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Carne asada tacos at El Ruso, burnished brown from the comal and with lots of avocado salsa.
Carne asada tacos at El Ruso
Farley Elliott

The Best Dishes Eater LA Editors Ate in 2019, Mapped

Mining LA’s dining gems to uncover the best bites of 2019

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Carne asada tacos at El Ruso
| Farley Elliott

The editors at Eater LA share their best dishes each week, so it’s only appropriate with 2019 drawing to a rapid close to bring forth the very best dishes of the year. From tacos to caviar and breakfast burritos, here now are the 20 best dishes Eater editors ate this year.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Bacon and sausage breakfast burrito at Phanny’s

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1021 S Pacific Coast Hwy
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 540-5141
Visit Website

LA’s surf-side cities do things a little differently. The South Bay has its own kind of rhythm and vibe, a laid-back attitude that permeates everything from the fashion choices to the food. Take Phanny’s for example. The decades-old corner restaurant offers a simple, pared-down menu of breakfast burritos and speciality coffee, perfect for morning surfers, kids on their way to school, and anyone else needing a big, cheesy, starchy fix. —Farley Elliott

Holding breakfast burritos, cut in half.
Bacon and sausage breakfast burrito at Phanny’s
Wonho Frank Lee

2. Costilla de short ribs at Los Balcones

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11334 Moorpark St
Studio City, CA 91602
(818) 924-2323
Visit Website

I return to Los Balcones for one thing: the costilla de short ribs. I know the menu is full of incredible items and I’ve tried many of them, but for some reason this dish just hits all the right spots. It’s hearty, full of flavor, bold, and the kind of dish worth sharing just so you can talk about it with dining partners. This northern Peruvian dish is slow-cooked in a beer-infused tomato chile sauce, so the result is a tender, saucy flavorful bite of beef with a traditional rice and lima bean tacu tacu cake. A fried egg yolk makes it indulgent, and the drippy mess is all I need to make everything right in the world. —Mona Holmes

Costilla de short ribs at Los Balcones in Studio City
Costilla de short ribs at Los Balcones
Mona Holmes

3. Charred cauliflower at Tesse

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8500 Sunset Blvd Suite B
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 360-3866
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Let’s be real, cauliflower isn’t the greatest vegetable. The crunchy texture is the only thing really going for it, and even though it seems like many LA restaurants feature this vegetable on its menu, it largely falls short. The lone exception is the charred cauliflower at Tesse. I’ll admit that my dining partner insisted on this dish, otherwise I would have missed the flavorful accompanying harissa, cucumber, and pomegranate which combines perfectly with the wood-fired cauliflower. It’s fresh, filling, and gorgeous to look at. —Mona Holmes

Charred cauliflower at Tesse
Charred cauliflower at Tesse
Mona Holmes

4. Kohada at Sushi Ginza Onodera

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609 La Cienega Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(323) 433-4817
Visit Website

Los Angeles has no shortage of sushi, from high-end experiences tucked into strip malls to corner spots doing omakase on the cheap. Towards the ceiling of that range is Sushi Ginza Onodera, the worldwide upscale phenomenon known for its clean lines, big price tag, and collection of Michelin stars. The LA location sits on La Cienega just a door down from E.P. & L.P., though it feels a world away from that (or any other nearby) scene. Step through for a serene evening where impressive fishes provide the show, particularly some lightly seared monkfish liver or wildly fresh kohada. —Farley Elliott

Sushi from Ginza Onodera in West Hollywood
Kohada at Sushi Ginza Onodera
Wonho Frank Lee

5. Caviar pancake at Angler

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8500 Beverly Blvd Suite 117
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(424) 332-4082
Visit Website

Sure, Los Angeles has a penchant for casual dining styles in places like strip malls and on street corners, but that doesn’t mean the rightfully-lauded chef Joshua Skenes can’t make his restaurant Angler work here. If anything, the semi-hidden Beverly Center location makes the place just as much a crown jewel as any tucked-away restaurant in a back yard or deep in the San Fernando Valley — except here, the final result is a multi-course meal that includes lots and lots of luxury. For starters, there is a seemingly simple banana pancake on the menu, it is used as a vessel for rich lobes of caviar spooned tableside. It’s a simple reintroduction to the glamorous life, and one of the best single bites of food anyone can enjoy in LA right now. —Farley Elliott

