Advertisement
Filters

Neighborhood

Filter

Restaurants

Price

Sort by

Showing  Places
Filters
Map
List
A selection of dishes from Baroo.
Don’t miss the tasting menu at Baroo, including sweet, delicate skate fried in seaweed batter and cradled in leafy greens and slices of charred pork-collar meat fanned over a sauce that riffs on kimchi jjigae.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

18 downtown dining destinations from the 101 Best Restaurants guide

The only accurate way to define downtown is by acknowledging its indefinableness. Below the sweeping, jagged skyline, its on-the-ground character changes district by district, year by year, contradiction by contradiction. Icons of architecture and industry abut residential high-rises, warehouses, hidden bars, parks, shopfronts with ever-changing tenants, historic theaters and, as a center of the city’s unhoused population, numerous encampments.

Downtown’s dense and disparate expressions of humanity include some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. To know L.A., breathe in the fragrant tortillas and grilled meats at Sonoratown, seek out the smoky pad see ew in a quiet food court, fight for a reservation at Bestia or Bavel and splurge on two of the country’s best fine-dining destinations, a seven-seat ode to kaiseki and a Taiwanese-inspired tasting menu luminary, located yards apart in the same retail complex.

The Arts District can and should be considered on its own complex merits, but we group some of its culinary standouts into this guide to 18 of the area’s finest places to dine — which we’ve culled from the most recent 101 Best Restaurants in Los Angeles guide, a task into which I’ve disappeared annually for the last five years.

Showing  Places
LOS ANGELES , CA - AUGUST 25: The shrimp puffy taco (left), The Super Nachos (center), and mom's green chicken enchiladas (right) from Bar Ama on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022 in Los Angeles , CA. (Shelby Moore / For The Times)
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

Bar Amá

Downtown L.A. Tex-Mex $$
Josef Centeno’s cooking has always been about intersections — about considering ingredients shared between cuisines from disparate parts of the world, grafting unexpected flavors (the melting rightness of scallops in his tacos dorados, for example) and, increasingly, defining ways that indulgence and sustainability might coexist on the plate. At his downtown cantina, Centeno entwines notions of home: the place he came from, and the city he chose. The San Antonio native stays faithful to the joys of Tex-Mex, one of the country’s great regional cuisines. His queso is molten gold. His tangy, cheesy green chicken enchiladas, based on his mother’s recipe, are one of the city’s elemental comfort foods. But his romance with Golden State vegetables shares equal billing. Elotes pop with cherry tomatoes in summer, sweet potatoes shine with coconut butter and pomegranate molasses come winter. The selection never stays still. Centeno’s influences meet in his saucy, billowing take on puffy tacos, a San Antonio specialty (and a secret menu item here; just ask for them) with origins linked to Arturo’s Puffy Taco in Whittier. Eat them fast before they collapse in a cloud of masa, and chase every second or third bite with sips of the bar’s pitch-perfect, tart-sweet margarita.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16, 2024: Baroo's Wang (Finaly realize?), a course of brandt beef short rib, burdock jus, baek kimchi, and ssam, center and Byung (Finaly realize?), a course of wild mountain greens rice, lotus sunchoke gaennip jingajji, xo sauce, gamtae bugak, top left, photographed at the modern Korean restaurant in the Arts District neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
(Silvia Razgova/Silvia Razgova)

Baroo

Downtown L.A. Korean $$$
Los Angeles had never seen anything like the 16-seat restaurant that Kwang Uh began in a small Hollywood strip mall with childhood friend Matthew Kim in 2015. His food had an unbridled streak of originality: pastas and grain bowls wild with nuts, seeds, broths, pickles, kimchi and other fermented foods. The ingredients often slyly referenced classic Korean dishes and could fly in a million directions but then land with utter clarity. Uh met Mina Park, who became his wife and business partner, at the South Korean temple presided over by Jeong Kwan, the Zen nun made famous when she was featured on an episode of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table.” The immense complexities and ambitions of the food always gave the original Baroo an air of unpredictability: It had opened and closed in fits and starts and seemed to have finally ended its run in October 2018. Fans have waited years for the couple’s promise to resurrect the restaurant.

