No matter the L.A. neighborhood you reside, there’s a destination restaurant upon which food-minded Angelenos descend. Depending on your part of town, there might even be several. It’s a distinguishing feature of this city, whereas many, if not most of the other metropolises in the country establish a dining scene in a centrally located downtown.
With this in mind, I, your humble correspondent will periodically provide you, the voraciously appetited reader, with micro-guides to buzz-worthy culinary hot spots in various neighborhoods across the four corners of town. This is one such guide. But Scott, what map are looking at that this city has but four corners and, furthermore, that West Hollywood could in any way be considered one of them, especially in light of the fact that it is a distinct municipality? OK, you know what, it’s really more of a metaphor. So do you want to argue about cartography or do you want to read about food? Actually, I do enjoy both, but for my purposes here…
Santa Monica continues to evolve into a culinary heavyweight (dine around here enough and you, too, will be a heavyweight). Chef Hisashi Yoshiara of the newly launched Estate Restaurant and Bar has assembled what I can only describe as an eclectic menu of modern dishes, balanced between small plates and entrées. Sit long enough at a table of food writers and at some point, you’re bound to hear someone rave about Miso-Glazed Japanese Eggplant, a taste bud-blasting starter. The conversation will likely go next to Yoshiara’s potato-spun scallop with edamame in a green curry vinaigrette, an equally mind-opening take on what in lesser hands might have been a mere ubiquity.
New to the Arts District this year is Preux & Proper in the flatiron building formerly occupied by The Parish. This Crescent City-inspired small-plates joint is now ground zero for French Quarter-style cuisine, courtesy of Executive Chef Michael Ruiz. Three words: smoked shrimp beignets. Need I say more? OK, two-and-a-half words: oyster po’boy. Stillhouse Moonshine is heavily featured in the bar program in drinks like the Drunken Watermelon and the Southern Peach. And of course you’ll find the New Orleans-born Sazerac.
Studio City hardly seems the proper setting to indulge in authentic street tacos and hard-to-find mezcals, but Chef M. Elena Vega adds a dollop of her Tuxpan, Mexico-upbringing into every family-inspired recipe. The Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef puts her bold flavors on display in every dish, from house-made guacamole made with chunks of local Hass avocados and pepitas to grilled cobs of street corn to mole enchilada, among a variety of modernized Mexican staples. This hopping open-air restaurant on Ventura Boulevard is one explanation of why the Valley is so damn hot.
The air is rare and the views are rarer atop The London Hotel in West Hollywood, which, along with the angelic beauties in and around the pool, creates a heavenly atmosphere despite one’s sinful lusts — I’m speaking, of course, of the food offerings. (Yeah, sure you were.) Begin with an oyster shooter and a toast to your health, followed by the crab toast or avocado toast or, my personal favorite, the lobster roll, what with its purity and simplicity, is purely and simply among the best on this coast. Enjoy with British Invasion-themed cocktails such as the Stones-inspired “She’s so Hot for You,” with a melody of mezcal, harmonized with grapefruit soda and notes of habanero bitters.
Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and Bizjournals.com, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.