The City of Angels is a polarising destination: you either love it or hate it. It’s so sprawling, it can be impossibly hard to get around and unless you know people on the ground, it’s easy to feel isolated and a bit lost.
But a little bit of effort will reap great rewards and now is an opportune time to visit Los Angeles, which is undergoing a bit of a revitalisation, especially in the culinary stakes.
Ths city whose culinary calling card was previously the greasy but deliciously-addictive In-N-Out Burger is really buzzing with healthy, nutritious, multi-cultural cuisine which is adding a new dimension to the city. I mean, the portion sizes are still absolutely enormous, but somehow I don’t think that part of Los Angeles will ever change.
So, here is our guide to eating your way through LA, with a selection of the top three restaurants.
To start right, the first food stop has to include something lean and green. Gracias Madre (graciasmadreweho.com) in West Hollywood offers 100% organic, plant-based Mexican cuisine. But just because this is a vegan only restaurant doesn’t mean the choices are limited or the food is flavourless.
The menu (Brunch, Lunch, Happy Hour, Dinner) is vast and creative. There are even seven moreish desserts on offer. We tasted the Madre Chopped Salad, with romaine, cherry tomato, summer squash, avocado, chickpeas and cumin sesame dressing, the tacos with flash-fried cauliflower, grilled squash, salsa verde, mushrooms with mole, and the Flauta de Camote, which was sweet potatoes rolled in tacos sheels with caramlized onions, chilli sauce, guacamole and cashew nacho cheese.
Oh and I did I mention the best bit? One, Two, Three – Tequila! This restaurant will erase all previous memories of tequila hangovers and show you that agave spirits make drinks of sophistication and depth. The agave-only cocktail list features over 100 spirits from tequila to mezcal to sotol. Try the speciality cocktails, a selection of house margaritas or a sparkling margaritas.
Next up, the hottest new kid on the West Hollywood block, and not surprisingly, it’s the brainchild of some very clever enterprising Aussies in Grant Smillie, David Combs, Ashley Hart (yep, the model) with head chef Louis Tikaram (ex-Longrain).
E.P. and L.P. (eplosangeles.com) are an Asian eating house and rooftop bar respectively. Opened just a few months ago, these two floors of foodie fun are already attracting the A-listers, with Al Pacino, Matt Damon and Jerry Bruckheimer already fans.
The rooftop bar is one of the few places in this sprawling city where locals and tourists alike can meet for a casual weekend drink or a late night snack. No word of a lie, L.P.’s organic tofu fries ($10 a serve) will change the way you look at tofu – forever. Crunchy on the outside, silken on the inside, topped with salt, pepper and lemon seasoning – they will convert the most steadfast of meateaters.
Downstairs, E.P. offers dishes such as Fijian style ceviche with baja rock shrimp, coconut milk, lime and chili, or chef’s famous crispy skin chicken with black vinegar, chili and lemon. Staff tell us one of the most popular dishes is the grilled vegetable green curry – but this is no ordinary mushy curry. Here we have chunks of perfectly cooked grilled fennel, baby squash, shishito peppers, Thai eggplants, seasoned with basil.
And finally, Bestia in Downtown LA (DTLA). Even the drivers say the Downtown area was to be avioided at all costs for many years, but with restaurants such as Bestia taking a risk on an industrial area, the precinct is making grungy cool again.
Located in the Arts District, Bestia is tucked away, hidden in a pretty unremarkable little side street, with a pretty crappy view but with a pretty special menu.
It’s a vast, industrial space with fast-moving staff serving the young and trendy of LA, with the husband and wife head chef team producing flavoursome Italian food that has almost single-handedly shown LA that Downtown is an area not to be messed with.
For antipasto I’d suggest the chef’s selection of salumi, you need to try at least one pizza, and for pastas (handmade onsite) I’d suggest the Pici al Sugo di Agnello, which translates to lamb ragu, saffron, capra sarda, fig leaf, breadcrumbs. And to drink? Some Italian classics have been given a cheeky twist here. I mean, it would be simply rude not to try the White Negroni with a grapefruit twist, no?
Princess on a Plane is an Australian-based writer, obsessed with travel, arts, fashion and fine food. Follow her adventures here http://primaryideas.com.au/.
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