They fulfilled their vow in late summer in the form of a sedate, industrial-modernist space in downtown’s Arts District. The new Baroo looks and feels nothing like its predecessor. Mostly that’s a gain: Park runs an engaged, genial team as general manager, and Uh’s calm demeanor and ever-straight back can be viewed through the large kitchen window. The opening menu is $110 for seven courses. To balk at a tasting-menu format is to miss out on sweet, delicate skate fried in seaweed batter and cradled in leafy greens, and slices of charred pork-collar meat fanned over a sauce that riffs on kimchi jjigae … and other dishes, honed but still flaunting a hint of wildness, that trumpet the return of an exceptional culinary mind.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES , CA - OCTOBER 13: A spread from Bavel including, clockwise from top left: hummus, chicken liver pate and the grilled dorade in Los Angeles on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022 in Los Angeles , CA. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Bavel

Downtown L.A. Middle Eastern $$$
When Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis opened their second Arts District restaurant in April 2018, their menu pulled the vague, 1980s-era notion of “Californian Mediterranean cooking” into the new millennium. In their hands the term becomes more personal, and more specifically defined by their imaginations. Menashe was raised in Israel and comes from Turkish and Moroccan roots; Gergis’ family is of Egyptian ancestry. Dishes draw on their respective lineages, our region’s unparalleled agriculture and a certain creative fluidity.

At the table, it means the weightless hummus swirled into a moat filled with duck ’nduja is as wonderful as ever, as are the hulking lamb neck shawarma over laffa and Gergis’ leaf-shaped strawberry pastry balanced with tart sumac and sweet cheese. Anchoring ingredients — market vegetables, grilled prawns, lamb chops both charred and blushing — are canvases for chile pastes, tufts of herbs and deliciously soured dairy in many forms. Some counsel: The dining room, always full, rattles from the extreme decibels. Ask in advance for a patio table for a quieter experience. If you’re into wine, sommeliers can pull you down a rabbit hole of Grecian obscurities and older vintages of all sorts they might have stashed in the back.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 3: Tomatoes and Cherries, Squid Ink Chittara, and Vin Dolce Chiffon Cake from Bestia on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022 in Los Angeles , CA. (Yasara Gunawardena / For The Times)
(Yasara Gunawardena / For The Times)

Bestia

Downtown L.A. Italian $$$
After 11 years of essentially nonstop business, one could wonder if Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis’ Arts District flagship might be situated over some sort of magnetic energy vortex. Nearby restaurants of equal caliber never seem quite as busy, or close outright from lack of interest. Show up to Bestia on any night and the brick walls of its rehabbed-warehouse dining room will be rattling from the din. What’s the secret to its staying power? Menashe’s take on Italian cuisine is the culinary equivalent of screaming into a pillow. Devouring pastas and pizzas raging with garlic, intense herbs, pungent sausage and salty blasts of cheese is both cathartic and therapeutic. The kitchen also knows exactly how far to push — grilling branzino over open flames, for example, and then smearing on Fresno chile and potent pesto full of whole pine nuts. Underneath the barrage of seasonings, the fish still tastes remarkably sweet and mild. Gergis’ dream lineup of custardy, creamy desserts, always offset with the season’s best fruits, brings down the fever and sends you into the night feeling calmed.
Route Details
Advertisement
Los Angeles, CA - June 30: Mackarel, baby shrimp "gunpowder," and beef tartare with herb tempura at Camphor on Thursday, June 30, 2022 in the Arts District of Los Angeles, CA. (Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)
(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

Camphor

Downtown L.A. French $$$
Chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George look to France for baseline inspiration, but they pull dishes like beef tartare and roast chicken out of any usual bistro context: The bird is reconstructed into a cylinder with preternatural textures closer to a dense mousse, and the chopped raw meat arrives glossed in lemon aioli, with lightly battered basil or shiso leaves on the side as chips. Camphor, by design, resists fitting neatly into any category. Nearly every surface in the dining room has been painted white; walls and ceilings and tabletops take on an added pearly glow as daylight fades. The staff is gracious, and you’ll need them to decipher the vaguely worded menu. It’s how you’ll find understated knockouts like lentils simmered in a smoky broth made with lamb, ginger, garlic and spices that George brings back from Kerala, India, one of the world’s vital growing regions for black pepper and cardamom. The most straightforward item is a luxury burger, dripping in smoked Gouda and tomato remoulade and caramelized onions. You can order it for online takeout, but eating it straight from the kitchen, even at the restaurant’s bar, is the better choice.

