Los Angeles, CA

> Akasha

Akasha offers an imaginative menu and incredible desserts-check out the salty chocolate tart. But Lisa Beaumon's house cocktails are the real draw. She makes the The Emerald City with Juniper Green organic gin, lime juice and mint syrup, and her house special Akasha with an amalgam of 42 Below kiwi vodka, organic cucumber juice and a house-made Thai basil tincture.
—Maria Vitulli

Akasha, 9543 Culver Blvd., Culver City; 310-845-1700; (reviewed W&S 10/08)


> The Bazaar

The Bazaar marks the California debut of José Andrés, the noted protégé of Ferran Adrià. Whether you choose to dine in the tapas bar, Rojo y Blanca, or the bustling Bar Centro, adjoining Philippe Starck-designed spaces in the SLS Hotel, surprises await. The buñuelos (cod fritters) are traditional, the caprese salad, with liquid mozzarella, not so much. Perhaps the best thing about The Bazaar's menu is its juxtapositions: Compare an arbequina olive with one of Andrés's substitutes, its skin containing an olivaceous center possibly more complex, and certainly more surprising, than the real thing. Lucas Paya's wine list keeps up with the inventive menu, covering Spain's best, including Rafael Palacios's evocative godello, As Sortes, and the Mallorcan red AN/2 from Anima Negra.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

The Bazaar, SLS Hotel, 465 S. La Cienaga Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-246-5555, (reviewed W&S 10/09)

> Bestia

Bestia looms in the railyard netherworld between the downtown arts district and the concrete slopes of the L.A. River, set among old produce hangars and scrap metal yards. When you feel completely lost, you've probably arrived. Inside, a post-industrial space hums with ravenous activity, inspired by chef Ori Menashe's ultra-traditional Italian fare. He has a penchant for pastas, for hearty dishes like cassoeula Milanese, a meaty winter stew, and for organ meats–particularly beef heart tartare of unrelenting decadence. Maxwell Leer offers synchronous reds and whites on his nearly all-Italian wine list, focused on the northern DOCs of Piemonte, TrentinoĞAlto Adige, Lombardy and Friuli. Check out Laura Aschero's 2011 Pigato, or Castella di Verduno's charming 2010 Pelaverga Basadone.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

Bestia, 2121 7th Pl., Los Angeles; 213-514-5724, (reviewed W&S, 04/13)


> Comme Ça

Chef David Myers has just opened an up-decibel brasserie, Comme Ça, in marked contrast to his hushed, upmarket restaurant, Sona. Butcher paper adorns the tables; plush white leather banquettes are accented by an antique mirror; and in the rear, an enormous slate board trails into the kitchen where the cooks' current inspirations are revealed in colored chalk. Myers's menu keeps to the French classics, like coq au vin, sole meunire and a crispy skate grenobloise. The wine list-by Sona's Mark Mendoza, maintained by Justin Hoffman-offers affordable selections like Qupe's Central Coast Syrah, Ostertag's Sylvaner and two shades of Thunevin's Le Vin de Bob. At the bar, place your bets with a “Dealer's Choice” cocktail, where your whim-something tart, something smoky, something Beefeaters-is answered on the fly by the bartending team, trained by Sammy Branch of Manhattan's Milk and Honey.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

8479 Melrose Ave., W. Hollywood; 323-782-1104; (reviewed W&S 2/08)

> Church & State

Church & State is situated in the loading bay of a former biscuit factory in downtown LA. The ceilings are high, the bricks are exposed, the crowd is noisy and the theme is very French bistro. Recently Walter Manzke, late of Bastide, took the helm as chef, where he crafts classic bistro fare-from moelle de boeuf to a rich bouillabaisse. Joshua Goldman's brief, well-selected wine list is all French, with many natural and biodynamic selections, including l'Ecu's nervy Expression de Gneiss Muscadet and the Chinon Garance from Nicolas Reau.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

Church & State, 1850 Industrial St., LA; 213-405-1434, (reviewed W&S 4/09)

> Fig & Olive

Fig & Olive opened its LA outpost this spring on Melrose Place, across from the once-again-shuttered Bastide; it's hard to imagine how such a vast and airy space can seem packed every night, but it is, with revelers on the right of the rosemary hedgerow cramming a 50-foot bar and a communal table of comparable length, and diners on two floors. It's worth braving the crowds, however: Chef Pascal Lorange sticks closely to a Provence-inspired menu with deftly composed savory crostini, fennel-scented branzino ceviche and striped bass en papillote, while Jordan Ogron has stayed close to the Mediterranean for his wine list. It's filled with well-priced selections from Spain and southern France in particular, such as an '08 Petit Rimauresq Côtes de Provence, or the '08 Veraton Campo de Borja Garnacha from Alto Moncayo.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

Fig & Olive, 8490 Melrose Pl., Los Angeles; 310-360-9100, (reviewed W&S, 10/11)

> The Hungry Cat

The Hungy Cat stands like a lighthouse beacon against the high waves of commerce washing over Sunset and Vine, steps from Hollywood's venerated footpaths of fame (locate John Wayne's gold star and you're getting warm). The Cat's minimalistic black-box interior hardly resembles the restaurants Chef David Lentz takes as his inspiration-the net-strewn, overstuffed shellfish houses of San Francisco like Swan's Oyster Depot-and the flavors are anything but Tinseltown: scallop carpaccio drizzled with a spicy citrus oil, succulent crab cakes with a side salad of shredded celeriac and the meatiest, most authentic oyster stew this side of Chincoteague Island. A.O.C.'s Caroline Styne has assembled a simple, fish-friendly wine list, including a Languedoc assortment (Picpouls and Minervois) and a Provençal rosé, of course.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

