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T+L's Food Lover's Guide to L.A.

Travel + Leisure · Guide to Los Angeles · created over 2 years ago

With its countless immigrant subcultures—most still serving the authentic foods of their homelands—L.A. is both the least obviously and the most definitively American city. It's also one of the finest places in the nation to eat. By Peter Jon Lindberg. Excerpted from "Food Lover's Guide L.A. to Z," Travel + Leisure, May 2010. http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/best-restaurants-in-los-angeles

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    Ceviche at Mo-Chica in Los Angeles, Ca.

    At Mo-Chica, in the Mercado La Paloma food court south of Downtown. the ceviche del dia—sea bass, yellowtail, scallop, whatever's fresh—is marinated to order in lime juice spiked with chiles and gussied up with cubed yam, choclo corn, and/or sliced red onion.

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    Carne Asada Taco at Yuca's in Los Angeles, CA

    When you're craving Mexican, pull up to Yuca's, the best taqueria in Los Feliz. Order a brace of juicy, smoky, citrus-tinged carne asada tacos to devour on the hood of your car: Los Angeles on a paper plate.

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    Spicy Pork Taco at Kogi BBQ Truck in Los Angeles, CA

    Kogi put the food truck on the Google map with its Korean/Filipino-inflected taco: a deeply weird conflation of corn, sesame, cabbage, and sweet-spice pork that manages to evoke a Oaxacan mole, an Alsatian choucroute, a McDonald's salad, and a packet of Fun Dip—in a wholly good way.

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  • Dry Aged Rib Eye at CUT in Beverly Hills,, CA

    On a good night—when the dry-aged rib eye is seared just-so, Richard Meier's dining room gleams like a camel-colored Lexus, and Tom Cruise doesn't cut you in line at the hostess stand—Wolfgang Puck's Cut is the best steak house in town.

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    Pho Tai Gan at Pho Cafe in Los Angeles, CA

    The long, narrow room is jammed from noon to night with Silver Lake and Echo Park hipsters, each of them nursing an outsize bowl of Vietnam's beloved noodle soup. The pho tai gan, with toothsome beef tendon and ribbons of raw sirloin, is slowly cooked in a clove- and cinnamon-spiced broth.

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  • Uni at The Hungry Cat in Hollywood, CA

    The uni arrives fresh each morning from Santa Barbara, and is served in the spiny shell, to be scooped up and savored by some lucky soul with a spoon. Too bad about the charmless dining room—but you'll be too focused on the silken glory of the uni to notice.

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  • Seared Arctic Char at The Bazaar in Los Angeles, CA

    This collaboration between the madcap Spanish chef José Andrés, designer Philippe Starck, and hotelier Sam Nazarian dazzles and disorients. Behold the seared arctic char, delivered under a silver dome, which the server lifts to unleash a swirl of applewood-scented "smoke."

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  • Green Goddess Salad at Tavern Restaurant in Los Angeles, CA

    The genre-defining Green Goddess salad, as served at this restaurant-café-food shop in Brentwood, is a virtuous main course of sweet Dungeness crab, poached shrimp, avocado, and bright-green leaves of market-fresh butter lettuce—with a dressing redolent of tarragon, anchovy, and chive.

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  • Sous Vide Pork Shoulder at Rivera Restaurant in Los Angeles, CA

    A three-point toss from the Staples Center, Santa Fe-born chef John Rivera Sedlar cooks up a juicy puerco pibil so meltingly tender you could cut it with a sheaf of lettuce. The house-made tortillas have sage leaves, fresh chervil, dill, tarragon, and edible flowers pressed into their centers.

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    Pupusa at Atlacatl Restaurant in Los Angeles, CA

    Native to El Salvador, the pupusa—a disk of griddled corn flatbread filled with grated cheese and green chiles, shredded pork, refried beans, squash, or artichoke-like loroco flower—can be found all over L.A., though none better than at Atlacatl, on the edge of East Hollywood.

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  • Eggplant Stew at Shamshiri Grill in Los Angeles, CA

    The city nicknamed Tehrangeles is home to the largest Iranian community outside Iran. Find elegant ladies and men in Bijan bonding over piping-hot lavash bread and savory gheymeh bademjan (eggplant stew) at Shamshiri Grill, in L.A.'s west side.

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  • Abgoost at Attari Sandwich Shop in Los Angeles, CA

    On Fridays, cockle warming abgoost, a bowl of hearty lamb, tomato, and bean soup accompanied by sprigs of tarragon and mint, raw onions and radish, warm barbari bread, and a tongue-tingling sour torshi (minced pickle), is the daily special. You'll feel like you're back in Esfahan, Iran.

