Best of L.A.

Best Of 2012


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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Boat Noodles
Pa-Ord Noodle
Photo by Garrett Snyder

As much as we love the version at Sapp Coffee Shop, the boat noodles at Pa-Ord Noodle are graduate-level stuff — the Bitches Brew of Bangkok cuisine. You're headed to a specialist of extra-murky boat noodles, or kuay tiew rua, one of Thailand's most beloved street foods. The broth is dark, wildly intense and funky as a Parliament track. Thickened with pork blood and perfumed with star anise. Unrelentingly spicy, with zaps of sweet and sour nipping the edges of your tongue. The bowl is filled with scraps of offal you might not be able to identify: perforated squares of tripe, a slice of liver or spleen, a handful of crushed-up chicharron and a fish ball or two bobbing in the soup like pale apples. A bit of chopped scallion, cilantro and some young bok choy leaves are tossed in. There are some slippery rice noodles, too, wide or thin, based on your preference. But really, it's all about that broth: If you ever wondered what those cartoon witches were stirring in their bubbling cauldrons, this might be the best guess. 5301 W. Sunset Blvd., Ste. 8, E. Hlywd. (323) 461-3945,

—Garrett Snyder

5301 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90027
Best Steakhouse

In this era of gastropubs and fusion bistros, it comes as a welcome relief to enter a place that still calls itself a "chophouse," as does Suzanne Tracht's 11-year-old West Hollywood restaurant, Jar. The moniker is a signal to other beautifully atavistic traits: a maitre d' in a suit and tie, white tablecloths, an iceberg wedge on the menu, a playlist of Sinatra and Armstrong and Nina Simone — and some of the best steaks in Los Angeles. Not only will your dry-aged Kansas City steak or your filet of beef or your prime rib-eye arrive perfectly cooked and presented, it will be served with a little white ceramic boat of sauce like the perfect accessory (a cufflink, a pocket square). The beef is so tender that it hardly needs the lobster béarnaise in the first place, but you are not here for restraint. (Think to yourself: What would Frank do?) Order a martini or two, then the stellar chocolate pudding for dessert. 8225 Beverly Blvd. (323) 655-6566,

—Amy Scattergood

8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 90048
246 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, 90210
Best Restaurant
Anne Fishbein
Spot prawn jewels

Michael Cimarusti's seafood palace on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood earlier this summer celebrated its seventh birthday, a suitably biblical number for a fish restaurant with an excellent pastry kitchen. In those seven years, Providence has neither plateaued nor reversed direction: It has gotten better, kind of a stunning achievement for a restaurant that was worth 2 Michelin stars back when they gave them out in this town. Cimarusti and his crew manage something rare: a combination of technical mastery and playfulness, and a willingness to change things up instead of resting on their considerable laurels. The menu transforms as frequently as the fish swim in and out of their seasonal waters, the staff forages for local greenery, and the plates emerge from the kitchen like small epiphanies. Maybe you can credit it all to the fact that the chef and the general manager like to go fishing out of San Pedro on their few days off. 5955 Melrose Ave., Hlywd. (323) 460-4170,

—Amy Scattergood

5955 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, 90038
3818 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90026
Best Free Water

Back in 2007, when Judy Ornstein first opened her neighborhood café FOOD, she had a recycling brainstorm: Why not install a plastic, serve-yourself, all-you-can-drink dispenser and fill it with filtered H20, ice cubes and whatever fruity odds and ends she found in the kitchen? Sometimes there are hunks of pineapple sweetly infusing the cold water; other times it's a mind-bendingly thirst-quenching day spa mainstay of cucumber slices and handfuls of fresh mint. Often they go refreshingly tropical with floating orange, lime and lemon slices. Ornstein's light, rejuvenating, bright idea also doubles as an art installation that changes daily: Some have compared the dispenser, sitting in a far corner next to a stack of glasses, to wallpaper in a ladies' restroom circa 1968 or a freeze-frame from a Trix cereal commercial. But we think it recalls a dreamy, zero-gravity fruit salad experiment at NASA — and what's not to like about that? 10571 W. Pico Blvd., W.L.A. (310) 441-7770,

—Margy Rochlin

10571 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 90064
Best Overpriced Coffee
Coffee Commissary

Four dollars for a cup of coffee? Before you spit out your Starbucks, hear us out: There's a revolution going on in the java world that has little to do with the over-barbecued cafe loco you're used to and everything to do with small organic farms in South America that are churning out product with the kind of terroir previously associated only with wine. Now, we're not so sure about hints of chocolate and pomegranate in our perfect, 195-degree cup of Commissary joe, but it is super smooth and low on acid. Props to Intelligentsia Coffee for kickstarting this thing in L.A. But what we like about the 2-year-old Coffee Commissary in West Hollywood is that it's simple, casual and gimmick-free. Nobody's slurping and "cupping" this stuff, and you won't be huffed on if you don't know your Coava from your Victrola. Hot water is swirled over a cone of precious grinds, with the resulting brew transferred to a thick mug. That's it. 801 N. Fairfax Ave., #106, W. Hlywd. (323) 782- 1465,

—Dennis Romero

801 Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 90046
Best San Fernando Valley Pastry Shop
Sweet Butter

On a chic strip of shops near a leafy Sherman Oaks neighborhood filled with film-industry types, Sweet Butter is designed to feel as if you've stumbled into a sidewalk pastry shop in Paris. Fleur de sel caramel brownies, butter-rich croissants, bread pudding with brioche (in coconut-lemon and chocolate versions), cinnamon muffins filled with homemade peach or strawberry jam, plum-lemon bars and savory bacon-cheddar scones are churned out by three in-house pastry chefs. Founder Leslie Danelian, a former food stylist and longtime caterer, keeps the charm factor high but the prices low: Mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies are $2, muffins and scones $2.75. The pastry items rotate, so each day Sweet Butter's glass case is filled with surprises. The French county–style restaurant offers full breakfast and lunch menus, with items such as grilled turkey, fig jam and bleu cheese sandwiches. 13824 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 788-2832,

—Jill Stewart

13824 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 91423

Best Boat Noodles: Pa-Ord Noodle


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