Los Angeles
1. Poltergeist
Echo Park

If you’ve been following the LA pop-up food scene over the last couple of years, odds are you’ve heard of Estrano, the far-out pasta pop-up from Chef Diego Argoti. Estrano events trend toward chaos in the best way, with long lines that wind down barely-lit alleyways, thumping music, last-minute surprises, and a menu of inspired insanity centered on handmade noodles with a feral edge. For his next project, the new Poltergeist, Argoti has stepped indoors to the fun and boldly experimental retro-style barcadeButton Mash. Armed with a real kitchen instead of a couple of burners on the street, Argoti already has Poltergeist feeling tight even in its very early days, maybe not focused, per se, but cohesive in its eccentricity. There is a Parker House Roll with Miso Honey, Furikake Duqqa, and Fresno Chile Butter that pulls apart just so; the noodles in the Green Curry Bucatino are as good as you’ll find anywhere and come coated in a slick curry that zips with scallion and herbs; and the Coconut Curry Chochoyotes turn out to be a wild flip on fondue, complete with mushrooms three ways and a fondue fork for dipping. Argoti has a penchant for unusual cuts of meat, which dot the menu, but this is also a place where vegetarians and the squeamish can happily eat. And you can always put a beer in their hand and send them over to play Virtua Tennis at the arcade when the Lamb Neck hits the table.
How to book: Reservations are available via Resy.

2. Colette

Colette is not technically a new opening; the restaurant has been around with the same name in the same location since 2016. But late last year, it flipped into a totally new concept, morphing from a breezy New American brunch spot into its current shape, a thrilling modern Cantonese restaurant. New Chef Peter Lai cooked elevated Cantonese classics at Embassy Kitchen in San Gabriel, and a similar theme runs through the menu here. There are top-tier versions of Braised Tofu with Mushroom, Curry Beef, and Kung Pao Chicken. And there are also some stunners that are a little harder to come by—a Cantonese Beef Stew served with crispy fried vermicelli noodles, Lobster with Sticky Rice, and a true showstopper in Crispy Stuffed Chicken, deboned and air-dried chicken that’s filled with shrimp paste then cooked until the outside is shatteringly crisp. The space retains its light and airy feel with a lovely outdoor patio, like a perfect brunch spot, but this food is exponentially more interesting.
How to book: Walk in or call 626-510-6286 for reservations and takeout orders.

3. Villa’s Tacos
Highland Park

It may be tucked into the corner of a big strip mall south of the happening stretch of Figueroa, but the new brick-and-mortar location of Villa’s Tacos is still easy to find—just follow the smell of mesquite smoke. Superstar taquero Victor Villa’s voice booms joyously over the crowd of people, greeting the long line of friends, neighbors, and customers, many of whom fall into all three of those categories, and he has good reason to be enthusiastic. His new location is a hit. They’ve seamlessly jumped from a pop-up stand on York with limited hours into a stationary restaurant open every Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 9 pm. The meats are still perfumed with mesquite smoke and chopped to crumbly bits, the salsas still slap with just the right balance of salt and acid, and the cheese crust still flares out in a jagged halo around the edges of the handmade blue corn tortillas. Does the easy availability dampen the magic? For clout-chasers out there, perhaps—and so much the better for the rest of us.
How to book: Walk-ins only for now.

4. Juliet
Culver City

For a long time, LA’s French food scene was quiet at best. That’s changed a bit over the past few years, with the success of Petit Trois, big buzzy openings like Mes Amis, Parisian imports like Mr. T (which appears a little further down this list), and now with Juliet, the stylish modern Parisian-style restaurant with a gorgeous outdoor patio at the Platform in Culver City. The menu is seafood-focused and farmers market heavy, applying French techniques and Parisian style to local products. That means oysters, mussels, and takes on the Greek fish dip Tarama and the Tahitian raw fish dish Poisson Cru in addition to classics like Duck Confit Cigars and Cote D’Agneau, lamb chops with chickpea puree and tapenade. The wine list is focused entirely on French producers, with almost everything available by the glass and in small pours for sampling, and the cocktails are modern takes on classic drinks. Juliet is also open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, with a menu that has both luxurious hearty dishes and light bites, which makes it a spectacularly versatile choice for the neighborhood.
How to book: Reservations are available via Resy.

5. Saucy Chick x The Goat Mafia
Beverly Grove

In the internet age, no single word generates more hype than “collab.” Some collaborations don’t live up to the excitement they generate, but the Saucy Chick x The Goat Mafia restaurant one absolutely does. The new spot is a brick-and-mortar collaboration between two former pop-ups, both Smorgasburg veterans who’ve teamed up to bring their collective talents west to the ritzy and sometimes bland stretch of 3rd Street between the Beverly Center and the Grove. That means you can get Rhea and Marcel Michel’s Indian-Mexican rotisserie chicken, Juan Garcia and Ivan Flores’ Jalisco-style birria from a century-old family recipe, and a crisp local craft beer all in the same place. The Pollo Pibil and Charred Haldi Cauliflower are particularly lovely, and they make an incredible pair with a couple of those resplendent birria tacos. The space is bright and airy, and they’ve just launched app-based delivery, which means the perfectly balanced rotisserie chicken bowls are available for a quick weekday lunch.
How to book: Walk in, order pickup via Toast, or delivery via GrubHub.

6. Mr. T

Two years after Hollywood insiders first spotted neon pink signage announcing the imminent arrival of buzzy Parisian bistro Mr. T along a trendy stretch of Sycamore Avenue in Hollywood, the globally inspired restaurant has finally opened. Translating beloved street fare through expert French techniques and California-fresh ingredients is chef Alisa Vannah (Chi Spacca, Tsubaki, and République), who trained with head chef Tsuyoshi Miyazaki in Paris prior to the opening and lent her expertise to a few dishes that only appear on the LA menu, including a Thai-inspired take on Tuna Crudo with Nam Jim vinaigrette, red flame grapes, and jalapeno oil. Whether you choose to cozy up in one of the maroon leather circle booths inside or on the string-lit patio where a row of blooming olive trees provide privacy from sidewalk traffic, you’ll be treated to an unforgettable meal where highlights include vegetarian Croquettes Monsieur with a crunchy, falafel-like exterior, and the Mr. T Mac and Cheese with truffle oil and comte cheese that gets a tableside flambé. The beverage program is just as worldly, with mezcal making its way into the eponymous Mr. T cocktail alongside prickly pear, Cointreau, lime juice, agave, and candied hibiscus, and Japanese gin making an appearance in the Tupac Shakur-inspired Dear Mama, with matcha, almond milk Baileys, vanilla cinnamon syrup, and a pistachio crumble.

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