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2005 Ultimate Los Angeles Restaurants Poll

  • m

In just three short years, A.O.C. has emerged as Los Angeles’s destination restaurant of choice among food-obsessed LA chowhounds. With 123 points accumulated on 32 ballots including 11 first-choice votes, Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s nouveau wine and tapas bar easily outpolled the champion from the prior two years, Spago Beverly Hills.

Participation by hounds was up dramatically this year, with 104 ballots submitted compared to 49 last year and 23 the first year. In addition, virtually every ballot was acceptable, as is. Thank you from the bottom of the Grubman’s OCD heart.

A whopping 214 different restaurants received votes, with enough “undiscovered” real-deal treasures to keep even the most obsessed hound happy for years. Well, maybe months.

Some Grubly observations:
1. The far wider participation wrought a far-ranging and wildly diverse list of recommendations. The estimable Jonathan Gold began his restaurant critiquing career by attempting to eat at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard. Perhaps some erstwhile chowhound will attempt to eat through the Ultimate list.
2. 2005 Awards:
Best in Show: A.O.C. Clearly no longer trendy, but an established success in LA’s highly competitive marketplace.
Rookie of the Year: Providence. Barely started up, Cimarusti’s showcase dazzles into third place.
Most Improved: La Buca and Sona. Well, La Buca’s food hasn’t really improved, hounds have simply found it. Great, great Top 20 showing for a 20-top storefront with no parking. In about three years, Sona seems to have hit its stride, reflected by six first-choice votes on 14 ballots. Clearly will be a top-end destination restaurant for years to come.
Comeback of the Year: Langer’s Deli. Same pastrami sandwich for almost 59 years, yet huge jump into Top Ten this year. Westsiders more comfy with MacArthur Park?
3. Many fourth- and fifth-place votes seem to have been based on a single dish rather than a complete dining experience. Perhaps therefore not really destinations for multi-person parties.
4. Japanese is the cuisine of choice for LA chowhounds, with 35 restaurants included in the list. Chinese, Mexican, and Italian follow with about 20 each. By far the largest category is, um, I-don’t-know-and-my-head-hurts-too-much-to-figure-it-out.
5. The Patina Group restaurants amassed a princely total of 13 votes on four ballots for Patina at Disney Concert Hall. None for any Pinots, Nick & Stef’s, Kendall’s, or even the new, favorably received Zucca. Perhaps Splichal – and the mother corporation – needs to become a bit more involved in his kitchens.
6. Zero votes for foodie favs Beechwood, Ciudad, Belvedere, Michael’s, Meson G, Yong Su San, Chinois on Main, Yamashiro, Café Bizou, and Shiro (!) for instance. As if that’s not enough humiliation, Dodger Stadium, The Red Onion, and Leda’s Bake Shop received more votes.
7. Steakhouses may be the current rage for new restaurants, but fared pathetically among chowhounds. Only Mastro’s (22), Pacific Dining Car (7), and Taylor’s (1) received votes. Receiving nary a vote were: The Palm, Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s, Arnie Morton’s, Fleming’s, Boa, Dan Tana, Windows, and Nick & Stef’s, among others.
8. The geographic axis of Los Angeles deliciousness seems to run between Third & Melrose. Poll wastelands include the entire San Fernando Valley and, even more surprisingly, Chinatown, which was shut out until extra innings.

Chowhounds were asked to list, in rank order, their top five restaurants in LA County where they would take houndly out-of-town visitors or would recommend for a special occasion. Evaluations were based 75% on food and 25% on everything else.

The votes were tabulated as follows. Restaurants were given 5 – 1 points (5 for top ranked, etc.) Restaurants with the same number of points are listed below by number of votes, then alphabetically. After each restaurant’s name are total points, followed by (# votes/ # “1st choice” votes) for restaurants receiving multiple votes or one “1st choice” vote.