Cocktails match the food in sophistication and complexity. Owner Cyrus Batchan spearheaded the restaurant’s collection of chartreuse — the increasingly rare (and pricey) spirit, whose recipes purportedly total more than 100 ingredients, made by Carthusian monks since the 17th century. I was amazed by the green chartreuse I tried. Its flavor had no one landing point: It rocketed from anise to summery herbs, from sweet to bitter, and back again.

Read the full review of Camphor.
Route Details
Los Angeles, CA (Downtown, Arts District) - SEPTEMBER 26: Fish tartare tostada from Damian on Friday, September 23, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Shelby Moore / For The Times)
(Shelby Moore)

Damian

Downtown L.A. Mexican $$$
It began as Mexico City-based chef Enrique Olvera’s grandly announced entrance to the L.A. market, but Damian has settled into a restaurant that feels intentionally engaged with the city. In a region so rich in Mexican food culture, Damian’s leadership team, led by Jesús “Chuy” Cervantes, seems to ask through its cooking: What can we bring to the conversation? Answers come in such forms as salmon tostada spread with Sungold tomatoes and smoky, shatteringly crisp Chicatana ants (a luxury ingredient in Oaxaca and other regions of Mexico), and a masterpiece centered around a meaty bulb of celery root that has been nixtamalized, baked, then braised in garlic, lemon and butter. Brunch is a sleeper weekend destination: Go for the comforts of lamb birria and Korean-inspired fried chicken sheathed in a batter of rice and white corn flours. Day or night equally flatters the space. Housed in a former Arts District warehouse, the interior is mod and moody, and the lush terrace set among dilapidation is part art installation, part urban haven.

It’s important to mention Damian’s adjacent taqueria, Ditroit, hidden around back with an entrance down an alley, and the primacy of its extra-long fish flauta with a mulchy, piquant filling that evokes Baja’s smoked marlin tacos.

Read the full review of Damian.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Grouper shabu shabu with tosa-zu jelly and shiso blossoms from Hayato on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Hayato

Downtown L.A. Japanese $$$$
I sometimes mull over the advice I would give my food-obsessed, 25-year-old self, who made desserts and cooked brunch shifts in restaurants, if he asked about the one splurge dinner in Los Angeles to save up for right now. I’d settle on telling him Hayato, the seven-seat hideaway in Row DTLA where Brandon Hayato Go and his small crew prepare a lyrical meal with a structure that loosely follows kaiseki, emphasizing varied cooking techniques served in ceremonial order. He’d be awed by the seafood that traces Japan’s marine migratory patterns, and how Go executes his choreographed tasks while following threads of conversation and occasionally cracking self-effacing jokes, and how the mood begins in grave formality and often winds up feeling like a chatty dinner party. The impeccable options for Champagne and sake probably help.

It also takes tenacity to chase a reservation for a place that enjoys a cult-level following, costs $350 per person and serves 35 diners a week. Hayato ranked first in last year’s guide, and while I swear by its merits, I concede that scoring a seat can be a frustrating, months-long endeavor. Still. For the fruits of Go’s perfectionism — the man makes two batches of cloudless dashi per service so he can choose the better one, and always manages to find perfect strawberries or peaches or muskmelon for a rightly simple dessert — I say, even as a once-in-a-lifetime indulgence, persevere.

