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    The GP 13

    Our obsession with 'best of' lists comes home to roost this week as we initiate our own, with more to come.

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    The GP 13 The Tasting Kitchen Sushi Park Son of a Gun Republique Reddi Chick Providence Night + Market Madeo Gjelina Giorgio Baldi Chinois Bestia Bar Amá

    Bar Amá

    Downtown
    118 W. 4th St. | 213.687.8002

    Bar Amá

    Photo: Dylan + Jeni

    Puffy tacos, frito pie, queso, and other evolved Tex-Mex dishes are mainstays at chef Josef Centeno's latest operation. Do not miss the perfectly caramelized sweet potatoes, the fried brussels sprouts, and the guacomole, which just might be the best in the city. The '50s hall-like space also offers its fair share of tequila and mescal drinks, along with homemade fruit mashes and Bäco-Pops.

    Bestia

    Downtown
    2121 7th Place | 213.514.5724

    Bestia

    In an industrial-inflected, warehouse-like space in Downtown L.A.'s Arts District, you'll find Bestia, a relative newcomer helmed by husband-and-wife duo, Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis. While the scope of the menu is ambitious (and innovative, as Ori hates to waste meat, meaning you'll find the occasional beef and lamb heart or chicken gizzard dotting the offerings), you should really go for the pizza: Ori gives his dough a good 24-hours to rise and fall before it heads into the wood-burning oven, and you can tell. A trip here requires Uber, as this place draws huge crowds—the bar is a fun place to wait, and the cocktails are delicious.

    Chinois

    Santa Monica
    2709 Main St. | 310.392.9025

    Chinois

    Chinois has been around since the '80s (it was one of Wolfgang Puck's first restaurants), but in the intervening years, it's lost none of its appeal. As a pioneer in the Asian-fusion space, Chinois—which marries French and Chinese cuisine—totally revolutionized the L.A. food scene. Now, the food feels wonderfully familiar in a space that looks straight out of Ruthless People. The curried oysters, duck pancakes, and spicy miso black cod are classics. A trip here always brings a real sense of nostalgia, as this was one of the first foodie destinations in California.

    Giorgio Baldi

    Santa Monica Canyon
    114 W. Channel Rd. | 310.573.1660

    Giorgio Baldi

    Giorgio's is like a culinary second home in Los Angeles, in no small part because this is still a family operation, and it shows. The service is warm and attentive, and the unfussy and fun vibe is the perfect backdrop for the incredible Northern Italian fare. Go for the octopus carpaccio with deep fried capers, penne langostine, sweet corn agnolotti with truffle butter, and sea bass—and stay for the white truffles, which are imported from Piedmont every fall. While it's not exactly casual, Giorgio's is never uptight, meaning children are always welcome at the table.

    Gjelina

    Venice
    1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd. | 310.450.1429

    Gjelina

    It's been five years, but Gjelina—a restaurant that ushered in a new sort of veggie-centric California cuisine—is as mobbed as ever. The crowds make a lot of sense: Everything is always excellent, from the aforementioned vegetable sides to the whisper-thin jalapeño and smoked mozzarella pizza. Come when they open so you can snag a table on the patio out back. (If the lines are too long, grab something to-go at GTA, their take-away spot next door.)

    Madeo

    Beverly Hills
    8897 Beverly Blvd. | 310.859.4903

    Madeo

    An unassuming exterior, and below ground level space belie the reliably-delectable fare inside: Here, you'll find the best eggplant parmesan in the city, and what is probably the most delicious linguini al pesto outside of Liguria. Their fish with red sauce is also crazy delicious. The emphasis is on classic Northern Italian dishes, all served in the charmingly clubby space—the bill is invariably steep, but the quality of the meal erases any sticker shock.

