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Best in LA

My hubby and I are major Hounds and we're going to be visiting LA from San Francisco several times over the next few months. What is your ultimate, number one choice for the best restaurant in LA?

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  1. Here's last year's Chowhound ultimate restaurant poll to get you started.
    First five Chowhound choices were 1) AOC 2) Spago 3) Providence 4) Sona 5) Angelina Osteria
    However I'm sure that some would also say that Urusawa should be number one. Close behind also are Josie, Grace and Lucques.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chowpatty

      Add Cut, Opus, and the Water Grill, and that about covers it, I think.

    2. Urasawa
      Angelini Osteria

      1. Are you looking for best restuarants in LA, or best versions of things you can't find in SF?

        For example, I think the food at Opus is fantastic and well-priced, but I also can think of at least 10 places in SF I'd rather eat. But if we switch over to talking about Korean food, I'd rather eat anywhere in Ktown here than Brothers in SF (supposedly the best BBQ, but really not that great, with terrible panchan).

        Having said that, if I had the money ($300 per person, possibly way more) I would go to Urasawa. The sushi in SF is nowhere near as good as it is here.

        I would skip AOC. The friends I have who have also lived in SF uniformly find it inconsistent, expensive, and not as good as California cuisine in SF (Bocadillos, Piperade, Mezes, and a few other places have been mentioned by my friends as way better than AOC).

        22 Replies
        1. re: Pei

          I wouldn't be too quick to write off AOC. I think the wines by the glass are extensive and excellent and there are certain dishes that do a great job of showcasing a different style of Cal cuisine when compared to the bay area. The pancetta wrapped trout stuffed with herbs (not as boring as it sounds) is delicious as is the brioche with egg.

          Others that I would recommend:

          1. AOC
          2. Lucques
          3. Campanille (been cooking with burrata long before A16)

          1. Urasawa- over $300pp range
          2. Mori- around $120pp range
          3. Kiriko- around $60-80pp range
          AVOID Sasabune...please...

          1. Langers- pastrami (no where to be found in SF)
          2. Philippe's- french dipped pork or lamb sandwiches

          1. Sona probably has the best chance of offering you something unique.
          2. Spago. Good LA vibe and institution but the food itself isn't stunning.

          *you should pass on Melisse since it's nowhere near Manresa or TFL and you should probably pass on italian since SF does it so well.

          Asian eats are stellar in LA. Various regions of China are well represented. Taiwanese cuisine is superb. Cantonese goes to SF though on the strength of Koi Palace. DO try Din Tai Fung though.

          1. re: Porthos

            Porthos, it's rather obvious that your Home Board is SF.
            I have to disagree with several of your guesstimations of LA restaurants. Starting with AOC, which used to be the benchmark for Wine and Appys and has been washed up for years.
            Sona has been a disappointment 3 times (Chef's tasting Menu), not returning even for free!
            Why would you recommend not going to Sasabune when it's 10 times better than Kirkko(which I eat at regularly also).
            Melisse is the ONLY French Restaurant in LA that has the possibility to become a Michelin Star Rated Restaurant, it's very good! FL is in a class by itself with 3 Stars so there is no reason to compare it to anything, it's in it's own league. We go semi anually.
            Spago has incredible food and can blow the doors off most of the High end Dining I've done in SF. Where is the great Italian you've had in SF , we have never found Great Italian in SF. In LA Valentino is the Benchmark.

            1. re: russkar

              I grew up in LA and go home at least 2-3 times a year to catch up on the food. I also spent 5 years in NYC and go back twice a year to catch up on great food there. In fact, I've only been in SF for 3 years (the shortest amount of time out of all 3 cities) but have been fortunate enough to try most of the heavily discussed restaurants in all 3 cities.