Read the full review of Hayato.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 1, 2023: Nam Tok Beef Tataki and oysters from Holy Basil, a Thai street-food takeout window inside a Downtown Los Angeles food court, on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times) 1368361-fo-101-2023-holy-basil
(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

Holy Basil

Downtown L.A. Thai $$
Chef Wedchayan “Deau” Arpapornnopparat’s pad see ew — smoky wok-fried flat noodles tossed with pork, shrimp or tofu — hold up in to-go containers as a miracle of resilience. Even better: wolfing them down, straight from the heat, at one of the tables in the Santee Passage food hall downtown to best appreciate their silky, singed textures. Holy Basil’s versions of classic Bangkok street foods exhibit his command of technique, but in the past year he’s also been experimenting more with his repertoire. Clams in gingery broth or noodles tangled in beef curry can vanish from the menu as soon as they appear. On Friday and Saturday nights, under a spinoff umbrella he calls Yum Los Angeles, he often presents splendid Thai seafood specialties, including his family’s recipe for crab curry, but occasionally departs to improvisations like shrimp aguachile. And to drink? Arpapornnopparat’s partner, beverage pro Tongkamal “Joy” Yuon, makes a canned spin on Thai iced tea using whole or oat milk, rather than the sweetened condensed stuff, so it’s refreshing and complex rather than cloying.
Route Details
Advertisement
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22: Kampachi smoked pacific amberjack, Custard, and 5 spice bbq short rib sticky rice from Kato on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Kato

Downtown L.A. Taiwanese $$$$
Jon Yao’s cooking begins with nostalgia — for the Taiwanese American food made by his mother and grandmother, for his coming of age in the San Gabriel Valley. As the ornate mosaics of seafood and vegetables, punctuated occasionally by meat, roll out from his kitchen in courses, it’s evident how he transforms his sentimentality from the inside out. He’s a master technician who takes apart station wagons and reconstructs them as Bentley Continentals.

Those of us who have followed Yao’s career tend to refer to the airy, wood-and-concrete-lined space in Row DTLA as Kato 2.0, since the restaurant began as a bootstrap operation in a West L.A. strip mall in 2016. It’s been nearly two years since the move, an upgrade of outsize proportions, and every ambition that first landed Kato at the top of the 101 Best Restaurants list in 2019 has been more fully realized in spades. Yao’s longtime business partner, Nikki Reginaldo, leads a staff of servers with serious demeanors; she brings levity with wit and boss R&B playlists. Ryan Bailey came aboard in the new location as the third leader and the beverage guy. Between his 70-something-page wine list, including the city’s most trailblazing nonalcoholic drink program, and bar director Austin Hennelly’s alchemical, easy-sipping cocktails, I sometimes wish I could come solely to imbibe. But the food thrills. Look for the most unassuming presence by the stoves, and there’s Yao. His quietness hides his relentless creativity. He’s swapping out luxe Hokkaido scallops in plum reduction one week for lobster over buttery shrimp toast the next, using Sichuan pepper as brain teasers, making the rightful case for pig’s ears as delicacies, and offering a savory-sweet bao filled with salted egg yolk custard as a climax.

Dinner in the main dining room is $275 per person, with a slightly abridged $170 tasting menu of Kato classics at the bar that’s ideal for solo diners and usually includes a dish involving caviar, mussel liquor, smoked onion cream and a filling side of milk bread. It’s wonderful, but the main experience feels more refined, more driven, each time I visit. So much of our fine dining winks with signifiers of our culture — a sashimi plate here, a Mexican ingredient there — but Yao’s cuisine originates from an interior place. This is me, it says. And when we taste it, we understand: This is Los Angeles.

Read the full review of Kato 2.0.
Route Details
>> SILVIA RAZGOVA For The Times?
(Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times)

Orsa & Winston

Downtown L.A. Italian Japanese $$$$
Josef Centeno’s downtown restaurants numbered four before the pandemic; tiny tasting-menu workshop Orsa & Winston and next-door Tex-Mex haunt Bar Amá endure, and they both remain vital to Los Angeles dining. Orsa & Winston turned 10 this fall. While never abandoning its founding premise to entwine the cuisines of Japan and Italy, Centeno ceaselessly experiments with formats and dishes. Lately the menu is five courses for $125 per person, including a few small extras and an optional add-on — the citrusy rice porridge steeped in Parmesan cream and most often gilded with uni or abalone.

