99 Essential Restaurants 2014

West Hollywood

Connie & Ted's

photo by Anne Fishbein

At Connie & Ted’s, Michael Cimarusti’s tribute to his childhood holidays along the Rhode Island shore, the chef has achieved something remarkable: a fish camp that seems right at home in the heart of West Hollywood. The giant, glassed-in swoosh of a building has all the dazzle and pizzazz the neighborhood requires; in addition to being a dining destination, it’s an exceedingly fun place to grab a beer and some oysters at the bar while watching the game on the big-screen TVs overhead. Along with executive chef Sam Baxter, Cimarusti has created a menu of incredibly straightforward, classic American seafood dishes, proving that sometimes the simplest things can be the most impressive. This is food that is devotional rather than ego-driven, and as such it relies mainly on the quality of product rather than flashy cooking. There are chowders, lobster rolls, a fantastic selection of raw oysters, and the freshest fish cooked simply. In a year in which L.A. saw a slew of new, East Coast–inspired seafood spots, Connie & Ted’s stands out as the best of the bunch.

-- Besha Rodell

Lucques

photo by Rob Stark Photography

It is sometimes easy to take Lucques for granted, to forget the profound influence Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s restaurant has had since it opened in 1998. You might overlook the roster of other chefs Goin has trained, or the way of eating she gave us with her Sunday suppers and her market-driven, globally inflected California cuisine. If that’s the case, go back for dinner. Sit near the fireplace in silent-screen star Harold Lloyd’s former carriage house, order a seasonal cocktail or one of Styne’s excellent wines, and taste what Goin has been cooking lately. Because what’s coming out of her kitchen is as utterly creative as it was almost 16 years ago. Goin’s food does something that seems effortless but is incredibly difficult, especially with the kind of consistency and duration she has managed. Pitched halfway between luxury and comfort and achieving both, both the food and the ambiance at Lucques come as a slow revelation, an epiphany in three or four courses, probably with kumquats or harissa.

-- Amy Scattergood

Night + Market

photo by Anne Fishbein

Talk to any 10 food obsessives in L.A. and approximately eight of them are likely to name Night + Market as their favorite restaurant. This goes for chefs and civilians, culinary explorers and trend followers alike. Chef Kris Yenbamroong presents the unadulterated flavors of Northern Thailand in a stylishly stripped-down room next to his parents’ Sunset Strip restaurant. The whole thing feels kind of like a fluke, or a high school project titled “restaurant” — until you get to the food, which is bold, complex, spicy and completely addictive. You’ll find yourself wolfing down sticky pig’s tails, tongue-singing larb, funky fermented pork sausage, or a hulking whole braised pork hock in aromatic juices. Yenbamroong is about to open his second outpost in Silver Lake, which promises to be a slightly different beast, though no less exciting. In fact, the Night + Market story, as well as its food, is one of the best examples of why eating in L.A. right now is nothing short of thrilling.

-- Besha Rodell

Salt’s Cure

photo by Anne Fishbein

If you had to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at one L.A. restaurant forever and ever, which place would you pick? We might have to choose Salt’s Cure, a choice made more obvious by the fact that the restaurant now is open for all those meals, every day. Everything at Salt’s Cure is deceptively simple, from the barely decorated room (it’s not much more than a kitchen surrounded by tables) to the spare menu written on a blackboard on the back wall, with descriptions like “pork chop” and “1/2 chicken.” But beginning with breakfast and continuing through the day, Salt’s Cure delivers the food we’d like to make for ourselves if we only had the time and talent. There are no better pancakes in town than the oatmeal griddle cakes, which manage to be both hearty and light. For brunch, there’s plenty of meat and eggs for those looking to eat off the previous night’s festivities, as well as smoked fish on toast with slivers of red onion for those with a lighter appetite. And at dinner, the house-butchered huge hunks of meat satisfy a very primal need, while also delivering more nuanced pleasures in their expert cooking and smart accompaniments. It’s a formula that never gets old.

-- Besha Rodell