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In 2021, dining out offered change of scenery and sense of normalcy. Even though takeout is convenient, transporting your order home just isn’t the same as dining at a restaurant. Here are 10 of my favorite culinary adventures that offered a multi-sensory experience, exceptional wait staff and dinners I hope to enjoy again in 2022.
Number one on my list is Angler for an adventurous dining experience. Restaurateur and chef Joshua Skenes is the first and only chef to earn Michelin stars cooking solely over open fire. He is considered by many to be one of the best fine-dining chefs on the West Coast. Some of his one-of-a-kind menu items include caviar and a banana pancake; an exquisite floral-like radicchio salad that arrives with a bib to protect clothing; and any of the fish and meat entrées that are cooked in the kitchen’s fireplace. Angler’s award-winning wine program emphasized wines of Burgundy, as well as some favorites from Napa and Sonoma. Angler is located on the ground floor of the Beverly Center’s main parking structure. $$$ 8500 Beverly Blvd. Ste. 117, (424)332-4082.
Fellow in Westwood by Philip Camino offers an art-inspired fine-dining experience by Executive Chef Chris Flint. His cuisine demonstrates a mastery of classic culinary methods while utilizing modern techniques with inspiration rooted in high-quality ingredients, sustainability and seasonality. The wine cellar stores more than 2,000 bottles to pair with fresh seafood dishes including sea scallops hidden under radish flowers on a halved avocado. The rainbow-colored roasted carrot medallions on black forbidden rice are enhanced with sliced mushrooms and a sprinkle of micro-greens. Entrées include seared duck breast with black garlic and seasonal fruit, glazed lobster tail and short ribs with potato. $$ 1071 Glendon Ave., (310)208-1071.
Flower Burger recently opened its first location in the U.S. in West Hollywood. The flavorful buns are baked with spices give them a variety of rainbow hues. Turmeric provides a deep yellow, while purple carrots produce a violet color. For the Cherry Bomb, which has become an international favorite on Instagram, the fuchsia colored bun is made from concentrated beetroot juice and cherry extract. Different vegan patties are offered, including a lentil and basmati rice patty. Some of the burgers are topped with tomato confit, baked zucchini and crisp soybean sprouts. The green Jungle Burger has an oat and red kidney bean vegan patty made with seitan (vegetable protein), along with breadcrumbs and a combination of golden onions, red peppers, salt and sunflower oil. Burgers are enhanced by a variety of sauces, including wild sauce, which is similar to barbecue sauce, and magik sauce. The dairy-free cheddar “cheese” they include is made with coconut oil. My favorite is the violet colored Flower Burger made with a red kidney bean patty and topped with magik sauce, tomato, lettuce, soybean sprouts and melted vegan cheese. $ 640 N. Robertson Blvd., (424) 279-9801.
Sitting outside at The Terrace overlooking the Beverly Canon Gardens, at The Maybourne Beverly Hills, the cascading fountain provides a soothing sound as a procession of people stroll through the park. Chef Kaleo Adams prepares local fare with a creative, fresh California spin. Some of the most memorable dishes were the crescent moon shaped eggplant mezzaluna with tomatoes and semi-firm white ricotta salata, handmade linguine with clams, Berkshire pork loin with caramelized pineapple and beautiful floral shaped apple tartin. $$$ 225 N. Canon Drive, (310)860-7886.
HiHo Cheeseburger opened a new location along the Marvin Braude bike trail in Santa Monica. While riding my bike, I stopped for lunch and dined at a table overlooking rows of boats in the Marina del Rey harbor. What makes HiHo different from other burger joints is that it’s the first and only burger restaurant to exclusively serve grass-fed wagyu beef. Health benefits of wagyu include naturally higher heart-healthy omega-3s, vitamins and antioxidants. It also has lower saturated fat than other types of beef. HiHo curates its beef from First Light Farms, a New Zealand cooperative of 61 farmers. I enjoy their crisp Caesar salad with crunchy croutons and a light and flavorful dressing. HiHo burgers are normally served as doubles with one-third pound of beef, or triples with a half-pound of wagyu beef. They are topped with crisp lettuce, ketchup, house-made pickles, mustard, flavorful grilled onion jam and melted American cheese. HiHo also makes a gluten-free vegan patty from a blend of grains, legumes and spices. The fries are hand-cut thick and double fried making them extra crispy. Thick and creamy milkshakes are made from ice cream churned by a family-run creamery. $-$$ 4625 Admiralty Way, #109, (424) 317-7858. Other HiHo Cheeseburger locations open at 11:30 a.m. 6245 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 102, (323)642-6467 and 1320 Second St., (310)469-7250.