Banana pancake with banana butter and caviar a on a plate.
Caviar pancake at Angler
Cathy Chaplin

6. Turnip with Spanish mackerel at Auburn

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6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 486-6703
Visit Website

Eric Bost serves this roast turnip dish that hides raw Spanish mackerel beneath, all of which settles into a shallow pool of aged pork broth. A fragrant allium oil dots the broth, and together the dish is robust, brothy, and tempered by a subtlety that’s hard to describe. There’s a contrast of the fresh, meaty fish and the heft of those turnips that takes on a Japanese mentality to flavors. This dish is emblematic of the rest of Bost’s food: focused and precise but ultimately pleasurable and delicious. — Matthew Kang

Turnips with Spanish mackerel at Auburn
Turnip with Spanish mackerel at Auburn
Wonho Frank Lee

7. Blood cake at Here’s Looking At You

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3901 W 6th St #4202
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 568-3573
Visit Website

While I have a deep appreciation for dishes centered on offals, innards, and other less-loved bits, blood is oftentimes largely ignored on my end. I don’t have any bad blood towards the ingredient (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), it’s just never been fireworks between the two of us. On a recent night out at Here’s Looking At You, I tasted a blood-forward dish that was so incredibly delicious that it completely changed my mind about the stuff. Using pig’s blood as his muse, canvas, and binder, chef Jonathan Whitener formed a loaf with the addition of cornmeal, butter, onions, garlic, chili flakes, and pork fat back. Sliced, pan-seared, and butter-basted to order, the blood cake arrived gloriously glistening. A fried duck egg, green tomato relish, and pickled mustard seeds provided the finishing flourishes. Rich, punchy, and delightfully different, every bite was bloody good (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). —Cathy Chaplin

Here’s Looking At You
Blood cake at Here’s Looking At You
Cathy Chaplin

8. Army base stew at Haemaru Sullungtang

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3498 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 315-5085

A truly bizarre dish that strikes right into the nostalgic heart of every Korean-American, budaejjigae, or army base stew, is a mashup of American canned meats and Korean ingredients, a result of the tragic Korean War and its aftermath. Using the restaurant’s soulful bone broth, Haemaru builds this dish with a foundation of chopped kimchi, baked beans, onions, tofu, and those canned meats, topping the dish off with instant ramen noodles and a single slice of melty Kraft cheese. As you eat this dish, the flavor deepens, with the faux smoky flavors of the meats melding into the broth. —Matthew Kang

Army base stew at Haemaru in Koreatown
Army base stew at Haemaru Sullungtang
Matthew Kang

9. Pastries at Colossus Bread

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2311 S Alma St
San Pedro, CA 90731
(213) 444-0077
Visit Website

San Pedro’s windswept, seaside fortunes have been slowly changing for years as new developments, restaurants, and customers flood into the sleepy far South Bay town. Next up is Colossus Bread + Pastry, a peach of a newcomer located right next door to the Chori-Man’s busy shop on a mostly residential stretch. Forget waterfront views; the eyeballs here are on all the colorful pastries, from sweet strawberry galettes, to peach danishes and house-made croissants painstakingly sheeted every morning. There are, as the name implies, loaves of bread (and coffee too, of course) to be found inside, but for those making all their carbs count, opt for some pastries soon. —Farley Elliott

Pastries from Colossus Bread in San Pedro, arranged on a table.
Pastries at Colossus Bread
Farley Elliott

10. Sea urchin and scallop ceviche Holbox

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3655 S Grand Ave C9
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 986-9972
Visit Website

