The Top 3 Restaurants to Dine at in L.A. for 2013 By Steve V. Rodriguez

Laurel Hardware lounge

Laurel Hardware lounge

Los Angeles has really stepped up the caliber of restaurant cuisine in the last five years, backed by top name chefs like Mario Batali (Osteria Mozza, Hollywood), Tom Colicchio (Craft, Century City) and Nobu Matsuhisa (Nobu, West Hollywood). The current trend of restaurants are still featuring top chef names, fresh local ingredients and are spanning the vast landscapes of the city,  from Downtown to West Los Angeles.  More recently the trend that seems to be amicable with Angelenos is the concept of small plates. Once reserved for Spanish restaurants (tapas), small plates today expand a fusion of cuisine, usually touching on Mediterranean flavors, and most recently Asian influences. Most of these establishments incorporate specialty cocktails in line with the current speakeasy trend, and offer a more relaxed and casual environment, thus attracting a more vibrant youth oriented dining scene. Shows like Top Chef and the endless choices on the Foot Network have attracted a younger dining set that want to continue the party into the night,  and therefore enjoy the small plate concept. Plus, with social networking, people can now tweet, check-in and Instagram their favorite foods at restaurants, while trying to nab a shot with the most recent Top Chef contestant. Check out my shot with Top Chef favorite from Season 10, Kuniko Yagi below.

In staying true to our Top 3 restaurant series in major cities (Check out Top 3 restaurants in Miami for 2013), we present our Top 3 Restaurants to Dine at in L.A. for 2013. Get the list below and let us know what you think.

  1. Editor Steve V. Rodriguez w/Chef Kuniko Yagi

    Editor Steve V. Rodriguez w/Chef Kuniko Yagi

    Hinoki and the Bird: 10 Century Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90067: http://hinokiandthebird.com/ –  Famed chef and restauranteur, David Myers (Patina, Sona, Comme Ca) has always had a love of Japanese culture and cuisine. Upon meeting  Crab Toast

    Crab Toast at Hinoki and the Bird

    Crab Toast at Hinoki and the Bird

    Chef Kuniko Yagi (Top Chef Season 10) working as a food server in a noodle restaurant, Myers chatted with Yagi about her passion for gastronomy, and decided to give her a chance at his restaurant, Sona. She excelled and has helped open other restaurants in Japan and Vegas under the Myers Restaurant group. She later became a fan favorite on Season 10 of Top Chef.  Now she is at the helm as executive chef at Hinoki and the Bird in Century City. The two are a match made in culinary heaven! First of all the restaurant is located in Century City known mostly for studios, agencies and an outdoor mall. Hinoki and the Bird could be located anywhere, as the minute you open the door you are enveloped into a vibrant open room,  that is bustling like a downtown New York restaurant on a Saturday night. However, I went on a Wednesday and the scene was buzzing. Opt to dine alfresco, particularly at the first table as you descend outside. You’ll enjoy the open air and still be able to get a glimpse of the action inside, particularly the half open kitchen. Yagi can often be spotted expediting her own dishes as they come out, making sure they are perfect. Servers are knowledgeable, intuitive, casual and outgoing. We loved our server, L.A., yes it’s the same name as the acronym. Since plates are to share, as in all of our restaurant picks for L.A., opt for several dishes and try to go with a group to maximize your experience, or plan to go back. Dishes to try: the 1/2 oysters with pear mignonette, Chili crab toast with spicy cucumber and coriander, Sambal skate wing that scrapes off both sides of the fish, Kale  crispy and raw with almonds, pecorino and lemon vinaigrette was  excellent and a new take on the current popular vegetable, BBQ Pork with lettuce leaves, Apple marinated shortrib and the Caramel braised kurobuta pork belly, radish, mustard greens. All dishes mentioned were outstanding! 

