A Michelin star is born!
Dear Michelin Guide,
We’re so excited that you decided to create a regional Michelin Guide to all of California. And since it’s been ten years since the last time you rated Los Angeles, we wanted to reach out and offer our two cents on what we think is most deserving of your sought-after-stars. We know the city is hard; it’s large and intimidating, and we understand your trepidation as your reviewers sulk over traffic and mileage and gas prices. So, we decided to narrow things down for you. We’re going to propose some starry-suggestions just for Downtown LA. You can take the metro, you can walk, you can Uber, or you can scoot to some of the most interesting, most dynamic, most multi-cultural, and most mouthwatering cuisines anywhere in the world. Here is a superb list to get you started…
Celebrity chef David Chang has brought his Momofuku empire to an obscure corner of Chinatown with one of the most interesting restaurants to hit LA in quite some time. The menu is a mishmash of cultures and cuisines that range from Bounty Bowls with koji and mascarpone cheese to Boneless Chuck Short Ribs with melted raclette (your clogged arteries will never be happier). The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the atmosphere is fun, the design is impeccably minimalist, and the food is divine.
You no longer need to go to Nashville in order to salivate over the city’s eponymous chicken. Owner/chef/LA native Johnny Ray Zone presides over a tiny counter-seat space in a Chinatown mini-mall with lines that wrap around the block every day of the week. Don’t be put off though, the line moves fast, as the yells of “yes, chef!” waft through the crowds along with the smells of hot sauce that permeate the entire block.
Stars: Bib Gourmand
There’s no shortage of counter sushi spots all over LA, but if you want the best, post up at this Little Tokyo joint’s zigzag bar and simply ask the masters what’s good for the day. Fresh cuts of toro (fatty tuna), uni (sea urchin), and kurodai (red snapper) are placed gingerly in front of voracious Angeleno’s who devour each succulent sliver in single bites. The best deals to be found are the lunch and dinner specials (though you have to sit at a table), but the best experience is undoubtedly at the bar.
What was formerly a famous food truck has become DTLA’s hottest brick-and-mortar taco spot. East LA local and French-trained chef Wes Avila has mastered the art of gourmet Mexican food at street food prices. Unique tacos range from Baja fried cod and sweet potato to Park Char Xui and butternut squash. This hip joint also has a liquor license and doles out savory micheladas, perfectly paired vinos, and an array of punch that might literally knock you out. Unstuffy, always savory, and never expensive, Guerilla Tacos deserves every one of its accolades.
Stars: Bib Gourmand
Another born in LA chef, Ray Garcia helms what is quite possibly the most ambitious Mexican restaurant in the city, and that’s saying something considering there are thousands of competitors to choose from. Every dish on the menu has a “wow” factor where your mouth doesn’t quite know what to do with itself as the bold flavors splash across your tongue. Standouts include the chochoyotes dumplings with pasilla chilies, the chicharron with elephant garlic mojo, and the lamb neck tamales with king oyster mushrooms—though you can’t really go wrong with anything here including the unique mezcal and Tequila cocktails.
For your omakase fix, there is no restaurant more refined, more Zen-like, and more perfect than Q Sushi downtown. Tokyo native Chef Hiroyuki lords over a classic wooden bar as he delicately dishes pristine cuts of raw fish from a changing nightly menu (whatever is the best is what he will serve). What you will get is 15-20 different pieces of fish that will wow, surprise, and challenge everything you think you know about sushi.
Âu Lạc LA
As plant-based cuisine continues its takeover of the LA culinary scene, Âu Lạc continues to amaze with its creative takes on Vietnamese food mixed with Americana. Chef Mai Nguyen’s menu flows from eggrolls, bánh mì, and pho to meatless lasagna, eggplant vermicelli, and Friend Fries made with yucca root. The space is clean, the staff is warm, and the location sits directly across from the majestic, Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Hall.
Chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis, two more LA locals, have created the best Mediterranean restaurant in LA. In a strange corner of the Arts District, this massive space feels like an indoor garden with an open kitchen where flames burst out to help create perfect hummus, succulent octopus, grilled lamb, toasty malawach, and braised pork tagine. A clever cocktail list, tap beers, and hearty wine menu pair perfectly with the Middle Eastern-flavored favorites.
Fine dining downtown is raised to new heights, both literally and figuratively, on the 71st floor of the US Bank Tower building. Chef Javier Lopez’s menu boasts New American fare for power lunchers and dressed up couples with delicacies like charred avocados, Wagyu steak tartare, and scrumptiously cooked scallops. As you gawk over the DTLA skyline, make sure to peruse the never-ending wine list that features one-of-a-kind vintages from around the globe.
If you’re looking for the best single Italian dish in all of Los Angeles, you’ll find it at Italian-born chef Angelo Auriana’s Factory Kitchen. Amidst the lively ambiance and friendly and knowledgeable staff, hiding in the deep menu of Italian goodies is the Mandilli di Seta. Thin handkerchief pasta oozes with Ligurian almond pesto that is so good, you’ll wonder if there was divine intervention in the kitchen. When you come out of your heavenly food coma, make sure to finish things off with cannoli’s that also come straight from the gods.
Chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis are the only chefs with two restaurants on this list, which goes to show their culinary mastery across a variety of cuisine types. Bestia is an Italian joint in the Arts District that is the ideal date spot for pasta and pizza lovers. The bustling abode takes over an entire warehouse space with exposed brick and air ducts that give it a rustic feel while the smell of garlic wafts over the entire proceedings. Favorites include house-made prosciutto, Alla ‘Nduja pizza, and the potato leek ravioli.
There aren’t a lot of fine-dining establishments in LA, but Patina is one of them and worth dressing up for. The last time Michelin was in LA, Patina got one star for its tasting menu of French cuisine that includes Maine lobster, black truffle tagliatelle, omble chevalier (Arctic char), and the most decadent cheese tray in town. The restaurant is attached to Walt Disney Hall and is the ideal pre-show dinner spot for Francophile foodies. Make sure to take a look at the water list where you’ll discover rare bottles from around the world from the taps of Buckingham Palace to Nordic fjords.
Carved out of a former rectory, Chef Neal Fraser and Amy Knoll Fraser have built a modern American cuisine mecca featuring an award-winning menu with great wines to match. Whether it’s for brunch, happy hour, or dinner, you’ll discover mouthwatering favorites like the 32-ounce porterhouse, lamb belly with charred eggplant, and barbeque smoked tofu that would make any carnivore reconsider what vegetarianism could look like.
Stars: Bib Gourmand
The most meticulously crafted menu in all of LA belongs to chef David Schlosser’s Kappo-style (traditional Japanese multi-course dinner) restaurant, Shibumi. The master craftsman personally handles every delicate dish atop a 400-year-old cypress bar that includes unique (and ever-changing) items like grilled house-dried squid, pork jowl iron pot, and Chinmi of Kara Sumi (the caviar of Japan). The rarest of all is the Kobe beef, as Shibumi is the only restaurant in southern California that serves the real thing.