Just type ‘Los Angeles mariscos’ into Google Maps and you’ll find a heavy concentration of Mexican seafood restaurants north of the 105, east of the 405, and south of the 10. While we’re lucky to have so many choices in the city, it can be overwhelming to settle on which one to try. When in doubt, head to Holbox. Convenient to the 110 and 10 freeways, this cozy stand inside the Mercado La Paloma prepares ceviches, tostadas, and aguachiles right before one’s very eyes. Owner Gilberto Cetina has quite the following, so he tends to sell out quickly. Go early and order the delightful sea urchin and scallop ceviche, which is served in a dramatic sea urchin shell. —Mona Holmes

Holbox’s sea urchin ceviche in Los Angeles, California
Sea urchin and scallop ceviche Holbox
Mona Holmes

11. Adobo belly nigiri at Spoon and Pork 

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3131 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 922-6061
Visit Website

The adobo belly nigiri might be the perfect appetizer. At $6, it’s a reasonable start to what will be an incredible meal at this Silver Lake restaurant, where chefs Jay Tugas and Ray Yaptinchay put a modern spin on traditional Filipino dishes. Everything is beautifully salty, sweet, or spicy, and aims to satisfy with ample portions and flavor. The bites of nigiri made with adobo-glazed slow-cooked pork belly share space with fried garlic bits and chives. Use your fingers, and try to resist ordering a second plate. —Mona Holmes

Two pieces of pork belly sushi.
Adobo belly nigiri at Spoon and Pork 
Mona Holmes

12. Slow-cooked short rib at Nightshade

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923 E 3rd St #109
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 626-8888
Visit Website

Nightshade continues to grow its menu of Asian-inspired dishes with some shareable larger format fare like this blackened, slow-cooked short rib that very much resembles something one would find at a Texas barbecue joint. Served sliced and assembled atop the bone, think of this as a sort of mash between Chinese and Korean barbecue, with pickles on the side. The rib meat boasts a slightly sweet, soy-like glaze that isn’t the least bit smoky, and Mei Lin serves the hulking rib with butter lettuce to wrap like ssam. —Matthew Kang

Roasted short rib at Nightshade
Slow-cooked short rib at Nightshade
Matthew Kang

13. Aged duck kebabs at Bavel

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500 Mateo St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 232-4966
Visit Website

Bavel continues to deliver one of the finest Middle Eastern dinners in Los Angeles, and this aged roast/grilled duck, served with a side of lightly dressed Belgian endive. The aging on this duck brings out such incredible flavor, with rich minerality and a balanced fattiness of the breast meat complemented by crisp endive. The leg spends time confit-ing in fat, so it’s a different texture than the kebabs, though the skin is equally crisp. This dish is a master class in simplicity, the elegance of Bavel’s flavor-packed approach, and a fine way to finish the savory portion of the meal here. —Matthew Kang

Aged duck with endives at Bavel
Aged duck at Bavel
Matthew Kang

14. Smoked beef cheeks bowl at Guerrilla Tacos

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2000 E 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 375-3300
Visit Website

The SoCal air is so chilly at the moment, so order Guerrilla Tacos’ piping hot bowl of smoked beef cheeks to stay warm. It’s a gorgeous broth with perfectly sized bits of meat that has been smoked for upwards of six hours using a blend of cherry, hickory, and oak woods. For the broth, chef Wes Avila brings together veal bones, dashi, ginger, scallions, and lemongrass. The tomato-based casero-style salsa packs some heat, so add your preferred amount of this salsa and meat to the thick, gordita-like flour tortillas. Pro-tip: save some tortillas for sopping up the broth. —Mona Holmes

Guerrilla Tacos
Smoked beef cheeks bowl at Guerrilla Tacos in Downtown
Bradley Tuck

15. Acquerello risotto at Bon Temps

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712 S Santa Fe Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 784-0044
Visit Website

Chef Lincoln Carson is making magnificent food at Bon Temps, his newish and French-ish restaurant in the Arts District. From start to finish, every single dish dazzles and delights with the kind of polish that can only be honed over time and tenure. Our meal started with a complimentary fougasse, a crisp and rich loaf with preserved lemons and leeks. The delicate tartlets that followed came filled with luscious sea urchin cream and prettied with caviar. Most memorable was the oceanic risotto with sea lettuce and caviar. Each grain seemingly melded into itself, creating the most luxurious creamy spoonfuls of ocean-kissed porridge. —Cathy Chaplin

