Fairfax/Hancock Park | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Fairfax/Hancock Park

Angelini Osteria

photo by Anne Fishbein

Angelini Osteria opened its small door on Beverly Boulevard in October 2001, but the old-school Italian restaurant is so embedded in our restaurant scene that it seems physically bigger than it actually is and considerably older and wiser than its 13 years. Indeed, some of the city’s most serious disciples of Italian cuisine have passed through these doors and sat in these chairs. Yet for all its influence, it nonetheless feels like a great neighborhood restaurant, a place where you can drop in for a nice lunch with friends or dinner with the in-laws when they’re in town. On this menu, everything feels like a greatest hit, even the daily specials: You’ll be more than satisfied with a deceptively simple spaghetti alla carbonara, a towering piece of Nonna Elvira’s famed lasagne, a delicate branzino or the porchetta that’s carved to order tableside on Saturdays. That you’ll have an affogato for dessert is a given. —Tien Nguyen

Animal

photo by Anne Fishbein

If you were to trace our city’s current boom of exciting, highly regarded restaurants garnering national attention, almost all roads would lead back to Animal, the O.G. of cheffy, meaty, creative New American cooking in L.A. In fact, it’s hard to believe the restaurant is 7 years old, as it seems completely of-the-moment in 2015, despite barely having changed since opening. Other things that haven’t changed: There’s still no sign, it’s still hard to get a reservation, and it still has the best playlist in town, especially if you’re looking for karaoke inspiration. The menu takes its cues from all over the map yet somehow seems utterly cohesive: Spicy larb is made with jackrabbit and Thai chilies; a tostada comes showered with herbs and peanuts and hides silky slices of hamachi under its leafy topping; a smoked turkey leg with “white barbeque” shows off the subtle Southern roots of the whole endeavor. The menu is full of combinations that sound discordant (veal tongue with salmon roe and black mustard?) but you basically can’t go wrong ordering, which is astounding given the range and breadth of the thing. There are only a handful of restaurants that consistently carry the mantle of our dining reputation, and Animal is still at the top of that list.— Besha Rodell

Mozza Group

photo by Anne Fishbein

It’s hard to overstate the import and influence of Nancy Silverton in the grand story of L.A. dining, and you needn’t look farther than her three restaurants on the corner of Highland and Melrose to understand why her cooking is so admired and imitated. Co-owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, Silverton’s Mozza Group includes Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza and now Chi Spacca, and there’s so much to love between the three of these spots that it’s hard to know where to begin. Perhaps with the pizza at Pizzeria Mozza, which remains one of the best pizzerias in the country, each pie lovingly crafted from Silverton’s now-famous dough and topped with the best Italian and Californian ingredients. Next door at Osteria Mozza, the grandest of the bunch, you can dine on cheese from the mozzarella bar (sometimes flown in from Italy that day), sip on amaro from the amaro bar, and indulge in gorgeous pastas and deeply flavored meat dishes. Around the corner at the intimate Chi Spacca, meanwhile, the immensely talented Chad Colby is raising L.A.’s meat game one salumi plate and bistecca Fiorentina porterhouse at a time. Individually, these restaurants are breathtakingly good — as a whole, they’re an achievement worthy of awe. Consider us agape.— Besha Rodell

République

photo by Anne Fishbein

It’s quite a trick that Walter and Margarita Manzke have pulled off at République, a kind of sophisticated elasticity that allows the restaurant to be whatever you need at any given moment. The ambition of the husband-and-wife chef team was to create a modern restaurant that served many functions — a sunny cafe and bakery for breakfast and lunch, a neighborhood spot for a casual dinner, and a grand restaurant serving refined French- and Italian-influenced cooking of the highest caliber — and it manages to be all of these things simultaneously. The gorgeous space, carved from the courtyard and façade of the castle-like historic building that housed Campanile for more than 20 years, becomes the staging area for many kinds of meals. On the weekend, stop by for brunch, when the light streams in through the front windows and the bowls of shakshouka and kimchi fried rice are devoured by happy diners at long wooden tables. In the morning, you can grab a fresh juice or a black sesame croissant and make use of the free Wi-Fi. At night, everything from caviar service to chips and dip is available, and you can make a dinner of a $14 rustic Alsatian-style tart or a $125 premium dry-aged côte de bœuf. Accompanying all this is sommelier Taylor Parsons’ incredible wine list, which is a thing of great beauty, and suitable for whichever of République’s many charming personalities you choose to engage.— Besha Rodell

Trois Mec & Petit Trois

photo by Anne Fishbein

The little strip mall at the corner of Melrose and Highland is perhaps one of the least likely locations for a serious hub of French/American gastronomy, yet Trois Mec and Petit Trois, the sister restaurants from Ludo Lefebvre (along with investors/co-masterminds Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo), are more charming partially because of their behind-a-gas-station disguise. Two years in, Trois Mec remains a thrilling place to dine, the tiny room — in what looks like a Raffalo’s Pizza — the staging area for tasting menus as inventive and umami-focused as food can be. Over your five courses you’re likely to find delicious oddities such as roasted eel atop a white chocolate mousseline and Granny Smith apples, or Carolina Gold rice pudding topped with a shower of matcha green tea powder with a cured golden egg yolk nestled at its center. It will cost you around $100 per person including tax and tip (bought ahead of time as a nonrefundable ticket), the music will be loud, there are no menu choices. It’s a total blast. Next door, the no-reservation tiny French bar that is Petit Trois serves up escargot and croque-monsieur that are somehow better than you had in Paris, and the fluffy, creamy, impossibly light omelette has already gained cult status. These restaurants are as unconventional as it gets, and it helps to give up any idea of how an eatery should behave before you get there. Tradition be damned. Long live fun.— Besha Rodell

Multiple-location Essential restaurants also in this neighborhood: