LA: Your Restaurant Cheat Sheet

Tell me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t it seem like there’s a new restaurant opening in LA about as often as Britney runs a red or Posh Spice designs a new pair of jeans?

Whether it’s Mike Ovitz’s West Hollywood hot spot, Kumo, or Batali’s Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, LA is full of new flavors of the month. Finding out what’s hot is as easy as visting Citysearch or reading my favorite bread & butter, LA Confidential Magazine. Discovering what’s been right under your nose all along, well… that’s like dating your best guy friend. So many factors to consider in this tawdry game of love and fine food, nay?

In our quest for what’s brewing beneath the surface, we queried Monique-Marie DeJong, editorial coordinator for Peter Greenberg, travel editor of NBC’s Today show, who took to the streets to inform our readers on the solid local spots you may, or may not be, aware of. Some are new; others are merely in need of some re-discovery, so be a chowhound and get munching.

Exposed, worn-stoned walls and a Tuscan villa appearance create a causal, yet elegant, atmosphere at Fraîche. The Mediterranean cuisine—specifically French and Italian—offers roasted corn soup, braised rabbit tortelli with sage brown butter and artichokes, bouillabaisse, and oysters on the half shell. The wine list has over 300 selections, and esteemed Sommelier Thierry Perez assists guests with creating the utmost food and wine combination. After dinner, visit the often-busy bar and try one of their specialty cocktails. Might I recommend the Leblon Infused Sugar Cane Mojito?

9411 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Phone: (310) 839-6800

Piccolo Paradiso
Strikingly modern yet surprisingly warm, The Drago family’s famed Piccolo Paradiso puts you at ease with its hospitable staff and traditional Italian dishes. The upbeat atmosphere is a great option for a causal business lunch or dinner. Don’t be surprised to find the chef-owner Giacomino Drago conversing with his guests. On his menu, he even includes a tribute to Mamma Drago: carnaroli rice with porcini mushroom.

150 S. Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 271- 0030

Sushi Wa
No, it certainly won’t make you cry (unless you’re really, really happy), but you will wonder why the hell you’ve never been here. The simple décor at Wa avoids the trendy nightlife that is West Hollywood. Instead, emphasis is placed on authentic Japanese sushi like salmon sashimi, lemon, and sea salt, sea bass with eggplant and the most interesting Japanese kelp this side of WeHo. Distinct flavors, super-fresh fish and dizzying choices of traditional, fusion, or contemporary dishes will entice you to select more than you can finish. Be forewarned… reservations, if only made a few hours ahead, are a must. This place packs up.

1106 N. La Cienega Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone: (310) 854-7285

Hidden Restaurant
It will… surprise you. The phantasmagoria of international cuisines draws from Spanish, Italian, Vietnamese, and Japanese flavors—a perfect remedy for those who, like me, need variety. Limitless choices won’t disappoint under shaded palm leaves and seductive light. Dishes include the likes of thin-crusted pizza, beef pho, and smoked prosciutto. Care for a pomegranate mojito, wine, or sake? Answer D. All of the Above.

3110 Main St.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Phone: (310) 399-4800

Via Veneto
A great friend from Italy once took me here. I considered dating him based on that alone. So, if you don’t end up dating the man (or woman) who takes you here too, you may as well promise life long friendship. I sure as hell did. With rich, wooden floors complemented by romantic, amber candlelight, Via Veneto’s menu (and straight off the sexyboat staff) offers a variety of authentic Roman and Tuscan specials in an intimate old-world, Italianate-hip ambiance. Dishes resound with fragrant flavors brought out of the finest meats, while regional notes from Central Italy and the Islands bring guests classic creamy risottos and daily selections of fresh fish. When half the diners hail from Milano or Roma, you know you’re in for authentic.

3009 Main St.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Phone: (310) 399-1843

Le Petit Greek
One of the best low-key lunch or dinner spots in Larchmont Village, Le Petit Greek has a generous selection of Greek wines from both the mainland and islands. If you enjoy sunny lunches, try the sidewalk seating. Inside, the white and green tablecloths and black and white photographs of Greece create a pleasant dining experience. Traditional Greek dishes include hummus, stuffed grape leaves, flamed cheese with ouzo, rack of lamb, and layered eggplant with zucchini, potatoes, and ground beef.

127 N. Larchmont Blvd.
Hancock Park, CA 90004
Phone: (323) 464-5160

If you like good ol’ American staples but appreciate finer, creative dishes, Blair’s is the place for you. First and foremost, you’ll feel like you’ve flown to Seattle… or a warm boite in the village. Lightly peppered with paintings, Blair’s envelops you with terra cotta walls, and its minimal décor leaves you feeling invited but not overwhelmed with interior stimuli. The rich, but tempting truffled mac ‘n cheese will leave you full, but without regret. If you like gnocchi, you’ll love the sweet potato gnocchi with wild mushrooms, wilted watercress and yam coulis.

2903 Rowena Ave.
Silver Lake, CA 90039
(323) 660-1882

– Monique-Marie DeJong

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