A bowl of green-tinged rice porridge. Acquerello risotto at Bon Temps.
Acquerello risotto at Bon Temps
Cathy Chaplin

16. Wild king salmon donabe at Majordomo

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1725 Naud St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(323) 545-4880
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Majordomo always finds a way to one up its game. Taking a page from sister restaurant Kawi (“scissors” in Korean) in New York City’s Hudson Yards, this $125 platter of smoked king salmon, fresh diver scallops, salmon roe, and warm white rice is sliced tableside using a pair of sharp kitchen shears. Upon stirring the donabe or claypot, the server instructs the table to build nori-wrapped bundles with the various ingredients including crisp corn kernels with tiny anchovies, pickled cucumbers, yuzu kosho, togarashi, avocado, sliced lemons, perilla leaves, fresh sea urchin, and creamy sauce to bind everything together. Majordomo has settled in well to its second year of operation, but this king salmon donabe is evidence that David Chang’s restaurant is still pushing the flavor envelope. —Matthew Kang

Wild king salmon donabe at Majordomo. Array of sliced smoked salmon, scallops, and salmon roe in a large clay pot surrounded by small dishes of pickled vegetables, nori, and fresh sea urchin on a wooden table.
Wild king salmon donabe at Majordomo
Matthew Kang

17. Hakka mochi at Joy

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5100 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042
(323) 999-7642
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With noodles, rice bowls, and thousand-layer pancakes to be had, it’s no wonder that most folks stumble out of Joy properly stuffed and likely without dessert. But hold back a little on the savories because the hakka mochi is worthy of one’s precious gastro-real estate. Served alongside mugs of warm tea, the mound of mochi arrive dusted in peanut and black sesame powder. While the former tastes something like a sticky PayDay bar, the latter is just bitter enough to counter its neighbor’s nutty sweetness. Speared with a bamboo toothpick and eaten one-by-one, the flavors and textures delight until the sizable mound whittles into a mole hill and then disappears all together. —Cathy Chaplin

Hakka Mochi at Joy
Hakka mochi at Joy
Cathy Chaplin

18. Carne asada tacos at El Ruso

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1401 Mirasol St
Los Angeles, CA 90023

There is magic in the tortillas at El Ruso, the Boyle Heights stand that has become a flour tortilla sensation. Each blistered, buttery one is made by hand and crafted with care, a feat that can be seen in-person on weekends when the staff also pulls out the larger-than-life version called sobaqueras. The rest of the week, find Walter and the team turning charcoal-singed carne asada and laying down a fine lattice of cheese on top of those tortillas, which are filled to the brim with beans, meat, and all manner of toppings. This is parking lot decadence, done LA style. —Farley Elliot

19. Anchovies and butter at Otoño

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5715 N Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90042
(323) 474-6624
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The most exciting dishes are the ones that don’t play by the rules, delighting with palate-pleasing combinations that defy expectations. Chef Teresa Montaño’s boquerones y mantequilla brings together fruits of the land and sea with expert flare and funk. Pickled fresh white anchovies—meaty and tangy as all get out—are paired with whipped butter punctuated with tuna and anchovy. The oily and oceanic ingredients, carefully propped and slathered atop crusty loaves of Bub and Grandma’s bread, get better and better with each bite. —Cathy Chaplin

Mind Fish Co. tuna and anchovy goat butter with herb roasted radishes
Anchovies and butter at Otoño
Wonho Frank Lee

20. Green mango salad at Ốc & Lẩu

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10130 Garden Grove Blvd
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 636-2000
Visit Website

The texture and flavor of unripened mangoes hardly resemble their sweet fleshed counterparts. Pleasantly tart and snappy some, green mangoes are primed to take on savory flourishes. At Oc & Lau, the mangoes are treated to fish sauce, chiles, torn coriander, and best of all, thinly sliced snails. Eaten straight up or perched atop shrimp chips, the gorgeously balanced salad steals the show. —Cathy Chaplin

