Century City/Pico-Robertson | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Century City/Pico-Robertson

Hinoki and the Bird

photo by Anne Fishbein

Hinoki and the Bird is not the only restaurant on this list to have lost its chef in the past year. In fact, Hinoki managed to lose two chefs: Founder David Myers parted ways with the restaurant back in June; his protégé, Kuniko Yagi, stepped away in December. But thus far the Century City hot spot seems to be functioning as it did before the upheaval, which is to say as one of the most beautiful and exciting restaurants in town. The outdoor dining area is still a simply magical place to eat, leafy and enclosed and forestlike in its intimacy. Myers’ and Yagi’s menu is still intact, and the Japanese-inflected small plates and grilled proteins showcase the beauty of austerity: Grilled mushrooms have only sea salt and lime to adorn their woodsy flavor. The hinoki-scented cod is still one of the most decadent pieces of fish available anywhere, its slick, sweet fat enrobed in the wood smoke from the piece of hinoki that comes atop it, still smoldering from live fire. Much has been made of the cocktail program here, and the drinks are fantastic. What is lesser known is that Hinoki boasts one of the best wine lists in town as well.—Besha Rodell

Picca

photo by Anne Fishbein

You might be wondering what’s going on at Picca, now that chef Ricardo Zarate is no longer involved in the restaurant. The truth is that while changes might be coming in the future, right now the kitchen is still cooking the menu built by Zarate, and cooking it as beautifully as ever. Which means this is the last place in town to get Zarate’s particular style of Peruvian food, here elevated and made for pairing with Julian Cox’s exuberant cocktails (the names of which are a little hard to swallow — Benedict Cucumberbatch, anyone? — but the drinks themselves are masterful). The food choices are completely overwhelming, with sections dedicated to ceviche, tiradito (raw fish with various sauces), things on skewers, meats, salads and more, but you could close your eyes and throw darts at this menu and come out a winner. Fish come with bright fruit and citrus flavors, meats are perked up with sauces made from rocoto and huancaina, and almost everything is small and alluring enough to leave you wanting just one more bite. The room is as crowded and brimming with energy as ever. Picca is still quite the party, even without its best known host.— Besha Rodell

Sotto

photo by Anne Fishbein

After four years holding court in a dark basement along Pico Boulevard, Sotto’s shining star has yet to diminish. The Southern Italian cooking remains as meticulous and magnificently satisfying as ever: rustic squid-ink pasta showered with shaved bottarga and crushed pistachios, lush fennel-crusted pork chops and bubbly, char-edged pizzas. The cocktail program is still inventive and slightly silly, and the wine list still vast and fascinating. But the most compelling reason for a return visit might be the handful of specials chef-partner Steve Samson puts on the menu every night, which might include an impossibly meaty tagliatelle al ragu like his Bolognese mother used to make, or a cheese-thickened risotto splashed with red wine and crunchy bits of endive. If Sotto continues to grow beyond its Sicilian roots, it’s a restaurant that will shine bright for years to come.— Garrett Snyder