10 Best Restaurants in Encino
When people speak of the dining scene in the Valley, most likely they’re referring to the motley lineup of restaurants scattered along a particular stretch of Ventura Boulevard, sprouting at the junction of Ventura and Cahuenga, where Studio City begins and touching Sepulveda, where Sherman Oaks ends to the north. The sheer number of eating establishments in these two desirable areas has made it necessary for some restaurateurs to set their tables farther west on Ventura, into ZIP codes such as Encino. Like everywhere around Los Angeles, the spillover from overcrowded, popular parts of town usually results in an economic boost to the neighboring community. More often than not, the restaurant business, with its razor-thin margins, is the harbinger of this shift when new ones open. In the past, Encino was more famous for Pauly Shore than pla pling. However, today, with excellent culinary choices like a tasting menu by a Top Chef or brunch at a cafe hideaway tucked adjacent to a historic state park, diners can experience an Encino so wonderfully edible, it may even be considered a dining destination.
Idyllic is not a word often used when describing a restaurant located in the Valley, but the word accurately describes the setting if you choose to dine on one of the two patios here (and you definitely should). Los Encinos State Historic Park will be your view for your meal, making this Californian brasserie a unique dining location in L.A. The larger garden patio is leased from the state park and is also where you can view the Garnier building and the natural spring that trickles into the pond. At this family-friendly restaurant, guests are offered a cupful of bird feed for interacting with the local waterfowl. For hungry humans, the lamb burger is a good call. Fish and chips and fish tacos are definitely on the must-eat list. Classic steak frites, lamb chops and braised short ribs are executed well. A squid ink linguine nestled in a lobster saffron broth, chock-full of clams, lobster and tiger shrimp, is a great pasta pick. Lakeside’s shakshukah, an Israeli breakfast favorite of baked eggs in a spicy tomato sauce, is on point. Dessert may consist of a variety of macarons from the cafe and bakery located at Lakeside’s boulevard entrance. Just make sure Charlie the biting duck doesn’t get hold of them.
16817 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 616-2430, lakesidecafe.com.
Scratch Bar & Kitchen
Phillip Frankland Lee is Encino’s star chef. He’s the highest-profile cook along this stretch of Ventura, making dishes and offering experiences that locals here aren’t used to enjoying this close to home. His full “Chef’s Dinner” tasting menu is a tour de force of inventive plates using ever-changing available ingredients with everything made from scratch, hence the restaurant’s name. Currently, dry-aged rib-eye tartare with egg yolk and uni is among the lavish, carnivorous presentations. However, recall that Lee also helmed now-defunct Studio City vegan concept the Gadarene Swine, so his veggie chops are quite sharp, too; a plate of vegetables and edible flowers is artfully composed. The winter menu includes a course elevating all things radish, and that’s pretty rad. Lee’s partner and wife, Margarita Kallas-Lee, is Scratch’s pastry and dessert chef. Your meal will wind down indulging in her creative sweets, perhaps even her charcoal ice cream with vegetable sprinkles.
16101 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 255, Encino. (818) 646-6085, scratchbarla.com.
There are currently five locations of the Stand, with the first established in Encino in 2003. However, it’s the kind of place that seems as if it might’ve been there for decades. In the beginning, the Stand Encino was a local hangout for good, basic hot dogs and burgers, a place to have Little League postgame lunches and school fundraisers or to simply gather in the outdoor dining space shaded by willow trees, which at night are illuminated with fairy lights. It’s a place where Windy City expats can visit their hometown via an authentic Chicago dog. Jason Wishengrad, son of the Stand founder-CEO Murray Wishengrad, grew up in the restaurant’s kitchen and eventually was put in charge of its menu. The junior Wishengrad ramped up the culinary factor on the dogs and created featured items such as Three Pigs, composed of bratwurst, bacon tomato jam and a house-cured porchetta. The burger side of the menu is no slouch, either; patties of a chuck/brisket blend are custom-ground daily and delivered locally from Vernon. Wishengrad’s latest must-eat item is the French Onion Soup burger; it’s seasoned to taste like the classic soup but eats like a French dip sandwich as you dunk each bite into the jus. Guzzle it all down with a Stand Blonde Ale, brewed by Golden Road Brewing, and you’re golden.
17000 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-2700, thestandlink.com.
The sushi here is about as pretty as the happily hued modern art decorating the restaurant. Chef Ryota Okumura accents his tuna, mackerel and kanpachi with gold flakes and edible flowers, letting you taste with your eyes first as the freshness of the seafood completes the picture. The salmon skin salad includes produce from the farmers market, which Okumura regularly visits. Live food is the freshest food at the chef’s namesake sushi spot, where live octopus carpaccio, sweet shrimp, baby abalone and Japanese scallop burst with oceanic goodness. The chirashi bowl is a work of art. Okumura is an alum of Hattori Culinary Academy, which is famous for furnishing its students as kitchen stadium lackeys on Iron Chef. He also put in time at Sushi Zo as an omakase-only chef. Trusting chef Okumura is probably a good idea when he sets before you a plate of triggerfish flesh crowned with its own creamy liver. Heaven. And with the cost of this heavenly sushi experience less than at other restaurants of this caliber, it’s even more sublime. There’s an admirable wine and beer selection, too. Okumura is one of the best sushi tastes you can get not only in Encino but possibly the Valley itself.
17302 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 986-9712, okumurarestaurant.com.
Uncle Bernie’s Deli
When Fromin’s left the neighborhood in 2011, there opened up an old-school deli void. Shortly after, though, Uncle Bernie’s Deli came along to fill it. For pastrami sandwich and matzo ball soup aficionados, the new kid on the block was a step up from the former resident. Norman Green, the owner, named his deli after his uncle who lives in Beverly Hills, because he likes him and he’s a great businessman. Green likes his uncle so much that there’s a portrait of him next to a Farrah Fawcett poster behind the cash register. The N.Y. Sky High Pastrami Sandwich is a respectable 2 inches or so in meat thickness, piled further with creamy coleslaw and smeared with Russian dressing. The cheesecake is reminiscent of Junior’s in Manhattan, and the half-sour pickles are perfect. The matzo ball soup is piled almost as outrageously high as the pastrami sandwich and is just what the doctor ordered. Uncle Bernie’s is great for Encino and probably one of the best delicatessens in the Valley next to Brent’s.
17615 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 990-6346, uncleberniesdeli.com.
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