Green mango and snail salad at Oc & Lau in Garden Grove.
Green mango salad at Ốc & Lẩu
Cathy Chaplin

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1. Bacon and sausage breakfast burrito at Phanny’s

1021 S Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Holding breakfast burritos, cut in half.
Bacon and sausage breakfast burrito at Phanny’s
Wonho Frank Lee

LA’s surf-side cities do things a little differently. The South Bay has its own kind of rhythm and vibe, a laid-back attitude that permeates everything from the fashion choices to the food. Take Phanny’s for example. The decades-old corner restaurant offers a simple, pared-down menu of breakfast burritos and speciality coffee, perfect for morning surfers, kids on their way to school, and anyone else needing a big, cheesy, starchy fix. —Farley Elliott

1021 S Pacific Coast Hwy
Redondo Beach, CA 90277

2. Costilla de short ribs at Los Balcones

11334 Moorpark St, Studio City, CA 91602
Costilla de short ribs at Los Balcones in Studio City
Costilla de short ribs at Los Balcones
Mona Holmes

I return to Los Balcones for one thing: the costilla de short ribs. I know the menu is full of incredible items and I’ve tried many of them, but for some reason this dish just hits all the right spots. It’s hearty, full of flavor, bold, and the kind of dish worth sharing just so you can talk about it with dining partners. This northern Peruvian dish is slow-cooked in a beer-infused tomato chile sauce, so the result is a tender, saucy flavorful bite of beef with a traditional rice and lima bean tacu tacu cake. A fried egg yolk makes it indulgent, and the drippy mess is all I need to make everything right in the world. —Mona Holmes

11334 Moorpark St
Studio City, CA 91602

3. Charred cauliflower at Tesse

8500 Sunset Blvd Suite B, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Charred cauliflower at Tesse
Charred cauliflower at Tesse
Mona Holmes

Let’s be real, cauliflower isn’t the greatest vegetable. The crunchy texture is the only thing really going for it, and even though it seems like many LA restaurants feature this vegetable on its menu, it largely falls short. The lone exception is the charred cauliflower at Tesse. I’ll admit that my dining partner insisted on this dish, otherwise I would have missed the flavorful accompanying harissa, cucumber, and pomegranate which combines perfectly with the wood-fired cauliflower. It’s fresh, filling, and gorgeous to look at. —Mona Holmes

8500 Sunset Blvd Suite B
West Hollywood, CA 90069

4. Kohada at Sushi Ginza Onodera

609 La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Sushi from Ginza Onodera in West Hollywood
Kohada at Sushi Ginza Onodera
Wonho Frank Lee

Los Angeles has no shortage of sushi, from high-end experiences tucked into strip malls to corner spots doing omakase on the cheap. Towards the ceiling of that range is Sushi Ginza Onodera, the worldwide upscale phenomenon known for its clean lines, big price tag, and collection of Michelin stars. The LA location sits on La Cienega just a door down from E.P. & L.P., though it feels a world away from that (or any other nearby) scene. Step through for a serene evening where impressive fishes provide the show, particularly some lightly seared monkfish liver or wildly fresh kohada. —Farley Elliott

609 La Cienega Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069

5. Caviar pancake at Angler

8500 Beverly Blvd Suite 117, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Banana pancake with banana butter and caviar a on a plate.
Caviar pancake at Angler
Cathy Chaplin

Sure, Los Angeles has a penchant for casual dining styles in places like strip malls and on street corners, but that doesn’t mean the rightfully-lauded chef Joshua Skenes can’t make his restaurant Angler work here. If anything, the semi-hidden Beverly Center location makes the place just as much a crown jewel as any tucked-away restaurant in a back yard or deep in the San Fernando Valley — except here, the final result is a multi-course meal that includes lots and lots of luxury. For starters, there is a seemingly simple banana pancake on the menu, it is used as a vessel for rich lobes of caviar spooned tableside. It’s a simple reintroduction to the glamorous life, and one of the best single bites of food anyone can enjoy in LA right now. —Farley Elliott