A.O.C. 123 (32/11)
Spago 97 (29/7)
Providence 67 (18/7)
Sona 54 (15/7)
Angelini Osteria 49 (15/2)
Urasawa 43 (9/7)
Langer’s Deli 35 (14/2)
Melisse 33 (9/4)
Josie 32 (12/1)
Grace 30 (9/2)
Water Grill 29 (9/2)
Lucques 28 (8/3)
Kiriko 27 (7/3)
Bastide 26 (6/3)
Mastro’s 22 (7/1)
Zankou 22 (6/4)
Hungry Cat 20 (6/2)
La Buca 19 (8)
Sushi Nozawa 18 (5/1)
Campanile 17 (5/2)
JiRaffe 16 (4/2)
Mako (BH) 16 (5/1)
Babita 15 (4/2)
Tacos Baja Ensenada 15 (4/2)
Patina 13 (4)
R-23 13 (4)
Jar 12 (4)
Valentino 12 (5)
Joe’s 11 (3)
La Cachette 11 (3/1)
Maison Akira 11 (4)
Daikokuya 10 (3/1)
Matsuhisa 10 (4)
Max 10 (2/2)
Vincenti 10 (4)
Echigo 9 (3)
Ruen Pair 9 (2)
Saddle Peak Lodge 9 (3)
Giorgio Baldi 8 (3/1)
Sapp Coffee House 8 (3)
Sushi Ike 8 (3)
Angeli Caffé 7 (2/1)
Baguette Express 7 (2)
El Parian 7 (2/1)
Golden Deli 7 (4)
Katsu-Ya 7 (3)
Mori Sushi 7 (3)
Newport Seafood 7 (3)
Pacific Dining Car 7 (2/1)
Parkway Grill 7 (2)
Phillippe the Original 7 (3)
Sea Harbour 7 (3)
Carney’s 6 (2)
Celestino 6 (2)
Din Tai Fung 6 (4)
Girasole 6 (2/1)
Haru Ulala 6 (2/1)
La Playita 6 (2)
Ortolan 6 (2)
Wa Sushi 6 (2)
Bay Cities Deli 5 (3)
Christy’s 5 (1/1)
Empress Pavilion 5 (1/1)
Father’s Office 5 (2)
Julienne 5 (2)
Kagaya 5 (1/1)
La Barca 5 (1/1)
Leda’s Bake Shop 5
Mandaloun 5 (2)
Min’s Kitchen 5
Noe 5 (1/1)
Orris 5 (1/1)
Palms Thai 5
Tommy’s Original 5 (1/1)
Totoraku 5 (1/1)
Uncle Bill’s Pancake House 5
Z Sushi 5 (1/1)
888 Seafood 4 (2)
Al Gelato 4
Arroyo Chop House 4 (2)
Bistro K 4
Blair’s 4
Border Grill 4
Bu-San 4
Domenico’s Monrovia 4
Fritto Misto 4
Grill on the Alley 4
Jay Bharat 4
Krua Thai 4 (2)
La Serenata di Garabaldi 4
Lasher’s 4
L’Orangerie 4 (2)
Musso & Frank’s 4
NBC Seafood 4 (2)
Nishimura 4
Norman’s 4
Palms Thai 4
Petrillo’s 4
Pie & Burger 4
Sa Rit Gol 4
Sushi Gen 4 (2)
Sushi Sasabune 4 (2)
Table 8 4
Taiko 4
Vert 4
Yi Cuisine 4
Azami 3
Ca Brea 3
Chameau 3
Dan Sung Sa 3
Frenchy’s Bistro 3
Geoffrey’s 3
Grand Central Market 3
Harold & Belle’s 3
Hide Sushi 3
Il Grano 3 (2)
Il Pastaio 3
Inn of the Seventh Ray 3
In-n-Out 3 (2)
Johnnie’s Pastrami 3
La Casita Mexicana 3
Mei Long Village 3 (2)
Merkato 3
Mi India Bonita 3
Nanay Gloria 3
PCH Dogs 3
Piccolo 3
Pollo a la Brasa 3 (2)
Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles 3 (2)
Shabu Shabu House 3
Sushi Shibucho (LA) 3 (2)
Teresita’s 3
The Lobster 3
Triumphal Palace 3
Versailles 3 (2)
Via Veneto 3
Wat Thai Temple 3
Yamato 3
Yungui Garden 3
Angelique Café 2
Asahi Ramen 2
Balcones de Peru 2
Best Szechuan 2
Café Beaujolais 2
Café Metropol 2
Casa Bianca 2
China Islamic 2
Chosun Galbi 2
Chung King 2 (2)
Enrique’s 2
Gerlach’s 2
Giang-Nan 2
Golden Triangle 2
Indo Café 2
Marouche 2
Meals by Genet 2
Mimosa 2
Mission 261 2
Murakami 2
Oriental Pearl 2
Pann’s Coffee House 2
Park’s Barbecue 2
Pastis 2
Peppone 2
Pink’s 2
Phillip’s BBQ 2
Primo’s 2
Serenata de Garibaldi (ELA) 2
Shik Do Rak 2
Uncle Chen 2
Urth Caffe 2
Vietnam House 2
Vito 2
Abbott’s Pizza 1
Akbar 1
Birrieria Jalisco 1
Blue Fish 1
Brent’s Deli 1
Café Atlantic 1
Café 50’s 1
Clementine 1
Cobras & Matadors 1
Divino 1
Dodger Stadium 1
El Coyote 1
Firefly Bistro 1
Guelaguetza 1
Hotel Bel-Air 1
King’s Fish House (LB) 1
KP’s Deli 1
Kushiyu 1
Lares 1
La Taquiza 1
Lawry’s the Prime Rib 1
Loteria 1
Lucky Dragon 1
Mario’s Peruvian 1
My Taco 1
Northwoods Inn 1
Ocean Star 1
One Pico 1
Pizzicotta 1
Polka 1
Red Onion 1
Ritz-Carlton (Pas) Dining Room 1
Saito’s Sushi 1
Sushi Rio Izayoi 1
Taylor’s Steak House 1
Thai Paradise 1
The Counter 1
The Hump 1
Ya Jung Nak Ji 1
Yi-Mei 1
Yujean Kang 1

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  1. Thank you for doing this Mr. Grub! It's a wonderful tradition, and a great resource.

