The LA dining scene has roared back in 2023 with a number of ambitious openings. Restaurants are as busy and as buzzy as they’ve ever been, despite manpower shortages, inflationary pressures, and even torrential rainstorms. Los Angeles remains one of the country’s most robust wine markets, with the natural-wine movement occupying an increasingly boisterous presence on the city’s wine lists. Here are some of the places we’ve singled out as one-of-a-kind wine experiences, from neighborhood joints to grand splurges.
As they put COVID behind them, Tyler and Ashley Wells added little flourishes to their bustling Los Feliz restaurant: They built out a deck with an outdoor bar and, in the center of the space, a filigreed greenhouse with a single candlelit table, a temple amidst the bustle. They’ve also annexed a tiny wood-paneled room next door, calling it the Wine Room, offering small bites at a communal table. Tyler’s seasonal menu remains one of the most market-driven in town, with roasts, ragùs, “big-assed” salads and often a whole roasted fish. Ashley’s wine list is still hand-written, still heavily annotated, and usually studded with wines from her friends and admirers, whether that’s Mikey Giugni’s Scar of the Sea chardonnays, Dani Rozman’s La Onda wines from Yuba City, or Cloud Hidden, the skin contact orange from Wavy Wine’s Jude Zasadzki and Eliot Kessel. —P.J.C.
2040 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles; 323-660-3868, alltimelosangeles.com
When we first wrote about Anajak in 2019, Justin Pichetrungsi had just taken over his father Ricky’s restaurant in Sherman Oaks; the menu was still traditional Thai staples. His first order of business was to install a natural wine list that, to put it mildly, disrupted expectations. In the years since, Pichetrungsi, as chef, owner, and beverage slinger created a hybrid Thai restaurant with a free-wheeling aesthetic that uses the traditional menu as a launchpad to propel him down seductive and thought-provoking pathways, tossing off Thai tacos on Tuesday and a developing quasi-omakase side menu designed to highlight and isolate Thailand’s fiery, dramatic flavors. The restaurant has garnered an almost unprecedented number of accolades, including the Los Angeles Times’ 2022 Restaurant of the Year, a place among the New York Times’ America’s Best Restaurants for 2022, a Michelin Plate, and a Food & Wine’s Ten Best New Chefs honor for Pichetrungsi. John Cerasulo now directs the wine program, filled with chenins and Muscadets, electric rieslings and chilled reds, all of a natural persuasion and every bit as focused and precise as Pichetrungsi’s myriad flavors. —P.J.C.
14704 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; 818-501-4201, anajakthai.com
Chad Colby of Chi Spacca started this Koreatown-adjacent storefront in an odd stretch of Beverly, not far from the Mozzaplex annex where his penchant for roasting things on an open fire took shape. Game and roasts did follow, as did superb homemade pasta, shared on communal tables that gave the place the feel of a tavern in an Italian village. During the COVID times, Antico became a destination for two pandemic staples no Angeleno could live without: pizza and ice cream. As COVID receded, Colby saw fit to rename the place Antico Nuovo and, seeking to offer a more intimate experience, ditched some of the communal tables, dimmed the lighting and re-emphasized the wood-fire ovens, equipped with rotisserie carousels for roasting prime rib and whole chickens. The pasta is still made in house, adorned with all-day ragùs and sugos. Rachel Grisafi has put together a list long on the robust reds that complement roasted meats; her Piedmont section is especially deep, not only in Barbaresco and Barolo but also selections from Ghemme, Bramaterra and Gattinara. —P.J.C.