8500 Beverly Blvd Suite 117
Los Angeles, CA 90048

6. Turnip with Spanish mackerel at Auburn

6703 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Turnips with Spanish mackerel at Auburn
Turnip with Spanish mackerel at Auburn
Wonho Frank Lee

Eric Bost serves this roast turnip dish that hides raw Spanish mackerel beneath, all of which settles into a shallow pool of aged pork broth. A fragrant allium oil dots the broth, and together the dish is robust, brothy, and tempered by a subtlety that’s hard to describe. There’s a contrast of the fresh, meaty fish and the heft of those turnips that takes on a Japanese mentality to flavors. This dish is emblematic of the rest of Bost’s food: focused and precise but ultimately pleasurable and delicious. — Matthew Kang

6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038

7. Blood cake at Here’s Looking At You

3901 W 6th St #4202, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Here’s Looking At You
Blood cake at Here’s Looking At You
Cathy Chaplin

While I have a deep appreciation for dishes centered on offals, innards, and other less-loved bits, blood is oftentimes largely ignored on my end. I don’t have any bad blood towards the ingredient (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), it’s just never been fireworks between the two of us. On a recent night out at Here’s Looking At You, I tasted a blood-forward dish that was so incredibly delicious that it completely changed my mind about the stuff. Using pig’s blood as his muse, canvas, and binder, chef Jonathan Whitener formed a loaf with the addition of cornmeal, butter, onions, garlic, chili flakes, and pork fat back. Sliced, pan-seared, and butter-basted to order, the blood cake arrived gloriously glistening. A fried duck egg, green tomato relish, and pickled mustard seeds provided the finishing flourishes. Rich, punchy, and delightfully different, every bite was bloody good (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). —Cathy Chaplin

3901 W 6th St #4202
Los Angeles, CA 90020

8. Army base stew at Haemaru Sullungtang

3498 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Army base stew at Haemaru in Koreatown
Army base stew at Haemaru Sullungtang
Matthew Kang

A truly bizarre dish that strikes right into the nostalgic heart of every Korean-American, budaejjigae, or army base stew, is a mashup of American canned meats and Korean ingredients, a result of the tragic Korean War and its aftermath. Using the restaurant’s soulful bone broth, Haemaru builds this dish with a foundation of chopped kimchi, baked beans, onions, tofu, and those canned meats, topping the dish off with instant ramen noodles and a single slice of melty Kraft cheese. As you eat this dish, the flavor deepens, with the faux smoky flavors of the meats melding into the broth. —Matthew Kang

3498 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005

9. Pastries at Colossus Bread

2311 S Alma St, San Pedro, CA 90731
Pastries from Colossus Bread in San Pedro, arranged on a table.
Pastries at Colossus Bread
Farley Elliott

San Pedro’s windswept, seaside fortunes have been slowly changing for years as new developments, restaurants, and customers flood into the sleepy far South Bay town. Next up is Colossus Bread + Pastry, a peach of a newcomer located right next door to the Chori-Man’s busy shop on a mostly residential stretch. Forget waterfront views; the eyeballs here are on all the colorful pastries, from sweet strawberry galettes, to peach danishes and house-made croissants painstakingly sheeted every morning. There are, as the name implies, loaves of bread (and coffee too, of course) to be found inside, but for those making all their carbs count, opt for some pastries soon. —Farley Elliott

2311 S Alma St
San Pedro, CA 90731

10. Sea urchin and scallop ceviche Holbox

3655 S Grand Ave C9, Los Angeles, CA 90007
Holbox’s sea urchin ceviche in Los Angeles, California
Sea urchin and scallop ceviche Holbox
Mona Holmes

Just type ‘Los Angeles mariscos’ into Google Maps and you’ll find a heavy concentration of Mexican seafood restaurants north of the 105, east of the 405, and south of the 10. While we’re lucky to have so many choices in the city, it can be overwhelming to settle on which one to try. When in doubt, head to Holbox. Convenient to the 110 and 10 freeways, this cozy stand inside the Mercado La Paloma prepares ceviches, tostadas, and aguachiles right before one’s very eyes. Owner Gilberto Cetina has quite the following, so he tends to sell out quickly. Go early and order the delightful sea urchin and scallop ceviche, which is served in a dramatic sea urchin shell. —Mona Holmes