    1. Thank you Mr. Grub for taking the time to compile all the information. =) You're awesome. What a great list to have!


        I can't wait to knock off a few of these in 2006! :)


        1. Wow, thank you for compiling this information! Very, very interesting. I'm especially struck by the restaurants that only had one voter who gave 5 points; I'll have to check ou those. And all the others.

          Thank you!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tarz

            I'm surprised The Hump didn't do better....

          2. Thanks Mr. Grub

            1. b

              Thank you for doing this poll. It is so interesting to see what trends the customers are following . . . I can't believe Asanebo didn't make the list - I should've given em my vote instead of R23 0 but man they have a beautiful space.

              1. Bravissimo! Look at all those places I haven't been to, yet. I'm hitting "print" right n...

                1. Invaluable resource -- thanks very much for crunching all those numbers for us. Seems like fair results.

                  Am doing the tasting menu at Providence this Sunday and have every confidence it would make my top five next week!

                  1. Many thanks for going through the trouble. It is really appreciated.

                    1. l

                      Mr. Grub, you rokk! Let me add another Thank You into the chorus.

                      1. This is an outstanding service that you perform for all of us. Thanks again! Am sending a link to your post around to my foodie friends who don't frequent the board.

                        1. h
                          Hershey Bomar

                          "Poll wastelands include the entire San Fernando Valley". C'mon, I found Sushi Nozawa, Wat Thai Temple, Firefly Bistro, and The Counter on your list. Bet I missed a few others.

                          Why make a point of picking on the Valley...Yawn! Lets all gang up on Culver City. All they got on the list was Johnnie’s Pastrami . Whatever...

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: Hershey Bomar

                            In that I live in the Valley, I must object to the wasteland comments, and even to Hershey's defense of it, as even his geography is a bit off.
                            Firefly Bistro is in South Pasadena(there is a Firefly in Studio City but it is not the same), the Counter is in Santa Monica and Temple is elsewhere as well.
                            Now, as to those in the Valley, which include branches of the following: Versailles, In N Out, Zankou and Carneys.
                            Unique only to the Valley are Max, Katsu-Ya, Sushi Nozawa, Saddle Peak Lodge(Calabasas), Brent's Deli, Wat Thai, Leda's cupcakes, and even the El Coyote of Chinese food - Uncle Chen's.
                            Any and all retractions are welcome.

                            1. re: carter
                              Hershey Bomar

                              "Temple is elsewhere as well." The Thai Wat Temple is in the Valley.

                                1. re: gj
                                  Hershey Bomar

                                  Counter...Stand...Whatever. It's all hotdogs and hamburgers.

                              1. re: carter
                                Das Ubergeek

                                Of course, some of us completely missed the whole bloody thread and would have nominated some other Valley-specific places.

                                I don't mind too much when people say the Valley is a cultural and culinary wasteland -- it makes it easier and less crowded to enjoy our cultural offerings and restaurants when people from the other side of the hill stay away. You can keep your fancy expensive restaurants on 3rd, Melrose and La Cienega. I'll stick with our cheap ethnic treasure trove up here. :)

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                  Hershey Bomar

                                  Treasure trove of cheap ethnic places in the Valley. Do you have a treasure map?

                                  I just wish I had a Pollo a la Brasa in my backyard and a Phillips BBQ down the street.

                                  1. re: Hershey Bomar
                                    Das Ubergeek

                                    I don't need a treasure map to find great ethnic eats in the Valley -- with some exceptions, you can pretty much drive down any major street and find them.

                                    1. re: Hershey Bomar

                                      As to Phillips BBQ, the new Boneyard Bistro on Ventura is much more upscale than you desire, but the spare ribs and baby backs are quite nice, as is most of the food. Definitely not cheap, yet very tasty. Might want to try it, at 13539 Ventura, just west of the Starbucks and Quiznos, and two blocks east of Woodman.

                                  2. re: carter

                                    In defense of Mr. Grubster, I have to say that many on this thread have lost sight of the original purpose of the poll. The purpose was to list the top 5 "special occasion" restaurants in L.A.

