Best LA restaurants this summer

From best Italian restaurants, my favourite burgers, to perfect brunch places and that Asian fix - here's my list (27 Jul - 2 Aug 2015)

Yes yes, give me more food! Straight after my post on New York eats I enjoyed especially this July, read on in this post for the full list of the best eats I enjoyed in Los Angeles. I last came to LA with Y and her bunch of girlie friends in 2012 and it was quite fun although I think I am still a East Coast bear more than a West Coast, give me New York anytime. That said, LA is a place that grows on me and I really enjoyed my time this trip just chilling out, visiting museums and the beach and of course feeding myself with some pretty yummy food.

Having researched online extensively coupled with countless recommendations by fellow friends who are frequent flyers to LA, I managed to eat some pretty amazing food ranging from Italian to fabulous breakfasts, burgers of course and having my Korean fix as well. Here’s my list of my favourites eats in LA, and a plus point is all of these eateries are pretty large group friendly and kids friendly.

My Fav Italian 

Madeo (West Hollywood) 8897 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048, Tel:+1 310-859-4903. Reservations a must.

This traditional Italian restaurant has a bit of an old school feel with white tablecloth in a dark wood dining room. It’s location is perfect given it’s near some great shopping along the main street of South Robertson Blvd, it’s a perfect lunch spot if you are planning to come here to do some retail therapy.  The pastas here are especially my favourite, I always return here if I can for the Spaghetti Alla Bottarga, it’s simply yummy.

The dark wood interiors of Madeo and my favourite Spaghetti Alla Bottarga.

Bestia (Downtown LA) 2121 E 7th Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90021, Tel:+1 213-514-5724. Reservations a must, and book as early as you can.

I am not kidding you when I say this is probably one of the best Italian restaurants I have had even including the ones in Milan that I have had. This is THE RESTAURANT of the moment in LA. Located in Downtown LA – the emerging Arts District, in the middle of factory warehouses is Bestia. With brick walls, and raw industrial ceiling, it’s got a industrial raw feel that seems quite gritty but the food is anything but that. It was heaving with people when we arrived, and we were just so thankful that we managed to get a table for the large group of us, since it’s the hardest table to book now in LA.

Exterior of Bestia’s brick walls.

Randomly located in the middle of factory buildings.

Heaving and bustling with people, noisy but great atmosphere.

The man behind this is Oris Menashe who opened Bestia with his wife, Genevieve Gergis, and restaurateur Bill Chait in late 2012. Before that he was the chef de cuisine at Angelini Osteria, another famed Italian restaurant I heard from my LA frequenter friends but didn’t have a chance to try. Recently, Food & Wine magazine announced its 10 Best New Chefs of 2015, and L.A.’s Ori Menashe was in this list, and his food clearly explains why he deserves to be in this list.

The best part of the menu are the house-made charcuterie – some of it is pretty special and out of this world, the pastas – what can i say, yummy yummy and they do the the Naples style pizza so well, it was easy to have 2 – 3 slices on my own, and no surprise given Menashe used to work in Mozza for some time. The meats are also done so impeccably as well. Make this your priority the next time you visit LA, it’s worth trekking all the way down to the part of LA wherever you might be staying.

Fav Breakfast Joints

LA has a string of great breakfast places and these next two here were my top picks for sure for that hearty morning pick up.

Jon & Vinny’s (Fairfax) 412 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036. Tel: +1 323-334-3369. No reservations.

The creaters behind restaurants like Son of A Gun (which I quite enjoyed in my last trip) and Animal (aargh wanted to get a booking there this trip, but was impossible to get one), had just opened this a few months ago. The concept is that of a casual Italian diner, and Jon and Vinny themselves coin the cuisine Cali-Italian. I think the idea was to go back to basics with nothing really fancy here but just really good hearty Italian fare – the pastas and pizzas here are reminiscent of what an Italian grandmother might make for you. The ingredients are bought daily from the farmer’s market to really keep it fresh. Rather than to do an expected diner decor (think red seats), the decor was refreshingly Japanese or even Scandi with lots of natural wood used for the tables and seating, and was quite a nice space for a morning brekkie.

We ordered a bunch of things such as their nutella toast (so sinful but so good) and one of their famous breakfast pizza, which seemed so weird for breakfast, but oh I really enjoyed it. I would best describe their pizza as a cross between a crispy thin crust and a Naples style – I know it’s hard to describe and the sides are charred slightly, which is pretty unique!