3655 S Grand Ave C9
Los Angeles, CA 90007

11. Adobo belly nigiri at Spoon and Pork 

3131 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Two pieces of pork belly sushi.
Adobo belly nigiri at Spoon and Pork 
Mona Holmes

The adobo belly nigiri might be the perfect appetizer. At $6, it’s a reasonable start to what will be an incredible meal at this Silver Lake restaurant, where chefs Jay Tugas and Ray Yaptinchay put a modern spin on traditional Filipino dishes. Everything is beautifully salty, sweet, or spicy, and aims to satisfy with ample portions and flavor. The bites of nigiri made with adobo-glazed slow-cooked pork belly share space with fried garlic bits and chives. Use your fingers, and try to resist ordering a second plate. —Mona Holmes

3131 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026

12. Slow-cooked short rib at Nightshade

923 E 3rd St #109, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Roasted short rib at Nightshade
Slow-cooked short rib at Nightshade
Matthew Kang

Nightshade continues to grow its menu of Asian-inspired dishes with some shareable larger format fare like this blackened, slow-cooked short rib that very much resembles something one would find at a Texas barbecue joint. Served sliced and assembled atop the bone, think of this as a sort of mash between Chinese and Korean barbecue, with pickles on the side. The rib meat boasts a slightly sweet, soy-like glaze that isn’t the least bit smoky, and Mei Lin serves the hulking rib with butter lettuce to wrap like ssam. —Matthew Kang

923 E 3rd St #109
Los Angeles, CA 90013

13. Aged duck kebabs at Bavel

500 Mateo St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Aged duck with endives at Bavel
Aged duck at Bavel
Matthew Kang

Bavel continues to deliver one of the finest Middle Eastern dinners in Los Angeles, and this aged roast/grilled duck, served with a side of lightly dressed Belgian endive. The aging on this duck brings out such incredible flavor, with rich minerality and a balanced fattiness of the breast meat complemented by crisp endive. The leg spends time confit-ing in fat, so it’s a different texture than the kebabs, though the skin is equally crisp. This dish is a master class in simplicity, the elegance of Bavel’s flavor-packed approach, and a fine way to finish the savory portion of the meal here. —Matthew Kang

500 Mateo St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

14. Smoked beef cheeks bowl at Guerrilla Tacos

2000 E 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Guerrilla Tacos
Smoked beef cheeks bowl at Guerrilla Tacos in Downtown
Bradley Tuck

The SoCal air is so chilly at the moment, so order Guerrilla Tacos’ piping hot bowl of smoked beef cheeks to stay warm. It’s a gorgeous broth with perfectly sized bits of meat that has been smoked for upwards of six hours using a blend of cherry, hickory, and oak woods. For the broth, chef Wes Avila brings together veal bones, dashi, ginger, scallions, and lemongrass. The tomato-based casero-style salsa packs some heat, so add your preferred amount of this salsa and meat to the thick, gordita-like flour tortillas. Pro-tip: save some tortillas for sopping up the broth. —Mona Holmes

2000 E 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90021

15. Acquerello risotto at Bon Temps

712 S Santa Fe Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90021
A bowl of green-tinged rice porridge. Acquerello risotto at Bon Temps.
Acquerello risotto at Bon Temps
Cathy Chaplin

Chef Lincoln Carson is making magnificent food at Bon Temps, his newish and French-ish restaurant in the Arts District. From start to finish, every single dish dazzles and delights with the kind of polish that can only be honed over time and tenure. Our meal started with a complimentary fougasse, a crisp and rich loaf with preserved lemons and leeks. The delicate tartlets that followed came filled with luscious sea urchin cream and prettied with caviar. Most memorable was the oceanic risotto with sea lettuce and caviar. Each grain seemingly melded into itself, creating the most luxurious creamy spoonfuls of ocean-kissed porridge. —Cathy Chaplin

