Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in Los Angeles for 2014

We have enjoyed some wonderful meals at restaurants throughout Los Angeles. As devoted foodies, our team IMG_0980selected a repertoire of new and old dining establishments that provide creative fare, that is beautifully presented by attentive service, in an inviting atmosphere. Here is our list of honorees from some unique dining venues:

#10 Sonoma Wine Garden – Executive Chef Garee Battad, Sous Chef Jefferson Reyes

Located up on the third-floor dining deck of Santa Monica Place, the atmosphere offers the quintessential sunset viewing spot to have a glass of wine with a farmers market fruit and cheese board. The creative cocktails by the talented mixologist Rob Floyd go nicely with Reyes’ lamb meatballs served over linguine. Open for lunch, weekend brunch and dinner nightly. 395 Santa Monica Place, Ste. #350. (424)214-4560.

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#9 Open Sesame – Ali Kobeissi

This full-service, casual restaurant serves some of the best Lebanese cuisine in Los Angeles. Our favorite dishes include the grilled halloumi cheese with sliced watermelon, skewers of lean beef and lamb, smokey garlic baba ganoush and the fried cauliflower pita sandwich. Kobeissi has another Open Sesame in Long Beach and is passionate about using the best products for his classic dishes with a contemporary twist. Open daily at 11 a.m. 7458 Beverly Blvd. (323)525-1698.

#8 Crossroads – Founder and Chef Tal Ronnen, Executive Chef Scot  DSC_0096Jones

The elegant supper club serves vegan and vegetarian dishes that will convert almost every carnivore in town into eating healthier. Ronnen makes his buttery cheeses with almond and macadamia milk. Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and actor James Caan are all huge fans and dine here often. Make reservations for their Sunday Brunch to try their Bloody Mary rolling cart, Crossroads Benedict and fried “chicken” with waffles. There is a full bar and wine and beer list. Open for lunch during the week starting at 11:30 a.m. Dinner is served daily at 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday Brunch begins at 10 a.m. 8284 Melrose Ave. (323)782-9245.

#7 smoke.oil.salt – Executive Chef Perfecto Rocher

The scent of the wood burning oven lures foodies into this Spanish tapas and wine establishment. So does Perfecto’s multi-course paella dinners on Sundays for $49 per IMG_8645person. Partner Stephen Gelber offers some rare Spanish wines for guests poured by the glass using the Coravin system. Order the black skillet filet with a light artichoke omelet topped with a mosaic of sliced pickled fennel, celery, mint and cauliflower. Another must-try is the butcher’s filet of lean Iberico pork wood-fire grilled to seal in the succulent flavors. Dinner is served Tuesdays through Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to midnight. The Wine Bar menu is served until 2 a.m. 7274 Melrose Ave. (323)930-7900.

#6 DOMA – Executive Chef Dustin J. Tranibabt-beets-Doma

Visually stunning dishes come out of Trani’s kitchen, from grilled octopus to braised veal with crispy polenta. His special handcut pasta dish is coated with garlic, tomatoes, Dungeness crab butter and Parmesan cheese. Etheral light pasta pillows are dusted with truffle sauce. The restaurant offers pre-theater dinners for guests seeing a show at the nearby Wallace Annenberg Center of Performing Arts. The four-course meal is $38 per person. Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday for dinner at 5 p.m. 362 N. Camden Drive (310)277-7346.

#5 Plan Check – Executive Chef Ernesto Uchimura

DSC_0293This is a fun gastropub with three locations in Los Angeles serving savory burgers, innovative cocktails and comfort food. Uchimura incorporates an Asian flair to his pastrami sandwich with Kimchi mustard spread on to layers of double smoked pastrami, Swiss cheese and a sunny fried egg on top. The Plan Check burger has Americanized Dashi cheese with Uchimura’s famous ketchup leather, and schmaltz onions on a crunchy bun. Diners love the short rib pot roast, French fries cooked in beef tallow and sprinkled with smoked salt. Try the cruller donuts filled with cream and fruit. They offer a variety of draft beer, wine and Japanese whiskey. Open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to closing at 351 N. Fairfax Ave. (323)591-0094 and 1800 Sawtelle Blvd. (310)444-1411. Opens at 11 a.m. at 1111 Wilshire Blvd. (213)401-1616.