    Night + Market

    West Hollywood
    9041 Sunset Blvd. | 310.275.9724

    Night + Market

    30-something chef, Kris Yenbamroong, may not have any formal culinary training, but no matter: He learned how to cook in Bangkok, and in the kitchen of his parent's long-standing Thai mainstay, Talésai, which is now the (sort of) home of Night + Market. Tucked away behind a curtain in the back, you won't find the white tablecloths that mark the former. Instead, you're met by a stark white space where the only décor is a handful of Christmas lights and a Singha beer sign. Here, the hype continues to mount: Maybe it's the low-slung and crowded communal tables (this place is loud), or maybe it's the exquisite and (very) spicy street food, like pad thai, grilled fatty pig collar, and fried chicken wings, bathed in "rooster sauce." Below, you'll find the recipes for two of my favorite dishes.

    Providence

    Hollywood
    5955 Melrose Ave. | 323.460.4170

    Providence

    With two Michelin stars at its back, Michael Cimarusti's Providence easily ranks as one of L.A.'s best. The prix-fixe menu revolves around Cimarusti's deep love for the sea, and the provenance of the fish on the menu is clearly-defined: There's down-home "chowda," lobsters from Maine, coho salmon from the Olympic peninsula, and a smattering of exotics, like ikura, uni, and razor clams. Meanwhile, the quietly-fancy space feels like it could double as the dining room of an opulent ocean liner.

    Reddi Chick

    Brentwood
    225 26th St. | 310.393.5238

    Reddi Chick

    It's nothing more than a simple food stand in the Brentwood Country Mart, but nothing quite reminds me of my California childhood like Reddi Chick. The moist, perfectly-seasoned rotisserie chicken basket comes with plenty of barbecue dipping sauce, and fries that are absolutely worth the shot to the arteries. I've never heard a kid complain about the chicken tender basket, either. Don't be deterred by the lines: They move fast.

    Republique

    Mid-City
    624 S. La Brea Ave. | 310.362.6115

    Republique

    Photo: Ryan Tanaka

    With long and star-studded resumes (Walter Manzke has worked at El Bulli, for one, while his wife, Margarita, worked at Melisse), nobody expected this ambitious duo's newest LA venture to be anything less than extraordinary. Occupying the former home of Campanile (i.e., Charlie Chaplin's film studio back in the '20s), the focus here is on French-inflected staples, like duck confit, oysters, and tartes flambées. The uni toast is insane, the baguettes are absurd (Margarita is a pastry-chef), and the space has been reworked beautifully: The heavy floor tiles and mahogany tables were all imported from The Philippines, where Margarita was born. (Should you ever find yourself in Manila, the Manzkes also have a small chain of successful cafés there called Wildflour.)

    Son of a Gun

    West Hollywood
    8370 W. 3rd St. | 323.782.9033

    Son of a Gun

    Styled to look like an East Coast clam shack (buoys, taxidermied fish, and life belts line the wood-paneled walls), Son of a Gun is one of those spots that could probably routinely fill a space five times its size. While you might have to wait for a seat at the long, communal table in the center, the linguine and clams, peel and eat shrimp, insane sashimis, shrimp toast, smoked trout with crackers, and mini lobster rolls fully justify the time spent. (One of their biggest hits, the fried chicken sandwich, has nothing to do with the sea.) If this list were ranked, Son of a Gun would be my number one.

    Sushi Park

    Hollywood
    8539 W. Sunset Blvd. | 310.652.0523

    Sushi Park

    This quintessential sushi spot (it's one of our favorites below) is tucked away on the second floor of a nondescript strip mall on Sunset; it's a good thing, since seats (and opening hours) are limited. It's strictly Omakase at the sushi bar, and well worth it—should you take this option, you'll have to cross your fingers that the blue crab hand roll (more and more ubiquitous around LA, but still superb) and skip jack sashimi are on the night's menu.

    The Tasting Kitchen

    Venice
    1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd. | 310.392.6644

    The Tasting Kitchen

    You'd never guess that The Tasting Kitchen sits on one of Venice's busiest thoroughfares: It's partly because of the fortress-like entrance, and partly because the loft-y, two-floor space revolves around a small grove of transporting olive trees. The food—modern Italian by Portland transplant Casey Lane—is excellent, made even better by the comfortable, leather wrapped Eames chairs, and always kind and attentive service.