Chawanmushi with clams, gooseberries and caviar opened an early September dinner, highlighting the seemingly improbable combinations that Centeno pulls off time and again. After an entree of sturgeon paired winningly with huckleberries, the meal finished with a just-ripe pluot battered, fried and garnished with mascarpone cream and miso caramel. It put a bow on the Japanese-Italian themes while reminding me exactly where I was in the universe. Your meal likely will have wholly different ingredients, though you’ll catch the same imaginative throughlines that have kept Centeno’s creativity engaged for the last decade. The restaurant’s staff is smaller these days, which makes the place feel both more intimate and also somehow more romantic. Count on longtime server and sommelier Romain Racary to tell witty stories about the wines he’s pouring in his satiny Parisian accent.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Beef noodle soup from Pine & Crane on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Pine & Crane

Downtown L.A. Taiwanese $$
The Taiwanese menus at Vivian Ku’s three restaurants — the original Pine & Crane in Silver Lake, its second location in downtown L.A. and her slightly more casual spinoff Joy in Highland Park — share rooted themes. Their changing array of salads, beloved noodle and rice dishes and adaptations of Taipei-style street foods point to Ku’s frequent travels to Taiwan, and also memories of meals at Taiwanese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, where she gathered with relatives growing up. Her penchant for lighter, cleaner flavors honors the cooking style of her grandmother, who immigrated to Taiwan from China in 1949 before the family moved to America. Her personal twists have sweeping appeal: Each of her restaurants can be mobbed at any time of day. The DTLA outpost is arguably the calmest, and also my favorite. This is the one that serves breakfast (the crunchy-soft fan tuan wrapped tightly with soy egg and pork floss and the “thousand-layer” pancake sandwich make great on-the-go morning meals) and has invested in an extensive beverage program centered around, but not limited to, Taiwanese whiskies.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14, 2022: A Wiseguy and a Sonny Boy pizza in the kitchen at Pizzeria Bianco (Ron De Angelis / For The Times)
(Ron De Angelis / For The Times)

Pizzeria Bianco

Downtown L.A. Pizza $$
Innumerable food writers, me included, have written for decades about Chris Bianco, the godfather of America’s modern pizza frenzy and its most revered pizzaiolo. His first stand-alone location outside Arizona, in downtown’s Row DTLA complex, was long awaited when it arrived last year. What hasn’t been said as often is that the kitchen, overseen by head chef Marco Angeles, excels at so much more than pizza. The antipasto platter of salumi, cheeses and roasted vegetables makes a superb solo meal. Chicken Francese, a frequent special, flaunts a sauce made from rich chicken stock infused with Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds, pan drippings, butter, lemon and chives. It is one of the city’s most magnificent Italian American indulgences. Ask about pastas; there might be kerchiefs of paccheri tossed with beef ragù or fusilli alla gricia, a peppery take on the Roman classic pungent with smoked guanciale. A seemingly simple summertime combination of roasted Andy’s Orchard peaches with homemade vanilla ice cream, bourbon cream, a crumble of streusel and a glug of olive oil proved one of the year’s best desserts. Don’t be surprised if the restaurant eventually, and rightly, renames itself Trattoria Bianco.
Route Details
Advertisement
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 7: Tortelloni from Rossoblu on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Katrina Frederick / For the Los Angeles Times)
(Katrina Frederick/For The Times)

Rossoblu

Downtown L.A. Italian $$$
Rossoblu’s pasta maestro Francesco Allegro is originally from Puglia, but his hands know the secrets to rolling, filling and shaping tortellini, a specialty of Emilia-Romagna where chef and co-owner Steve Samson has ancestry. Allegro stuffs the tiny dumplings with a blend of ground pork loin, chicken breast, mortadella, prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano and nutmeg, presented in a simple cream sauce (with more parm) to let the tightly spooled flavors unravel on the tongue. Tortellini appear again in soup paired with a recipe from Samson’s mother: minestra nel sacco, spongy Parmigiano-Reggiano drop dumplings cooked in a cloth bag, as is tradition, and served in chicken-and-beef broth. Regional specificities like these give Rossoblu its underlying character. Which is to say, make pastas the persuasive center of a meal, fortified by fritto misto, a lemony salad and, to share with an omnivorous group, the grigliata — a platter of grilled pork chop and sausage, perfumed by sage and wood fire from the kitchen’s hearth. With plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, keep the restaurant in mind for when you need a last-minute reservation downtown.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES, CA - October 23: A smorgasbord of meals at Smorgasburg on Sunday, Oct. 23 in Los Angeles, CA. (Annie Noelker / For The Times)
(Annie Noelker / For The Times)

Smorgasburg L.A.