              I agree that while Melisse is the only french restaurant in LA that has the possiblity of a "michelin star" it's certainly not in the same league as Manresa in terms of flavors or execution (since we already conceded FL). Melisse is also inferior to Redd and even the Dining Room which I find is nowhere near the quality of high end restaurants in NYC. LA's weakness has always been French (when compared to NYC) and italian (when compared to NYC or SF). In my 5-6 visits to Spago, I've always felt that the ambiance was more distinctive than the food. It's an enjoyable dining experience but the food isn't on the same level as Daniel (NYC), Jean-George (NYC), Bouley (NYC), French Laundry (Napa), or even Manresa (SF area).

              As for Sasabune, it's my least favorite sushi restaurant ever. The pre-cut fish and heavily sauced hot rice is not my idea of traditional nigiri. Chalk me up as someone who doesn't "get" Sasabune. But speaking on quality and selection of fish alone, its certainly no standout. For pure quality, Mori and even Nishimura beats Sasabune. And I liked the fact that the fish at Kiriko was not doused in sauce. I also got fresh wasabi at Kiriko which I don't recall at Sasabune.

              As for Italian in SF. Oliveto, Incanto, and the pasta at Quince ring quite true. Valentino may be the benchmark in LA, but for someone from SF or NY, I would recommend they go heavier on the ethnic asian eats in LA and pass up italian or french. Compared to SF or NYC, LA doesn't offer anything in terms of french or italian that can't be had elsewhere.

              1. re: Porthos

                I was just at Redd , awful! Friends were just at Redd and the same occurred.
                I've been to every Restaurant (multi-times) you've mentioned other than the Italian ones in SF and Manresa.
                I like almost everything on your list and travel to the same Cities as you.

                1. re: russkar

                  Sorry you had a bad experience at Redd. I actually liked it better than French Laundry in terms of type of cuisine (caramalized pork belly) and wine pairing.

                  I know you're a sushi maven. Give Yasuda a try (in front of Yasuda-san) the next time you visit NYC and of course, go omakase. The pieces are smaller by west-coast standards but the sheer variety of fish and eel he has imported is tear-jerking. I'm told that nigiri to nigiri, the quality is the same as Masa's (NY version).

                  Back to the topic, what do you particularly like at Spago or Providence? Maybe it's time for a repeat visit in a few weeks.

                  1. re: Porthos

                    We had the Caramelized Pork Belly at Redd, it was ok. But the other dishes weren't very memorable.
                    We really like the FL and have ordered the Sixteen Course Menu more than 15 times over the years.
                    Thanks for the tip on Yasuda. After Masa we'll go there.
                    At Spago(went two weeks ago) I always order the TM and have never been disappointed.
                    We will be at Providence tomorrow for lunch. I always get the Chef's Table and order the Special TM. Grand Slam.
                    We will be at Valentino's tonight in the Wine Cellar with 14 people and I look forward to reporting back on what should be a memorable meal.

                    1. re: russkar

                      Any particular dishes at Spago or Providence that you like in the tasting menu?

                      1. re: Porthos

                        Everything has been above average. I never look at menu's but let the chef just do his thing.
                        I'll have more insight after Providence's lunch tomorrow.

              2. re: russkar

                while i think porthos does in fact not get Sasabune (but get nyc vs la on french food) i have to disagree with you, russkar, abotu sasabune. i've been there several times, including today, after reading your post, and
                wish that i'd gone to kiriko instead. i couldn't help but wonder why you felt the opposite way...

                1. re: epop

                  Did you have NOBI as your Sushi Chef?

                    1. re: epop

                      Well I guess it's time for Hiro at "U"? He always blows us away!

                2. re: russkar

                  Wow, in my opinion Sasabune does not come close to being as good as Kiriko. In fact, Kiriko is the only sushi restaurant I can be happy at after going to Urasawa. 10 times better? I don't think you know what you are talking about.

                    1. re: choctastic

                      i think russkar has experience but i don't agree; i like a lot of places more than sasabune + especially love kiriko.

                      1. re: epop

                        yeah that's what i meant. sorry. i know russkar has experience as i've seen him in action. i esp agree with the part about kiriko being just about the only place i could feel not depressed after a night at urasawa. well not as depressed as usual.