    Next On The List To Try: Bäco Mercat, Chi SPACCA, Crossroads, Maude

    Cover Songs

    While we love the originals, these reinterpreted songs are pretty great, too.

    Mr. Little Jeans "The Suburbs" (Arcade Fire cover)

    Mr. Little Jeans "The Suburbs" (Arcade Fire cover)

    CEO "Halo" (Beyoncé cover)

    CEO "Halo" (Beyoncé cover)

    Miley Cyrus "Summertime Sadness" (Lana Del Rey cover)

    Miley Cyrus "Summertime Sadness" (Lana Del Rey cover)

    Listen to the playlist

    Los Angeles has some of the world's best sushi (once you've lived in L.A., it can be hard to find an omakase that makes the cut elsewhere), and in the greatest irony of all, these sublime meals aren't found in the fancy parts. They live in strip malls, often in the outskirts of town. Here, the 10 spots that made our list.

    Top 10 Sushi Places Hiko Sushi Nozawa Bar Yamakase Sushi Yotsuya Sushi Park Sushi Nishi Ya Sushi Katsu-Ya Sasabune Hamasaku Echigo Sushi Asanebo

    Asanebo

    Studio City
    11941 Ventura Blvd. | 818.760.3348

    Asanebo

    This might just take the cake for the least spectacular strip mall exterior: Funny, because it belies the cozy décor and Michelin-starred sushi and small plates inside. It's all exquisite, whether you order from the menu or opt for one of the three omakase menus. "A", "B", and "C", range from expensive to extravagant, but they're all worthwhile treats. It's possible to walk-in (and wait) on a week-night, but reservations are essential on weekends.

    Echigo Sushi

    Santa Monica
    12217 Santa Monica Blvd. | 310.820.9787

    Echigo Sushi

    This is as low-profile as it goes for strip mall sushi, which says a lot. It's always quiet (besides the elevator jazz in the background that lends a shred of ambiance) and there's never a wait to get a table. Whether you're ordering off the menu or opting for the set omakase at the bar, it's nicely affordable, too, which doesn't translate to lower grade fish.

    Hamasaku

    West L.A.
    11043 Santa Monica Blvd. | 310.479.7636

    Hamasaku

    Where East meets West. And by that we mean that its central location—right off the 405—makes it an excellent meeting point for friends from opposite sides of town. It's also where sushi purists and California Roll enthusiasts can dine at the same table. There's an extensive menu of cooked dishes, along with the whimsically-named rolls like Green Dragon, Asylum, and Sixteen Plus.

    Hiko Sushi

    West L.A.
    11275 National Blvd. | 310.473.7688

    Hiko Sushi

    The "No Cell Phone" sign at the door sets the tone for a meal focused on melt-in-your-mouth sushi made by one serious chef. While he presents seasonal highlights and rare cuts (among other delights, we sampled a buttery escolar with a light garlic glaze, and kinka-saba, a thinly sliced, sweet Mackerel from northern Japan) his warm and welcoming wife Miyo gives the low-down on each dish. She's happy to add that she doesn't actually like sushi unless it's made by her husband—apparently his is the only technique to trust. The unusual cuts of fresh fish and the subtle twists to the traditional format, like using warm rice to contrast with the cold fish and adding sesame seeds to the typical tuna sashimi starter's ponzu sauce for crunch, make all the difference.

    Sasabune

    Brentwood
    11917 Wilshire Blvd. | 310.478.3596

    Sasabune

    The givens: Unadorned sushi, attentive service, a busy and buzzy atmosphere. What sets it apart from the other west side options is very simple. It's the rice. Perfectly moist and served slightly warm, it's the ideal vehicle for the fish, which is, for the most part, presented sans sauce (why mar perfection?). They offer a $28 lunch special that condenses the omakase menu but still packs the same punch.