Culina Ristorante at the Four Seasons Hotel at Beverly Hills has hired a new creative Italian Chef de Cuisine, Giovanni Spataro. He is awakening diners’ senses by redesigning street food from his hometown in Palermo. Some of my favorite dishes include tender, thin slices of wild sea bass topped with an eye-catching tuile that looked like lace. The refreshing Sicilian salad is enhanced with shaved fennel and crunchy celery tossed with a fresh honey citronette dressing. For pasta, be sure to order the golden Taglliatele al Tartufo Uncinado topped with savory, creamy Moliterno cheese. And for an entrée that can be shared with others, the Grigliata Di Pesce Al Carbone offers an assortment of grilled seafood including Spanish octopus, local spot prawns, langoustine, sea scallops and local white fish. It’s served with a small carafe of salmoriglio, a southern Italian condiment made with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and herbs, to pour on top. Finish with a smokey campfire s’mores dessert, which arrives under a glass dome filled with smoke for a multi-sensory experience. $$$ 300 S. Doheny Drive, (310)860-4000.
Chef Chris Dane of Lucky Bird Fried Chicken at the Grand Central Market brines his poultry in his signature citrus and herb mixture. He combines lemon juice, garlic, rosemary and thyme and dredges the chicken, dips it into buttermilk and then dips it again into spices and finely ground flour, creating a delicious light, crispy crust on the outside and moist flavorful citrus chicken inside. The menu includes a fried chicken bucket, chicken tenders and the popular hot honey Sammie sandwich. On weekends, Lucky Bird serves fried chicken breakfast burritos and chicken and buttermilk waffles. Sides include a biscuit with honey butter, and creamy mac and cheese. The dipping sauces include buttermilk herb, thick habanero honey, yellow honey mustard and hickory barbecue. $-$$ 317 S. Broadway.
Dining at Sugar Palm restaurant at The Viceroy hotel in Santa Monica satisfies the soul. One feels as if they are on vacation while sitting underneath towering palm trees and enjoying a beautifully presented cheese board and pretty, lavender colored gin drink named The Botanist. The new talented chef Jason Francisco grew up on the Hawaiian island of Moloka’I and is an expert at preparing innovative seafood items that include his Ocean Chowdah. It’s a steaming bowl of red tomato and lobster broth filled with king salmon sashimi, sweet potato cubes and clams. Other noteworthy dishes include charred Spanish octopus with crispy potatoes and a red bell pepper puree. I can’t think of too many other restaurants that serve half a large bone filled with flavorsome marrow that melts in your mouth. It arrives on a platter with duck mole confit, crispy Brussels sprout leaves, a dollop of Dijon mustard and homemade jam. Each bite is an explosion of earthy, sweet and savory flavors. $$ 1819 Ocean Ave., (310) 260-7511.
Katsuya in Brentwood opened an intimate omakase experience with Corporate Brand Chef Benjamin Dayag preparing 10 exquisite small plates right before diners’ eyes. The night I dined, I raved about the delicate truffle edamame dumplings, long and thin popcorn shrimp langoustines, A5 Wagyu Katsu presented as the finest hamburger ever made and Alaskan king crab hand-roll. The tender ribs glazed with a slightly sweet Yanikiniku barbecue sauce arrived under a dome of smoke. Once Dayag lifted the lid, a pleasing aroma of maple wood tantalized our senses as the smoke dissipated. Katsuya also offers a classic signature set menu for $78 per person. $$-$$$ 11777 San Vicente Blvd., (310)237-6174.
Yardbird reopened this year serving Southern comfort food with a whimsical and fun presentation. When a blue farmhouse platter arrived at my table with a wire basket filled with crispy chicken, I became a believer and fan of this restaurant located in the Beverly Center. The coated chicken is brined for 27 hours and cooked using restaurateur John Kunkel’s grandmother Lewellyn’s delicious fried chicken recipe. When her secret herbs and spices are fried, the chicken turns an appealing crisp and golden color. Order a plate of fried green tomatoes with frisee lettuce, and tomato jam, shrimp and grits, and flakey country buttermilk biscuits. Another showstopper is a smoke-swirling glass dome that is lifted to reveal hickory wood smoked ribs. They are sweet tea brined, braised and stacked like a game of Jenga. With one bite, the tender and flavorful meat comes right off the bone. Finish with one of the fruit cobblers, four-layer bourbon chocolate cake frosted with Nutella and crowned with candied bacon, or a state fair favorite: battered, deep-fried Oreos. The large bar area offers a lively happy hour with cocktails, wine and beer under $10. $$-$$$. 8500 Beverly Blvd. (323)250-8034.
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Do you ever consider the “right side” of the menu or does the Press (or the restaurant) pay your tab in return fro a writeup? There is no way that Fellow is $$. We happened to have great duck and short ribs last night for $36 and $32, not the $49 and $41 at Fellow. No California chards below $60 a bottle? The Maybourne is hotel expensive. Drinks $23 (or about $30 inlcuding tax and tip), steak tartare at a new high of $33, etc. etc. A disappointing top ten. Guess we just have different tastes…