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Malai rigatoni at Pijja Palace in Silver Lake.
Malai rigatoni at Pijja Palace in Silver Lake.
Wonho Frank Lee

The Best Dishes Eater LA Editors Ate This Year, Mapped

The 33 restaurant dishes we couldn’t stop dreaming about in 2022

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Malai rigatoni at Pijja Palace in Silver Lake.
| Wonho Frank Lee

The editors at Eater LA highlight our best dishes each week on the site, so it’s only appropriate with 2022 drawing to a rapid close to naming our very best dishes of the year. From french toast oozing with salted egg custard to a pitch-perfect bouillabaisse and smothered pork chops, here now are the 33 best dishes Eater editors ate this year, presented geographically from west to east.

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Marinated mushroom sandwich at Peasant’s Deli

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Every weekend thousands of Southern Californians make the trek up the 101 and through the Central Coast — and quite a few even stop for a night (or a long weekend) at the quaint Danish tourist town Solvang. From Sideways jokes to new restaurants run by familiar LA faces to an absolutely massive weekend brunch culture, there’s something for just about everyone. Lately, the scene has even grown to include Peasant’s Deli, an offshoot of the popular Peasant’s Feast restaurant that is meant to be more of a takeaway of sorts, a place to stop in for a sandwich, a splash of wine, and to pick up some tinned fish and bread to take to a nearby winery or park. While the menu of sandwiches offers staples like a cold cut combo, it’s the entirely meatless mushroom option with smoked provolone, peppers, onions, and an artichoke spread that steals the show. Oh, and the place also offers caviar bumps and cones of shaved jamon Iberico for folks needing to step things up a notch, and they’re even working on an arcade space next door. —Farley Elliott

Dirty chicken at Augie's On Main

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The small delights of Augie’s on Main, a new-ish chicken and burger joint on Santa Monica’s Main Street, are plenty: the open-air ordering station, where diners can select plates and sides from large touch-screens with the benefit of friendly staff behind the counter; the semi-hidden alley patio, with big potted plants and black string lights; and the simplicity of the food, which includes Josiah Citrin’s tamarind- and lemon-spiked “dirty chicken,” a dish served at Citrin in downtown Santa Monica and which Augie’s is centered around. You should start there, with Augie’s combo: a half-order of dirty chicken (typically crusted with panko, thyme, triple-blanched garlic, and sriracha powder, but available without panko for gluten-free eaters) and two sides (best had with homey ratatouille and hand-cut french fries, although mashed potatoes pooled with pan-drippings from the chicken can’t go wrong). Dipping the chicken in thyme-flecked drippings or the irresistible fermented green chile sauce make for a compelling fast-casual experience. —Nicole Adlman

Dirty chicken with pan-drippings at Augie’s on Main in Santa Monica. Nicole Adlman

Spiny lobster crudo at Crudo e Nudo

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Spiny lobster season only comes around once a year and chef Brian Bornemann at Santa Monica’s Crudo e Nudo knows exactly how to make them shine. He removes the lobster’s tough shell and leaves its flesh completely raw. Next, he brings in the saffron-rich flavors of bouillabaisse to soak through the supple meat. Served simply with seeded and toasted bread, the seemingly simple preparation dazzles in both texture and flavor. —Cathy Chaplin

Spiny lobster crudo at Crudo E Nudo in Santa Monica.
Spiny lobster crudo at Crudo e Nudo in Santa Monica.
Cathy Chaplin

Wood-grilled flatbread at American Beauty

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Flatbreads seem so commonplace at restaurants nowadays that they can often get overlooked. However, the version at American Beauty, a casual steakhouse in Venice, is one that shouldn’t be missed. Incredibly fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, the wood-grilled flatbread — that’s showered with toasted sesame seeds — is paired with a heap of creamy labneh covered in a pool of smoked honey. The marriage of flavors and textures makes for a perfectly shareable appetizer before a dinner of roasted vegetables and wood-grilled steaks. —Jean Trinh

Wood-grilled flatbread at American Beauty in Venice.
Wood-grilled flatbread at American Beauty.
Jean Trinh

