Woody Allen summed up Los Angeles best when he explained their cultural advantage is making a righthand turn on a red light.

While Los Angeles has come a long away from the culinary waste land of the 70s (when Annie Hall was made), it’s still eons behind the dining meccas of NYC, SF, Portland, Chicago, Charleston and many other great food towns. However, Los Angeles is not all bad. As any Angelino knows, you spend quite a bit of time defending the fair city’s honor against anyone and everyone not from there. I once had a conversation with a bartender in Toronto who was railing against Los Angeles, only to later reveal she had never laid foot in the city! Being the second largest city in America has it’s edible advantages. Los Angeles is home to more spoken languages than anywhere else in the world, second only to Queens NY. Another win for New York. And where there are foreign languages there is ethnic food. Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize winning food critic has made a career out of reviewing hole in the wall ethnic spots. I haven’t had the time to delve into the real Los Angeles as mentioned above, but I will. And at that point I will amend my top ten. But for now, here are my top ten Los Angeles restaurants. Same rules as NYC top ten: I need to have dined there more than 3 times, each time I left I will need to have thought “holy shit that was delicious”, and it needs to be the best food in that category. Here we go:

 

Watch Nancy Silverton’s top picks here:
1. Bestia. Downtown. $$$ Hip Casual. Italian.
I knew Bestia was going to be something special when we arrived. After seeing a matinee of The Book of Mormon we got to the restaurant 15 minutes before opening. There was already a line of about 20 people practically salivating over the inventive small dishes. From outside we heard the chants of a nouvelle food fraternity. Once we sat at the bar, had a cocktail and a few bites, I got what the hoopla was about. Hands down the best meal in LA.
2. Pizzeria Mozza. Hancock Park. $$$ Casual. Pizza / Italan.
Yes, there is a lot of hype about Mozza. And now there are several locations too. But when you bite into that pizza, take a sip of wine, and repeat, something happens. It’s that New York, Napoli, deliciousness thing that makes you go “damn”. And it’s all thanks to Nancy Silverton the matriarch responsible for Mozza’s success. Having a partner like Mario Battali doesn’t hurt either.
3. Republique. Hancock Park. $$$ Casual. Bakery / Brunch / Italian.
While I admit to having only enjoyed brunch at Republique, the mere fact that it made it on this list is a testament to how delicious it was. Everything is made on site and high end rich ingredients reign supreme.
4. Night + Market. West Hollywood. $$ Hip Casual. Modern Thai.
Thai is one of my favorite cuisines. The flavors are sharp spicy and remind you that you are alive. I can honestly say Night + Market serves Thai unlike any other Thai restaurant in the states. And that’s a good thing. Fried pig ears and beef tendon are a must.
5. Phillippe the Original. Downtown. $ Casual. Sandwich.
The French Dip sandwich is about as LA as film noir, the aerospace industry and the Red Car. And when you bite into one from Phillippe’s you sort of feel Humphrey Bogart. But from a culinary perspective, it’s a fit of passage and a pretty damn good one at that.
6. A Frame. Culver City. $$ Hip Casual. Modern Korean.
Set in a former IHOP, A Frame bills itself as a modern picnic. Roy Choi, of Kogi Truck brings the thunder to this much welcomed west side restaurant.
7. Farmshop. Brentwood $$ Casual. New American.
Take one part artisan market, one part dine-in restaurant, add exceptional ingredients with a peppering of pretension and you have Farmshop. A delicious restaurant located in the Brentwood country market.
8. Katsu-ya Studio City (original location). $$$$ Casual. Japanese / Sushi.
In typical LA fashion, when I first dined at the original Katsu-ya I saw 3 groups of A-list celebrities. (They really ARE just like US!) That makes Katsu-ya lame, and is probably why they got welcomed into the SBE wing and replicated all over the country. But man, the original is still the OG gangsta sushi. They invented all sorts of deliciousness that have been copied a million times over. It’s definitely worth the trip to the Valley.
9. Animal. Beverly Grove. $$$$ Casual. New American.
I am an omnivore. But in the midst of the offal trend a few years back I wasn’t exactly banging down Chris Cosentino’s door to eat venison brain. However, Animal does it pretty well. It’s a great eating experience, in a less than lovely room.
10. Gjelina. Venice. $$$ Hip Casual. New American.
Oh Gjelina. This restaurant is for me is the perfect representation of most good LA restaurants. The food is more than passable, it’s down right fantastic. But the service and the staff are less than hospitable. Lot’s of beauty, not much competence. I have consistently had bad experiences with the staff and delivery. However, the food and ambiance gets me and it brings me back. And when I’m in Venice, I usually hit up Gjelina to see if I can stomach the line, so I can enjoy the food. But now that they have a take out counter, my problems might be solved.