Aside from a handful of classic haunts where Hollywood types have been dodging paparazzi and sealing deals over iced tea and chopped salads for decades, many of the best restaurants in L.A. only serve dinner. And for a while, those that were open midday often seemed more focused on the scene than the food. This is changing, of course, with a growing demand for a sophisticated lunch. Some of the city's most talked-about chefs are offering innovative midday menus in more relaxed settings. Here are eight new lunch menus that might convince you to get up from your desk.
Executive chef Joel David Miller of Culver City’s the Wallace has created a seasonally inspired midday menu with a variety of soups, salads and sandwich options, including a pork belly bánh mì with pickled vegetables and miso aioli, and a lamb-sausage grinder with peperonata, saffron tomato sauce and Gruyère. Prices are lunch-appropriate, too, ranging from $4-$14. The new menu is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 3833 Main St., Culver City; (310) 202-6400, thewallacela.com.
The West Hollywood hangout now serves chef Jared Levy's locally sourced menu during lunch. New dishes such as the crab toast sandy with butter lettuce, barrel-aged fish sauce vinegar and chili mayonnaise are geared for the fast pace of lunch service. Eveleigh is serving juices and smoothies with its new daytime menu, too, including kumquat lemonade, cucumber-lime-mint spritz and a coconut-date smoothie with cinnamon, sunflower seed, almond milk and hazelnuts. Those who really want to party can opt for lunch cocktails such as the Rose, a combination of vodka, aperol, rhubarb, sage, fresh lime juice and agave. Lunch is served daily, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 8752 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (424) 239-1630, theeveleigh.com.
In addition to an extensive lunch menu, chef Neal Fraser’s celebrated downtown restaurant, Redbird, has added a $25, three-course, prix fixe option. Those courses include dishes such as sweet corn soup with chipotle mole; Wyoming trout with raisins, hazelnuts, spinach, quinoa and brown butter; and dessert. Lunch is served Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 114 E. Second St., downtown; (213) 788-1191, redbird.la.
The downtown Santa Monica tavern launched its lunch menu in May. Since then, chef Tom Block has been serving up bowls of his specialty Vietnamese noodle soup to hungry lunchers. In addition to pho, daytime diners can enjoy new items such as blue crab and shrimp ceviche, nettle and ricotta gnudi, and smoked pork tortas. A few favorites from the dinner menu, such as smoked whitefish toast and farro and quinoa, also are available. Lunch is served from noon to 5 p.m. 205 Broadway, Santa Monica; (310) 458-2500, independencetavern.com. Orsa & Winston
Orsa & Winston, known for Josef Centeno's meticulously prepared dinner tasting menus, is offering lunch with a more casual vibe. Consider Bäco Mercat's house-made hibiscus soda to wash it down rather than $50 wine pairings. The new menu features Centeno's Japanese- and Italian-inspired grain bowls. The offerings range from $10 to $14, compared with the $80 to $225 nighttime omakase menus.The generous lunches are served in plastic bowls with convenient lids to take on the go if need be. A mix of Japanese short-grain rice, Italian farro or quinoa and barley is piled with a choice of seasonal market vegetables, seafood crudo, or a beef or chicken curry. The colorful heaps are topped with dried nori, Calabrian chile paste, salsa verde and a bit of shichimi togarashi (the Japanese spice mix for which Centeno traveled to Kyoto earlier this year.) For the gluten-averse, Centeno offers Japanese kelp noodles as a substitution. For dessert, miso-caramel brownies, a Japanese cheesecake and berry parfait from pastry chef Isa Fabro are available, although saving room for dessert proves difficult. 122 W. Fourth St., downtown; (213)687-0300, orsaandwinston.com.
Culver City’s Fin, which has been serving Asian tapas and Japanese whiskeys for more than a year, added lunch service this summer. The newly launched menu includes light salads such as the chicken wasabi pea with avocado; tapas-like tiger prawn tacos with chopped shrimp, wasabi aioli, pico de gallo and wonton taco shells; a variety of hand and cut rolls; rice bowls; and build-your-own bento boxes. If you're feeling convivial, pair your lunch with the Hello Kitty, a cocktail of vodka, pomegranate juice, lemon, agave and muddled berries. Lunch is served Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 12223 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; (310) 398-8611, finculvercity.com.
Forma, which recently opened its doors on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, is now serving chef Piero Topputo’s modern Italian cuisine during the day. Reasons to eat lunch there: tortellini with mixed seasonal mushrooms in a light cream sauce with truffle oil, the house-ground rib eye burger and the fazzoletti, handkerchief pasta with Maine lobster. Lighter options such as baby kale with quinoa and manchego are also available. But leaving Forma without eating pasta is foolish. Lunch is served daily, 11 a.m to 3 p.m. 1610 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; (424) 231-2868, formarestaurant.com.
Chef and restaurateur Akasha Richmond has spiced up Culver City with her newest passion project, Sambar, a modern Indian street-food restaurant. Since July, Sambar's lunch menu includes thali-style plates and regional street food and highlights lighter dishes such as the Yogi Thali Plate with Punjabi Mama greens, zucchini kofta, cashew, tomato and saffron sauce. Among the modern street-food options is the British Raj Chicken Kati roll with yogurt-roasted chicken and both pomegranate-mint and peach chutney. There's also an apricot salad with Gem lettuce, goat cheese, vindaloo bacon, spiced pistachios, turmeric and masala, and a lamb burger with preserved-tomato chutney. In addition to the restaurant's exotic, Indian-inspired cocktail program, non-alcoholic drinks include a refreshing tamarind cooler or lassi of the day. 9531 Culver Blvd., Culver City; (310) 558-8800, Sambarcc.com.