Marco Polo Trattoria
Los Angeles is a densely populated wonderland of inventive, surprising, and widely representative cuisines. The late, great food critic Jonathan Gold made it his after-work job to eat at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard one year. He covered ground all the way to Century City, “never made it to the beach,” but the telling of his journey, excavating the lesser-known gems as he ate his way through Central American, soul, and Persian-Jewish cuisines is the stuff of legend. He paints a vivid picture of what we’re dealing with here. In L.A., food is life. It’s also everywhere.
Thus, it’s impossible to try it all. For this reason, we love dineL.A. Restaurant Week, which kicks off this Friday, and goes until January 31 (right, right…that’s two weeks). It makes the intimidating challenge of sampling all those places on your list—or ones you might have never normally considered—considerably little less daunting. Over 400 restaurants participate, often curating a special prix fixe menu for the occasion. Lunches range from $20–$35 and dinners are between $39–$59 per person.
Since 400 can still feel overwhelming, we’ve highlighted a handful of hot picks across town that you should add to your list, and then quickly tick off. (Browse the full list of participating restaurants, view menus, and make reservations at dineL.A.)
Celeb Chef Casey Lane (formerly of Tasting Kitchen) puts his unique spin on coastal Italian cuisine at the newly opened Silver Lake Pool & Inn. Creamy mozzarella sits in a pool of fresh tomatoes and olive oil for his rendition of the caprese, “so you can take the bread and soak up the sauce afterwards,” he advises. For an appetizer, he scattered mason jars of preserved lemons across the table — the perfect usage for winter lemons — to spread like marmalade over grilled bread from The Larder Baking Co. To wrap it up: soft serve. Swoon.
Sometimes an odd concept pays off. Italian and Japanese might not seem like a eureka fusion, but Orsa and Winston makes it work, and work well. Think: lots of seafood, like the mussel and scallop chowder; or chilled soba noodles with pesto, uni, and abalone. The man behind it, Josef Centeno, has a firm grip on popular DTLA establishments. He also runs Bar Ama, Baco Mercat, and PYT. Orsa and Winston will be serving a five-course tasting menu for dineL.A.
Craft is an industry go-to brought to L.A. from New York by none other than Top Chef host Tom Colicchio. But don’t let that deter you. It’s also a great place to drink wine, people watch, and sign a network deal. For dineL.A., they’re offering a pretty impressive selection of land and sea entrees—Berkshire pork loin, Ora King salmon—to pair up with their fantastic drinks list.
Atrium, the latest brainchild of Jake Laughlin and Beau Milliken (Kettle Black, Sawyer), boasts a gorgeously designed interior loaded with plant life, light wood, high ceilings, and all the beautifully-appointed accoutrement hipsters crave, including scrumptious food. For dineL.A. they’ll be serving up elote-style broccoli, cavatelli with squash-miso broth, glazed pork cheek, and a number of other imaginative and flavor-packed dishes.
BBQ lovers rejoice, Maple Block’s smoked chicken, pork ribs, and brisket just might hold up to Texas…or Kansas City. Fighting words, we know, but they’re that good. Their side dishes aren’t to be missed either: buttermilk biscuits and mac and cheese with cheddar crumble and chives will leave you feeling adequately gluttonous. dineL.A. specials include a free range half chicken or the brisket and pork spare ribs combo.
Once reviewed by Gold himself as “spicy, nimble and adept at crossing cultural boundaries; quick to reference street food traditions but with farmers market ingredients,” Here’s Looking at You is a collaboration between Jonathan Whitener (Animal) and Lien Ta, with a fusion focus. Indeed, they draw from Mexican, Vietnamese, and American cuisines for a style that translates to some amazing dishes you’ll see on-menu during dineL.A. week, like the hamachi crudo, brisket tartar, and beef striploin with sarsparilla.