4653 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-510-3093, anticonuovo-la.com
Ardor is housed in the Edition hotel on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. It’s lush and green, transporting you somewhere tropical, with palm fronds and potted plants surrounding crescent-shaped cream-colored booths—plants even sprout from the ceiling on the terrace—a nod perhaps to Chef John Fraser’s vegetable-focused menu. A California native, Fraser—also the mind behind New York’s Iris and La Marchande—is back in his home state presenting produce in genre-bending ways, like the crunchy, savory raw cauliflower cacio e pepe with ancient grains and gooseberries, or his tandoor carrots with eggplant “croutons” and a paprika vinaigrette. Beverage Director Amy Racine and Sommelier Sunhee Park focus their wine list on mineral and herbal wines grown in Mediterranean climates. Pours by the glass include classics like Antinori Pèppoli Chianti Classico, and the unexpected, like the Saint Hills Mala Nevina Malvasia from Croatia. The pairings can be marvelous; the Filipa Pato Bairrada Território Vivo Baga, for example, with its deep cherry, blueberry and forest-floor flavors, plays well off the bright blueberry mostarda that accompanies Fraser’s dry-aged Colorado lamb. —A.B.
9040 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; 424-310-1572, ardorweho.com
Augustine Wine Bar
There aren’t many places in Sherman Oaks—or anywhere in Los Angeles—where you can stumble in and order a glass of Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer from 1994, followed by a glass of 1967 Grand Puy-Lacoste Bordeaux. But rare vintage wines are the draw at Augustine Wine Bar where David Gibbs and Dustin Lancaster offer up aged wines daily, scrawling the offerings by hand on a chalkboard. They’re painstaking in their pursuit of the old and rare, procuring these finds through estate sales and auctions, as well as their relationships with wineries. They take the buying risk so you don’t have to: most wines, even the old ones, are available to try before you commit to a glass. The decor is quaint and old-fashioned, with vintage typewriters, books and radios adorning the dimly lit space, while the food is simple and savory—charcuterie plates, platters of tater tots and chicken milanese with a carrot-top pesto—all of it meant to support the subtleties of older wines without overpowering them. The straight-forward approach is working: Augustine just celebrated its eight-year anniversary. —A.B.
13456 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; 818-990-0938, augustinewinebar.com
After three years in dormancy, Bar Moruno has at last found its permanent home in Sunset Junction in Silver Lake, and in no time, it’s become the beating heart of that bustling crossroads. Outside, there’s a small parklet overlooking the Sunset Triangle; inside, it’s as airy and noisy as a bazaar, with Moorish details and an Iberian color palette of ochres and crimsons, framed with Portuguese-inspired tiles and mosaics. Chris Feldmeier mans the open-fire grills and rotisserie ovens for a menu that features wood-roasted meats, whole fish, half-chickens, and the bar’s namesake morunos, little kabobs of beef and vegetables. To this he’s added tapas and conserva selections, so that your visit can be as snacky or as languorous as you like. His partner is David Rosoff, one of this city’s consummate hosts, who resumes his nomadic exploration of Iberian and Mediterranean wines, pursuing his abiding love for Sherry, vermouth and Rioja, not necessarily in that order. You’d do well to linger in his list’s special section, “Islands and Volcanoes,” where he spotlights the wines of Sicily, the Canaries, the Azores and the Greek Isles. —P.J.C.
3705 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-546-0505, barmoruno-la.com
We last wrote about Alicia Kemper in 2019 when she was running the wine program for a small restaurant in DTLA called Fundamental. Post-pandemic, when Fundamental pivoted to full-time catering, Kemper’s next move was to Long Beach, where she pondered a wine bar for this underserved community. She found a storefront and opened Buvons late last year, commencing to serve the types of low-intervention, purity-driven wines she likes to champion. Small and noisy, Buvons is a shop by day and bar/patio by night, with a vast number of offerings for such a modest place, a dividend when a retail shop has your back. That also makes the place exceedingly affordable: Sit-down bottle prices are only $15 above the retail price. There are flights dedicated to comparative and regional exploration, accessible and educative for the neighbors, like rosés outside of France, or a deep dive on the Aube. Pro Tip: Take the opportunity while you’re there to join Kemper’s Tippler Club, a natural wine club she started in LA. —P.J.C.