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    Sushi Katsu-Ya

    Studio City
    11680 Ventura Blvd. | 818.985.6976

    Sushi Katsu-Ya

    Famed, acclaimed, and oft-copied for dishes like spicy tuna on crispy rice, baked crab, and albacore and onion, Chef Katsuya is one of the most revered (and commercially successful) in California—since opening his first location in Studio City in 1999, he's started a veritable empire. While there are now seven, very slick, Philippe Starck-designed outposts, they're not quite of the same quality as the original in our opinion. To that end, we'll always be faithful to Studio City's wooden booths, bamboo plants, and altogether homey feel. With cooked food, a selection of rolls, and an expansive sushi list, it has plenty of options for the entire family.

    Sushi Nishi Ya

    Glendale
    1712 Victory Blvd. | 818.244.2933

    Sushi Nishi Ya

    While its location is perfect if you work at the studios (or have just landed at the Burbank airport), an idle weeknight works for a trip here, too. When you arrive, the hostess will tersely explain that this is an omakase only place. "No California Rolls." In case that isn't clear enough, there's a large sign right behind the bar that reiterates: Omakase Only. Once through the gauntlet, an incredibly jovial sushi chef compensates. Sit as close to him as possible, as the restaurant doesn't offer much in the way of ambiance, and he will walk you through your meal, explaining the provenance of the fish, and exactly how to season it.

    Sushi Park

    West Hollywood
    8539 Sunset Blvd. | 310.652.0523

    Sushi Park

    Tucked away on the second floor of a nondescript Sunset Boulevard strip mall, this joint (also on The GP 13, above) will never draw an unwitting crowd. They flock for good reason, as Peter Park's ever-changing and delectable sushi omakase is inarguably one of the city's best. High quality fish and people watching come at a price, though it's a worthwhile splurge.

    Sushi Yotsuya

    Tarzana
    18760 Ventura Blvd. | 818.708.9675

    Sushi Yotsuya

    It may be located in Tarzana, but the unreal omakase at Sushi Yotsuya definitely justifies the drive. Chef Masa's word-of-mouth reputation has grown steadily over the years and his restaurant is a valley insider's secret. It's a no-frills situation down to the TV news blaring in the background, and the sign that states "Sushi" out front. We like to sit at the bar with the chef, who is generally happy to throw back some sake.

    Yamakase

    West L.A.
    10422 National Blvd.

    Yamakase

    In order to eat here, you must request an invitation via their website; once granted, you'll head to an unmarked, paper-windowed location where the door is not only closed, it's locked. It may sound like some sort of hipster ploy, but it's all done in earnest. The place is tiny: 15 seats in entirety, arranged around Chef Yama's domain. There's zero in the way of décor, the plates are mismatched, and it's BYOB (you share with the chef), but you really won't care. You're on an omakase/small dish excursion of Olympic proportions, and you get to watch it all come to be. Over about four hours you'll sample roughly 24 courses—some recognizable, some not. They're all inventive and incredibly rich. (We had a lot of uni, a lot of truffles, and one mini-sandwich of french butter pressed between persimmon jam chunks—we ate the butter in its entirety, and then realized that eating butter isn't as awesome as it sounds.)

    Honorable Mention: Nozawa Bar

    Beverly Hills
    212 N. Cañon Dr.| 424.216.6158

    Nozawa Bar

    When the legendary Nozawa closed its doors, it sent shockwaves through the LA sushi scene. (On its last day, fans lined up down the block for a final Tokyo-style meal from legendary Chef Nozawa—known as the original "Sushi Nazi.") Luckily, it's now reincarnated in the form of Nozawa Bar. Though no longer in a strip mall, and thus off our official list, it remains true to the same no-frills attitude. Walk through Sugarfish (the chef's hyper-efficient chain) on North Cañon Drive and into the bar, headed up by Chef Fujita, Nozawa's charming and friendly sushi prodigy. The set menu changes daily according to Fujita and Nozawa's market finds, and consists of purist nigiri, sushi, and hand-rolls. Sadly, this is not a spot for the spontaneous: You must make a reservation (many weeks in advance).

    Night + Market Recipes

    Kris Yenbamroong, chef at Night + Market, describes his menu as "equal parts drinking food and esoteric, regional Thai specialties." Here, recipes for two of our favorite dishes.