Shrimp Louie at Dear Jane's

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Dear Jane’s arrival in September marked a new era for Marina Del Rey as not just a place to grab sad Sweetgreen salads and raw juices, but a dinnertime destination. The dining room is decked in muted gold tones and overlooks the peaceful panorama of the marina at evening-time, making for an ambience that is a given no matter the occasion. While the more decadent items on the menu (crisped, made-for-adults fish sticks with creme fraiche and caviar) are worthy of a visit itself, I found myself most taken by the tableside shrimp Louie salad presentation: a steel bowl becomes the base for market lettuces, jammy egg, tomato, cucumber, and plump shrimp; all spun together with a creamy, tangy dressing. With so many breadcrumb-laden seafood dishes swimming in butter on the table, the salad becomes a nice bite-reprieve throughout the meal. —Nicole Adlman

A chef drizzles dressing into a shrimp Louie salad at Dear Jane’s. Wonho Frank Lee

Tuna chop at Carla Cafe

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I used to live close enough to where Carla Cafe launched its sandwich “drops” in the early days of the pandemic; pick-ups were at the door of the Bootsy Bellows nightclub in West Hollywood. After I moved further west, the mini deli’s impeccable sandwiches became an only once-in-a-while treat — until this year, when Carla Cafe moved its operations to Colony Kitchen in Santa Monica. Anyone who knows me well knows that a tuna sandwich is one of my favorite lunches — and the tuna chop from Carla Cafe just might be my favorite iteration, ever. It combines the vegetable-packed brightness and crispness of a chopped salad (in this case, lightly dressed shredded lettuce, chickpeas, pepperoncini, tomatoes, and avocado) with a well-seasoned, mayo-based tuna salad studded with little slivers of red onion. It’s all piled on a crunchy ciabatta roll slicked with yellow mustard; every bite is packed with an explosion of flavors and textures. My hope is that one day Carla Cafe will have its own standalone storefront, but for now, I’m just happy that I can order the tuna chop (and other superior sandwiches) any time my heart desires. —Karen Palmer

Tuna chop at Carla Cafe in Santa Monica.
Tuna chop at Carla Cafe.
Karen Palmer

Bouillabaisse at Bicyclette

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It’s unclear why LA doesn’t have a ton of good bouillabaisse. It could be that there are simply better fish stews to be had around town, from caldo de siete mares from Central American and Mexican seafood restaurants to Korean maeuntang. Bicyclette, however, has taken upon itself to make a bona fide version of the southern French dish, with pristine shellfish and seafood, and a pensive broth that doesn’t shout but rather demands a subtle enjoyment. Sure, there isn’t aioli or crouton, but this is a refined version where the stellar ingredients shine. My favorite part of the dish might be the pan-fried skin on the striped bass, which hovers above the broth so it stays crisp. —Matthew Kang

Bouillabaisse at Bicyclette in Beverlywood.
Bouillabaisse at Bicyclette in Beverlywood.
Matthew Kang

Vegetable fideuà at Soulmate

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Soulmate, a sleek Spanish restaurant with a massive outdoor patio centered around an olive tree, is a lively spot with loud music and a dressed-up crowd. While chef Rudy Lopez’s croquetas and salmon crudo with brown butter and pineapple ponzu were solid starters, the star of the show was his vegetable fideuà. Similar to paella, the fideuà is cooked in a wide and shallow frying pan; but instead of rice, the dish utilizes vermicelli noodles. Lopez’s version is a beauty, as it’s showered with a rainbow of seasonal vegetables; its most recent version has carrots, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms. The vegetables are charred and the whole dish comes together with a tomato-and-beet sofrito and dollops of garlic aioli. —Jean Trinh

A paella pan with Spanish rice and topped with lots of colorful vegetables.
Vegetable fideuà at Soulmate.
Wonho Frank Lee

Chiles rellenos en guisado at Comedor Tenchita

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Every Sunday, 76-year-old Doña Hortensia “Tenchita” Melchor opens up her Mid-City backyard for diners hungry for home-style Oaxacan cooking from the Valles Centrales; she and a cadre of other cooks work under a tent, pressing handmade tortillas and ladling broth over higaditos (a hard-to-find egg dish with shredded chicken, onions, tomato, and chiles cooked in broth). A lingering Sunday lunch at the checkered tablecloth-covered tables under the tent found dishes like empanadas filled with fiery yellow mole and hearty potato-and-chorizo molotes dressed in a black bean puree. But some of the best bites came courtesy of a special of two chicken picadillo-stuffed chile rellenos with chicken broth ladled over top. The liquid softened the crisp outer layer of the chile and, as the pepper and chicken were shredded apart, put the dish somewhere between a soup and stew. On a cool Sunday afternoon, it was pure, warming comfort. —Karen Palmer