1147 Loma Ave., Long Beach, 562-342-6557, buvonswine.com
After years of wandering in the French culinary landscape, Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne have ventured south with Caldo Verde, their new project in the Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel. Laid-back and light-filled, the restaurant channels an Iberian vibe with a curvaceous Deco horseshoe bar that wouldn’t be out of place in Lisbon, and tiles creeping from the floors to the walls and pillars. Caldo verde is, of course, a filling and delicious Portuguese soup, and that’s a proper metaphor for Goin’s seasonal menu, with winter chicories and orange, kale and faro, braised beef cheeks caçoila, as well as her own elevated version of caldo verde, teeming with rock crab and mussels. Styne takes the wine program south but sticks to her aesthetic, always walking the line between classical and cool, assisted by Beverage Director Michael Scribner. The list is deep in bottlings from Rioja and the Douro, classics (Vega-Sicilia, López de Heredia) and slyly adventurous (Raúl Pérez, Bodegas Antidoto) and boasts one of the larger selections of mencía bottlings in the city. —P.J.C.
1100 S. Broadway, Los Angeles; 213-806-1023, properhotel.com
Camphor, with its marble table tops, white brick walls and exposed piping in the high ceilings, feels like a casual French bistro that’s adapted to its industrial Arts District setting. Chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George, who worked together at Blue by Alain Ducasse in Bangkok, create classic French fare touched by a South Asian spice palette, a nod to George’s South Indian home in Kerala. Try their fried anchovies in “gunpowder” spice, as addictive as fresh potato chips. For their deconstructed French onion soup, their servers pour rich duck broth over an onion tartine topped with caramelized onions and ample amounts of Gruyère. Wine Director Kalani Lau’s list focuses on Old World classics and unusual domestic wines, as well as wine pairings, like Movia Rebula Orange Wine with beef tartare or Ar.Pe.Pe. Sassella Valtellina Superiore with the mushrooms and Madeira sauce. On Bar Director Andrew Paniagua’s creative cocktail list, try Le Marsais, made with Cognac, Bourbon, 10-year Port and a verjus infused with strawberries from Harry’s Berries, an organic farm in Oxnard. —A.B.
923 E Third St. #109, Los Angeles; 213-626-8888, camphor.la
This spot takes its name from Brian Dunsmoor, who was lured from Hatchet Hall in Mar Vista to this once-abandoned Art Deco bank storefront in Glassell Park, some 15 miles and hours of agonizing traffic from the west side. Dunsmoor continues to explore early American cooking traditions: His kitchen is almost completely devoid of electric equipment; he prefers doing everything by hand. Here two large wood-fired ovens flank the kitchen, one a modified bread oven, the other a hearth where chops, steaks and marrow bones are grilled and smoked. The menu also features raw things, pickled things, cured things, all reflecting a Southern US sensibility. You’ll also find roasted Belon oysters, grilled gulf shrimp and rainbow trout stuffed with chanterelles, pine nuts, brown butter and chives. LA wine royalty Taylor Parsons is a principal in the venture; the wine program is the work of Rachael Davis, whose local offerings include Sandlands old-vine zin, Enfield’s XB 05 mourvedre, and Scythians, the Raj Parr/Abe Schoener joint venture from the Lopez Vineyard’s ancient palomino vines in the Cucamonga Valley. —P.J.C.
3501 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Ange-les; 323-686-6027, dunsmoor.la
The Rustic Canyon Group has some of the West Side’s most lauded eateries, including Cassia, Birdie G.’s, Milo & Olive, Tallula’s, and the flagship establishment on Wilshire from which the group takes its name. Kathryn Coker oversees the wine program at most of the properties, but with her husband, Tug, she has a stake in Esters, established in 2015 and now one of the cornerstones of Santa Monica’s wine scene. A retail space by day, it morphs into a bustling wine bar at night; when the pandemic forced patrons outside, the bar spilled onto Seventh Street with a phalanx of sidewalk tables beneath stringed lights, becoming as Parisian as Santa Monica gets most days. Coker’s tastes are restless, and her list is vast, bolstered by its doubling as a retail place, devoting special attention to women winemakers, with offerings like Agnès Paquet’s Bourgogne Blanc Les Lurets, and the growing number of producers making wine from within the county, like the chilled red Lost is Found made by local talent Centralas, from Antelope Valley vineyards. —P.J.C.
