Five LA Restaurants to Love This Fall
By Eric Rosen
Grilled Copper River sockeye salmon served with aroz ajillo, squash and hibiscus tea from Oscar’s Cerveteca
Like Oscar Hermosillo’s Venice Beach Wines, which single-handedly transformed dingy Rose Avenue into a happy-hour destination, everything about Oscar’s Cerveteca is casually convivial (from the small front dining patio to the sit-down counter overlooking the open kitchen), almost as if a perpetual neighborhood fiesta were taking place.
The beer bar serves 12 taps and 90 bottled brews, along with a menu of Los Angeles-inspired dishes, many of which are Oscar’s Mama’s recipes. The standout starter is Chicano Cheese Pots, a deconstructed nacho plate with chips, chilies and two steaming pots of cheese: one a panela cheese, and the other a heavenly mélange of pimento cheese and corn dip. Norma’s peel-and-eat chipotle beer shrimp is another delicious (but messy) appetizer.
The Coca’s Torta sandwich arrives heaped with ancho-braised pork, caramelized onion and vinegar slaw, while platos grandes—such as a simple grilled halibut with lemon gremolata—come with a choice of sides (go for the patatas bravas fried in cake flour for extra crunch). For dessert, it’s a toss-up between a plantain and banana cream pie and strawberry shortcake. 523 Rose Ave., Venice; 310-310-8937
|The Market at Santa Monica Place|
|Sotto’s margherita pizza|
|Picca’s scallop, spot prawn and salmon anticuchos (skewers)|
Two New Restaurants at Santa Monica Place
Two new fixtures have opened at Santa Monica Place that whet our appetites and bring us back to the Westside.
True Food Kitchen
We don’t usually patronize chains, but this one is different. Edamame dumplings with daikon radish and white-truffle oil are among the starters, followed by a selection of pizzas, sandwiches (try the grass-fed bison burger with mushrooms on a flax bun) and healthy entrees, such as grilled steelhead salmon with quinoa, beets and preserved lemon. The fresh fare—based on Dr. Andrew Weil’s antiinflammatory food pyramid—pairs perfectly with one of the biodynamic wines on the restaurant’s list or with “Natural Refreshments” including the Medicine Man, made with olivello, pomegranate and cranberry juices, black tea, blueberries and soda water. 395 Santa Monica Pl., Santa Monica; truefoodkitchen.com
The Market’s specialty gourmet shops purvey everything you need for the perfect dinner party: pastas from Primi al Mercato; cheeses and cured meats from Norcino Salumeria; baked goods from Röckenwagner Bakery; artisanal foods from The Curious Palate; wine from Venokado; coffee from Groundwork; gelato from N’iceCream; cookies from Aurélie; and chocolates from L’Artisan du Chocolat. Just take a cooking class at The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories, grab a vase of flowers from Magical Blooms for your centerpiece and send out the invitations. 395 Santa Monica Pl., Santa Monica
Chefs Steve Samson and Zach Pollack decamped from David Myers’ OC Pizzeria Ortica to open Sotto, a moodily lit yet boisterous spot that wouldn’t look out of place in Williamsburg rather than on this rather staid stretch of Pico. The duo is baking bubbly crusted pies—including one topped with house-cured pork cheek, ricotta, scallions and fennel pollen—that come fresh out of a custom-built Neapolitan pizza oven that burns white-oak wood for the perfect char.
But the pair venture far beyond their pizzaiolo repertoire with a menu encompassing medium dishes such as white bean and escarole minestra with sausage and house-made bread; pastas including braised-lamb ragu casarecce sprinkled with pecorino; and entrees such as fennel-crusted pork chop or porterhouse with roasted baby carrots and fava beans. The sheep’s-milk yogurt panna cotta with thyme, blood orange, honey and almond amaretti is a sweet but light finish. 9575 W. Pico Blvd., LA
Meanwhile, just upstairs, one of Food & Wine’s 2011 Best New Chefs, Ricardo Zarate, opened his sequel to Mo-Chica, called Picca. Here, he serves novel versions of traditional Peruvian anticuchos (skewers), such as beef filet with Uni butter, scallops with aji amarillo aioli and wasabi peas, and even roast beef heart. 9575 W. Pico Blvd., LA
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JESSICA BOONE (Oscar’s Cerveteca); CATHY CHAPLIN (PICCA)
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.