole sliced red pepper in its sizzling platter. With a side of sorta-dry Spanish rice and lard-laden beans, it was still a wonderful throwback dish that worked in the classic space. This is one instance where sometimes the environment can overtake what’s on the plate. 13301 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks. —Matthew Kang


February 18, 2020

Soontubu and fried mackerel combo at Surawon in Koreatown

Soontdubu and fried mackerel combo at Surawon in Koreatown.
Soontubu and fried mackerel combo at Surawon in Koreatown
Matthew Kang

Surawon might be one of the most unassuming Koreatown restaurants with its lack of windows and hard-to-see signage. But inside resides one of the best places for soontubu in town. The silken tofu stew is excellent here for its complex flavoring and house-made tofu (a rarity in LA). If available, Surawon makes its soontubu with black soybeans, which offer a hint of nuttiness versus the completely bland standard-issue tofu. The star of this $20 combo, however, is the fried mackerel, a generous portion made just right with a squeeze of lemon. At a pricier restaurant, this mackerel might cost two to three times as much, but instead budget diners get to indulge in this fatty fish blessed with intense flavor with a hint of sweetness in the tender flesh. 2833 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Samosa chaat at Punjabi Dhaba in Bakersfield

Samosa chaat at Punjabi Dhaba in Bakersfield.
Samosa chaat at Punjabi Dhaba in Bakersfield
Farley Elliott

Bakersfield’s booming Punjabi population means great things for diners in the Central Valley, and for anyone crossing the vast expanse via the 99 or 5 freeways. One of the biggest names in Bakersfield’s Indian food game right now is Punjabi Dhaba, a roadside food truck and seating area glowingly reviewed by critic Tejal Rao in the New York Times last summer. The food is remarkable, the women who run the show are effortlessly kind, and there’s even a house cat who presides over the whole affair. It’s hard to go wrong with anything on the tight menu, but definitely spring for the spicy butter chicken and parathas — and some samosa chaat never hurt anyone, either. 2546 S. Union Ave., Bakersfield. — Farley Elliott

Scallion oil noodle with soy sauce at LAN Noodle in Arcadia

Scallion oil noodle with soy sauce at LAN Noodle in Arcadia.
Scallion oil noodle with soy sauce at LAN Noodle in Arcadia.
Cathy Chaplin

I ate bowls upon bowls of Lanzhou beef noodle soup at the top of the year trying to wrap my mind and palate around the Hot Dish. With it’s hand-pulled noodles and wonderfully clear broth, the beef noodle soup never failed to soothe and satisfy. On occasions when I dined out with a companion or two, we sampled some of the lesser-known noodles to supplement the star dish. One of the most memorable were the scallion oil noodles with soy sauce at LAN Noodle in Arcadia. Whereas traditional stir-fried scallion noodles are slicked with soy sauce and deeply flavored with caramelized scallions, the ones at LAN arrived in a shallow soy sauce broth with crisped and browned green onions heaped on top. The dish’s innovative composition gave the famed beef noodle soup a run for its money. 411 E Huntington Dr #102, Arcadia. —Cathy Chaplin


February 10, 2020

Cheeseburger at Cognoscenti Coffee in the Fashion District

Cheeseburger at Cognoscenti Coffee in the Fashion District.
Cheeseburger at Cognoscenti Coffee in the Fashion District
Farley Elliott

Some of LA’s best burgers are hiding in unexpected places these days. Case in point: The beguilingly simple burger at Cognoscenti Coffee at City Market South in Downtown’s Fashion District. Owner Yeekai Lim has started cooking up a few for in-the-know coffee fans during the week at the sunny space on San Julian Street, and it’s become a worthy addition to a packed LA burger landscape. Right now this one doesn’t have the media adoration of Go Get Em Tiger’s own coffee shop burger at the Row nearby, or the fans that Goldburger and Burgers Never Say Die command, but the crusty, slightly thicker patty and hidden-on-the-bottom toppings make it a worthy stop for anyone on the burger trail. 1118 San Julian St., Fashion District. —Farley Elliott

