CITYSCENE
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; akasharestaurant.com (reviewed W&S 10/08)



> Bastide

When Bastide, the high-concept French dining establishment in west LA, closed last year for retooling, most assumed that its owner, TV-commercial director Joe Pytka, had given up on the enterprise. Then he met Walter Manzke, a Patina alumnus most recently of L'Auberge Carmel. In discussing what they hate about eating out, a concept emerged: fine dining, unstarched. Now Bastide is open again, with a décor that signals the change-elegant, but with a Warhol veneer, like the marble tables in the garden room, lit by lamps constructed from Campbell Soup cans. The same whimsy informs Manzke's menus. On the page his dishes read more like talking points than menu items (listed as "Amuses 1,2,3," "Abalone" or "Lamb"). On the plate, they expand in theatrical ways: "Beef" five ways, includes a cube of Kobe, bone marrow bites and braised oxtail, pursed in spinach leaves. Sommelier Pieter Verheyde comes to LA by way of Alain Ducasse in New York and Monaco. By filling Pytka's glass with a steady stream of exotic Slovenian wines, Verheyde convinced him that the restaurant would be well served by extending its list beyond France. The wine list is now geographically themed: Australian selections fall under the heading "Indian Oceanic." France is "Atlantic Oceanic." Piemonte, "Po, Sub-Alpine." The global focus diverts the reader away from conventional associations, which Verheyde isn't afraid to exploit in his menu pairings. With the "Squab," he'll pour a smoky fumin from Val d'Aosta; and with your second "Sweet," a precious ounce of 1966 Dow's Port. Suddenly what was once just a wine list feels like a world of opportunity.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

Bastide, 8475 Melrose Pl., W. Hollywood, CA; 323-651-5950 (reviewed W&S 4/08)



> 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, thebazaar.com (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, bestiala.com (reviewed W&S, 04/13)



> Brass-Cap

Brass-Cap is Bruce Marder's newest venture, a French-style seaside brasserie with a breezy ambience. With typical panache, Marder isn't afraid to offer frog legs and steak tartare, as well as tamer options like lemon chicken and côte de boeuf. With Steven Wallace of Wally's wine shop as one of the restaurant's partners, the wine list is predictably vast, and includes many reasonable wines by the glass. Try the Saison des Vins Sauvignon Blanc from Copain ($9) or the Etienne Dumont Brut Champagne ($14) at the solid-pewter bar-a perfect way to cap a day at the beach.
—Maria Vitulli

Brass-Cap, 100 W. Channel Rd., Los Angeles, CA; 310-454-4544



> 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; commecarestaurant.com (reviewed W&S 2/08)



> Enoteca Drago

Enoteca Drago joins the welcome proliferation of wine bars serving small plates of tempting savories across the country. Owned by restaurateur Celestino Drago (owner of Celestino and Drago in Los Angeles), the Beverly Hills-based Enoteca Drago offers fifty Italian wines by the glass, from an elegant Pinot Noir Blanc from La Crotta di Vegneron to an earthy Sicilian Cerasuolo di Vittoria. The menu is as diverse as the wine list, from an addictive bowl of olives stuffed with parmesan-laced veal to tissue-thin carpaccio of monkfish and salmon. Close your eyes, take a sip, pop an olive and suddenly, for a fleeting moment, you're in the piazza in Arezzo basking in the moonlight.
—Jessica Strand

Enoteca Drago, 410 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA; 310-786-8236



> Mr. Cecil's California Ribs

Mr. Cecil's California Ribs may sound like the kind of place where you'd wash down a plate of finger-lickin' bbq'd beef or pork with a cold brew. But owner Jonathan Burrows loves wine, so he's put together an all-French list that includes three sparklers, eight whites and more than a dozen reds. The inexpensive Fat Bastard Shiraz, a French Vin de Pays d'Oc, is Burrows' favorite with any of the ribs; those with fancier tastes can opt for the 1986 Château Lafite Rothschild or Cristal Champagne.
—Chris Rubin

Mr. Cecil's California Ribs, 13625 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA; 818-905-8400



> 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, churchandstatebistro.com (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, figandolive.com (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; thehungrycat.com



> 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, lukshon.com (reviewed W&S, 4/11)



> Norman's on Sunset

Norman's on Sunset signals the western migration of Norman Van Aken, whose eponymous Miami and Orlando restaurants have lit a controlled Scotch bonnet burn in the cuisines of those two cities. Here, in a gleaming glassed-in kitchen, Van Aken plays Caribbean riffs off classic dishes, like curaçao-glazed foie gras on brioche or rhum-painted fish on mango-habañero mojo. To help manage the heat, sommelier Peter Birmingham stocks his list with German, Austrian and Italian aromatic whites, such as Cìú Cìú from Falerio dei Ascolani, a juicy trebbiano blend from the Marches.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

