Jim Gilfoil, M.D.
Hey, aren’t you glad we’re not at the beach in Santa Monica or downtown with all that culture? No, we’re in the “real LA”–Hollywood. No more of that ersatz stuff, just the real deal. This is the place that, according to Harvey Weinstein, when referring to freeing Roman Polanski, “has the best moral compass because we have compassion.” And modesty too. Well, hopefully we won’t run into him. We will be staying at a chic boutique hotel, Le Petit, where “bohemianism is a way of life,” at least according to the website. Hey, I’m in. And, we will, of course, be dining out with the stars per usual. Here are my best bets.
What may well be the hottest table in town hadn’t opened at the time I wrote this article, but Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Beverly Hills promises to be intimate with only 17,000 Sq. ft. (!) of indoor and outdoor space and hopefully elegant with a $12M price tag. You know it’ll be good, with his so far successful formula—let’s just hope it’s more bistroy and not totally impossible to get in. We’ll see. One to avoid, however, is XIV unless you’re totally into the scene instead of the food. Nobody in LA would be like that. It’s a seriously overwrought and overpriced disaster from another celebrity chef, Michael Mina. Unless you’re a true masochist with very deep pockets, don’t go.
Several exciting new restaurants have opened in LA since we were there three years ago. You may recall Jose Andres from DC and his restaurants Jaleo, Café Atlántico, and Minibar. His The Bazaar has been getting well-deserved rave reviews: Esquire magazine just selected it their Restaurant of the Year. As you would expect, it’s all about tapas in this Phillipe Starck designed space. There is plenty of showbiz with that liquid nitrogen thing going with the drinks, and the menu is wonderfully inventive, without being precious or overwrought—enough to woo the most jaded taste buds. Try the foie gras lollipop or the “Philly cheese steak” or any of the other fabulous creations. A must!
Next on my list is Rivera in downtown LA. Chef John Rivera Sedlar, who had the wonderful Abiquiu in Santa Monica a few years back (remember the restaurant scene in the movie Get Shorty), has done it again. Dubbed by LA Times restaurant critic Irene Virbila, “one of the most exciting restaurants to debut in LA in the last few years,” and also picked in Esquire as one of the best new restaurants in the country, Rivera is a pan-Latin marvel. Don’t be put off by dishes like “dog’s snout salsa,” or all the chilies, for Sedlar doesn’t overdo the heat. He helps you appreciate the complexities in Latin, mainly Mexican, cuisines. Virbila says his take on duck confit has “to be the best in town right now.” Throw in great margaritas, terrific tequila-based cocktails, and outstanding wines from Spain, Portugal, and South America, and I’m there. I will have a designated driver though.
If I’m going to do French this trip, it’ll be at RH at the Andaz in the Andaz West Hollywood Hotel on Sunset Strip. Sebastian Archambault does a masterful job of updating the cooking of southwest France—think Dordogne and foie gras. He’s got great terrines, outstanding duck confit, a poached egg with mushrooms, foie gras, and truffles on top, and a burger with foie gras and mushrooms. Needless to say, if you don’t like foie gras, don’t go. That just leaves more for the rest of us. By the way, for you untouchables, Andaz means “personal style” in Hindi. Can’t think of a better name for the LA scene.
Two other possibilities are restaurants that have reinvented themselves—Bastide and Wilshire. Bastide is on its fourth chef, and it’s finally gotten the attitude makeover it needed. The food was always good, the setting is magical, but, whoa, that arrogance. It made the French seem humble. Anyway, they alienated so many over the years, that they had to come back to reality, and they have with a bang. New chef Paul Shoemaker, of Providence fame, is cooking up a storm with French-Asian creations paired with some of the best wines in town. Chef Andrew Kirschner has transformed Wilshire from a hip bar scene place into a serious dining room to be reckoned with. He showcases the best of California cuisine today, so consider it.
What about old and not so old favorites? Well, Cut, Wolfgang Puck’s ode to steak, is still going strong, as is Spago. Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza need to be on your short list too. If you’ve been hiding in those caves somewhere in Afghanistan, maybe you don’t know of these two, but Nancy Silverton, a well-known bakemeister, and Mario Batali have combined to wow the unwowables in LA with the greatest pizza this side of Naples and other terrific Italian fare. I’ve always found Batali’s food to be just a touch inconsistent, but try one or both if you can just to prove me wrong. Providence is still superb, as is Suzanne Goin’s—daughter of former APA president Marcia—Lucques. So, that ought to keep you busy, just make sure your wattage is up to it. See you in Tinsel town!