#4 Perch – Executive Chef Gerardo Benitez IMG_0326

After taking two elevators up to the 15th floor before arriving on the rooftop of a historic art-deco building in downtown Los Angeles, guests are treated to spectacular 360-degree view of Los Angeles while sitting at tables on the outside patio or near a blazing fireplace. Twinkling lights provide a festive ambiance. Chef Benitez prepares cuisine with French flair, like boeuf Bordelaise, steak with frites, Bouillabaisse, scallops, ravioli of rabbit and delightful fromage and charcuterie plates. Bring out of town guests here at sunset to show off our magnificent city. Open Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. for Happy Hour and at 5 p.m. dinner is served. On weekends, Perch opens at 11 a.m. for brunch and later dinner service. Live music and lively bar scene keeps this place open until 2 a.m. during the weekend. 448 S. Hill St. (213)802-1770.

Connie.Teds_.Lobster#3 Connie and Ted’s – Executive Chef Sam Baxter

Named after the award-winning Michael Cimarusti’s (Chef and partner) grandparents, this classic crab shack in West Hollywood offers some of the freshest seafood in town. Looking for oysters on the half-shell? A platter filled with Kumamoto from Washington, Matunuck from Rhode Island and Beau Soliel from New Brunswick are available. So are peeky toe crab cakes, and soft shell clam steamers bathed in butter and clam broth. Their lobster roll can be ordered hot or cold. Enjoy this fare with bottled or draft craft beer or with a glass of wine from California, Washington, Oregon or France. Spiny sea urchin can be spread on toast, and their Hook burger is better than most. Open for dinner only on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturdays Connie and Ted’s is open for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday it’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 8171 Santa Monica Blvd. (323)848-2722.

#2 Whisper Restaurant and Lounge – Executive Chef Anthony Jacquet

Located at The Grove is Rick Caruso’s romantic restaurant that offers an engaging American menu with an international twist by Chef Anthony Jacquet. Last summer, Jacquet was selected amongWhisper-Lounge.-Tuna-Tartareover 30 talented chefs across the U.S. by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau to participate in an immersive culinary journey throughout Taiwan. He was one of three esteemed chefs selected. To celebrate his arrival back to Whisper Restaurant and Lounge, Jacquet is offering a new dish from Jan. 5 to Feb. 5, 2015 – a Taiwanese influenced Berkshire pork belly bun with housemade Hoisin sauce, pickled Fresno peppers, five-spice candied peanuts and a sunny fried quail egg. Other winter fare includes his slow-cooked short rib pot roast, Australian lamb burger, and whole grilled sea bass. Tuesdays they serve a Maine lobster roll on a brioche. Happy Hour is everyday from 3 to 6 p.m. Open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. 189 The Grove Drive, Suite F-90B (323)931-0202.

#1 Scratch Bar – Executive Chef Phillip Frankland Lee

Sitting at the bar and having an 11-course tasting meal prepared right before your eyes by a talented chef is a memorable experience. The 11-course menu at Scratch Bar is filled with innovative Cheff-Lee-Margartiasmall plates including “oyster, mussel, egg, belly, smelt, head, prawn, escolar, duck, chocolate and vanilla,” as the menu reads. Some of our other favorite dishes include a shooter of sake-enhanced green mussel and avocado mousse with a sea urchin. Another favorite is the bone marrow roasted in a hollowed out sourdough bread with pickled red onions and shimeji mushrooms. Desserts are prepared by Chef Lee’s beautiful wife Margarita. Open nightly at 5 p.m. 111 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310)289-8010. This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers on January 1, 2015.

Open Sesame is filled with Lebanese Delights

IMG_1457East of Fairfax in Los Angeles is a new full-service casual Lebanese restaurant, Open Sesame. The name comes from the magical phrase in one of the stories from One Thousand and One Nights. In the story “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” when Open Sesame is announced, the mouth of a cave opens in which forty thieves have hidden treasures. At Open Sesame, the restaurant is filled with wonderful culinary treasures. You will find garlicky fried potatoes, baba ganoush, and exquisite falafel patties made of chickpeas and fava beans, garlic, onions, herbs and exotic spices.

