99 Essential Restaurants 2014

The Hungry Cat

photo by Anne Fishbein

In the past year, L.A. has been blessed with a number of great new seafood spots, while Providence continues to be one of the most impressive, seafood-driven fine dining establishments in the country. But we’re still hard up for forward-looking, fish-focused restaurants, places that rely on neither retro charm nor unattainable luxury. That’s where the Hungry Cat comes in. It’s a restaurant that has all the technique of a serious, classically trained chef (David Lentz) and all the creativity of our best New American cookery. Each night, you’ll find a bevy of thoughtfully composed fish preparations, more exciting than the simplicity of nostalgia and better prepared than you’re used to: a piece of char, crisp on the outside with a meltingly rare center, served over creamy celeriac with citrus, beluga lentils and hazelnuts; pastrami trout with beets and bitter greens, served with fresh-cooked naan; manila clams in a stew of merguez sausage with huge chunks of grilled bread slathered in harissa aioli. The raw bar is great, the cocktails are fun, and the place is generally a blast. But the real value here is a type of cooking that is bold, fanciful and masterly.

-- Besha Rodell