1314 Seventh St., Santa Monica; 310-899-6900, esterswineshop.com
Gjelina opened a satellite in New York City early this year, only to have it close due to a fire. Water damage will keep the place shuttered until September. Meanwhile, on the west side of LA, they’ve become grocers, roasters, bakers, florists, hoteliers and dry-goods purveyors, all of their ventures reflecting the chill vibe they’ve nurtured since 2008, and all of them engendered from the bustling, bountiful flagship restaurant on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Juan Hernandez’s menu still bursts at the seams with fresh, wholesome vegetable-forward California fare with an Italian accent. Henry Beylin still runs the wine program, rigorous, focused, thrillingly unique, owing in part to the fact that he self-imports many bottlings just for the restaurant group—you’ll find nothing really like this list on either coast, or in between, whether you’re considering a Slovenian sauvignon or Thiery-Weber’s cabernet sauvignon from—wait for it—Kremstal, in Austria. —P.J.C.
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; 310-451-1429, gjelina.com
Grá is in HiFi (Historic Filipinotown), just south of the Echo Park tennis courts, on the wrong end of East Side nightlife but all the more secluded because of it. It’s a pizza joint, nominally, but you could say that pizza is the medium through which proprietor Michael McSharry conveys his complex feelings about fermentation, some of which are expressed in an extended meditation on the process on the menu’s frontispiece. Case in point: his mother dough starter is now 20 years old and originated at The Ballymaloe culinary school in County Cork, Ireland, where he studied. Nearly every item on the menu contains pickled things, even some of the pies, like the one topped with fermented mustard greens, bacon and smoked mozzarella. McSharry’s wine list has a natural bent, beverages of indigenous ferment that are wild and savory, field-blend whites and chewy, earthy reds like Bichi’s tobacco-scented garnacha, Gordo Guapo from Baja, Mexico, Ferme de Jeanne’s Mondeuse, L’Ephémère, and Frank Cornellisen’s IGT Sicilian nerello mascalese, Munjebel. —P.J.C.
1524 Pizarro St., Los Angeles, grarestaurant.com
Holcomb is named for a mountain valley in the Angeles National Forest near Big Bear, a pristine place which proprietor Michael Blackman wanted to keep top of mind for the vibe of his wine bar on York Boulevard in Highland Park. An alumnus of Bar Covell, Blackman partnered with CalArts friend Dustin Lancaster (Bar Covell, L&O Oyster Bar, Augustine) and Ross Stephenson to open this homey place dominated by a long bar and lined with cozy teal booths, a back patio if you’ve brought your pup, and—in a first (I think) for LA wine bars—a free “take-a-book-leave-a-book” library. The menu is modest and filling, cheese and charcuterie plates and its signature Highland Park Pulled Pork sandwich with tomatillos and pickled white onion. Blackman’s wine selection is small, focused, and natty-inclined: He’s got Folk Machine and Workbook wines on tap, and blends for the curious, like Vins aux Liens’s Alsatian pétillant Wait Wait Wait, or Monte Rio’s coferment of sauvignon blanc and petit verdot. —P.J.C.
5535 York Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-739-0072, holcombtradingpost.com
Bright yellow booths and lime-green chairs add pops of color to the classic bistro feel at Horses. The location—which previously housed a Hollywood dive called Ye Coach & Horses, followed by an English pub, The Pikey—still boasts the original 1934 brown-and-white tiled floor and faux-timbered ceiling. While many of Los Angeles’s new hot spots are creating dishes that require mini-dissertations, Horses is a place for comfort food done right—think pork chop milanese with haricot verts and Cornish game hen with dandelion panzanella—the menu is the product of an unusual four-person collaboration with chefs Will Aghajanian, Liz Johnson, Brittany Ha and Lee Pallerino taking turns at the reins. General Manager and Beverage Director Terence Leavey’s drinks program contains creative touches—like the cherry saké spritz as an aperitif—and lighter-bodied wines to complement the easy-going theme; try Santa Barbara’s Fiky Fiky merlot rosé, or Anthony Thévenet’s Morgon with the cheeseburger and fries. One last cheeky touch—the staff gives you cray-ons to doodle with on the white paper table-topper. —A.B.