                        1. re: choctastic

                          budlit wrote that about Urasawa... to live for these meals ought to put us above
                          moods like depression.

                3. re: Porthos

                  Sasabune is not my favorite sushi, but I feel compelled to stick up for it here. They really do have top-quality fish, excellent service, and... well top quality fish!

                  1. re: EREDSON

                    Have to agree. My wife and I have never been disappointed with the fish at Sasbune.

                    1. re: EREDSON

                      i think many of us agree that it is pretty good. some of us think there are places that are better, that's all.

                      i just remembered, for example, that i had live sweet shrimp and there was still the gook from the back of it on there that i was supposed to poke out.

                      i've never had that experience elsewhere. + i don't find it acceptable

                      1. re: epop

                        Agreed. I had mirugai there with the skin still on. Again, something that even the local sushi bar takes care of. It's also unacceptable.

                  2. re: Pei

                    There is alot of mention here that AOC is cal cuisine?! It certainly shows those of you who have yet to visit.

                    AOC is a pan-mediterannean small plates wine bar. Their dishes range from Spanish and French influence all the way to Northern Africa and the Middle East with everything in between.

                    Also the James Beard Foundation didn't give Suzanne Goin the Best Chef in California award this year because her restaurants are "washed up". Go give it a try!

                  3. Tacos Baja Ensenada in East LA or Thai Nakorn in Garden Grove, neither of which have any close competitors (in my admittedly 3-year-old experience) in SF.

                    I assume you weren't limiting this to fancy-shmancy white linen tablecloth types of places.

                    1. Since you seemed to be asking for one place, I felt compelled to add a note: although it's mentioned above by a number of people, I don't think previous posters have stressed enough how spectacularly excellent Urasawa apparently is (from friends who've been and posts on this board.) Urasawa is virtually the unanimous choice of the people who can afford it as #1 in L.A. and maybe even better than the New York version, Masa (which used to be in L.A. as Ginza Sushiko). I have tried neither place (little out of my price range), but I can summarize 2+ years of reading these boards regularly. $250 set menu, but apparently one of the extraordinary culinary experiences anywhere. Am I right, hounds?? (I'll get there one of these days.)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ThatPat

                        I am going with my friend Kirk K. (both of us are food bloggers from San Diego) on Friday. Kirk will be posting about our experience on his site
                        I will report back on the LA board about our experience.

                      2. OK - so I have to jump on the Sasabune train here... My husband and I are long-time fans of the place HOWEVER, it has definitely lost some of it's flair since moving to Wilshire from Sawtelle. We still go when we can't get into HIKO - can't believe no one has mentioned this gem! Check it out at National and Sawtelle... the toro is amazing and the yellowtail is sooooo good! Yum yum yum!

                        PS - we also like AOC, Grace, Jar, Lucques, and for the best CHEAP Mexican food - you can NOT beat Tacos Por Favor in Santa Monica (Olympic at 14th). Totally cheap - totally a dive - totally worth the stop!

                        1. Spago - get the tasting menu, make sure you specify when you make the res. You won't be disappointed.

                          I'd also recommend Mako in Bev. Hills, Japanese fusion - small plates. Check out the link


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: markn

                            Some of my favorites are (there is no particular order):
                            Very Expensive: Sona, Spago, Providence, Koi, Ortolan, Grace
                            Not As Expensive: Doug Arangos, Madeo, Dan Tanas
                            Less Expensive: The Great Greek, Mr Cecils Ribs, Real Food Daily

                          2. short and sweet
                            sasabune: "sushi special plate" masquerading as omakase.
                            done and done.

                            1. 1. Angelini Osteria
                              2. Melisse
                              3. AOC

                              1. 1. Grace
                                2. Spago
                                3. Angelini Osteria

                                If you want to find out where I eat on a regular basis, you'll find me at Doughboys, BLD, Pho So 1, and In-N-Out.