The Hungry Cat, 1555 N. Vine St., Hollywood, CA; 323-462-2155;

> Lukshon

Lukshon marks chef Sang Yoon’s long-awaited departure from the hamburger (which he elevated to an art form at Father’s Office in LA) into a marvelous nether-realm of his own creation, inspired by southeast Asian cuisines from Chittagong to Singapore. Yoon has stocked his larder with exotic Asian spices to produce his own rempahs, sambals, curries and ghees, which provide the foundation for dishes like the Malay short rib rendang, Monterey squid stuffed with pork sausage and dandan noodles laced with anesthetizing levels of Sichuan peppercorns. Eduardo Porto Carreiro, late of Grace, has authored an almost seditious wine list, featuring seven domestic wines on tap (not a red among them) and a bottle selection weighted toward whites from Central Europe—Slovenia, Hungary, Austria and Germany—as well as rare Champagnes from Yoon’s own collection.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

Lukshon, 3239 Helms Ave., Culver City; 310-202-6808, (reviewed W&S, 4/11)

> Ray’s & Stark

As if you needed another reason to go to LACMA, LA’s great museum of art, now there’s Ray’s and Stark Bar, a sleek establishment spilling into the atrium behind the museum’s most famous sculpture, Chris Burden’s luminous Urban Light. Chef Kris Morningstar, who has trained in some of LA’s most prestigious kitchens including Meson G. and Grace, brings California touches to Mediterranean dishes like octopus with burrata and Fresno chiles, or poached albacore on a smoked onion purée. It would be hard to escape the bar without trying one of Paul Sanguinetti’s cocktails, but his California-centric wine list will not disappoint either, with rarities like Saxon Brown’s Cricket Creek Semillon or the Santa Barbara syrah from Emanuel Tres known as Roberto.

Ray’s & Stark Bar, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-857-6180;, (reviewed W&S, 04/12)

> Waterloo & City

A London Tube stop lends its name to Waterloo & City, a Culver City gastropub in a repurposed, “classic” LA diner—now one with stickleback chairs, a bustling bar and patio and a menu that goes well beyond waffles and a bottomless cup of joe. Chef Brendan Collins, who has worked stints at Quo Vadis (London) and Mélisse (Santa Monica) has fashioned a menu rooted in carnivorous English pub food—long on trotters, terrines and bangers—but there are plenty of flourishes worthy of his fine dining background, like the way he adorns his 24-hour braised short ribs with purple cauliflower and parsnip polenta. GM Carolos Tomazos has created an inviting grog list, with a good selection of wines and an especially deep selection of beers and ales, like Münster-based Pinkus Müller Pilsner, or the Arrogant Bastard Ale from San Diego’s Stone Brewery.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

Waterloo & City, 12517 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; 310-391-4222, (reviewed W&S, 2/11)

> Wilshire

Wilshire takes its name from the Santa Monica leg of LA's swankiest boulevard. Its warm, copper-hued lounge catches flickering accents from hundreds of tea lights, giving way to three different dining environments, including a serene patio. Chef/partner Christopher Blobaum fashions a local, mostly organic menu that is long on comfort, from the Kurobuta pork chop on polenta to the duck breast served on a duck confit succotash. Wine director Matt Straus, late of Grace, has put together a thoughtful wine list, the kind where Alsace rieslings cohabit with Australians from Polish Hill. It is especially strong in pinot noir and syrah offerings, from Qupé to Peay, even the coveted Red Car syrah, "The Fight."
—Patrick Comiskey

Wilshire, 2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA; 310-586-1707;

> Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air

After a two-year hiatus, the restaurant at the Hotel Bel-Air reopened in November with a notable new modifier in its name: Wolfgang Puck. The results have been predictably impressive, starting with the decor, fully redesigned by the Rockwell Group, where, on warm nights at least, the glass doors are removed and dining, lounge, terrace and garden areas all flow together, anchored by an imposing white marble hearth in the main dining room. This is plainly a Puck menu: Whether it’s chestnut agnolotti flecked with white truffles or Sonoma lamb—rack and belly, from Campbell Ranch—it exhibits Puck’s flair with locally sourced ingredients. Robert Harpest, late of Jar, is refurbishing the wine list: Although it’s still a work in progress, he already can boast of one of the deepest selections of California cabernet in LA, and estimable vertical depth in Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley as well.

Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air, 701 Stone Canyon Rd., Los Angeles; 310-909-1644, (reviewed W&S, 02/12)

> WP24

WP24 calls it like it is: Wolfgang Puck on the 24th floor of the shimmering, metallic gray Ritz-Carlton in LA's burgeoning downtown Staples Center/Live Nation complex. The restaurant, flanked by two dimly lit bars and a pulsating lounge, signals that we're not in Spago anymore: This is Puck with a Hong Kong flair. Chef David McIntyre's menu is meant to evoke high Chinese cuisine in that grand city, with nouvelle riffs on classic dim sum, foie gras and pork belly buns, lobster fried rice, hot-and-sour corn soup with rock shrimp and king crab, and succulent Peking duck. Puck's brother Klaus is managing the wine list for now, which is heavy on aromatic whites like Dönnhoff's Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Kabinett Riesling and Theo Minges's sumptuous Spätlese gewürz, Edition Rosenduft.

—Patrick J. Comiskey

WP24 by Wolfgang Puck, 900 W. Olympic Ave., Los Angeles; 213-743-8824, (reviewed W&S, 8/10)