7617 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; [email protected], horsesla.com
Intercrew made its debut in July of 2021 in Koreatown, where chefs Erik Sun and Johnny Tran curate a French-American menu peppered with Asian spice. It’s a decadent dining room—high ceilings, crystal chandeliers and a spiral staircase leading up to an intimate bar—evoking old Hollywood charm. Classics like bone marrow are updated: crispy snap peas and tart cherries add crunch and acid. Two kinds of wagyu—currently Schichiri and Sendai—are offered by the ounce to taste side-by-side. Diana Lee’s wine list offers pairings with acid and tannin to balance the rich flavors—try Manuel Moldes’s 2020 Albariño with the seared scallop or Camille Giroud’s 2019 Santenay Clos Rousseau with the pan-seared duck. Or grab a cocktail created by one of LA’s most sought-after mixologists, Julian Cox—his Bourbon-based Guava Chameleon is a favorite. Enjoy the food and drinks with live music on Sundays or dance the night away with a post-dinner DJ on Friday and Saturday. —A.B.
3330 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 213-878-1201, intercrewla.com
Kippered was opened mid-year last year by chef Reed Herrick and cheesemonger Lydia Clarke, who, with her sister Marnie, has run the Cheese Cave and bottle shop in Claremont. More recently, Herrick and Clarke started DTLA Cheese in the Grand Central Market, just a few doors up from where the bar is now, set on an obstreperous stretch of Broadway, spilling warm light onto the street through floor-to-ceiling windows. Inside, a smattering of dark, leafy ferns is augmented by fern wallpaper, with a long bar to linger at. Herrick hasn’t got so much a kitchen as a closet; his menu is mostly composed of tins of fish, octopus, clams, and the like, expertly selected and plated with bread, crackers and pickled things, just the sort of nosh to make you thirsty for Clarke’s wine selections, which lean in a natural direction. Her list is particularly deep on sparkling wines of various persuasions, whether it’s Villa di Corlo’s Rolfshark Lambrusco or the bracing Eclipsia Champagne, from Vincent Couche in the Côte des Bar. —P.J.C.
361 S. Broadway, Los Angeles; Instagram: @get_kippered
Far from any restaurant neighborhood, David Chang’s Majordomo practically defines the frontier of fine dining in Los Angeles. Amidst rows of Lincoln Heights warehouses, just a stone’s throw from the LA River, you’ll find an island of string lights and brightly colored pavement cutting against the moody urban backdrop. Inside, the room is elegant, softly lit, buzzing with the kind of ravenous intent that Chang’s dishes inspire. Jude Parra-Sickels executes a menu heavy with Chang favorites, robust, fiercely flavored, miles from precious, like spicy fusilli with pork jowl, his famous slow-roasted Bo Ssäm and his gargantuan platter of short ribs, enough to serve six. The wine program is strong and inventive, casually straddling the line between classical and edgy, where Clape’s St-Péray Marsanne and Moric’s Reserve Blaufränkisch repose alongside Hiyu Farms’s solera-style white, Tzum Atavus, or Pedro Parra’s Chilean cinsault, Hub. —P.J.C.
1725 Naud St., Los Angeles; 323-545-4880, majordomo.la
Marino has been around for more than 60 years, founded in the late 1950s by Ciro Marino and ushered into the current century by the efforts of his sons, Sal and Mario Marino. Mario runs the front of the house, but the culinary impetus comes from Sal, who draws from the sea and from his garden to craft elegant, minimal Italian classics rendered with precision and bursting with flavor. Sal also oversees the wine list, an Italian collection deep in Brunello, Barolo and Super Tuscans. His allocations of Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy are almost unparalleled, and collectors, many of whom are regulars, know it. Hot Tip: If you can, reserve your meal during tomato season: every summer Sal grows 20 varieties, 100 plants in all, in his backyard. —P.J.C.