Dishes from Comedor Tenchita in LA’s Mid-City neighborhood on a colorful traditional table.
Chiles rellenos en guisado at Comedor Tenchita
Wonho Frank Lee

Smothered pork chops at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen

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There’s soul food and then there are the powerful, flavor-packed plates at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen in Inglewood, which serves heaping portions of smothered pork chops, fried chicken, and meatloaf with a choice of two sides for lunch and dinner. Lunchtime means a requisite wait along the sidewalk, though the food comes out quickly. Smothered pork chops are tender, salty, and hard to stop eating with its rich gravy. The red beans and rice, and collard greens, were fantastic complements to the dense sauce. This is the kind of soul food that will keep you satisfied and happy for an entire afternoon. —Matthew Kang

Smothered pork chops, corn and okra, and mashed potatoes with gravy served on a round white plate at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen.
Smothered pork chops at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen.
Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen

La mortazza at Mother Wolf

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On my third visit to Mother Wolf, I made sure to order this incredible dish that chef Evan Funke served at his short-lived Hollywood restaurant Fingers Crossed. This epic mortadella-pizza sandwich situation stuffed with ricotta is so outrageous and so fun that it should be split from the kitchen to share with the table. Servers bring out a sharp steak knife to help in the endeavor, which may or may not be fruitful. Either way, this monstrous pizza/sandwich might be my favorite new dish here, loaded with paper-thin mortadella, fresh pistachios, and creamy ricotta, with blistered pizza dough to keep it all together. I grew up eating mortadella sandwiches, but I never thought I’d ever see carbs and mortadella upscaled in this way. —Matthew Kang

Ravioli with spring peas, mint, and Parmesan at Antico Nuovo

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Chef Chad Colby took advantage of springtime bounty to produce a stunning dish of ravioli with peas, mint, and Parmesan. Presented in a shallow bowl with pillowy, light ricotta that fills the house-made pasta, the dish is simply bright all around, with flavors that make you wish the bowl stayed full. You won’t have to ask for the best wine to accompany the ravioli, attentive staff will make sure you locate an unforgettable glass, or even better, bottle. —Mona Holmes

Ravioli with spring peas at Antico Nuovo.
Ravioli with spring peas, mint, and Parmesan at Antico Nuovo.
Matthew Kang

Calamansi pie at Kuya Lord

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While Kuya Lord may be known for chef-owner Lord Maynard Llera’s savory Filippino comfort dishes like lucenachon (crispy pork belly) and grilled blue prawns swimming in garlic-crab sauce, there also needs to be a spotlight on his calamansi pie dessert. Llera’s rendition of a Key lime pie is topped with a light-green swirl of pandan whipped cream. The result is a buttery and crumbly crust with the perfect balance between sweet, salty, and tart. Always make room for dessert, especially at Kuya Lord. —Jean Trinh

Calamansi pie at Kuya Lord in Hollywood. Jean Trinh

Chicken Parm at Nuthin’ But Cutlets

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It’s still magical, somehow, after two very long years of on-and-off at-home pivots and takeout meals, to saunter up to a residential home on a weekend with the full intent of ordering a meal. It’s novel (for many) and offers a sense of secretive fun and purpose to a weekend meal — and it helps that the year-old Nuthin’ But Cutlets also makes its turnouts a party, complete with a few lawn chairs and lots of (masked) smiles. The Los Feliz home pop-up doesn’t cook every weekend but has managed to draw a loyal following every time it does, turning out East Coast-style chicken cutlet sandwiches in a variety of flavors, from banh mi to spicy buffalo and the classic, cheesy chicken Parm. Served on seeded rolls, these are big $14 sandwiches meant to be eaten hot and fresh in the sunshine. After all, isn’t LA at its best when dining outdoors? Check Instagram for pop-up dates and details. —Farley Elliott