    Kris Yenbamroong

    Som Tum Thai

    Som Tum Thai

    “Think of this as the 'blank canvas' Som Tum, or papaya salad, upon which countless variations can be built. These souped-up versions might include salted raw crab, stinky fermented fish, or mama instant noodles. But this is the foundation. Papaya salad is usually eaten as part of a spread that might include larb, sticky rice, and grilled meats.”

    ingredients

    makes 2

    • 2 oz. long beans (cut into 2" segments)
    • 6 oz. green papaya, shredded
    • 3-4 birds eye chili peppers
    • 3 garlic cloves
    • 1 oz. peanuts
    • 1/2 oz. goong haeng (tiny dried shrimp)
    • 4 cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
    • 1 1/4 tablespoon fish sauce
    • 1 1/4 tablespoon lime juice
    • 1 wedge of raw cabbage

    special equipment

    Clay mortar and wooden pestle. If you have a stone mortar and pestle, it could potentially work, you just have to be way more gentle when pounding.

    A spoon long enough to reach the bottom of the mortar.

    preparation

    1.

    Throw the chili peppers in the mortar and pound them with the pestle. The finer you pound them, the spicier the salad will be. Cut down or omit the chili peppers altogether if you can't handle the heat.

    2.

    Pound the garlic until it's broken up, but not necessarily a paste.

    3.

    Add the long beans and pound gently. At this point, you're mainly trying to bruise the ingredients, not pulverize them. The pounding should be alternated with a scraping of the bottom of the mortar with the spoon to make sure all the ingredients are evenly incorporated/bruised.

    4.

    Add the palm sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice. Use the spoon to mix until the ‘dressing' is uniform. If the palm sugar is too hard, soften it up with a tablespoon of boiling water.

    5.

    Add the green papaya. Use the spoon to mix all the ingredients. Use the pestle to help nudge but don't pound.

    6.

    Throw in the peanuts and tomatoes. Bruise gently, mix, and serve with the raw cabbage on the side and extra long beans, if desired.

    Larb Gai

    Larb Gai

    “Larb is a general term used for Thai ‘salads' of minced meat. Seasonings and aromatics vary by recipe and region. This larb is a basic Isan (northeastern Thai) version.”

    ingredients

    makes 2

    • 6 oz. minced dark meat chicken
    • 1 oz. shallots, diced
    • 1 oz. cilantro, coarsely-chopped
    • 1 oz. green onion (white parts included), coarsely-chopped
    • 5-6 mint leaves
    • 1 teaspoon white sugar
    • 1 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
    • 1 1/4 tablespoon lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon Roasted Rice Powder (recipe below*)
    • 1/2 tablespoon red chili powder
    • 1 wedge raw cabbage
    • a few cucumber slices
    • 2 oz. long beans, cut into 3" segments

    preparation

    1.

    Cook the chicken in a small saucepan with boiling water or stock. Stir to make sure the chicken doesn't clump together. Drain off the water.

    2.

    Add the sugar and fish sauce. Stir thoroughly. Add the chili powder, shallots, green onion, cilantro, and mint. Stir. Add the lime juice, and stir.

    3.

    Lastly, sprinkle the rice powder evenly over the larb and stir to incorporate. We use the rice powder for texture. Serve with raw cabbage, cucumber slices, and long beans.

    *Roasted Rice Powder
    “This stuff is essential in my kitchen—secret weapon status. I use it to lend texture to salads. Pour a few cups of uncooked white sticky rice along with a couple of kaffir lime leaves and shards of lemongrass into a wok or pan set over low heat. (If you can't find the lime leaves or lemongrass, just use the rice. It won't be as fragrant, but it'll work just the same.) Stir regularly as it starts to gain color until the rice is cooked. You'll know it's done when it's golden and nutty-earthy-smelling. Once cooled, pick out the lemongrass and lime leaves and run the rice through a spice mill until you get the consistency of table salt. You don't want it too fine. Keep it in a mason jar for weeks, if not more.”

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