6001 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; 323-466-8812, marinorestaurant.com
Mírate is the new sister restaurant to Mírame, which chef Joshua Gil and partner Matthew Egan opened in 2020. Gil’s multi-regional Mexican cuisine utilizes local produce in a bevy of tacos, ceviches and dips—from classic tomatillo salsa to more decadent crab esquites—presented in this open, two-story indoor-outdoor space sprouting with foliage. Max Reis is the beverage director, previously of République and Gracias Madre. He curates a list that is exclusively Mexican—beer, spirits and wine. Reis believes Mexican wine often gets a bad rap, so his selections highlight styles that counter pre-conceived notions. Instead of overly-oaked cabernets pandering to Napa wine lovers, he features a carbonic cabernet sauvignon from Fincas Vinicultores in the Valle de Guadalupe, a lighter style that complements rather than overpowers the cuisine. His cocktails also pair with the food—the Mi Vieja Martini is made with campechana water for a tomatoey bump, like pico de gallo in a glass. Reis has broken down mezcals and tequilas by region; an accompanying map guides the way. Not into agave? Mírate also has a rare Mexican gin list. —A.B
1712 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles; 323-649-7937, mirate.la
Otium opened in 2015, adjacent the spectacularly scalloped façade of the Broad Museum near Disney Hall in DTLA. It’s a jewel box in its own right, with high ceilings and a soft glow; a two-story glass-walled wine storage tower, the room’s literal centerpiece, gets you in a vinous mood. Chef Timothy Hollingsworth’s menu is extravagant and constantly changing. How extravagant? How do you feel about sea urchin spaghetti with smoked-scallop cream and black truffle? Andrew Petingell’s wine list is vast and deep; it includes an extensive Burgundy section, but also more than 100 bottles under $100. “We have value here that just-opened restaurants can’t offer with today’s mark-ups,” he likes to point out. Many of the wines he brought on the list in 2015, for example, have remained at their original price. Not to mention the $200 bottle of 2012 Dom Pérignon, selling below retail. Alyssa Shepherd recently joined the team as wine director. When asked what she’d pair with that sea urchin spaghetti, Hollingsworth’s special-of-the-day, she offered Pierre Morey 2014 Bâtard-Montrachet, then laughed, “It’s also a great value.” —A.B.
222 S Hope St., Los Angeles; 213-935-8500, otiumla.com
Per L’Ora’s dining room dazzles with high ceilings and Romanesque white columns. Pops of color brighten the space even as it stays true to its 1922 incarnation as the Bank of Italy’s Gianni Building—you must walk through a giant metal vault to get to the restroom. Chef Courtney Van Dyke’s menu integrates coastal Italian cuisine with those of cultures she encountered growing up as a third-generation Angeleno—the avocado toast is topped with chapulines (grasshoppers, the Mexican delicacy). Other stand-outs include the sweet-corn agnolotti and squid-ink pasta, all made in-house, and the signature spatchcocked chicken—a whole chicken brined with olive, topped with aji verde and served in a cast-iron skillet among Peewee potatoes. The wine list skews Italian, like the Bisson 2020 Ciliegiolo from Liguria, a rosé so dark it’s almost red—a great pairing with the beef crudo. Or Mamete Prevostini’s 2016 Sassella Valtellina nebbiolo if you’re ordering the oxtail ragù orecchiette. Even the bar program features wine-inspired options like the Jubilee, a concoction of sour-cherry gin, amaretto, sparkling dry Lambrusco and hibiscus. —A.B.
649 S. Olive St., Los Angeles; 213-358-0000, hotelperla.com/dine/#perlora
Republique, Bicyclette, Manzke
For most of its ten years, République has been a culinary hub in a city whose sprawl defies such tidy configurations, a gathering point serving three squares in a historic mid-city building that once housed the offices of Charlie Chaplin. To this, Walter and Margarita Manzke have added two new establishments: Bicyclette opened in late 2021 in Beverlywood, a French bistro set in a low-slung tavern, where they offer bouillabaisse, roasted vegetable cassoulet, and escargot en croute. Upstairs, they have opened Manzke, a soigné prix-fixe affair with dishes that lean into extravagance, with base ingredients like caviar, uni, lobster, wagyu, scallops, white asparagus—each dish reflecting Manzke’s effortless knack for texture, balance and energy. All three wine programs are overseen by Sarah Clarke, whose wine résumé in LA restaurants includes the post-Rosoff Mozzaplex and a stint at Antico, which may account for the Italian wines she’s added to all three menus, especially République’s. The lists at Bicyclette and Manzke remain distinct, the former defined by little wines like pineau d’aunis from Famille Vaillant, the latter by its magisterial stocks of Bordeaux, among the deepest in the city. —P.J.C.
