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Jonathan Gold’s top LA restaurant picks, from $ to $$$$

Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold.
Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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It’s like Christmas for foodies; that special day that comes once a year – “Jonathan Gold’s 101” for 2017 has arrived.  

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

The coveted top spot goes to Vespertine, the creation of chef Jordan Kahn, which the website describes as “a gastronomical experiment seeking to disrupt the course of the modern restaurant” – a multisensory experience with its own outer space mythology (no, really) that’s received mixed critical reviews, ranging the gamut from pretentious to chef-d’oeuvre.  

If you’re a Los Angeles Times subscriber, you can find the full list here.  

Old favorites such as Providence, Spago and Trois Mec are in the top ten. You’ll also find cheaper picks such as Guerilla Tacos, Downtown fried chicken spot Howlin’ Ray’s and Iranian Westwood favorite, Attari Sandwich Shop, though the list does skew on the pricier side. 

"There's a certain customer base of people who want to see cooking done at the very highest technical level. It's the same as the people who will pay $300 for opera tickets," said Gold. 

But not everyone can shell out $300, so from least to most expensive, hear are some of the spots  Gold told us about. 

Guerrilla Tacos ($) 

"If I'm asked to name a restaurant that's the most emblematic of Los Angeles, that's often the one that I'll mention. The chef, Wes Avila, studied and worked with Alain Ducasse who's one of the best French chefs in the world in France...he left not to open another place doing French food, which is what you'd expect, but cooking the kind of tacos he'd grown up eating in Los Angeles, and using the very top quality farmer market's ingredients and shellfish and almost unobtainable pork that all the rest of the chefs in town wish they had access to. It's kind of beautiful." 

Night + Market Song ($$)

"Night + Market Song is the second restaurant of Kris Yenbamroong who grew up in a Thai restaurant family and sort of fell backwards into doing a Northern Thai style restaurant using the kind of food he'd grown up on when he want to school in Thailand... the grilled boar collar is really good and there's really good Northern Thai soup with chicken  and with coconut flavored broth. It's spectacular." 

Kismet ($$$) 

"Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson ran a restaurant in New York that was very well received. They moved here, opened a falafel place in the Grand Central Market downtown and Kismet is their first full fledged restaurant in Los Angeles. Its specialty is a whole sauteed rabbit plate which is beyond wonderful. They have a special during the day that's called "all the things" which is literally every bit of flatbread and salad and hummus that's on the menu. It's a smart way of looking at Middle Eastern food." 

Orsa & Winston ($$$$)

"I think that he [Chef Josef Centeno] may be one of the people that's very much behind the high-end small plates thing that we've been doing for a while...Orsa & Winston is very Japanese based, so you're seeing a lot of fermented flavors, you're seeing a lot of great sauces, you're seeing...super good sushi-quality fish prepared in what you would expect a French-trained chef to be able to do. It's delicious." 


Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer Prize winning restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times; his “101 Best Restaurants” guide released this week