Salted egg yolk french toast at Needle

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The Hong Kong-style french toast is a thing of beauty — and chef Ryan Wong’s version is made with aplomb at his Needle restaurant in Silver Lake. He uses slices of milk bread, stuffed with a runny salted duck egg yolk custard that perfectly straddles the line between sweet and savory. It’s battered, then deep-fried, and drizzled with sweetened condensed milk and maple syrup. There’s also a peanut butter version sans the salted egg yolk; and plenty of coffee and tea options to pair with both toasts, which are best enjoyed immediately on the restaurant’s relaxing patio while watching the hustle and bustle of folks going by on Sunset Boulevard. —Jean Trinh

Salted egg yolk French toast at Needle in Silver Lake.
Salted egg yolk french toast at Needle.
Jean Trinh

Tortilla Espanola at Bar Moruno

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At one point this year, a table at Bar Moruno in Silver Lake might have been the hottest seat in Los Angeles. The corner of Sunset where the revived restaurant lives is pulsing with energy and the space, formerly Kettle Black, feels similarly kinetic, with servers weaving around the divider that separates the long, lively bar area from the diners scooping buttery, salty tinned fish onto slabs of crusty bread. Many dishes stand out in memory from a night at Moruno — the pan con tomate, with cherry tomato confit that pops immediately in your mouth; the wood-fire roasted prime rib-eye, studded with flaky sea salt and finished with olive oil — but for me, the eye-fluttery, breath-shortening moment came from the tortilla Espanola: layered potatoes collapsing from the melty weight of whipped eggs and olive oil. Each bite was better than the next, but that was true for everything at Bar Moruno. Secret is definitely out. —Nicole Adlman

Pâté chaud at Tet-a-Tet

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There are so many delicious things to eat at Tet-a-Tet, the Vietnamese-meets-Mexican-American dinnertime pop-up Lien Ta and Jonathan Whitener have opened at All Day Baby. There’s the show-stopping crispy whole fish, coated in puffy rice crisps and set on a bed of two vibrant sauces (green curry and fish sauce-spiked coconut caramel, to be exact). There’s umami-rich fried rice dotted with scallions and chunks of crab. There’s also a silky-smooth chicken liver pate with mango jam and pickled red onions. One of my favorite bites is one of the simplest: pâté chaud, or a house-made pork sausage wrapped in a flaky puff pastry casing and served with truffled garum mustard. The Vietnamese snack is elevated to its highest form here, from the warm spice of the pork to the flaky crispness of the pastry and the punch of the mustard. Just be forewarned: If there are more than two people at the table, you should definitely order more than one. —Karen Palmer

A collection of dishes, including a whole fried fish and spring rolls, at Tet-Tet.
Pâté chaud at Tet-a-Tet in Silver Lake.
Andre Karimloo

Malai rigatoni at Pijja Palace

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In a city that can play to the hits a little too safe when it comes to restaurants, it takes some real guts to bring forth a concept that requires diners to have some faith and fun. From the looks of things so far, owner Avish Naran’s risk is paying off. The crowds are happy sipping Old Fashioned cocktails made with cardamom bitters while dunking lentil-battered onion rings in mango chutney. Nearly everyone orders the malai rigatoni, the house-made pasta bathed in an irresistible tomato masala sauce. The creamy gravy clings to every crevice. —Cathy Chaplin

Malai rigatoni at Pijja Palace in Silver Lake.
Malai rigatoni at Pijja Palace in Silver Lake.
Wonho Frank Lee

Slab cake at Quarter Sheets Pizza

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I am admittedly late to the Hannah Ziskin fan club. The talented pastry chef worked at Chez Panisse and Nopa up north before landing at the now-closed M. Georgina and launching a home bakery here in LA. Currently, she’s making the sickest cakes in town at Quarter Sheets, an early pandemic pop-up turned permanent brick-and-mortar in Echo Park. After polishing off a melon salad and two slices of pizza, my dining companion and I dug into the most magnificent strawberry shortcake slab cake. The plastic fork cut through the cake’s plush layers of polenta chiffon, vanilla bean custard, fresh strawberries, and strawberry preserves with ease. The cake’s bright and balanced flavors left us speechless one moment and plotting a return visit the next. —Cathy Chaplin