Ganjang gejang at Soban in Koreatown

Ganjang gejang at Soban in Koreatown.
Ganjang gejang at Soban in Koreatown
Matthew Kang/Eater LA

As I bit into this glorious marinated crab at Koreatown’s Soban, the owner hinted that Parasite director Bong Joon Ho had recently dined at the restaurant. It’s no doubt that Ho was looking for some of LA’s finest ganjang gejang — raw, marinated, sometimes fermented flower crab — that could be one of the most refined dishes in the Korean culinary canon. Though a serving only comes with one large crab for $40, it’s worth the splurge for this rare find. Suck out the marrow-like meat infused with soy sauce and a cocktail of aromatics, and experience a near-euphoric rush of fat, sweetness, and umami. Then ask for extra white rice, packing it into the shell to soak up the most of that marinade and the remaining bits of crab. Bong Joon Ho clearly has good taste. 4001 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Gnocchi at Sixth and Mill in the Arts District

A plate of gnocchi in tomato sauce with basil and burrata at Sixth and Mill in the Arts District.
Gnocchi at Sixth and Mill in the Arts District
Cathy Chaplin

The southern Italian menu at Sixth and Mill in the Arts District meanders in many different directions, all of them delightful. On the menu are Neapolitan-style pizzas, of course, with different sections devoted to red and white varieties. Also present are half a dozen pastas — a trio of hand-made noodles along with a trio of extruded strands. There’s even a portion of the menu focused on fritters, deep-fried bites like arancini, calamari, and Brussels sprouts. It’s a lot to navigate, but rest assured because under chef Angelo Auriana’s watch, everything is executed with care. Best of all are the gnocchi, simply sauced in the brightest San Marzano tomato sauce along with fresh basil and locally-made Gioia burrata. Held together with just a smidgen of flour, the potato dumplings wow with its pillowy textures and simplistic pleasures. 1335 E. 6th St, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Breakfast burrito at La Azteca Tortilleria in East Los Angeles

Breakfast burrito at La Azteca Tortilleria in East Los Angeles.
Breakfast burrito at La Azteca Tortilleria in East Los Angeles
[Official Photo]

It’s entirely possible to find a solid breakfast burrito in most parts of the city, but few are as perfect as the one at La Azteca Tortilleria. The Villa family begins with exquisite hand-made flour tortillas, and takes a fabulous shift from the expected with the addition of beans and salsa to the already perfect combination of potatoes, eggs, cheese, and bacon (or your favorite protein). This breakfast burrito runs a petite size, but packs 45 years of experience. Ask them to cut it in half, and be sure to order a pack of tortillas to take home. 4538 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, East Los Angeles. —Mona Holmes


February 3, 2020

The grilled fish plate at Cafe Brasil in Culver City

Grilled fish plate at Cafe Brasil
Grilled fish plate at Cafe Brasil
Mona Holmes

As Amazon recently took over Culver Studios, with HBO and Apple taking up residence shortly, Downtown Culver City’s landscape is shifting significantly, especially with retail and restaurants. But slightly west on the other side of the 405 is the longstanding Cafe Brasil. The all-day menu permits breakfast at any time, but the grilled fish plate works wonders for the hungry. Choose from beautifully seasoned red snapper or salmon, which comes with long strips of fried plantains, rice, a simple salad, and LA’s best batch of black beans. Operating since 1991, Cafe Brasil has the gift of experience. The dishes are tried, tested, and executed perfectly in the colorful dining room, where futbol is almost always on the TV. 11736 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles. —Mona Holmes

Chicken burrito from Socalo in Santa Monica

A cut chicken burrito showing its insides, held up next to a blue wall.
Chicken burrito at Socalo
Farley Elliott

