There was no shortage of new Los Angeles restaurant openings in 2015. We received a variety of new restaurants, as well as some stand-out trends. Here's my take on what went down in the culinary world this year in Los Angeles, and some of my favorites.
Plant Based Restaurants
I'm particularly excited about the rise of plant based, vegan restaurants in Los Angeles. I've been making a transition to a healthier style of eating and I couldn't be happier to see more veggie focused restaurants opening in LA this year.
Many were sad to see Axe on Abbot Kinney close, but I was happy to see Matthew Kenney take over with his Plant Food and Wine - yup, pretty self-explanatory there, and oh so wonderful what he does with vegan fare.
One of my favorite meals of the year was at Le Comptoir, Gary Menes' tiny 10-seat counter in the Hotel Normandie. Menes grows the majority of his food on a personal farm where everything is organic and non-GMO. What that man can do with a vegetable is nothing short of stunning. I also love food as theatre so it was fun to watch everything unfold right in front of me.
I'm also still a big fan of Philip Lee's plant-focused Gadarene Swine in Studio City, which opened at the end of 2014, but I only wish it were closer!
Don't worry meat-lovers, you got equal due this year with an influx of barbecue restaurants. Belcampo opened a location in Santa Monica for take out and dine in while also giving local westside butcher A Cut Above some competition.
Maple Block in Culver City received high praise right out of the gate when the Texas Monthly Barbecue editor visited and proclaimed their brisket the best in CA. Oscar Hermosillo continued his revitalization of the neighborhood around Rose and Lincoln when he opened BBQ joint, Clutch - a great spot to pop in for some smoky meat and sides at a reasonable price. Studio City got Barrel and Ashes and Hollywood got another double named 'cue spot with Butchers and Barbers.
I was pretty happy to make my first visit to BBQ capital Austin this year and I will admit to waiting in line almost 3 hours for the famous La Barbecue ribs and meat. I don't want to have to wait that long again for good food, but it was delicious.
There was something for everyone this year. Vegans and meat lovers were taken care of, and there was also quite a few new seafood restaurants opened. Top of the hype list was Cassia, Bryant Ng's (Spice Table) partnership with the Rustic Canyon folks. There's seafood galore from a decked out raw bar to combination platters and whole grilled fish, they have it all.
Brian Malarkey brought his own seafood bar to the beach with the opening of Herringbone in a monstrous locale with multiple bars, nooks, and dining rooms galore. And while Tar and Roses suffered a fire that forced them to close, Andrew Kirschner had his newly opened seafood-centric restaurant to fall back on, Santa Monica Yacht Club. Jason Neroni also established a new seafood spot in the Marina with Catch & Release.
A separate sub-category to the Seafood trend this year was the Poke craze. People have been eating up the raw seafood bowls at newly opened Sweetfin and Mainland Poke Shop, as well as many other spots around town.
We've covered vegan, meat, seafood, so might as well throw in some ethnic flavors. Another favorite opening of mine this year was Sambar in Culver City. Akasha Richmond draws on unique Indian flavors to serve up some really memorable dishes in a casual setting with fabulous cocktails.
I'm not sure I can call Petit Trios ethnic, but it might be the closest thing LA has to a French bistro. No need to enter a ticket system for a reservation. You just need to plan your visit accordingly in order to grab a seat at the counter for some classic French dishes like steak tartare, escargot or a perfect boursin omelet.
Restaurant/Wine Bar/Take Out
This category includes a lot of slashes. We've now had a few cool new spots open in LA that are part restaurant, part take out, part wine bar. I saw a lot of this while visiting Seattle this year, and am happy to see the same here. Esters has to be one of my favorites for the slash experience. A friend and I popped in one Saturday afternoon and had so much fun that we went from lunch straight through to dinner.
Gjusta also received great accolades from Bon Appetit, crowning it the #2 best new restaurant in the US this year. It's slightly chaotic inside, but order from every section of their counter and come home a winner.
Dudley Market offers more of the same with culinary goods to purchase and take home with you, a casual cafe by day and great restaurant by night.
I'm a westsider and I'm indeed rejoicing at the number of new restaurants that opened on my side of town this year. I feel like it was all about downtown LA last year, and this year I got to save a little gas and try a lot more spots near the beach, though I was sure not to miss Neal Fraser's downtown opening of the beautiful Redbird earlier this year.
Wilshire Boulevard has a resurgence with several new spots opening up and down the street in Santa Monica. From inventive cuisine and a nice wine list at Aestus to an interesting arrangement of small plates and accompaniments at the wood fire grilled Cadet.
All in all, I think it was a good year for Los Angeles restaurants. There were restaurant openings to appeal to many different diners in the area, so hopefully everyone got what they wanted in 2015. With no shortage of restaurant openings on the horizon, I look forward to seeing what 2016 brings to the City of Angels.