Norman's, 8570 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA; 310-657-2400; normans.com



> Ortolan

Ortolan is a little French game bird, tiny when compared with the ambitions of Loire native Cristophe Emé for his Third Street restaurant. Emé's worked in some great kitchens, like Taillevent and Auberge de l'Eridan, as well as LA's L'Orangerie. Now, in a space that's part brick-lined vaulted wine cave, part sultry bar adorned with a wall of hanging herbs, and part dining room the color of clotted cream, Emé marries the classical to the extravagant. Choose a traditional terrine de foie gras, or venture out with roast John Dory and pickled chanterelles. Sommelier Frédéric Hémon, also from L'Orangerie, has composed a wine list balanced between his native France and California, with selections like the Skewis 2001 Anderson Valley Demuth Vineyard Pinot Noir, or Usseglio's 2002 Châteauneuf.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

Ortolan, 8338 W. Third St., Los Angeles, CA; 323-653-3300; ortolanrestaurant.com



> Palate

Palate inhabits the ground floor of a seven-story cold-storage building in Glendale, CA. Most of the storage above has been devoted to wine since the early '80s, which may partly account for the wine-centric, multiple format approach to this sprawling complex. There is Palate, the restaurant, where Octavio Becerra, who ran the kitchens for Joachim Splichal at Patina and elsewhere, spins out small wine-friendly plates on a daily-changing menu. To the rear is Palate the wine library and bar, for more a informal nosh and 50 wines by the glass. There's also the cheese vault, the patio or the wine shop, where wine director Steve Goldun has put together a congenial selection of hard-to-find wines, about 400 strong, available here or at a modest surcharge in the restaurant and bars, like Domaine Gauby's 2004 Roussillon Vieilles Vignes or the 2005 Tenbrink Vineyard Petite Sirah from the Scholium Project.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

Palate Food & Wine, 933 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA; 818-662-9463; palatefoodwine.com (reviewed W&S 10/08)



> Playa

Playa is John Rivera Sedlar’s second outpost in LA (after Rivera, downtown) for what he calls “urban Latin cuisine.” Here that means tapas like maize cakes with a proliferation of complex fillings (mushrooms, gambas, pork belly confit), or larger individuales, such as skate wing with a tamarind-cinnamon gastrique and sous-vide chicken adorned with a cactus pear “crudo.” Julian Cox’s wine list is deep in Spanish, Portuguese and South American selections, but the cocktails are just as tempting, especially the Jerez-inspired Andalusian trio, which employ a Fino, Amontillado or Oloroso Sherry, depending on where they fall in the meal.

—Patrick J. Comiskey

Playa, 7360 Beverly Blvd., LA; 323-933-5300, playarivera.com (reviewed W&S, 6/11)



> 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.
—P.J.C.

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



> Violet

Violet occupies the pole position in Santa Monica's restaurant row on Pico Boulevard, flanked by Valentino to the west and 310 to the east. This understated bistro works an energetic contrast of brushed steel and plush violet banquettes, as informal as LA allows. Chef/owner Jared Simons prepares about 25 small plates for a given evening, with seasonal dishes like summer beets and smoked eel, supported by standards like braised short ribs and the best mac 'n' cheese this side of Milwaukee. Simons has also fashioned a bistro-brief wine list that is especially deep in Champagne and intriguing in its unusual reds and whites, like Hofstätter's Alto Adige pinot bianco, or Mount Riley's Marlborough pinot noir.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

Violet, 3221 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA; 310-453-9113; violetrestaurant.com



> 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, waterlooandcity.com (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; wilshirerestaurant.com



> 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.
—P.J.C.

Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air, 701 Stone Canyon Rd., Los Angeles; 310-909-1644, hotelbelair.com (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, wolfgangpuck.com (reviewed W&S, 8/10)



> XIV

Michael Mina's 14th restaurant, called XIV in case you'd lost count, is a joint effort with Sam Nazarian's restaurant group SBE, and employs designer Philippe Starck to create a warmly lit French drawing room feel. With XIV, Mina has hit upon nouvelle family-style: Guests agree upon a tasting menu, which is then served, on individual small plates, to the entire table. Choose from sunchoke soup or Colorado lamb with salsify and medjool dates, leaving room for Jordan Kahn's stunning desserts. For Mina's other locales, Rajat Parr has authored wine lists the length of Russian novels; here, he's restrained himself to 200 selections–just his closest friends, he says–which include Morey's 2002 Chassagne Vide Bourse and the 2006 Hirsch Pinot Noir from Lioco.
—Patrick J. Comiskey

XIV, 8117 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-656-1440; michaelmina.net (reviewed W&S 12/08)