The founder of Open Sesame, Ali Kobeissi opened his first restaurant in Long Beach 14 years ago. It started small, then got so popular that he expanded to accommodate the demand. People from Los Angeles would drive down to Long Beach to enjoy his lamb chops, chicken tawook and beef kabobs, so he opened another Open Sesame in Los Angeles.

Looking over the menu, I learned that everything that comes out of the kitchen is prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients, and many of the recipes have been in Kobeissi’s family for generations.

It’s a colorful restaurant with a full bar, indoor and outdoor seating. The interior offers Mediterranean light fixtures, tile flooring and skylights in the middle of the dining room making it light and bright.

On my first visit, we started with green ice tea with a splash of orange blossom water and mint while looking over the menu.IMG_1465

The general manager, Alex, approached our table to recommend a few appetizers. We ordered the signature fried potatoes sautéed with cilantro, garlic, roasted chili and a generous amount of lemon juice. When they arrived we dipped them in the garlic sauce to jazz them up even more.

Another appetizer worth ordering is the grilled halloumi cheese with slices of watermelon. The white cheese and bright red watermelon were presented like fallen dominos, slightly stacked on top of each other. I had never tasted halloumi cheese – a mixture of cow, sheep and goat cheese. It has a higher melting point than other cheese and is easy to fry giving it a slightly golden and springing texture.

Open Sesame offers three different salads that are dressed in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, dry mint and sumac. Sumac is a reddish-purple powder used as a spice to add a lemony taste to salads or meat. It enhances the tabouleh with chopped parsley, bulgar, tomato and fresh mint. It also give a bit of pizzazz to the fattoush, a Lebanese peasant salad topped with toasted pita chips.

IMG_1459To get a sampling of authentic Lebanese delights, we ordered the Open Sesame combo with a skewer of extra lean ground beef and lamb, cubes of marinated and charbroiled chicken breast served with garlic sauce and wild cucumber pickles. It also comes with a beef kabob that is marinated and charbroiled top sirloin steak. The dish arrives with basmati rice and either creamy hummus or the smokey garlic baba ganoush made with cooked eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and various seasonings. Both are excellent, however I love their baba ganoush. I spooned it on just about everything.

You can order these on the lunch and dinner menu. Another lunch favorite is the pita sandwich. There are ten varieties to choose from on the menu. I ordered the fried cauliflower with onion, lettuce, tomato, pine nuts and a tahini sauce. Tahini is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds. Lemon juice is added with salt and garlic, and then thinned with water. It is one of the most popular toppings for meat and vegetables in Middle Eastern cuisine.
They offer a special lunch menu that includes an entree and salad. The falafel is dynamite and is served with hummus, fattoush, tomato, lettuce, pickled cucumbers and Tahini sauce.

They make three different types of Paninis with a choice of charbroiled chicken shawarma cooked on a spit and sliced thinly IMG_1462or a vegetarian labne made with creamy kefir cheese, tomato, fresh mint and olives. They also make a halloumi cheese and cucumber panini.

Save room for their baklawa made with flaky phyllo pastry and filled with pistachios. It pairs well with Lebanese ice cream in pistachio or almond flavor. Another tasty treat is K’naafeh. It’s a Lebanese version of sticky toffee pudding cake. It’s made with semolina wheat pastry with sweet cheese or ashta cream and a sprinkling of orange blossom syrup. It’s not as sugary as sticky toffee pudding and is extremely satisfying. Pair this with a Moroccan green hot tea infused with mint and orange blossom.

Open Sesame offers a catering services that offers three of four courses with a selection of appetizers, entrees, salads and desserts starting at $25 per person. Menus include plenty of lamb, beef and poultry dishes as well as several options for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free guests.

They offer drop-off service with food arriving in disposable serving trays at the correct temperature. This is ideal for business luncheons, wrap parties, baby and bridal showers, wedding receptions and charity events.

At Open Sesame the quality of the ingredients shines through and leaves you wanting to experience Lebanese cuisine again. $-$$ Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. On Friday and Saturday it stays open until 11 p.m. 7458 Beverly Blvd. (323)525-1698.

This article was published in the October 2, 2014 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

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