The menu at Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s new Socalo restaurant in Santa Monica is massive, so best to take things a few meals at a time. For a starter lunch, consider the namesake burrito, offered with everything from jackfruit tinga to grilled steak or, for breakfast, eggs and bacon. The chicken option is an early hit, as the burrito comes fully stuffed not only with bird but beans, griddled cheese, an avocado salsa, and crispy potatoes. In a taco town, this is one burrito to watch. 1920 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. —Farley Elliott

Half chicken plate at Kismet Rotisserie in Los Feliz

Chicken at Kismet Rotisserie
Kismet Rotisserie
Matthew Kang

Taking price aside for a moment, if there’s a juicier, tastier, more delicious roast chicken in LA than the one at Kismet Rotisserie I would like to know where. In the meantime, this platter, definitely big enough for two, comes with hummus, house-made pita, pickles, and half a head of lettuce dressed as a salad. The chicken’s skin could be a tad crisper, but the moist meat from Petaluma Poultry makes up for it. The garlic sauce is a killer flavor to dab on while the house chile gives the chicken a gentle nuttiness that adds another dimension. Okay, so let’s talk about price: $32. Including tax and tip it’s close to $40. But for a healthy lunch for two at about $20 a person, it’s very good. Food just costs more in 2020, and I can accept that. 4666 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang


January 27, 2020

Ozoni at Taihei in Monterey Park

Japanese new year rice cake at Taihei in Monterey Park.
Ozoni at Taihei in Monterey Park
Cathy Chaplin

With February around the corner, it was high time I got my hands on a serving of ozoni, the essential Japanese new year soup. So over a lunch of nigiri and sushi rolls at Taihei in Monterey Park, a friend and I shared a hefty cauldron filled with shrimp, chicken, fish cakes, napa cabbage, and mushrooms — all cooked in a fortifying dashi broth. Hiding underneath the abundant vegetables and proteins were wonderfully sticky orbs of mochi. The glutinous rice cakes, simple and satisfying through and through, warmed our souls and officially readied our spirits for everything that 2020 brings. 2195 S. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park. —Cathy Chaplin

Cubano at Cafe Southwest in Studio City

Cubano at Cafe Southwest in Studio City.
Cubano at Cafe Southwest in Studio City
Farley Elliott

There’s something so delightfully charming about Cafe Southwest in Studio City, the tiny cafe and restaurant attached to the very family-friendly Weddington Golf & Tennis club. Despite the property’s tony-sounding name, Southwest itself is a tiny, inexpensive counter where locals trade gossip over all-day breakfast, tacos, burgers, and an eye-catching Cubano sandwich. You know you’re in the right kind of place when the sandwich itself is served with fries on the side for under $12, and comes on an old fashioned skillet and wooden platter board. At Cafe Southwest, with views to the greenery beyond, that kind of not-actually-hokiness ends up being delightful for anyone eager to catch a simple meal in the Valley. 4141 Whitsett Ave., Studio City. —Farley Elliott

Breakfast burrito at Lucky Boy

Breakfast Burrito at Lucky Boy, served in a cardboard box next to chili cheese fries.
Breakfast burrito at Lucky Boy
Wonho Frank Lee

I grew up in Pasadena, so Lucky Boy is a part of my DNA. Throughout my lifetime, Lucky Boy’s Arroyo Parkway location was the site for hanging after high school football games, late-night meals, and anything and everything in between. I now stop by every few months, where many visits are met with familiar faces from my childhood while trying the pastrami or patty melt. Both are stellar, but Lucky Boy’s breakfast burrito is a beautiful thing. Legend has it that the kitchen added the breakfast burrito to the menu in the 1970s when a customer wanted his breakfast rolled up into a nice package. And that package remains one of the best in town with healthy helpings of eggs, russet potatoes, cheddar, and ample meat whether sausage, exceptionally crunchy bacon, or ham. 640 S. Arroyo Parkway Pasadena. —Mona Holmes