  2. Laurel HardwareLaurel Hardware: 7984 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90046 www.laurelhardware.com – Located in the heart of West Hollywood and inhabiting an original hardware store, the restauranteurs decided to keep the name and exterior signage. Driving by during the day you’d swear the space still houses saws, heavy appliances and electrical items. Night timet is a different story,  upon looking into the windows you’ll see a small garage -like restaurant, small bar and semi-open kitchen. The space appears quaint, but pretty tight, with hordes of people walking in. A space so small couldn’t possibly house the entourages I see walking in, or could it? When my friend and I recently visited Laurel Hardware we were asked if we wanted to sit at the tiny solo table by itself or at a bar table in the lounge. Yes, once you walk past the entrance you enter a completely different spacious area with high ceilings. Intimate booths aline the right side of the room,  and a huge buzzing circular bar inhabits the middle. There’s a lounge area for dining at the backend,  and an inviting garden in the backyard for additional seating and drinking. The entire space is like a best kept neighborhood secret, although the young hip crowd is completely aware of where they need to be right now. Even though we arrived pretty late as the restaurant was shifting into a bar scene, service did not suffer and was in fact very pleasant. Don’t ignore the cocktail menu as it’s very inspiring. Try the Veritas: H1 mandarin blossom vodka, aperol, prosecco, grand marnier soaked strawberries (Eat the soaked strawberries!),  or the Gavrons Boogle: fresh cucumber infused herradura blanco, lime, 4-chile with salted rim. Food is all locally sourced and organic, with beef being hormone and antibiotic free. Staying in theme,  plates are to share featuring American with global influences. Our server explained that the chefs shop locally at the farmer’s market to find fresh ingredients, thus the menu is constantly changing. The menu, however is divided into four groups: Snacks, Small plates & Salads, Plates and Pizza. Definitely get the Cancha (Corn Nuts) and Shishito Peppers to start. Also, try and arrive early and get the Squash Blossoms with goat cheese, pepian and sunflower seeds.  Since some form of pizza is always on the menu definitely try one as you’ll love the crust and fresh toppings. Laurel Hardware is definitely a refreshing newcomer to the scene that successfully mixes a vibrant environment with great food and cocktails.
  3. Bestia's Open Kitchen

    Bestia’s Open Kitchen

    Wood burning pizza at Bestia

    Wood burning pizza at Bestia

    Bestia: 2121 7th Place Los Angeles CA, 90021 www.bestiala.comHusband and wife duo Executive Chef, Ori Menashe (former Chef of Angelini Osteria) and Pastry Chef Genevieve Gergis are the brains behind this inviting industrial space located in

    Chocolate Budino Tart

    Chocolate Budino Tart

    the arts district of Downtown Los Angeles. Getting a reservation is not easy and one can see why, especially on a beautiful day when the garage doors are open and the light of the city is pouring in. From the floating booths to the eclectic light fixtures, Bestia features an exhilarating dining experience complete with an open kitchen, that’s fun to drift off from you dining companion(s) and see the magic happen. Once again service is superb and plates are to share. Cocktails are also very prominent and have been created by famed L.A. mixologist, Julian Cox. Food is multi-regional Italian with an emphasis on house-cured meats, with over 60 different forms of charcuterie. In addition, Chef Menashe grows his own yeast and has, in my opinion perfected the wood burning oven pizza. To start go with the Roasted Market Vegetables with olive oil and sea salt. Also, do not skip the Kale with caper-anchovy vinaigrette, purple kale, endive, pecorino toscano and breadcrumbs – simply delicious! The Mussels were a beautiful mix of spicy housemade ‘nduja with fennel and lemon. You can’t go wrong with the pizza as the pizza dough, which rises and falls over a 24-hour cycle prior to being composed as a Napolitana pizza, is then  baked in the Acunto (wood-burning) oven at ~900 degrees.  We tried and loved the Alla’nduja, housemade spicy ‘nduja, san marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and wild arugula. Pastas are also a specialty for Chef Ori. Try the Pici alla Vaccinara, oxtail ragu, fava bean puree, formaggio misto stagionato. We also enjoyed the Squid Ink Spaghetti with scallops and calamari, wild fennel pollen and chili-fennel sofritto. As a main course to share, we absolutely loved the tender Grilled Korobuta Pork Chop, which sat on a bed of polenta and spinach. The meat could not have been more tender and tasty. Save room for desserts as Chef Ori’s wife, Genevieve is a master of dolci. The entire list sounded stupendous, but we drooled and devoured the Valrhona fair trade bittersweet Chocolate Budino Tart, with salted caramel, cacao crust, olive oil and sea salt. This may be one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. Genevieve is also responsible for the design and decor of the restaurant, which is warm, open, industrial, and most of all comfortable.

***All three of our picks will have you visiting Downtown, West Hollywood and Century City. Yes, we know it’s a drive, as is L.A., but you won’t regret trying all of these stupendous restaurant picks on your next visit to Los Angeles. Enjoy!