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L.A.'s Best Appetizers

Some people are dessert lovers, but me, I'm an appetizer guy. Sometimes I'll forego an entree in favor of a few great appetizers. To me, a great appetizer will influence my entire dining experience. Once in 2006 I returned to a restaurant three nights in row for the soft-shell crabs they were serving as an appetizer. I would have gone back for a fourth night, but the restaurant got a restraining order.

So here's my question, what are the best appetizers in L.A. and who has the best overall selection of appetizers? I plan on eating my way through the list, so answer carefully.

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  1. Chicken liver pate crostini thing at Mozza is really good. I'm Jewish and have been eating deli chopped liver all of my life. The Pizzaeria Mozza version on this wonderful bread is sublime.

    3 Replies
    1. re: orythedog

      That's because Jewish Delis don't serve theirs with fried pancetta topping!

      Actually, all joking aside, I believe most delis do their chopped liver with beef, not chicken liver.

      1. re: bodie

        I really tried to resist the temptation to correct you (or at least give my opinion) but my compulsion won. Anyway, chopped liver is chopped chicken liver plus a few other goodies such as sauted onion, hard boiled eggs, salt and pepper and possibly celery. I have seen a few recipes that are 1/2 chicken liver & 1/2 beef liver but those are exceptions from my experience. One would typically assume that when you refer to the deli appetizer chopped liver, you are referring to chopped chicken liver. Now I feel much better but I'm going to have to try Nancy's version.

        1. re: Fru

          I hate to disagree with you, but, alot of people make it with calves liver, I for one am one. Never celery, but maybe some schmaltz and a lot of sauteed onions with the hard boiled eggs. Yes, people do make it with chicken liver, I think it is what you are brought up with. I know a lot of delis use calves liver.

    2. Lately I have been going Uzen on Santa Monica Blvd. just east of Bundy and dining on appetizers only. Garlic sprouts with mushrooms and shrimp, tofu in spicy sauce, green lipped mussels with crab and Japanese style mayo sauce - baked, and still looking for one more off their rather extensive list to round out my meal. I have tried their pork cutlet rounds which are panko crusted and deep fried and also the dynamite (too much like the mussels and not as good). Next I plan on giving their deep fried squid rings (J style calamari) a try. These are very generous amounts of food. All washed down with a Sapporo. Now "I'm" drooling.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Servorg

        Another west side thought, Violet. Don't know if they are still offering their early evening 7 for 7 deal or not (a choice of 7 different starters, each for $7) but their regular dinner menu is here: http://www.violetrestaurant.com/dinne... and has a lot of great choices.

        Add: 7 for 7 still on their website here: http://www.violetrestaurant.com/speci... and even their Sunday night prixe fixe for $25 with a $10 bottomless glass of wine is a great way to go.

        3221 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

        1. re: Servorg

          Note that Violet's 7 for $7 really is a good deal, with a selection of their small plates for $7 each, and is available before 7 p.m. on Tu-Th.

          Not that I haven't sung their praises before, but Nook Bistro offers my favorite panko-crusted mac'n'cheese for less all the time.

      2. Bone marrow flan at Cut. I hated their steaks, but the appetizers were delicious.

        1. Just had dinner at Eat on Sunset, they have these deep fried kalamata olives with lemony mayo dipping sauce, it was totally cravable.

          3 Replies
          1. re: schrutefarms

            Deep fried kalamata olives... That is so wrong, yet so right. I will be trying these within the week.

            1. re: creamfinger

              Whoa! DEEP FRIED CALAMATA OLIVES???? That sound like a whole lot of love in my book. ©

              1. re: Pesky_Humans

                I just had these a few weeks ago and it's everything you think they should taste like ... fried, salty, olive-y goodness. The aioli is REALLY mild and just adds that extra fatty "slick" taste.

                It's delicious.

          2. I have simpler tastes so I like ANYTHING at Happy Ending on Sunset. I can recommend the PuPu platter (a bit of everything) Drunken Chicken Quesadilla, and the fish and chips, which is actually seared tuna sashimi with wasabi french fries

            1. Hamachi croque madame at Hatfield's.

              1. If you are ever in the South Bay stop by Mediterranio in Hermosa beach. They have a large Tapas menu. Favorites are: Bistec, roasted dates, orange and avacado salad, roasted beets and arugala salad, baba ghanouch, chefs meat plate, the chorizo, calamari stew, to name a few. If you go on the weekend make a reservation. They have a nice outdoor patio. Check out their online menu. They have a two for one special on certain items if you go during happy hour.

