There's some rather excellent food being served in Culver City these days. The city's last culinary heyday was circa 2008, when a number of upscale restaurants popped up around the Culver Hotel and in Helms Bakery. It kind of petered out, but the restaurant scene is back, baby! It's just slightly more relaxed this time around, except for Destroyer and n/naka, which can't just be classified as upscale, as they're singular creatures. (And n/naka is technically in Palms.) Have fun rediscovering Culver City's great food!
BäcoShop, a counter-service restaurant, brings Josef Centeno's half-pita, half-burrito creations to an area that could really use a high-quality lunch option. (It's open for dinner, too.) “Bäco” really refers to the vessel; it can be wrapped around any kind of filling. These have shown up before at Bäco Mercat, though the options at BäcoShop are perhaps a little more accessible. They're all — shrimp, steak, eggplant, etc. — saucy and soulful. My current favorite is the “green herb chicken” with thyme, spiced yogurt, green cabbage, parsley and a Meyer lemon vinaigrette. The menu is rounded out with a number of salads and vegetable dishes, dips served with crackers, a daily soft-serve ice cream option, bottles of Bäco Pop and tubs of Centeno's famous rice pudding.
9552 Washington Blvd., Culver City; (424) 258-6301, baco-shop.com.
Jordan Kahn's Destroyer follows new rules that seem contradictory to the idea of success and longevity but might just be the future of restaurants: Pick an odd, out-of-the-way location with no parking; pare down your build-out to absolute basics; open on the days and at the times that suit you — ignore dinner and weekends altogether if you like. Cook whatever the hell you want. Kahn has always been known for his visually stunning food. That hasn’t changed here, despite the fact that Destroyer is basically a futuristic cafe where office workers come to get coffee and oatmeal. But the coffee is from San Francisco’s Coffee Manufactory, and the oatmeal comes raw and crunchy in a beautiful, white bowl with drifts of red currant, perfect for Instagram, as is just about everything here. In fact, Destroyer’s stark background, heavy, earthy ceramics and meticulously artful platings might make it the most Instagrammable restaurant in the known universe. —Besha Rodell
3578 Hayden Ave., Culver City; destroyer.la.
The small-plates menu at the Wallace in Culver City isn't revolutionary, but it is interesting, with a vaguely Mediterranean vibe and fresh California ingredients. Start with something from the Jarred section — maybe a caponata with ricotta and sea salt, duck rillettes, or the grilled flatbread served with mini jars of bacon marmalade, romesco and wilted greens. The cheese and cured selections include, well, cheese, but also popovers, salt cod fritters and a cured salmon belly served with an artistic smattering of cucumber, beets and horseradish. There are enough vegetable options to fill up even nonvegetarians (amazing grilled cauliflower with almond breadcrumbs, sprouting broccoli with tahini and feta, market greens with pumpkin and pomegranate seeds) and the “sea” and “land” sections have well-executed standards (grilled Greek octopus, tuna tartare) but also lemonfish crudo, charred lamb leg with farro risotto and an impossibly light short-rib ravioli dish. You'll need a couple of dishes per person to fill up, but everything is affordable — and dishes are far prettier than their price tags suggest. —L.A. Weekly
3833 Main St., Culver City; (310) 202-6400, thewallacela.com.
Maple Block Meat Co.
Barbecue is, above all else, regional. Part of the pleasure of visiting barbecue restaurants in the South is the ability to take a deep dive into that region's foodways, to understand that what's on your plate could only be had in that state, that county, that town. Maple Block Meat Co., which opened in August 2015 in Culver City, pays homage to all kinds of traditions, including the more modern L.A. tradition of making your barbecue restaurant very pretty in a wood-lined, rustic kind of way. The chef, Adam Cole, moved around the South as a kid, living in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina, and he got a taste for quite a few different barbecue styles. At Maple Block, he's not adhering to any particular style or region; you can get brisket or chopped pork or smoked turkey or smoked chicken or pork ribs or prime rib or Scottish trout. It's hard enough to do one kind of barbecue well; it's almost impossible to do three or four kinds. What Cole does do very well is smoke meat and, in particular, brisket. The tender slices of beef are intensely smoky, the ratio of fat to lean meat is just right, and the peppery crust on the outside gives just enough prickly flavor. This brisket is as good as any I've had outside of Texas and far better than 90 percent of what the other 49 states have to offer. —Besha Rodell
3973 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City; (310) 313-6328, mapleblockmeat.com.