Me and my breakfast pizza – topped with Zuckerman Yukon Gold Potato, Egg, Rosemary, Parmesan and red onion.

Nutella toast… sinful but good.

Having my morning cappuccino.

Gjelina (Venice Beach) 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90291, Tel: +1 310-450-1429. Better to come here on a weekday and before 10 am to get a table for breakfast.

Coming to this side of LA – Venice Beach and the Santa Monica area, takes a bit of planning, but it’s worth coming to Gjelina to have a nice breakfast, and then hang out by the waters in Venice Beach, or stroll along the shops around here. Another no reservations place, we came here pretty early, ie before 10 am on a weekday and we were lucky to get a big table. The breakfast has a nice selection of eggs in different styles, pancakes etc. The portions aren’t as crazy huge as the ones I am used to in New York, which is quite good as at least they feel slightly ‘healthier’. What I like best is eating out in their terrace with the perfect LA weather.

My morning OJ, and deciding what to order for food.

Interiors of the Gjelina’s, but a table in the terrace is the best.

Digging into the breakfast spread.

We enjoyed a bit of dipping my paws in the water at Venice Beach. I do hate the tourist stretch of shops along Venice Beach, but once you get to the sand and sea part, it’s pretty nice. And for that photo op moment, you gotta go see the Frank Ghery-designed Google building which is modelled after a pair of Binoculars. YL had good fun photobombing my perfect selfie shot.

Enjoying the great view at Venice beach. 

Selfie with Google binoculars building.

My Perfect Lunch Spot

Farm Shop (Santa Monica) 225 26th St #25, Santa Monica, CA 90402, Tel:+1 310-566-2400. Reservations available on OpenTable.

This is another one of my favourite restaurants in LA thanks to fellow foodie friend AL who drove us all the way down here to have lunch. Located in the back of a collective group of shops in Brentwood Country Mart, which has a cute barnyard feel. Founded in 2010 by chef-owner Jeff Cerciello (ex Thomas Keller alumni), the concept of this Brentwood establishment is part shop part restaurant. The shop part sells an amazing selection of fresh produce from meats to seafood to cheeses and freshly made salads as well as a superbly curated list of bottled products. It took Y and I a lot of will power not to buy anything from the shop, give our rather dire luggage situation after being 3 weeks away.

What an amazing food shop!

I wish I could buy back some of the amazing meats.

Adjoining to it is an airy restaurant which is where I had my best casual lunch. Simply put the place may feel casual, but every dish we had was so perfectly executed, using fantastic fresh ingredients and just simple great country cooking. What I observed about every dish was the clever and interesting use of ingredients even to go with the simplest of dishes like the dressing on a salad. The dishes can be had individually but they also taste even better shared which is what we did. My favourites had to be the haricort vert salad and the chickpea fritters for starters. For mains, I really enjoyed the semolina strozzpreti which was basically a type of pasta cooked with a pork fennel sausage and the prime beef calotte steak salad was delicious! And remember to save some room for dessert because they are all soo good. I don’t remember the names of the desserts I had, but if you see the meringue ball with the molten chocolate on the menu, you have to order that. The best part about the meal is the price was pretty reasonable for the 6 of us, we spent around US$300 including drinks, starters, main courses and desserts.

Fav Burgers

In & Out  Tons of locations throughout California – see location finder here. My favourite is the one near the airport – super convenient. 9149 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

This is like the burger to have in LA for all my burger fanatic friends when they come to LA. Oddly the first time I had it in 2012 with Y, I really hated it, maybe because we ordered the “Animal” from the secret menu as advised by our cab driver which on hindsight was a mistake as I think the beauty of In & Out burgers is to keep it simple. Upon arriving in LA, the first thing that the bunch of us did was to drive to In & Out near the airport. We decided to just eat there instead of doing drive thru. We ordered the classic cheeseburger, which I have to say I quite enjoyed. The all beef patties were juicy and the bun was nice and soft, and was just the perfect size, not too big, not too small. A pity we didn’t have time to get one on the road when leaving LA. Personally, I still prefer Shake Shack, but In & Out is pretty well priced for the quality.

As always bustling with people.

Drive through menu.

Digging into the breakfast spread.

Umami Burger Many locations in LA.