Slab cake at Quarter Sheets in Echo Park.
Slab cake at Quarter Sheets Pizza in Echo Park.
Cathy Chaplin

Prawns with Brentwood corn and chile ancho at Asterid

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Ray Garcia’s Asterid might be the most underrated Downtown restaurant at the moment, packed to the gills before 7 p.m. and then emptying out to a half-full onward. Consider it an ideal last-minute date night reservation thanks to the pre-theater dynamic. Asterid’s gorgeous plates of seasonal produce-studded starters include a chicken liver mousse, hiramasa aguachile, and fresh beets with house-made ricotta, each displaying Garcia’s adept understanding of LA’s perfect ingredients and intense flavors. The swoon-worthy prawns, plump and juicy, which were placed above a luscious sauce of Brentwood corn, chile ancho, apricots, and cherry tomatoes, showed the best combination of fresh summer sweetness and skillful cooking technique. —Matthew Kang

Texas platter at Herc’s Barbecue

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Herc’s Barbecue out of the Inland Empire is one of a number of newer Angeleno barbecue spots that take their cues from Central Texas smoke. Wavy strips of brisket, hot links loaded with cheese inside, a beef rib with the bone still jutting out… all perfect for a weekend in front of the TV, a weekend with friends out at a brewery, or just any kind of weekend there is, really. This is rich stuff, so pair appropriately with a sharp bottle of wine, or better yet some local craft beer; when combined, the beer and the barbecue, and a sunny LA day make it feel like anything is possible. —Farley Elliott

Plate of barbecue from Herc’s on a tray with sides.
Texas platter at Herc’s Barbecue in Los Angeles.
Farley Elliott

California roll at Hansei

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While I have eaten countless California rolls in my lifetime, none have taken me aback quite like chef Chris Ono’s rendition made with layers of Dungeness crab, Santa Barbara uni, avocado, and cucumber, served atop a crispy seaweed raft. The three-bite wonder combined wholly familiar flavors in a different format, bringing to focus the chef’s uniquely Nikkei culinary point of view. —Cathy Chaplin

California roll at Hansei.
California roll at Hansei in Little Tokyo.
Wonho Frank Lee

Rosa pizza at Pizzeria Bianco

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The rosa pizza — available only during Pizzeria Bianco’s extremely hard-to-book dinner service at the Row – is a thing of understated beauty. Famed pizzaiolo Chris Bianco told me during a dinner this fall that it’s a riff on a sesame-topped pie he had years ago in Italy, but upon returning to the United States and trying to make it himself for the pizzeria’s original Phoenix location, it didn’t work because the sesame seeds weren’t the same. So he turned to the high-quality pistachios he could find in Arizona, pairing them with paper-thin ribbons of red onion, Parmesan, and the occasional rosemary sprig on his signature wood-fired crust. Here in LA, he’s using Santa Barbara pistachios, and the simplicity of the ingredients shines through. A generous layer of crunchy pistachios intermingles beautifully with intensely savory notes of the wispy onion, rosemary, and a crisp layer of Parm on top of Bianco’s perfectly thin, chewy, blistered crust. Even this devout red-sauce zealot has to admit that it’s one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten, period. —Karen Palmer

A blistered pizza with light cream and pistacio.
Rosa pizza at Pizzeria Bianco
Pizzeria Bianco

Crab fried rice at Kato

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The word is out on the stellar bar menu at Kato, originally boasting just a few dishes but now featuring its own tasting menu. This incredible, show-stopping fried rice boasts Dungeness crab, rich tomalley, and other tasty innards with rice, ginger, soy sauce, and other aromatics. Served in its own shell, the fried rice’s gorgeous presentation and the extra hit of chopped chives elevated it into something so delicious that I was trying to scoop up every last savory grain. The bar doesn’t require reservations, for now, making it an easy way to taste the Michelin-level food at Kato without the hassle of nabbing a table. And the cocktails by Austin Hennelly are delightful too. —Matthew Kang

Crab fried rice at the bar at Kato.
Crab fried rice at the bar at Kato in Downtown.
Matthew Kang