This little shop prides itself on its “authentic Danish pastries,” which doesn't really mean, you know, danishes. It means a ton of butter making everything flaky, from the Copenhagen Line, a sticklike pastry filled with yellow custard, to the signature kringles, full of almond paste (actually, most items here contain almond paste, which is one of the world's best dessert ingredients). There are also breakfast pastries and cakes, and rye bread made in the super-dense Nordic manner.
11113 Washington Blvd., Culver City; (310) 839-8900, copenhagenpastry.com.
Tender Greens is pretty ubiquitous these days. But the Culver City location was the first, and the restaurant is still throwing together really excellent salads. (And mashed potatoes and caramel-crunch cookies.) The restaurant is culturally important; it proved that salad bars can be of high quality and nutritious without offering “health food” ingredients. There is no cottage cheese here.
9523 Culver Blvd., Culver City; (310) 842-8300, tendergreens.com.
Do people give Lukshon enough credit? Does it come to the tip of their tongue when they think of L.A.’s best restaurants, our true originals, our must-visit places? It should. Sang Yoon’s 6-year-old restaurant blazed a path for the type of exciting, bright, modern Asian cooking at which L.A. excels these days, and Yoon still does that kind of cooking far better than most who came after him. Whether it’s his supremely savory and nutty tea leaf salad with blue prawns; his tiny, perfect lobster roll “bánh mì” with papaya slaw and pig ear terrine; his sticky Chinese eggplant with sambal and fennel raita; his Hawaiian butterfish with lime, herbs and coconut; or his Sichuan dumplings with delicate wrappers holding ginger-imbued kurobuta pork, Yoon’s food is so carefully prepared, so thoughtfully executed, that you get to let go of your analytical side and just relax into pleasure. This process is helped along by one of the best wine lists around (particularly if you’re a riesling fan); if wine ain’t your thing, Lukshon could be the place where you become a single-origin tea geek. It’s a thing, and as usual Yoon is on the forefront. —Besha Rodell
3239 Helms Ave., Culver City; (310) 202-6808, lukshon.com.
The fried chicken at Honey's Kettle is thickly battered, then fried in enormous kettle drums, which, they say, helps cook the chicken to a beautiful crisp while locking in its juices. Whatever works: Most pieces, even the white meat, are tender and flavorful, and the skin packs a solid crunch. Better still are the fluffy biscuits, and even better are the packets of honey that come with each order, for you to drizzle liberally on both chicken and biscuit. —Tien Nguyen
9537 Culver Blvd., Culver City; (310) 202-5453, honeyskettle.com.
Lodge Bread Co.
Lodge 2.0 opened recently, and aside from the paper-wrapped loaves offered for sale from a carousel in the dining room, the space looked less like the bakery and coffee shop that opened in 2015 and more like a pizzeria. Despite these changes, Lodge retains its core DNA: a likable neighborhood bakery with an affable cast of characters behind the counter. While Alex Phaneuf shaped pies on the new side of the space one recent evening, Or Amsalam wrapped up the day’s bread baking on the other. The original cafe menu remains intact, too. Despite the attractive pizzas emerging from the kitchen, it’s hard to imagine a visit to Lodge that doesn’t include a thick slice of toast adorned with mashed Ojai avocado and paper-thin radish slices, or Amsalam’s shakshuka, a stewlike sauce of tomatoes and peppers cradling a gently baked egg. Thankfully, customers aren’t forced to make such sacrifices. Their only limitation is their ability to process excess carbs. —Scott Reitz
11918 Washington Blvd., Culver City; (424) 384-5097, lodgebread.com.
When you’re in the realm of ultra-expensive meals, the ones that hit well over three figures before you’ve even considered a glass of wine let alone tax and tip, it can be hard to discern true value. Of course, it depends what’s important to you: Luxurious surroundings? Obsequious service? If your main interest is in food, in particular gorgeously plated, highly fussed over, brightly seasonal, modern Japanese cuisine, we recommend n/naka, the quiet Palms kaiseki restaurant run by Niki Nakayama. Nakayama says she may be the only female kaiseki chef in the world — kaiseki being the formal, multicourse, seasonal style of Japanese dining. Regardless of whether she is unique in that regard, her restaurant and food (much of it grown in the restaurant’s garden) are certainly singular in Los Angeles. The 13 courses will take you through different aspects of the season, be it a “modern interpretation of sashimi” composed of kanpachi with bell pepper gelee, jalapeño gelee and avocado sauce, or her “chef’s choice dish,” which is usually a stunning spaghettini with shaved black abalone, pickled cod roe and Burgundian truffles. The quiet room and humble service have a calming effect, allowing you to fully concentrate on the meal before you. As a way to blow a couple hundred bucks, you could do a lot worse. —Besha Rodell
3455 Overland Ave., Palms; (310) 836-6252, n-naka.com.
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