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    Wild Salmon at Kiriko in Los Angeles, CA

    In sleepy Cheviot Hills, in the Little Osaka enclave off Sawtelle Boulevard, chef-owner Ken Namba gently smokes his Vancouver Island wild salmon over applewood and then pairs it with the collar, seared to a gorgeous, glistening gold.

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  • Hawaiian Ahi Tuna at Sushi Zo in Los Angeles, CA

    An omakase lunch here might start with yuzu- and spicy radish-dressed Kumamoto oysters, then proceed through sea urchin and squid "noodles" and slices of translucent, ruby-red Hawaiian tuna that glisten like tropical fruit.

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    Pizza Stracchino with Artichokes, Olives, and Lemon at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, CA

    Nancy Silverton's astonishingly flavorful pizza pies are worth every second of the two-hour wait. Order the squash blossom-tomato-burrata combo or the masterpiece of gooey Stracchino, shaved artichokes, olives, and lemon.

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  • Cochinita Pibil at Loteria Grill Hollywood in Los Angeles, CA

    The original Lotería is a Third Street landmark; the newer Grill serves the same note-perfect tacos in a sit-down setting. You'll want the cochinita pibil (marinated pork, slow-roasted in a banana leaf) chased with a michelada or a bottle of Mexican coke (made with real cane sugar).

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  • Khua Kling Dry Curry at Jitlada in Los Angeles, CA

    The mind-bendingly spicy cuisine of southern Thailand is at the heart of Jitlada, a cozy Thai Town canteen whose fiery khua kling (a turmeric-charged dry curry with beef or diced pork) will cause you to see through time.

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  • Braised Pork Belly at Izayoi in Los Angeles, CA

    This folksy, convivial Little Tokyo tavern specializes in small plates that evoke "ofukuro no aji" (the taste of mother's cooking)—that is, if your mom made you grilled yellowtail collar, braised pork belly, or flanlike tofu topped with crunchy scallions, baby shrimp, and wispy threads of ginger.

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    The Office Burger at Father's Office in Los Angeles, CA

    This fancily dressed haute-burger interloper is made with ground dry-aged chuck, topped with a smokey bacon and caramelized-onion compote, Gruyère, Maytag blue cheese, and arugula, and served on a disarmingly crunchy demi-baguette. It's less a burger than an exceedingly rich steak sandwich.

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    Double-Double Burger at In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles, CA

    You can sample L.A.'s myriad haute-burger offerings and never find one like the Double-Double: a well-balanced assemblage of fresh trimmings and never-frozen beef that evokes all the scarf-worthy pleasures of fresh food, while utterly transcending the genre.

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  • Wood-Roasted Tahitian Squash at Gjelina in Venice, CA

    Chef Travis Lett;s talent for locavore cooking makes even vegetarian dishes (wood-roasted Tahitian squash with rosemary; braised chickpeas with harissa) taste as hearty as the short ribs. Dine in the candlelit dining room or back courtyard.

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    Espresso at LAMILL Coffee Boutique in Los Angeles, CA

    Obsessively crafted espresso drinks are the main perk at Lamill, but the note-perfect coffee is equalled by the food, courtesy of Providence chef Michael Cimarusti. Don't miss the eggs en cocotte, a burbling ramekin of velvety yolk swirled around crimini and oyster mushrooms, lardons, and herbs.

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    Pastrami Sandwich at Langer's Delicatessen & Restaurant. in Los Angeles, CA

    The 63-year-old Langer's, source of the finest pastrami this side of the Hudson. The meat—smokey around the edges, Kobe-tender—requires not a smidge of seasoning, though mustard comes standard. The rye, par-baked daily in Tarzana, is plush in the center but crisp at the crust.

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  • Tarte Flambe at Church and State in Los Angeles, CA

    At the forefront of Downtown's dining renaissance is this cacophonous bistro, where chef Walter Manzke conjures French classics: lard-cooked frites, charcuterie, and a shockingly good tart flambé with caramelized onions, smoked bacon, and molten Gruyère.

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  • egg sandwich at Huckleberry in Santa Monica, CA

    Join the perpetual line snaking through Huckleberry's dining room to the bakery counter and order the platonic ideal of egg sandwiches, with Niman Ranch bacon, cave-aged Gruyère, arugula, and tangy aioli on buttered country bread.

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  • Crudo at Animal Restaurant in Los Angeles, CA

    Though the menu at this top restaurant has all the pig-happy, nose-to-tail Dude Food that you'd expect in Brooklyn or Chicago, the unexpected gem is the crudo: a combo of raw fluke, yuzu, serrano chile, apple, and pungent mint that's so silky it's downright girly.

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