Downtown L.A. Eclectic $$
At face value, Smorgasburg L.A. is a weekly open-air event, one in a network of Smorgasburg vendor markets across the U.S., which congregates food trucks and other culinary businesses on Sundays in Row DTLA’s back lot. I can’t speak to what goes on elsewhere, but for Los Angeles, under the direction of general manager Zach Brooks, the gathering grew into a vital incubator and connector of talent. As one wonderful instance: Juan Garcia and Ivan Flores run a pop-up they call Goat Mafia, serving a deeply spiced, Jalisco-style goat birria based on Garcia’s father’s recipe. Rhea Patel Michel and Marcel Michel established Saucy Chick Rotisserie, a pop-up featuring rotisserie chicken and sides that express flavors honoring Marcel’s Mexican roots and Rhea’s Gujarati lineage. Both are Smorgasburg regulars. They joined forces recently to open a restaurant in East Pasadena that — win, win — serves their respective specialties under one roof.

The pleasure of attending Smorgasburg in its eighth year is revisiting vendors that have gained citywide followings, while also scouting out newcomers. A recent Sunday tour included a breakfast burrito from Jonathan Perez’s Macheen, lamb barbacoa flautas from Steven Orozco Torres’ Los Dorados, and a green chorizo torta from Evil Cooks. For dessert? Velvety scoops of sour cherry and orange blossom-pistachio ice creams from Kinrose Creamery, which landed official vendor status in September.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 4, 2022: Burrito 2.0 with Grilled Steak at Sonoratown in Los Angeles. (Ron De Angelis / For The Times)
(Ron De Angelis/For The Times)

Sonoratown

Downtown L.A. Mexican $
The magnificence of Teodoro Díaz Rodriguez Jr. and Jennifer Feltham’s taqueria rests first on the flour tortillas cranked out by their master tortilla maker, Julia Guerrero. Their thinness belies their durability, and like the best pie crusts they manage to be at once flaky and buttery. Nearly translucent and handsomely pocked from the griddle, it is the flour tortilla against which to judge all others in Los Angeles. I am quick to recommend Sonoratown’s famous Burrito 2.0, swollen with pinto beans, mashed guacamole, Monterey Jack and sharply spicy chiltepin salsa; among meat options that include grilled chicken, tripe and chorizo, the standout choice is costilla, a mix of boneless short rib and chuck robed in mesquite smoke. Lately my order also has included at least one chivichanga, mini-bundles swaddling shredded chicken or beef cooked down in a thick guisado of tomatoes, Anaheim chiles, cheddar and Monterey Jack. They are deeply comforting, and they’re equally excellent at the couple’s second, larger store in Mid-City.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 12, 2022: Ankimo (Monkfish Liver) at Sushi Kaneyoshi in Los Angeles. (Ron De Angelis / For The Times)
(Ron De Angelis/For The Times)

Sushi Kaneyoshi

Downtown L.A. Japanese $$$$
The elevator descends toward the basement level of the 1960s-era Kajima building in Little Tokyo. Doors open onto a waiting area. Soon the assembled will be led to an elegant, windowless room that calms the senses with at least five shades of polished woods. Yoshiyuki Inoue presides over a 12-seat sushi bar. Its size, relatively large for a $300-per-person omakase that attracts serious (and moneyed) sushi connoisseurs, tends to create a chatty atmosphere among guests, rather than a hushed one. This does not detract from Inoue’s surgical detail with the finest microseasonal seafood, most of it flown in from Japan. He follows the sushi-kaiseki omakase format. A progression of small starters emphasizes varied cooking techniques, including chawanmushi threaded with meat from Hokkaido hairy crab — or disarmingly creamy cod milt, or papery slices of matsutake mushrooms — and skipjack tuna smoked over cherrywood in shiso and vinegar-onion sauces. Then Inoue and his assistants launch into a procession of Edomae-inspired nigiri. The tastes careen through meaty, buttery, smoky, vinegary and, with a side-by-side tasting of uni from different waters, rich and a little funky. By the time Inoue places a square of spongy, shrimp-laced tamago in front of each customer, I’m dazed with joy, stunned by how subtlety feels like an extreme art form in his adept hands.