712 S Santa Fe Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90021

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16. Wild king salmon donabe at Majordomo

1725 Naud St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Wild king salmon donabe at Majordomo. Array of sliced smoked salmon, scallops, and salmon roe in a large clay pot surrounded by small dishes of pickled vegetables, nori, and fresh sea urchin on a wooden table.
Wild king salmon donabe at Majordomo
Matthew Kang

Majordomo always finds a way to one up its game. Taking a page from sister restaurant Kawi (“scissors” in Korean) in New York City’s Hudson Yards, this $125 platter of smoked king salmon, fresh diver scallops, salmon roe, and warm white rice is sliced tableside using a pair of sharp kitchen shears. Upon stirring the donabe or claypot, the server instructs the table to build nori-wrapped bundles with the various ingredients including crisp corn kernels with tiny anchovies, pickled cucumbers, yuzu kosho, togarashi, avocado, sliced lemons, perilla leaves, fresh sea urchin, and creamy sauce to bind everything together. Majordomo has settled in well to its second year of operation, but this king salmon donabe is evidence that David Chang’s restaurant is still pushing the flavor envelope. —Matthew Kang

1725 Naud St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

17. Hakka mochi at Joy

5100 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042
Hakka Mochi at Joy
Hakka mochi at Joy
Cathy Chaplin

With noodles, rice bowls, and thousand-layer pancakes to be had, it’s no wonder that most folks stumble out of Joy properly stuffed and likely without dessert. But hold back a little on the savories because the hakka mochi is worthy of one’s precious gastro-real estate. Served alongside mugs of warm tea, the mound of mochi arrive dusted in peanut and black sesame powder. While the former tastes something like a sticky PayDay bar, the latter is just bitter enough to counter its neighbor’s nutty sweetness. Speared with a bamboo toothpick and eaten one-by-one, the flavors and textures delight until the sizable mound whittles into a mole hill and then disappears all together. —Cathy Chaplin

5100 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042

18. Carne asada tacos at El Ruso

1401 Mirasol St, Los Angeles, CA 90023

There is magic in the tortillas at El Ruso, the Boyle Heights stand that has become a flour tortilla sensation. Each blistered, buttery one is made by hand and crafted with care, a feat that can be seen in-person on weekends when the staff also pulls out the larger-than-life version called sobaqueras. The rest of the week, find Walter and the team turning charcoal-singed carne asada and laying down a fine lattice of cheese on top of those tortillas, which are filled to the brim with beans, meat, and all manner of toppings. This is parking lot decadence, done LA style. —Farley Elliot

1401 Mirasol St
Los Angeles, CA 90023

19. Anchovies and butter at Otoño

5715 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90042
Mind Fish Co. tuna and anchovy goat butter with herb roasted radishes
Anchovies and butter at Otoño
Wonho Frank Lee

The most exciting dishes are the ones that don’t play by the rules, delighting with palate-pleasing combinations that defy expectations. Chef Teresa Montaño’s boquerones y mantequilla brings together fruits of the land and sea with expert flare and funk. Pickled fresh white anchovies—meaty and tangy as all get out—are paired with whipped butter punctuated with tuna and anchovy. The oily and oceanic ingredients, carefully propped and slathered atop crusty loaves of Bub and Grandma’s bread, get better and better with each bite. —Cathy Chaplin

5715 N Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90042

20. Green mango salad at Ốc & Lẩu

10130 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92843
Green mango and snail salad at Oc & Lau in Garden Grove.
Green mango salad at Ốc & Lẩu
Cathy Chaplin

The texture and flavor of unripened mangoes hardly resemble their sweet fleshed counterparts. Pleasantly tart and snappy some, green mangoes are primed to take on savory flourishes. At Oc & Lau, the mangoes are treated to fish sauce, chiles, torn coriander, and best of all, thinly sliced snails. Eaten straight up or perched atop shrimp chips, the gorgeously balanced salad steals the show. —Cathy Chaplin

10130 Garden Grove Blvd
Garden Grove, CA 92843

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