The restaurant biz is a hard egg to crack, with many new restaurants opening and not making it to their first anniversary. From a culinary stance, we’re spoiled here in Los Angeles, faced with a smorgasbord of international dining options, all with different atmospheres and price points. Whether you’re looking for a serene environment and artful presentation found in a fine dining establishment or a casual place to hang out and have a beer with friends, we’ve got it covered.
Hinoki & the Bird
10 Century Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Open since January and located just south of the Century Plaza Hotel, Hinoki & the Bird, sits in a lovely indoor/outdoor space hidden away from the hustle and bustle of Century City. The latest dining concept from award-winning chef David Myers (Comme Ça) serves Silk Road-inspired California cuisine, incorporating fresh, local produce with Japanese ingredients. Myers’ love for Japanese lifestyle, culture and cuisine has resulted in him opening several restaurants in Japan and is reflected here at hinoki.
Executive Chef Kuniko Yagi, has a delicate touch and turns out creative dishes with global influences. Take, for example, the lobster roll made with green curry and Thai basil, presented on a black bun (from charcoal powder, which has purifying effects). Another twist is the miso jam on mini toasts, topped with thinly-sliced pumpkin and a sprinkling of goat cheese. Even though just about everyone has a kale salad on their menu, the one at Hinoki includes three types of kale (one crispy), pecorino and curried almonds, dressed with a light red wine vinaigrette. Meat eaters can sink their teeth into a tender filet mignon sandwich with roasted tomatoes, while vegetarians will enjoy the vegetable Thai curry that surrounds a mound of toasty and organic grilled rice.
To accompany your meal, try the refreshing Tangerine Caipirissima, with white rum, lime, tangerine and brown sugar. The short list of mocktails is a welcome addition for lunch or for those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks. You won’t even miss the alcohol in the Hanzo Fix, which looks like a snow cone and gives a bold punch from jalapeno that’s been added to yuzu juice, simple syrup, cucumber and orange juice.
For dessert, order the miso mochi with butterscotch and togarashi (ice cream is made in-house) or the raspberry macaron with rhubarb and a yogurt sorbet sandwiched in-between two pink disks of perfection.
8284 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Located on Melrose, in the space that once housed Dolce and Phillipe Chow, Crossroads, is a new progressive restaurant from chef Tal Ronnen with a menu that is both culinary-driven and health-conscious. Open since mid-March (for dinner only), Crossroads combines the elegance of fine dining with the feel of a cozy neighborhood spot, and offers sophisticated plant-based cuisine, with a Mediterranean flair.
The stylish atmosphere and décor is courtesy of Studio Collective, who designed the dining room with luxury furnishings and rich detailing throughout, such as hand crafted chandeliers and an antique glass bar. Speaking of which… start off with a farm-to-glass cocktail and libations from notable mixologist Gaston Martinez. The Sunset and Vine is my favorite, with milagro reposado, solero, lillet rouge, St. Germain, rhubarb bitters, blood orange, beet, basil and ginger beer.
Executive Chef Scot Jones oversees the kitchen that produces a variety of innovative and satisfying dishes, like the Farinatta, a wild mushroom chickpea flour pancake with ramp greens, baby arugula and toasted pine nuts, in a sundried tomato pesto and signature dish Artichoke Oysters, composed of artichoke puree, crispy oyster mushroom, yellow tomato béarnaise, and kelp caviar. Diners won’t even miss the meat in the “meaty” scaloppini with marsala-glazed morel mushrooms and will be comforted by the popular biscuits and gravy (Il Biscuits di Funghi di Bosco e Salsa).
Pastry Chef Serafina Magnusson showcases seasonal ingredients in her desserts that include a Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with strawberry rhubarb purée and a black pepper biscotti. Go ahead and indulge in a decadent dining experience with delicious food that is actually good for you and enjoy one of the most innovative culinary destinations in Los Angeles.
9201 W. Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Along the Sunset Strip, you’ll find a new fine dining Italian experience at RivaBella, the result of a partnership between hospitality mavens IDG, and renowned chef Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria. The successful combination results in traditional Italian fare infused with a dynamic approach. The sprawling 2,800-square-foot al fresco dining area and wine cave is reminiscent of stepping into a Tuscan farmhouse, updated with sleek and stylish contemporary furnishings.