Hard-shell taco at Tom’s Taco in Torrance

Hard-shell taco at Tom’s Taco in Torrance.
Hard-shell taco at Tom’s Taco in Torrance
Matthew Kang

Unassuming but excellent hardshell tacos are the main focus at this humble restaurant in Torrance, where the affable owner Tom holds court over the register. The similarities to this place and Culver City’s Tito’s Tacos are too many to list, from the cash-only payment to the watery but surprisingly tasty red salsa. The crunchy tacos boast a mound of shredded cheese and a few ounces of shredded beef, and the result is nearly identical to Tito’s — enough that some customers just call the place Tito’s in reviews. The combo comes with dry Spanish rice and lard-less beans, so next time I’ll just opt for two (or three) of those crunchy tacos for lunch. 4669 Torrance Boulevard, Torrance. —Matthew Kang


January 21, 2020

Birria de res tacos at El Ruso in Boyle Heights

Birria de res tacos at El Ruso in Boyle Heights
Birria de res tacos at El Ruso in Boyle Heights
Mona Holmes

The El Ruso stand in Boyle Heights is the place to be on Saturdays. Owner Walter Soto uses his mother’s recipe for birria de res — and it’s perfect. The Los Angeles Times’s Bill Addison reminded me about this special menu item last week, and the space keeps expanding to accommodate new and loyal crowds. Grab a seat and watch Soto at work, where he places handmade tortillas into the birria consommé, places them on the griddle, and adds amazing fillings that makes this one of the best in town. It gets busy, so prepare to arrive early. Always grab an ice cold orange Jarritos to wash it down. 1401 Mirasol Street, Boyle Heights. —Mona Holmes

Cold appetizers at Northern Cafe in Monterey Park

Cold appetizers at Northern Cafe in Monterey Park
Cold appetizers at Northern Cafe in Monterey Park
Cathy Chaplin

There’s no better way to start a Chinese meal than with a few cold appetizers. While ordering from the menu is good and well, it’s infinitely preferable to select little nibbles from a small buffet or cold case. After all, eating with one’s eyes rarely leads one astray. Before settling into a steaming bowls of beef noodle soup at Northern Cafe in Monterey Park, my lunch date and I selected a trio of appetizers from a glass encased display. From the garlic-flecked kelp to the delicately spiced tripe, each one was expertly made and chilled just so. Most memorable was the thinly sliced pig’s tongue, tender as can be and slicked with numbing chile oil. What a way to start a meal. 128 North Garfield Ave., Monterey Park. —Cathy Chaplin

Spicy beef noodle soup at Spoon by H in Beverly Grove

Spicy beef noodle soup at Spoon by H in Beverly Grove
Spicy beef noodle soup at Spoon by H in Beverly Grove
Matthew Kang

Spoon by H is quietly cooking some of the best Korean food in LA despite having a tiny menu of less than a dozen dishes. The daily specials are oftentimes the best thing to order, and on a visit this week owner and chef Yoonjin Hwang prepared a spicy beef noodle soup featuring whole beef ribs and a hefty broth that very much resembled khao soi. Though this soup didn’t have any of the curry or coconut undertones of khao soi, the marrow-infused broth did its job of capturing the same rich essence of the northern Thai dish. Instead of Thai spice, the bowl featured the gentle heat of gochujang and a hint of sweetness that the thick hand-cut noodles easily mopped up. My personal all-time favorite Korean dish is yookgaejang, and this hand-cut spicy beef soup is damn near the finest modern version I’ve ever had. 7158 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Sourdough pizza at Grá in Echo Park

Sourdough pizza at Grá in Echo Park
Sourdough pizza at Grá in Echo Park
Farley Elliott

