In lieu of a Sunday review, Michael Bauer has written a larger piece about dining in Los Angeles for this Sunday's paper, which you can read online now. He writes generally about the scene down south in 2016, saying that even if the Bay Area might be a little more "phenomenal" food-wise, "it’s impossible to deny that Los Angeles is setting some national trends and nurturing young, experimental chefs." And here he highlights the 18, mostly newish restaurants he likes best down there.
In particular he calls out the latest efforts by two former Bay Area chefs, Jeremy Fox whose work at Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Kitchen in Santa Monica has landed him again among the finalists for the Best Chef: West category at this year's James Beard Awards and former French Laundry chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth, whose new restaurant Otium just opened next door to the new Broad Museum last fall.
Fox made a name for himself at former vegetarian spot Ubuntu in Napa, ultimately leaving there to work briefly for Tyler Florence in Napa before decamping to Southern California a few years back. And by all accounts, Rustic Canyon has been the place where he's fully found his voice, cooking seasonal, often deceptively complex food in a casual setting, with plenty of rustic and simple touches as well. Bauer's take: "[Fox] still seems to have a deep connection to non-meat items, whether it’s ricotta dumplings with butter beans and sorrel or beets and blackberries with quinoa, avocado and pistachio." And, he says, "If I lived in Los Angeles I would definitely be a regular."
At Otium, Hollingsworth who was talking after his move to LA about opening a taco concept is back to creating some ambitious food in a stylish setting next to DTLA's newest museum, and Bauer confirms that all the dishes are "beautifully presented." And, the menu "features more than 30 savory courses that blend rustic and refined elements and influences from myriad cultures."
Mr. Bauer also checks in on another former SF chef, Michael Hung, who was chef de cuisine at La Folie before relocating and opening Viviane at the Avalon Hotel. The dining room is located in rooms once occupied by Marilyn Monroe, and Bauer is charmed by "The menu and the cocktail offerings [that] re-envision the continental food of the 1950s in a very 21st century way."
Bauer also loves the butter-soaked bistro deliciousness of Ludo Lefebvre's two-year-old Petit Trois; Bay Area-inspired hot spot Bestia, where he says "the scene trumps what's on the plate"; and, of course, because he loves pizza, Pizzeria Mozza, but he doesn't give the same love to the next door, slightly fancier, Mozza.