Open for lunch and dinner, signature dishes include Tagliatelle allo Zafferano Con Ragu di Prosciutto (housemade saffron tagliatelle and prosciutto ragu) and Ravioli al Granchio con Riccio di Mare (squid ink crab ravioli with sea beans and lobster sea urchin sauce). Two must-try dishes are the Parmigiana de Melanzane (eggplant parmigiana), which is the best I’ve ever had, and the Tagliolini pasta with lemon, basil and cream, which sounds simple and is simply amazing.
A winning salad is the Radicchio con Crostini di Polenta e Gorgonzola with crispy polenta croutons and walnuts in a gorgonzola dressing. Also on the menu are lobster, lamb chops and a porterhouse steak, plus the infamous Lasgne Nonna Elvira with layers of spinach pasta, meat sauce and béchamel.
For dessert, try an Italian favorite, Affogato, hot espresso poured over a glass of vanilla gelato or tiramisu, layers of creamy goodness.
RivaBella recently launched a rustic Italian-style Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. ($44/person).
9201 W. Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Next door to RivaBella is Chi Lin, the newest addition (open in May) to IDG’s impressive restaurant portfolio, which serves upscale Chinese cuisine in a modern and sophisticated atmosphere. Both restaurants share the same kitchen, but you don’t have to worry about ravioli ending up in your wonton soup since the staff have their own stations and are professionals, after all.
The space is dark and intimate and makes a stunning statement, with 300 lanterns glowing from the ceiling, reflected on glass tables, and large shadow boxes around the perimeter of the dining room filled with hundreds of butterflies that look like thousands (due to infinity mirrors) – a very cool effect!
Open for dinner daily, Chi Lin’s fare represents several regions of Hong Kong, all exquisitely prepared by executive chef Yujean Kang and culinary consultant Cecile Tang. Highlights include the Kale and Crispy Shitake Mushroom Salad (a welcome change from typical kale salads), dressed in a sesame vinaigrette and accented with white asparagus and tofu skins. The Aromatics Steamed Chilean Sea Bass with Light Soya Sauce is delicate and clean with a hint of ginger and topped with scallions and is even better with the Hong Kong Pineapple Rice, wok-tossed with shrimp, chicken, peas and carrots and makes for a pretty presentation in a hollowed out pineapple.
Signature dishes include the Chi Lin Peking Duck with plum sauce, cucumbers, and scallions and Leaves of Wild Yam – the superfood’s dark green leaves are sautéed with ginger and garlic and topped with lemon zest and honey glazed yam cubes.
Asian notes are found throughout the innovative cocktail list. For a nice balance of sweet and sour, try the Ginseng Cure made with Bacardi 8 rum, citrus, amaretto, house-made ginseng syrup and a Myer’s dark rum float. Another great drink is the frothy Pearl of the Orient, made from Belvedere intense vodka, green chartreuse, grapefruit, egg white and bitters.
Public School 310
9411 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
School’s out, but summer school is in full session at Public School 310, a fun gastro bar in downtown Culver City. The playful school theme is apparent throughout the restaurant with microscopes, globes and flash cards decorating the space.
You can even pass notes on notebook napkins and order your food and drinks from a composition book menu. Previously inhabited by Fraiche, Public School 310 is one of the latest, and most noteworthy, new establishments in the area.
A nice selection of draft beers can be found, along with malty brown ales, spicy Belgians and fruity wheat beers. I was pleased to find out that they carry my favorite beer, Delirium Tremens. A great beer to share with friends is the Allagash Curieux, a Belgian-style Tripel aged in Jim Beam barrels with hints of wood and vanilla (with a whopping 11 percent alcohol by volume).
The dishes at Public School 310 are definitely a step up from typical gastro pub fare. We ate every bit of the Roasted Beets and Ricotta Salata with arugula and marcona almonds, in a pomegranate reduction. I was also impressed to find a vegetarian entrée that wasn’t pasta on the menu. Cilantro lime rice accompanies the Roasted Poblano with Quinoa, which is stuffed with black beans, squash, mozzarella, toasted pepitas, adobo sauce and drizzled with a bit of lime crema.
Of course many will want to sink their teeth into a burger while drinking beer and the Colorado Lamb Burger will definitely satisfy your craving, dressed with a bit of tomato cranberry jam, arugula and tangy melted brie. Fries come in a cute brown bag and are nice and crunchy.
Everyone loves recess, a clever name for Happy Hour at Public School 310, which features $4 to $6 specials Monday through Friday from 4 – 7 p.m. This is the kind of school you won’t mind attending year-round.
Liz Laing is a writer, web designer and photographer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest projects may be followed on Liz Laing.