Camphor burger at Camphor

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Who knew that this fancy evening Arts District French restaurant could turn out one of the city’s more stunning bar burgers? At Camphor, the meals never feel fussy, but they have always carried a bit of precision and fine-dining craft on the plate; that’s still true of the decadent bar burger, but the richness and flavor make the dish feel fun, playful even, instead of fancy. Here, dry-aged beef is cut through equally with slowly cooked duck leg meat, and the patty is then topped with caramelized onions that have been cooked down in beef fat. There are bracing pickled chiles to help cut through it all, but with a wash of duck fat on the brioche bun itself to finish things off — good luck. Not feeling a burger? There’s an equally wild wagyu croque-monsieur as well. —Farley Elliott

Wood-grilled sea bream at Yangban Society

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Given its nearly yearlong tenure in the Arts District, it’s not surprising that Yangban Society has developed a clear list of signature dishes, from the sweet-spicy pleasures of Korean fried chicken wings to the soulful matzo bowl soup studded with sujebi. People rave about the congee pot pie and the jjajjang bolognese, but this grilled slab of lightly-cured sea bream hit like nothing else has at John and Katianna Hong’s modern Korean restaurant. Somehow, the thin fish skin retains its shatter-like crunch, with the tender flesh gaining an extra layer of savoriness, like a Korean-style grilled atka mackerel or yellow corvina would get from a light salt cure. Light smokiness exudes an earthy bass note that contrasts heavily with the sauce underneath. The fish luxuriates in a pool of minced cucumber and heirloom tomatoes resembling a salsa, finished with a spicy hit of chile oil. Served with some fluffy golden millet rice, this could be the best grilled fish I’ve had this year, and one that I hope never leaves this highly mutable menu. —Matthew Kang

Grilled sea bream on an oval plate.
Wood-grilled sea bream at Yangban Society.
John Troxell

Ceviche at Damian

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Chef Jesús “Chuy” Cervantes is preparing incredible dishes at Enrique Olvera’s Arts District spot. If dining during brunch, Cervantes has an assortment of dishes centered on fish, including a rockfish ceviche. Delicately made with wild rockfish, slices of poblano, corn, and house-made tortillas, the dish suits warm summer days or any day really. And though the tortillas are a wonderful addition, it’s likely that most — like me — will search for a spoon to put as little distance between this dish and the diner as possible. The crab tostada is equally stunning. —Mona Holmes

Ceviche at Damian in the Arts District.
Ceviche at Damian.
Mona Holmes

Prahok ktis at Crystal Cambodian/Thai Restaurant

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When dining in Long Beach, one of the hardest tasks is choosing a favorite Cambodian restaurant. The options are plentiful, with many operating for decades. Some specialize in one thing, while others like Crystal Cambodian/Thai Restaurant easily generate a delicious menu from morning until night. First, Crystal Cambodian has something that most Long Beach restaurants do not: a parking lot. So drive right in, and nestle in a booth or table where there’s a frequent stream of dishes flying out of the kitchen. Order an assortment but be sure to get the fiery red prahok ktis with ground pork, fish sauce, and aromatics with a side of cabbage. Tear off a leaf and use it as a crunchy vessel to scoop up a single bite. One might run out of cabbage but simply shift to a spoon for assistance and efficiency. For the uninitiated, prahok ktis is one of those dishes that will permanently be on an ordering list; its bold flavors will haunt you and make you wonder how this dish hasn’t been a regular part of your repertoire. —Mona Holmes

Prahok ktis at Crystal Cambodian/Thai Restaurant in Long Beach.
Prahok ktis at Crystal Cambodian/Thai Restaurant.
Mona Holmes

Dim sum at NBC Seafood To-Go

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Want all the dim sum but none of the weekend waits? Well, if you’re willing to chow down on har gow from a takeout container, then the Kristie Hang-approved NBC Seafood To-Go storefront in Monterey Park is pretty much perfect. All the usual hits are here, from dumplings to bao to pan-fried turnip cakes, veggies, and beyond, with paper menus in each corner of the room for speedy ordering. Dishes are listed alongside the number of pieces per order and are grouped by price, making a scalable Saturday meal with friends a cinch. There are a few smaller cafe tables out front (if you can snag one), but it may be best to hit a local park or hang out in the ample parking lot while you nibble, dishes spread out for easy grabbing. The folks waiting in front of NBC Seafood proper will likely be a little bit jealous of the fast, easy eating, but that’s okay; there’s room for everyone at NBC Seafood To-Go, any weekend that you want. —Farley Elliott