République, republiquela.com; Bicyclette, bicyclettela.com; Manzke, manzkerestaurant.com
Opened in June 2022, Saffy’s is the third restaurant from chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis (of Bestia and Bavel). Named for their daughter, Saffron, Saffy’s embodies her whimsy—it’s a casual neighborhood bistro where you can hang out with friends and eat with your hands. With ornate light fixtures and Art Deco glass windows, the décor is reminiscent of early 1970s Morocco, which hints at the cuisine, inspired by Menashe’s time in Israel. His menu centers around a wood-burning oven for dishes like lamb kabobs, beef shawarma and red-snapper tagine, or hummus two ways, and tabbouleh with burnt-onion yoghurt. Wine Director Jeremiah Doherty likes coastal Mediterranean whites and island wines with racy acidity, like the Ligurian vermentino from Spagnoli, or Diamantis’s 2018 single vineyard Xinomavro from Macedonia, and includes hard-to-find bottles like the arinto by Adegado Vulcão from the Azores, or Domaine Economou’s aged liatiko from Crete. —A.B.
4851 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles; 424-699-4845, saffysla.com
Among LA restaurants, Spago is a grande dame, perhaps the grande dame, a benchmark food and wine destination. The grandeur of Chef Ari Rosenson’s menu is often deferred: he’s judicious in calling out his network of farms and producers, whether Girl & Dug Farms for greens, Finley Farms for broccolini, duck from Liberty Farms or veal chops from Marcho Farms. The wine program, meanwhile, is not only one of the largest in town, it’s also one of the city’s most historic, reflecting a sommelier lineage that extends back to some of the industry’s most esteemed veterans, including Michael Bonaccorsi, Kevin O’Connor, Chris Miller, Philip Dunn, Rina Bussell and Cristie Norman. The property is between wine directors at present—Dunn moved up the street to Wally’s last year—but Omar Lima and Eric Denq are holding down the fort under the watchful eye of General Manager Steve Scott Springer, overseeing an inventory that routinely hovers around 3,000 selections, on a list that’s as deep in Austrian riesling as it is in Napa Valley cabernet, and with a selection of white Burgundy that would make a starlet blush. —P.J.C.
176 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-385-0880, wolfgangpuck.com
Tabula Rasa has undergone a modest expansion in the last three years: The wine bar’s founding partner Zach Negin took over the historic Silverlake Lounge, a nightclub and music venue and home to indie acts for decades. Then late last year they opened Tabula Rasa Shop in North Hollywood’s emerging Lankershim arts district, a bright and airy wine destination in a part of town that had been mostly devoid of such amenities. Back in East Hollywood the bar, managed by partner Nicole Dougherty in the heart of Thai Town, continues down its own determined path, devoted to low intervention winemaking and wineries where tradition plays a durable role, whether that’s Chateau Simone’s majestic palette or En Cavale’s floral, sulfite-free zinfandel. And a town known for its love of skin contact, it also offers what may be the largest collection of orange wine in Los Angeles. Dougherty keeps all the plates twirling with frequent winemaker and winery events, dj’s spinning vinyl, gumbo-til-it’s gone popups, even poetry nights, channeling all kinds of East Side artistic energy into this pulsing wine destination—P.J.C.