Los Angeles has become quite the pizza town over the past few years, from wood-fired street specialists to cheesy-to-the-edges Detroit styles and beyond. There still isn’t a ton of sourdough pizza to be had, despite its proliferation and popularity in other major cities like London over the years. Enter Grá, the Echo Park-ish newcomer on Glendale Boulevard that opened back in October. The dim evening spot feels like a date night specialist, complete with natural wine, a patio, and very LA starters like little gem salads and a surprisingly robust slow-cooked kale dish. There’s an even-handed focus on fermentation here, including kimchi as a topping option, but the pizzas never feel overly tangy or sharp. Instead, thanks to a mix of flours and a flash in the oven, each Neapolitan-style pizza arrives with the right amount of funk, airiness, and blistered char from chef Jesse Furman (Free Range), making for a flavorful, mellow evening on a quieter block of the city between Downtown and Echo Park proper. After all, who doesn’t love friends, pizza, and wine? 1524 Pizarro St., Los Angeles. —Farley Elliott


January 13, 2020

Katsu curry at Otomisan in Boyle Heights

Japanese curry with pork over rice at Otomisan.
Katsu curry at Otomisan in Boyle Heights
Farley Elliott

Boyle Heights’ historic Japanese restaurant Otomisan is something of a throwback to a former era, when racially restrictive covenants limited the living options for many across Los Angeles. The result, for a time, was a heavy Japanese cultural presence in modern day Boyle Heights, with restaurants like Otomisan catering to the immediate neighborhood. Now they’re the last ones left, still turning out classics like sushi, gyoza, and a very satisfying plate of homey katsu curry over rice. It’s winter decadence all on one plate, and perfect for those sub-60-degree days around Los Angeles. 2506 1/2 E. 1st St., Boyle Heights. —Farley Elliott

Paccheri pasta at Costa Manhattan Beach in Manhattan Beach

Paccheri pasta at Costa Manhattan Beach in Manhattan Beach.
Paccheri pasta at Costa Manhattan Beach in Manhattan Beach
Matthew Kang

It seems like Josiah Citrin is all over the city at the moment. With Citrin and Melisse in Santa Monica coming along in the past few weeks, plus Openaire, Dear John’s, and Charcoal still in action, diners might be forgetting about the chef’s newest residency at Costa Manhattan Beach. Though the casual beachside spot is still finding its sea legs (the entrees were a bit of a miss), the pastas are an early highlight, especially the tubular paccheri, cooked to an ideal al dente texture and retaining just the right balance of tang and sweetness from the fresh tomato sauce. It’s a solid execution that pairs nicely with the lamb ragu cavatelli, also a winner in the pasta department. 1017 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach. —Matthew Kang

Chicken and waffles at Court Cafe Westchester

Chicken and waffles at Court Cafe Westchester .
Chicken and waffles at Court Cafe Westchester
Mona Holmes

From Roscoe’s to A.O.C., chicken and waffles is a dish that’s permanently etched in Los Angeles’ soul. And while many put on a modern spin, Court Cafe keeps its recipe simple with a buttery bonus. This is one of the heartier dishes from co-owners Taco Mell, Bleu Kitchen, and All Flavor No Grease. The waffle’s crunch and slight sweetness works well with the crispy chicken. Best of all is when staff asks which butter you prefer. Just know there is no wrong answer when the options are strawberry or peach cobbler. Figuring out the right amount of butter to add is entirely up to each individual. Just know that they’ll be happy to bring more. 5496 W Centinela Ave., Westchester. —Mona Holmes

Bun mang vit at Pho Ga District in Rosemead

Bun mang vit, duck and bamboo noodle soup with herbs and sauce at Pho Ga
Bun mang vit at Pho Ga District in Rosemead
Wonho Frank Lee

Noodle soups are welcomed year-round in Los Angeles, but especially when temperatures dip below 60 degrees. My current favorite soul-warming bowl is at Pho Ga District in Rosemead. While the restaurant’s namesake pho ga is truly terrific, I keep coming back to the bun mang vit. Every bowl arrives steaming hot, filled to the brim with rice noodles, sliced duck breast, fresh bamboo, and a confetti of cilantro and scallions. Don’t ignore the grated ginger, chiles, and fish sauce on the table. Grab a little dish, add a bit of this and a bit of that to create the most magnificent dipping sauce for the duck. 3119 North San Gabriel Blvd. J, Rosemead. —Cathy Chaplin