                                    As I didn't read thru all of the results, are you actually telling me that someone voted for Leda's cupcakes as one of the top 5 destination restaurants in L.A.?? You've got to be kidding. And Brent's Deli? Sure it's good but a special occasion restaurant? No way. Versailles? Zankou?? Come on now.

                                    Grubmeister's point was not that there is no good grub to be found in the Valley, he was merely analyzing the poll results and when it comes to "special occasion" restaurants I have to agree that SFV is pretty much a wasteland. The only Valley place that could be legitimately considered for this list is Saddle Peak (and that's barely on the fringe of SFV). I haven't been to Max and I hear it is very good but is it one of the top 5 destination restaurants in L.A.? I doubt it. You might throw Asanebo in as an honorable mention. Posto could have qualified if it was still around.

                                    As a SFV resident I agree there is lots of good grub to be found here but when it comes to special occasions, I'm always making that trek over the hill.

                                    And many thanks to the Grubman for compiling this list again.

                                2. s
                                  Silverlake Bodhisattva

                                  Thank you, thank you thank you oh mighty grubmeister!

                                  Interesting to see that some of what I thought were my own peculiar and cranky choices were shared by others. Also interesting to see what some folks like (Dodger stadium? Red Onion? Where's there a Red Onion any more?) but, hey, gustibus non disputandum est.

                                  BTW, why's Palms Thai listed twice?

                                  r gould-saltman

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Silverlake Bodhisattva

                                    I just love it when 'hounds bust out the Latin phrases.

                                    I concur -- you can't dispute taste.

                                    1. re: Silverlake Bodhisattva

                                      I believe the Red Onion is in that bastian of avantgarde, Rolling Hills Estates.

                                    2. As the person who voted for the Red Onion I think its important to mention my vote only applies to the original Red Onion that is still owned by Bart Earle -- the Red Onion on Silver Spur Blvd in Rancho Palos Verdes. The food at this restaurant is far far better than a regular chain Mexican restaurant.


                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Adlai

                                        I married into a Red Onion-loving, South Bay family. Me? I'm an East-LA, taqueria fan (one of the Tacos Baja Ensenada first-place votes was mine). Still, any time we're near RPV, Red Onion is a mandatory stop. Great old-school, sit-down, combo plate grub (which tastes even better when you're sitting in that big round booth near the front).

                                        Good pick.

                                      2. My sincerest congratulations to my fellow hounds who have publicly pointed out my ineptitude.

                                        To my friends in the SFV, pls accept my apology for engaging in vicious & uncalled-for hyperbole. Certainly, an area the vast geographic size of the SFV that is home to a smattering (out of 213) of unique chowhound destination restaurants is no culinary wasteland – even if one of the restaurants is a weekend-only operation in a temple parking lot, another is on a mountaintop in Calabasas & a third is a cupcake specialist.

                                        Palms Thai is indeed incorrectly listed twice. For those of you for whom this is an issue, please strike the “4” entry. I regret this error.

                                        Being a giving & caring kind of guy, I included in the survey one ballot that was posted after the announced deadline (& after compiling the list). I apparently mistakenly held down the Control key while moving Palms Thai to its rightful place on the master list & then crediting it with its latecoming one point, resulting in the ruinous double listing. Perhaps not surprisingly the person whose late ballot I included is the very person who pointed out the error of my ways. In the immortal words of Clare Boothe Luce: No good deed goes unpunished.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Mr Grub
                                          Silverlake Bodhisattva

                                          OUCH! TOUCHE!

                                          I'd say, in my rather lame half-hearted defense, that Mr. Grub's dictate was that the votes come in before the end of the day Tuesday, and mine did, by LA time, but not by EDT, by which Chowhound time is apparently clocked.

                                          Mia culpa! Mia maxima culpa! Can I be given retroactive credit for my having to eat at Olive Garden and Acupulco on consecutive weekends (to keep my recuperating kid happy) as my penance? Talk about mortification of the flesh!

                                          Tnank you again, Mr. Grub! (grovels at feet of superior Chow-hound) (Grovel, grovel!)

                                          r gould-saltman

                                          1. re: Mr Grub
                                            snooze button

                                            This message board rules. I can always count on a laugh here and there.

                                            Thanks for the effort you put into this.

                                          2. "Totoraku 5 (1/1)"

                                            methinks only 1 voting 'hound has been there lol

                                            1. It is funny that Patina and Zucca restaurant are mentioned negatively. Went to Zucca two weeks ago before a show. BAD...BAD...BAD... Started with a pizza from the wood oven. It was like pizza hut... authentic???? Yeah right... Split a linguine with clams. Pasta was overcooked and pre-cooked, clams were pre-cooked. The restaurant prides itself on authenticity...no Italians??? Manager was more into herself then the tables. The funny thing is, I spent much more then Angelini. After this experience, I have no interest at visiting anymore Patina restaurants. (Waste of time and money)