What does the Weekly mean by “99 Essential L.A. Restaurants”? It isn’t necessarily a list of the very best restaurants in Los Angeles; that would almost certainly include L’Orangerie, which has been the most rigorously French restaurant on the West Coast for decades, as well as Belvedere at the Peninsula Hotel, Noe at the Omni, and too many high-end sushi bars to count, Mori, Shibucho and Wa among them. Nor is it a roster of the most influential restaurants: Valentino, Chinois and Patina are conspicuously absent. It certainly isn’t an inventory of the most popular places to eat — we do include Casa Bianca and Pink’s, but Langer’s Delicatessen is included instead of Junior’s and Brent’s, and you will find the quirky Mexican cooking of Babita instead of the throng-pleasing cuisine of El Coyote, Marix or Mexico City.
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An essential restaurant is a restaurant that reflects Los Angeles in a startling and unusual way, that uses fresh local ingredients in a fashion that respects the land in which they were grown, that showcases cooking echoing both foreign-trained chefs’ region of origin and the hypercharged mosaic of the Los Angeles dining scene. An essential restaurant moves people, inspires them to think about food in a new way, inspires them to think about Southern California as a great agricultural region, a great port, a builder of the shiny symbolism that is a large factor in how the rest of the world thinks of itself. And it’s also a damned good place to eat.