Los Feliz location: 4655 Hollywood Boulevard. Los Angeles, CA 90027 and Santa Monica location: 500 Broadway (Entrance on 5th St), Santa Monica, CA 90401

Another gourmet burger chain in LA that’s spanned outlets in other cities such as Vegas and New York is Umami Burger. I first read about this back in 2012 and Y & I really enjoyed it. The burgers here are little bit different from the standard fare, offering concoctions such as Truffle Burger and Korean inspired – K-BBQ, but my favourite is the Manly Burger which has bacon larden, onion strings, beer cheddar cheese on top of a juicy beef patty. Need I say more? I went twice to eat it with my different buddies, and the most interesting location is Los Feliz which looked like a strange Chinese restaurant – I think the funny part was some of the aunties that were with us, thought we were having Chinese food much to their joy, till they saw the menu was just burgers. Don’t forget to order the Maple Bacon fries- you will regret it if you don’t eat it!

As always bustling with people.

My favourite Manly Burger.

Enjoying my burger 2nd time round.

Chinese signages in the Los Feliz location.

Perfect Asian Fix – Korean BBQ

Many friends I know spend anything from 1 week to 1 month in LA, so it’s pretty hard to not miss some Asian food after say about 1 week there. I mean there’s only so much of American food that Y and her other friends could have. So this brings me to share with you my favourite Korean BBQ place.

Park’s BBQ 955 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006,Tel: +1 213-380-1717

This restaurant located in LA’s Korean town serves up some amazing high quality beef cooked in classic Korean BBQ flair, with a fantastic selection of Korean classic dishes like my favourite kim chi soup to seafood pancake. If you are lucky you may spot a celebrity dining here, their wall is adorned to the max with pictures of Korean to Hollywood celebrities. The service is fast and cheerful, and the only danger about dining here, is over ordering like us 🙂

For Sweet Cravings

Last but not least, this post is not complete without sharing at least my favourite sweet places when I am feeling like a sugar rush.

Sweet Lady Jane (West Hollywood) 8360 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069. Tel: +1 323-653-7145

They have a few locations but the Melrose location was the closest to where we stayed. The good thing is you can pre order the cake 24 hours or more in advance, but we forgot to do it, so decided to wake up early and head to the shop by 9 am to get ourselves some indulgent cake for our last night in LA. I love the cakes here as they have an old fashioned quality to them, the cream is just the best and the cakes in general aren’t too sweet. We discovered the triple berry cake this trip which was just divine – it’s their top seller! And I felt happy when the staff in the shop said that I made their day appearing that morning. I really do miss their cakes so much as there’s nothing like that back in Singapore.

Toughest part about being in Sweet Lady Jane is deciding which cake to buy.

Milk (La Brea) 7290 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, Tel: +1 323-939-6455

Another wonderful place we discovered was this ice cream shop serving up some delicious ice cream and milk shakes. Even their Affogato was really sold, aromatic and robust expresso topped with the yummiest vanilla ice cream!

Hmm, what flavour should I have?

For Coffee Addicts

There’s an amazing number of coffee places in LA, and it’s really not hard to find one around the corner wherever you are. We were pretty blessed to stay in the West Hollywood area, as one of the top coffe places in the city is Alfred’s Coffee which we went to daily.

Alfred’s Coffee

8509 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069, Tel:+1 424-288-4126

8428 Melrose Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90069, Tel:+1 323-944-0811

The Melrose Ave location is a cute spot in an alley way, and located to the popular spinning studio Cycle House – probably more famous because of it’s reality  show. While the Melrose Place location is quite pretty located along the tree lined avenue of Melrose Place and it’s gorgeous boutiques.

Having my morning cuppa at Alfred’s.

We also went to the likes of a few restaurants which didn’t really make my list . There’s Providence – a fine dining seafood centric restaurant, don’t get me wrong the food was definitely not bad, but given the reviews online, I didn’t think it was that amazing and if anything, the food was quite safe and uninspiring. Another hot LA table – Hinoki and The Bird, which does Japanese inspired dishes, nice vibe but the food was just average I think, nothing really memorable. Another well known place Crustacean known for their secret recipe garlic noodles with crab was really overrated and disappointing. I was just curious what secret recipe is there for the bland noodles, but perhaps they speak to the audience there. After all, I guess our palate is spoilt with all the wonderful selection of chill and black pepper crabs in Singapore.

I wish it just wasn’t so far away from Singapore, blogging about all this makes me wanna take a plane there now to eat my favourite food there! Don’t forget to reference this list the next time you go to Los Angeles. Check out #loveyinla on my instagram @loveyloi.

Admiring some art in between all the eating – At Hammer Museum admiring Mark Bradford’s Scorched Earth exhibition.

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