Bare essentials: the Los Angeles restaurants putting a new spin on Californian cuisine

Bare essentials: the Los Angeles restaurants putting a new spin on Californian cuisine

In Los Angeles, famously home to a health food store that turned into an actual cult, food needs to nourish your soul, not just be edible. After all, why shouldn’t a crusty slice of avocado on toast come with a side of good intentions and chakra alignment? Here, we round up the top 8 restaurants feeding the fervour for California-style cooking, turning wild foraging fermentation into a holistic part of dining out.

Sawyer

A buzzing, laid-back seafood spot in Silver Lake, Sawyer is a friendly space that opens up onto an essential outdoor patio laced with fresh herbs, creeping fig and olive trees and striking tile work underfoot. This further highlights the restaurant’s informal atmosphere, making it the perfect spot to sample chef Alex McWilliam’s understated fare that includes tidbits such as delicious soft shell crab sandwiches served on squid ink bread.

3709 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026; tel: 1.323 641 3709; www.sawyerlosangeles.com

Photography: Ryan Tanaka

Winsome

An ultra-cool east-side LA diner, when you first step into Winsome, you might mistake the retro booths and long counter with stools for a Quentin Tarantino film set. Food here is served in deep green Heath Ceramics bowls and plates, while the actual dishes are equally elevated to include duck egg toast, fennel crusted branzino and crispy tofu. The Kennebec potato chips are doused with chilli, kaffir and a side of creme fraiche – which goes well with a selection of aguas frescas that range from quinoa, wild rice and toasted almond horchata that drinks more like a liquid dessert.

1115 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90012; tel: 1.213 415 1818; www.eatwinsome.com

Photography: Tessa Neustadt and Sierra Prescott

Manuela

Manuela hits all the de rigeur notes for a hot new LA restaurant: in-house pickling, on-site herb garden, plenty of wood char, studied casualness with chickens in the yard. But what the space has above all is art, of the blue-chip variety, thanks to its location inside the downtown Arts District compound of gallery Hauser & Wirth.

907 E 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013; tel: 1.323 849 0480; www.manuela-la.com

Paley

Local design firm Bishop Pass has smartly woven the building’s past throughout Paley, which is housed in a landmark 1930s building, designed to by architect William Lescaze. Chef Greg Bernhardt – a leading figure in California’s farm to table movement – has skilfully fused the state’s offerings with a cheeky nod to the locale. As such, meals start with appetisers like martini mussels, with pickled pearl onion, gin and vermouth and fresh herbs, and end with the likes of popcorn ice cream, with brown butter powder and salted chocolate rocher; a truly unforgettable closing act.

6115 Sunset Blvd #100, Los Angeles, CA 90028; tel: 1.323 544 9430; www.paleyhollywood.com

Gracias Madre

Two words: smoking pineapple. If there’s a signature drink for green LA right now, it might be this mezcal cocktail served in what might reasonably be mistaken for a bong. Which means that despite being entirely organic and vegan, the celebrity-approved West Hollywood favourite also dishes fun, in the form of Mexican-inspired food like jackfruit carnitas and cashew nacho cheese.

8905 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069; tel: 1.323 978 2170; graciasmadreweho.com

Verlaine

At chef Diego Hernández’s acclaimed Corazon de Tierra in Valle de Guadalupe, the vineyard and farm are just outside the kitchen window. At Verlaine, he’s planted an edible garden in the former Dominick’s space in West Hollywood, and, in addition to a signature ceviche, given a whole roasted beet (dusted with hibiscus powder) entree billing on the menu – a nod to that spot in the valley known to every California farm kid, where sugar refineries fill the air with sweetness and musk. Bonus: the dining room is entirely alfresco, with a retractable roof for drought-busting days.

8715 Beverly Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90048; tel: 1.424 288 4621; www.verlaine.la

Spartina

This unfussy Cal-Ital trattoria puts emphasis on fresh and seasonal fare. Dishes like grilled avocado with Moroccan lemon, Calabrian chilies and ricotta salata feel rooted in an Italian cooking heritage, yet with a decidedly Californian flourish. To match the tone set by Spartina’s menu, Ashton has created a well-considered, unfussy and easy-going aesthetic; the almost industrial space – with concrete floors and exposed beam ceiling – is made warm with the addition of natural elements like wood wall cladding, leather-embellished seating and plenty of live greenery.

7505 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046; tel: 1.323 782 1023; www.spartina.la

Photography: Douglas Hill

Botanica

At this new Silver Lake spot, a two-tiered heap of raw crudités and dipping sauces distils the city’s farmer’s market abundance into a single photogenic dish. The herbaceous and joyous ethos carries through the menu of layered cassoulets and colourful ribbons of vegetables. In the adjoining market, designed by French firm Weekends, pick up larder goods like Urfa-Aleppo butter.

1620 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026; tel: 1. 323 522 6106; www.botanicarestaurant.com