Dim sum at NBC Seafood To-Go in Monterey Park.
Dim sum at NBC Seafood To-Go in Monterey Park.
Farley Elliott

Beef tendons at Dumpling King

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Tendons are rarely worthy of praise, even among those who love the connective tissue, but Dumpling King’s preparation deserves some shine. The thinly sliced, lightly marinated tendons arrived translucent and delicate like stained glass. And while the accompanying beef shank was perfectly good, it was the tendons that our chopsticks couldn’t stay away from. —Cathy Chaplin

Beef tendons at Dumpling King in Temple City.
Beef tendons at Dumpling King in Temple City.
Cathy Chaplin

Hokkaido scallop crudo at Campo é Carbón

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After driving on the 60 and into La Puente, I went to the Campo é Carbón pop-up where the founders carefully curated everything — from perfect playlists (disco, Anderson Paak, and low-key beats) to smoky mezcal cocktails, and the gorgeous candle-lit backyard inspired by trips to Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe. The Hokkaido scallop crudo, delicate and balanced, was only one of the many standouts. Chef and co-founder Ulysses Gálvez combined the scallops with orange, yuzu, and chile. I wanted to order a second one but waited to see what else was on the docket. I was glad that I held off because the octopus with chicharron gremolata, marlin taco, and the pork chop with pickled mustard seed made it worth the 30-minute trek. Make your way around the backyard kitchen to scope out the custom fire pit, where Gálvez works over an open fire. You’ll likely meet co-founder Adriana Alvarez, who makes her way around the patio that she decorated. You’ll be thinking about a lot on the way home, but especially those scallops. —Mona Holmes

Hokkaido scallop crudo at Campo é Carbón in La Puente.
Hokkaido scallop crudo at Campo é Carbón.
Mona Holmes

Grilled oysters at Red Oyster Bar

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Though it feels like a warm visit to a friend’s house, Red’s Oyster Bar pop-up is purely professional. The father-son team uses fat, juicy Fanny Bay oysters from Vancouver and serves them four ways: chargrilled Louisiana-style with bacon; topped with lobster and manchego and Oaxacan cheeses; flavored with Sriracha, and garnished with chorizo from San Pedro’s legendary Chori Man. And while it’s entirely possible to nab a raw dozen, order the grilled variety and sit down to enjoy while hot. Founders Jakob and Eric “Red” Alvarado are constantly recipe testing, so if the timing is right, one might be able to sample something new like a spin on a mignonette, or a soft shell crab slider. With oysters priced at $20 for a half-dozen or $33 for one dozen; it’s a great deal and worth going with a crew to consume. DM on Instagram for pre-orders and the operation’s address. —Mona Holmes

A half-dozen grilled oysters on a platter with cabbage.
Grilled oysters at Red Oyster Bar in La Puente.
Mona Holmes

Shrimp-stuffed peppers at El Mexicali Cafe

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Every trip to the desert should include a drive out to Indio and dinner under the fluorescent lighting of 42 year-old El Mexicali Cafe. The no-frills spot, which shakes gently as nearby trains rumble by, is known for its shrimp-stuffed yellow peppers: a half dozen small-ish yellow chile peppers come bursting with a chopped shrimp filling, along with a few lemon wedges, cucumber slices, and a little plastic serving cup of mayonnaise. There’s clearly a reason why the dish is the cafe’s best-seller (with owner Monica Murguia telling Palm Springs Life the restaurant sells “about two million a year”). There’s the pleasant chew and sweetness of the roasted pepper, as well as the savory shrimp filling, further enhanced by a generous slick of mayo — but the real game-changer is adding a few drops of soy sauce. The Mexican town of Mexicali is known for having excellent Chinese cuisine, so soy sauce is a staple at the restaurant. Absolutely request a bottle if one’s not already on the table, because it turns an already delicious combination into an absolute umami bomb. I will definitely be making another drive out to El Mexicali the next time I’m in the desert. —Karen Palmer