5125 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; 213-290-6309, tabularasabar.com
If you’re wondering why saké is so hot right now, head to Tsubaki, the small izakaya restaurant around the bend from Dodger Stadium. Courtney Kaplan and Charles Namba are devoted to saké in all its forms, at Tsubaki as well as at Ototo, a saké bar next door. Namba runs both kitchens, plating bar snacks at Ototo and small plates at Tsubaki of the kind he grew up with in Japan—chicken-heart skewers, grilled pork jowl with a kanzuri miso glaze, black cod with chrysanthemum greens, and savory udon with wagyu brisket, sliced as fine as paper. Kaplan likes to remind you that izakaya literally translates “stay saké place,”and tries to live up to the challenge: In addition to an enviable wine list of mostly French selections, Kaplan’s annotated saké list contains numerous rare bottlings, many only found here, including a selection of shiboritate sakés, a “nouveau” brew rushed to market and flush with youthful energy. —P.J.C.
1356 Allison Ave., Los Angeles; 213-900-4900, tsubakila.com
Voodoo Vin slipped in on the Virgil Village food-and-wine row during the COVID times—Sqirl, Bolt and Melody are all on the same block. It quietly joined those places as a destination. Transplanted New Yorkers Michael and Natalie Hekmat call themselves cavistes, a clue to the mercantile aesthetic of the place, an unassuming single-story storefront with a modest footprint, an interior that’s spartan and boxy, communal tables flanked by a tiny kitchen bar above which hover enormous speakers conveying vintage funk and hip hop. Chef Travis Hayden, ex-Rustic Canyon, works a minimal kitchen—a couple of induction stoves and a toaster oven—with heartfelt results. His plates are heaped with house-made mortadella and buttery bresaola, polenta with romesco and chanterelles, and chicories wilting beneath grilled sardines. Behind the bar the Voodoo wine room occupies the space where the kitchen might have been, holding an inventory some 300 to 400 bottles strong, deep in low-intervention French, Italian and Austrian wines, like Domaine des Rutissons’s verdesse from the Savoie, or Gut Oggau’s Burgenland blaufränkisch blend, Josephine. —P.J.C.
713 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles; 323-522-3220, voodoovin.com
Wally’s Beverly Hills
Wally’s remains this city’s glitziest wine setting, brash and blingy, a buzzy nightlife destination that happens to serve wine. The place is vast, long, communal marble tables surrounded floor-to-ceiling with wine racks, topped off with trophy cases of first-growth Bordeaux and 50-year-old Scotches. Chef Ryan Kluver belts out lavish versions of American classics like lobster risotto, winter duck with orange glazed farro, and wagyu in as many ways as can fit on a menu. Philip Dunn slipped away from Spago and now runs the wine program, one of the deepest in town, with bottle prices that hover about $50 over retail, meaning that as you ascend to the higher end, the deals get better and better. It’s why collectors and would-be collectors flock to the bar for by-the-glass treasures like Leflaive’s Puligny Clavoillon or Cos d’Estournel 2010, from magnum. And if you’re looking for alternatives, Dunn’s assistant Chanelle Kuhn runs a page called “Terroir Talk,” taking deep dives on Spanish whites, gems from the Jura, or Gaja’s single vineyard bottlings. —P.J.C.
447 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-475-3540, wallywine.com
Wine House Kitchen
The transformation at Wine House Kitchen, above the Wine House, the venerable West LA retail shop, is hard to overstate. Once home to Upstairs II, the space had been used mostly as a seminar and classroom, and it often felt as if dining was an afterthought. No longer. Jim and Glen Knight have employed vintage elements of Japanese and Danish modern in their redesign, lots of wood and brick and an elongated bar that sweeps into the room, lending a loungey ambiance. They hired François Renaud as general manager and beverage director; he’s encouraged Chef Maiki Lee to embrace her heritage with a Franco-Vietnamese menu, like Faroe Island salmon imperial rolls, and banh patê sô stuffed with guinea fowl. You’d expect the wine program to draw from the downstairs inventory, but Renaud has insisted on autonomy—less than 20 percent of his selections overlap with the store’s stock below. His list is detailed, thoughtful and a touch quirky, made more so by annotations like this one for Holus Bolus Roussanne: “Higher Calling—potpourri, just-snuffed wick and polished stone—you’re in church.” —P.J.C.
2311 Cotner Ave., Los Angeles; 213-435-9170, winehouse.kitchen
This story appears in the print issue of Spring 2023.
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