The 10 Best New Restaurants in Los Angeles 2015

The dining room at Cassia in Santa Monica
The dining room at Cassia in Santa Monica
Anne Fishbein

To say that 2015 has been a banner year for L.A. restaurants would perhaps be a lie — there have been fewer major attention-grabbing openings this year than in years past. And yet, as I look over the places that have seized my attention in these last 12 months, I see an L.A. scene emerging that is more true to the soul of this city than in any other year. We’ve gained so many weirder, smaller, less Eurocentric restaurants this year.

As you read my top 10 picks, you might notice the prevalence of Asian and Mexican spots, which take up more than half of this list. We’ve always said we’re a city that isn’t bound by the European sensibilities that dominate on the East Coast, and this year that’s become obvious not just in a few exciting openings but in the majority of them.

So how do we define a banner year? Perhaps growing into our true selves as a dining city qualifies after all.

Steamed buns with roast pork belly at Everson Royce Bar
Steamed buns with roast pork belly at Everson Royce Bar
Anne Fishbein

10. Everson Royce Bar
What do you get when you take one of the city’s most passionate wine purveyors and a James Beard Award–winning chef and have them open a bar together? You get Everson Royce Bar, the Arts District drinking hole conceived by Randy Clement of Silverlake Wine and Matt Molina, previously chef at a little place you may have heard of called Osteria Mozza. In many ways ERB is a fairly simple operation: long, backlit bar facing some banquette seating; a large kitchen abutting a hallway to the outdoor space; a huge, string light–festooned back patio with picnic tables and a bocce court; a short menu of classic drinking food from all over the world. Molina’s food is hardly groundbreaking here — there are no cheffy twists on dishes, just familiar bar snacks perfectly realized. But somehow, those elements — together with beverage director Chris Ojeda’s fantastic cocktails — make for the neighborhood bar of your dreams. There’s a lot to be said for doing something straightforward and doing it very, very well. 1936 E. Seventh St., downtown; (213) 335-6166, erbla.com.

The Arthur J
The Arthur J
Anne Fishbein

9. The Arthur J
It's hard to resist the charms of the Arthur J, David Lefevre's new Manhattan Beach restaurant. If a steakhouse is all about a projection of American fantasy, then the Arthur J spins that fantasy particularly well. The restaurant's decor is an imagining of the glossy swagger of the 1950s, all geometrically latticed room dividers made from honey-toned wood, tastefully space-age light fixtures, and carpets and upholstering that have the gray and navy chromatism of a well-made suit. Cocktails provide clever twists on the classics, and those "twists," along with the forward-thinking wine list, are really the only details of the restaurant that veer toward modernity. The food is almost all throwback, down to a pot roast served from white Pyrex with a blue curlicued design, a vessel that typically wouldn't be seen in an upscale steakhouse but that graced the kitchens of most housewives circa 1959. Are the steaks cooked well? Do they deliver that meaty tang, that carnivorous joy, the char and blood and gratifying balance between tender and toothsome? They are and they do, particularly the dry-aged prime, which comes in a variety of very expensive cuts. Great steak, it turns out, is an indulgence that never gets old. 903 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach; (310) 878-9620, thearthurj.com.

Trois Familia
Trois Familia
Anne Fishbein

8. Trois Familia
What will spring forth next from the minds of Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo? The trio, now with a trio of “Trois” restaurants, has followed up Trois Mec and Petit Trois with Trois Familia, a funky little spot in a Silver Lake strip mall that is part French, part Mexican and 100 percent hipster fantasy. And what a fun fantasy. The restaurant, which is open for breakfast and brunch daily and has no liquor license, would fall under the weight of its own silliness if not for the quality of the cooking, which is fantastic. You put your name on a list out front and wait to be called to a communal picnic table, there to dine on dishes such as “hash brown chilaquiles,” which means hash browns in a pool of hot sauce with an egg on top, or a garlic butter and bean burrito that is as delicious as it is fundamentally whacked. There’s a lot of that here — Frankenstein dishes that should be terrible, and would be terrible if it weren’t for the cooks in charge. But with these three at the helm, even the silliest idea turns out to be pretty damn awesome. 3510 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 725-7800, troisfamilia.com.

Chicken with mole Oaxaqueño at Rocio's Mexican Kitchen
Chicken with mole Oaxaqueño at Rocio's Mexican Kitchen
Anne Fishbein

7. Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen
Rocio's Mexican Kitchen is a modest affair. The small wedge of a building from renowned mole queen Rocio Camacho operates mainly as a takeout place where you order at a counter, and it's possible to pick up a burrito and never get wind of the more exciting possibilities of eating here. But there’s way more to this place than meets the eye. It wouldn't be a Camacho restaurant without a focus on moles, and the Oaxaqueño, in particular, is fantastically silky and has a depth of flavor that's downright profound — this is mole that might be cast in the starring role of some magical-realism novel, the dark sorcery used to seduce a young lover. Camacho's touch with more standard menu items makes them utterly memorable. The empanadas are so light and crispy they're almost ethereal in their shattery crunch. The aguachile has fat shrimp bathed in a scarlet sauce spicy enough to alter your consciousness but also so tangy and balanced that it will have you coming back for bite after excruciating bite. If this food were served in some fancy room somewhere, the salmon would be cooked a little more gently; the ribs under a sticky, spicy, aromatic glaze would perhaps be more tender. There would be wine as delicate as the flavor of the musky huitlacoche sauce you get ladled over mahi mahi. But the wonderful thing about Rocio's Mexican Kitchen is right there in the name. This is Camacho's kitchen, and it's not built on any premise other than showcasing the cooking of an incredibly talented chef. 7891 Garfield Ave., Bell Gardens; (562) 659-7800.

Pork longganisa at Ricebar
Pork longganisa at Ricebar
Anne Fishbein

6. Ricebar
We use the term “hole in the wall” as a folksy cliche, but Ricebar truly is a hole in the wall, a teeny kitchen with a door on downtown’s Seventh Street. The entire space — kitchen, storage, fridges, dining area — is 275 square feet. The master of those 275 square feet is chef Charles Olalia, an exceedingly friendly dude who often looks kind of happily stunned to find himself here. It is quite amazing to find him here, given that his last job was executive chef at Patina in Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of the ritziest restaurants in California. Before that, he worked at the French Laundry in Napa Valley and Guy Savoy in Las Vegas. At Ricebar, the focus is not on fine dining but rather heirloom, fair-trade Filipino rice bowls in a variety of flavors. The menu is built around the four large steamers in the front window, each holding a different kind of rice. Kalinga Unoy is a rust-colored red rice, grown on ancient terraced fields in Kalinga in the Philippines, then sun-dried. The flavor is lightly nutty and sweet, and it delicately complements Ricebar’s suggested topping, bistek tagalog: tender, pan-seared, soy-marinated beef. There’s black rice covered in hunks of lush avocado, crisp radish, sweet pops of marinated grape tomatoes and tiny, pointy, salty, crunchy fried anchovies. Pork longganisa, a sausage that’s made in-house, comes sliced and accompanied by pickled veggies and has an almost floral and aromatic yet funky flavor that leaves a light, fatty sweetness behind. Olalia will recommend you order this over garlic fried rice and also that you add a fried egg. He’s a wise man in both regards. 419 W. Seventh St., downtown; ricebarla.com.



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