Marinated mushroom sandwich at Peasant’s Deli

Every weekend thousands of Southern Californians make the trek up the 101 and through the Central Coast — and quite a few even stop for a night (or a long weekend) at the quaint Danish tourist town Solvang. From Sideways jokes to new restaurants run by familiar LA faces to an absolutely massive weekend brunch culture, there’s something for just about everyone. Lately, the scene has even grown to include Peasant’s Deli, an offshoot of the popular Peasant’s Feast restaurant that is meant to be more of a takeaway of sorts, a place to stop in for a sandwich, a splash of wine, and to pick up some tinned fish and bread to take to a nearby winery or park. While the menu of sandwiches offers staples like a cold cut combo, it’s the entirely meatless mushroom option with smoked provolone, peppers, onions, and an artichoke spread that steals the show. Oh, and the place also offers caviar bumps and cones of shaved jamon Iberico for folks needing to step things up a notch, and they’re even working on an arcade space next door. —Farley Elliott

Dirty chicken at Augie's On Main

The small delights of Augie’s on Main, a new-ish chicken and burger joint on Santa Monica’s Main Street, are plenty: the open-air ordering station, where diners can select plates and sides from large touch-screens with the benefit of friendly staff behind the counter; the semi-hidden alley patio, with big potted plants and black string lights; and the simplicity of the food, which includes Josiah Citrin’s tamarind- and lemon-spiked “dirty chicken,” a dish served at Citrin in downtown Santa Monica and which Augie’s is centered around. You should start there, with Augie’s combo: a half-order of dirty chicken (typically crusted with panko, thyme, triple-blanched garlic, and sriracha powder, but available without panko for gluten-free eaters) and two sides (best had with homey ratatouille and hand-cut french fries, although mashed potatoes pooled with pan-drippings from the chicken can’t go wrong). Dipping the chicken in thyme-flecked drippings or the irresistible fermented green chile sauce make for a compelling fast-casual experience. —Nicole Adlman

Dirty chicken with pan-drippings at Augie’s on Main in Santa Monica. Nicole Adlman

Spiny lobster crudo at Crudo e Nudo

Spiny lobster season only comes around once a year and chef Brian Bornemann at Santa Monica’s Crudo e Nudo knows exactly how to make them shine. He removes the lobster’s tough shell and leaves its flesh completely raw. Next, he brings in the saffron-rich flavors of bouillabaisse to soak through the supple meat. Served simply with seeded and toasted bread, the seemingly simple preparation dazzles in both texture and flavor. —Cathy Chaplin

Spiny lobster crudo at Crudo E Nudo in Santa Monica.
Spiny lobster crudo at Crudo e Nudo in Santa Monica.
Cathy Chaplin

Wood-grilled flatbread at American Beauty

Flatbreads seem so commonplace at restaurants nowadays that they can often get overlooked. However, the version at American Beauty, a casual steakhouse in Venice, is one that shouldn’t be missed. Incredibly fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, the wood-grilled flatbread — that’s showered with toasted sesame seeds — is paired with a heap of creamy labneh covered in a pool of smoked honey. The marriage of flavors and textures makes for a perfectly shareable appetizer before a dinner of roasted vegetables and wood-grilled steaks. —Jean Trinh

Wood-grilled flatbread at American Beauty in Venice.
Wood-grilled flatbread at American Beauty.
Jean Trinh

Shrimp Louie at Dear Jane's

Dear Jane’s arrival in September marked a new era for Marina Del Rey as not just a place to grab sad Sweetgreen salads and raw juices, but a dinnertime destination. The dining room is decked in muted gold tones and overlooks the peaceful panorama of the marina at evening-time, making for an ambience that is a given no matter the occasion. While the more decadent items on the menu (crisped, made-for-adults fish sticks with creme fraiche and caviar) are worthy of a visit itself, I found myself most taken by the tableside shrimp Louie salad presentation: a steel bowl becomes the base for market lettuces, jammy egg, tomato, cucumber, and plump shrimp; all spun together with a creamy, tangy dressing. With so many breadcrumb-laden seafood dishes swimming in butter on the table, the salad becomes a nice bite-reprieve throughout the meal. —Nicole Adlman