January 6, 2020

Mapo tofu at Xiang La Hui in Alhambra

A bright red bowl of mapo tofu loaded with spices.
Mapo tofu at Xiang La Hui in Alhambra
Wonho Frank Lee

I sincerely hope 2020 is the year of mapo tofu. The classic Sichuan dish has all the simplicity of a home cooked dish but can go in so many directions depending on the spices and the addition of meat. Xiang La Hui, one of LA’s new Sichuan additions on Alhambra’s Main Street, makes one of the most compelling mapo tofu dishes. Gentle tofu cubes swim in a dense, but not too gloopy sauce imbued with multi-dimensional peppercorn heat. The heat simmers and dances on the palate, not quite the piquant hit of black pepper or the overly numbing spice of peppercorn. There’s a balance that I haven’t experienced at a Sichuan restaurant — neither from stalwart Chengdu Taste nor competitor Sichuan Impression. Xiang La Hui is doing something special here, even beyond the mapo tofu, and I can’t wait to go back to try more of the massive menu. 621 W. Main St., Alhambra. —Matthew Kang

LT’s hot catfish sandwich at All Day Baby in Silver Lake

A fried fish sandwich on a bun with pickles and onions.
LT’s hot catfish sandwich at All Day Baby in Silver Lake
Oriana Koren

Nashville hot spices have captured the imagination of LA’s chefs and diners in recent years. Hot chicken in various forms can be found in nearly every corner of the city, while more creative takes like Nightshade’s hot quail and Yours Truly’s hot shrimp grace finer dining menus. The latest and greatest in this white-hot genre is the hot catfish sandwich served at All Day Baby. Layered between the plushest of potato buns are thinly sliced white onions, bread and butter pickles, a swipe of mustard aioli, and a magnificently battered and seasoned filet of catfish. The crisp cayenne coating clings to the fish, bringing crunch and spice in equal parts to each bite. Catfish don’t have the best culinary reputation, but one taste of this masterful creation will make anyone a bottom feeder believer. 3200 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Chicken Shawarma at Mizlala in West Adams

Chicken shawarma on pita bread standing up at Mizlala.
Chicken Shawarma at Mizlala in West Adams
Farley Elliott

Mizlala has taken to its new-ish location in West Adams like few other restaurants could even imagine. The sunny mostly outdoor space feels busy at any time of day, and the light rhythm of music and sway of shade trees only helps to further define the experience for hip kids, families, and curious visitors alike. It helps that the restaurant delivers on a simple premise: quality Israeli food priced under $20 a head — with a fast-casual model, speedy service, and sizeable portions. Anyone looking for an entry dish to the genre would do well to opt for the substantial stand-up chicken shawarma, with its pillowy pita and available spicy dips for spreading throughout. Mizlala is a great addition to any neighborhood, but it feels particularly at home in West Adams. 5400 W. Adams Blvd., West Adams. —Farley Elliott

Chocolate chess pie with chocolate chip cookie crust at Fat & Flour in Downtown

A slice of chocolate pie on a plate.
Chocolate chess pie with chocolate chip cookie crust at Fat & Flour in Downtown
Mona Holmes

When Nicole Rucker closed Fiona last summer, I physically felt LA’s collective sadness over the loss. Rucker’s desserts have no equal. But over the holidays, Rucker popped up with Fat & Flour in Grand Central Market. On the menu are old favorites, along with new creations that eliminate food waste. Rucker’s incredible chocolate chess pie evolved to version 2.0, where leftover cookies make the crust. The chocolate chess pie is what you hope for when preparing boxed brownies, and Rucker’s version contains a seriously fudgy interior, firm outer texture, and a gorgeous shine on top. 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. —Mona Holmes

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