My one note: In a time when California has better access than ever to Japanese sake, I’d love to see Inoue invest in a list that’s rangier and includes a few more interesting bottle options under $100.
Route Details
Advertisement
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 06: Sujebi Dumplings with white kimchi buerre blanc, poached ocean trout, trout roe, dill from Yangban on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Yangban

Downtown L.A. Korean American $$$
When Katianna and John Hong opened their Arts District restaurant early in 2022, the cooking was personal and persuasive right from the start: an exploration of identity from two accomplished Korean American chefs, grafting cornerstone Korean ingredients and dishes with, among other influences, the Ashkenazi Jewish flavors they both knew growing up. (Katianna’s adopted father is Jewish; John was raised in Highland Park, Ill., in a long-standing Jewish community.) Their initial impulse to frame Yangban as a reimagined delicatessen made sense for the 5,000-square-foot space they took over after the COVID-19 crisis felled Lincoln Carson’s Bon Temps, its previous tenant. But in reality, the ordering experience could be disjointed and confused.

Everything has changed. During a brief closure in August the Hongs finished making over the restaurant into a clubby room: all coal-black banquettes, rich woods and white cloth light fixtures that resemble friendly, floating ghosts. The renewed format is table service with a structured menu of appetizers, mains and desserts. Many of the Hongs’ original ideas still inform the food. Smoked trout schmear, a favorite from the opening deli case, reappears on wonderfully dense potato bread as a standout appetizer. Matzoh ball rendered to the texture of ricotta fills Korean mandu, set in an almost velvety, triple-strength chicken broth. Rounded out with pickles and black rice, the crackly-sticky chicken wings glazed with garlic and soy make for an exuberant entree, and the buffalo milk soft-serve sundae with pine nut caramel only strengthens the feeling. Now is an ideal time to become acquainted, or reacquainted, with Yangban.
Route Details
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 27: clockwise from top left: Grilled pork collar, blue fin tuna sashimi, fried horse mackerel and sake-salsa borracha, stone fruit salad and monk's chirashi-sushi from Yess Aquatic restaurant located in the Arts District on Thursday, July 27, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Yess Restaurant

Downtown L.A. Japanese $$$
Hidden in plain sight behind the pale cypress door of an imposing building on East 7th Street, Yess is an ambitious and at times mystifying arrival. The beauty of the space — a room with generously spaced tables and a sprawling, 42-seat counter overlooking an open kitchen that gleams like a starship — complements the kinetic Japanese menu, though the soaring scale of both can take a minute to absorb. At the center of the project is chef Junya Yamasaki, whose walk-the-walk approach to seasonality and talent for direct flavors, particularly with seafood, brought him acclaim early in his career in London. I’ve had spectacular dishes, including tuna tataki smoked over hay and layered in a mulchy mound of herbed daikon with papery sliced lime, and his “monk’s chirashi-sushi,” which gathers of-the-moment vegetables and fruits with nuts and pickled garnishes, all arranged over gently vinegared rice.

The restaurant opened with an a la carte menu, during which time I reviewed it, and then switched to a semi-fixed dinner menu of set starters with entree choices and optional add-ons. The old format, which can still be experienced during weekend brunch, best accentuated the kitchen’s strengths. I should probably mention it has become something of a pastime to comment on the white uniforms worn by the crazy-earnest staff; they look like something out of a spa, or costumes in a restaurant-themed Wes Anderson movie, or a scene from “The Menu.” All said, this gifted team, in its otherworldly setting, has an ascendent place in L.A.’s dining landscape.

Read the full review of Yess.
Route Details
Advertisement
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news