                73 Pier Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

                1. Everyone is different so rather than tell you what to eat, here are my favorite 'appetizer' friendly places that you should explore for yourself:

                  Musha (Izakaya is pretty much all appetizers)
                  Hungry Cat usally has great special apps. The blue crab and escolar carpaccio have been some of my favorites in LA.
                  I've been told Craft has amazing appetizers

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ElJeffe

                    I'll also add Orris to this list, which is all small plates.

                  2. mediterranean apps at Carnival

                    apps at Warszawa

                    in addition to tasca, i like yatai for small appy type plates

                    squash blossoms at Mozza have yet to be mentioned too.

                    1. Don't know if it's on menu right now, but the mackerel rhubarb app at craft is gorgeous.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: la tache burger

                        Mackerel rhubarb? Be honest, you're making that up.

                          1. re: la tache burger

                            I want to hear more about the pork cheeks in blood orange sauce!

                        1. re: la tache burger

                          Was at Craft last night and sadly no mackerel rhubarb. It sounds wonderful. I hope they put it back on the menu.

                          1. re: omotosando

                            is rhubarb a seasonal thing? like spring?

                        2. Pig candy at Lou. www.louonvine.com

                          Braised tripe at All' Angelo. www.allangelo.com

                          Ipswich clams at Jar. www.thejar.com

                          Squash and banana soup at Babita

                          1. Also those little panchetta wrapped dates with some kind of cheese in them at AOC, they weren't deep fried exactly, but almost candied.....sooooo good.

                            1. ..."who has the best overall selection of appetizers?"

                              My Friends, I know appetizers. I know how to order appetizers. I know how to eat appetizers. My Friends, any place can serve-up one, or two, good appetizers, but for a true selection of appetizers,, "the best overall selection of appetizers," My Friends, we need to go to Lucilles. Eating appetizers is like going to war. My Friends, in order to attack the problem, to feed the troops, we need to think in large numbers of appetizers. The surge works -- Pork rib tips, onion straws, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, Dixie egg rolls, fried dill pickles, chicken strips and a tri tip quesadilla, all served together on a giant platter. Lucilles, My Friends, I have been there and I know...........


                              4 Replies
                              1. re: JeetJet

                                I've never been to Lucille's, but your rationale is just so compelling, JeetJeet McCain! ;)

                                1. re: Nicole

                                  McCain? Yikes! Nicole, what are you saying? Too much CNN for me!.

                                  Now more about Lucilles...

                                  What does it say about ones judgment when more than 90% of the time you think one or two good appetizers are reason enough to fill your gas tank at todays prices and drive accross town?

                                  Times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same OLD tired playbook. Now is NOT the time for small plans. Now is the time to finally meet our total obligation to ourselves and our country... to consider all our needs when deciding our future Chow runs. So let us agree that CHANGE is needed. I believe that the change we need is coming, because I’ve seen it at Lucilles with the appetizers, and the mint jullips, and the servers.

                                  First, the appetizers. Yes, they are good. But something more is needed and it is easy to spell -- "J-U-L-L-I-P-S." Lucilles Jullips are southern libations prepared with your choice of ten Kentucky Straight Bourbons, and the mint infused simple syrup, and the crushed ice, and the bouquet of fresh mint.

                                  Second, Servers should work for us, not against us. They should help us, not hurt us. They should ensure opportunity for service not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every paying customer. Lucilles servers work for us, and they are friendly, and they take just enough time between table vsits to allow us to feel we can relax and sit-a-spell. It’s a promise.

                                  It’s a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will. I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as a result of too much Happy Hour, but I stand before you because all across this Boad something is stirring and that is why I am running for ...

                                  ...Lucilles Bar Menu

                                  1. re: JeetJet

                                    Now that's a platform I can get behind! You do Lucille's and Obama proud. :)

                                    1. re: Nicole

                                      Yikes again. Way too much CNN. Hey, if I start sounding like Joe the Plumber, or Sarah the Cocky Marm, just shoot me.

                                      All this talk about appetizers got me wanting them and so we return to Lucilles. The platter was almost enough for the three of us but we wanted more. We ordered one tri tip dinner to share and that did it. The appetizers are very good but the tri tip is really what this place is about. I have a smooker and have burn many logs in my time but have never been able to make such perfect tri tip. It really almost melts in your mouth. I also had the Peach flavored ice tea -- So South and God love them.

                                      "As long as the roots are not
                                      severed, all is well and all will
                                      be well in the garden.".....Chance the Gardener, "Being There"

                              2. coxinha de frango, bolinho de bacalhau-Woodspoon

                                1. I swear by the Grilled Octopus appetizer at Osteria Mozza. Although I love the food at OM, I would go there just for this dish.

                                  Also, the Panko Calamari appetizer at Gyenari in Culver City is some of the best that I've ever had.

                                  1. croque madame @hatfields.

                                    1. i posted about this octopus flatbread at the hungry cat yesterday, it was incredible. i could eat it every day. luckily they offer it at brunch, lunch, and dinner.


                                      1. I couldn't agree more. Being a small plates/appy/hors d'œuvre person meself, I feel the love. Here are my faves, in no particular order:

                                        Pizzeria Mozza: Chicken livers, capers, parsley & guanciale bruschette

                                        Osteria Mozza: Grilled octopus w/ celery leaves. Tender and refreshing.

                                        Parkway Grill: Cocoa crepe w/ sauteed lobster, lobster cream

                                        Vertical Wine Bistro: Mini grilled cheese sandwiches w/ radicchio, walnuts & honey

                                        Tasca Wine Bar: Arancini- wild mushroom risotto fritters, truffled sauce
                                        Gambas al ajillo: sauteed shrimp in garlic sauce (with lots of bread to dip)
                                        Honestly...almost anything from the tapas menu would fit the bill!
                                        Green Street Tavern: Grilled Heirloom Tomatoes, Burratta, Basil and Balsamic

                                        Z Sushi in Alhambra: Japanese style fried calamari w/ spicy mayo- SO good.
                                        Baked langoustine/rice gratin.....again, delicious!

                                        Cube, Hollywood: Their selection of cheeses/meats always good, as is the black truffle pizza which I guess isn't an appie but could be if you shared. To. Die. For.

                                        Terroni: The charcuterie & cheese platter here is also perfect

                                        Ford's Filling Station: White shrimp, rosemary flatbread w/ micro arugula and white bean hummus.

                                        Damn. Now I'm hungry!


                                        1. Hmmm...No one has mentioned the brussel sprouts from Pizzaria Mozza. Granted, more of a side, but still so so so yummy.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. Biscuit, Foie Gras, and Maple Gravy at Animal (although their Pork Belly with Kimchee was pretty spectacular as well). Truck-stop food of the gods - and I mean that in the absolute best way. I can't wait to go back for it!


                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: CoffeeMonkee

                                              Their Biscuit, Foie Gras is amazing when paired with their riesling by the glass.

                                            2. Best appetizer in LA: Bacon-wrapped dates at AOC

                                              Best overall selection: Father's Office

                                              1. Octopus salad with pork belly at Opus, but I don't know what that place is like now that Centeno has left, or if they even still have that dish.

                                                Bone marrow at Pizzeria Mozza.

                                                Takoyaki and Geso Karaage at Asa Ramen.

                                                Octopus, cucumber, and wasabi app (I don't remember what it was called exactly) at Hakata Ramen Shin Sen Gumi. (Heh, that's 4 of 5 with some kind of cephalopod in it.)

                                                Is the bacon-wrapped quail at Josie an appetizer? That thing is awesome.

                                                Any good Chinese seafood restaurant when it has live prawns.

                                                I don't know if it qualifies as an appetizer, but albacore, avocado, citrus salsa, and cilantro at AOC.

                                                Beef liver sashimi at Tsuruhashi, though that's in OC.

                                                1. A lot of people go nuts over the AOC dates, and while I'd agree they are very good, I have a hard time declaring them best appetizer in LA. When you read words like "tears from the Gods" they had a lot to live up to. Although I'll admit God's tears probably do taste like sweet cheese and bacon.

                                                  For me the first appetizers that come to mind are the squash blossoms at MOZZA and the warm veal tongue at CUT. Will I say they're the best in LA? No. That would be a lofty claim. But both were certainly standouts and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.