624 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dining date: 12/6/13
Chef Walter Manzke (Bastide, Church & State, countless collaborative/pop-up events) has become one of my favorite chefs in Los Angeles over the years, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting this opening for a long time. Taking over the location of famed Campanile & La Brea Bakery, Republique’s menu is steeped in French influences with a lot of dishes reminiscent of the classical Bistro fare that Manzke was cooking at Church & State.
The hottest seats in the restaurant, literally, are the four at the chefs counter. These provide a front-row glimpse into the action in the kitchen, directly opposite of the large wood-burning oven. Even on this chilling Los Angeles weekend, these seats were kept very warm all evening.
2224 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Dining date: 11/29/13
My first two visits to Commonwealth were excellent. The food was creative, well-executed and delicious within a very well-priced tasting menu ($65 at the time with $10 going directly to a local charity). Given I don’t spend as much time in San Francisco as I used to, it’s taken me a full two years to make a return. While in town for Thanksgiving, the family returned for a post-Thanksgiving dinner.
Not surprisingly, the price of the tasting menu has risen but I think it’s still priced well at $75 for six courses (and on this evening, two amuse bouches). A la carte is a legitimate option (all plates priced in the teens); with our party of 4 we easily could’ve ordered one of everything on the menu and gotten more tastes for less money. However, we ended up getting the best of both worlds, ordering the tasting menu and adding a few supplemental a la carte courses. The restaurant still allows for the addition of these supplements at the a la carte pricing, effectively waiving any split-plate charge and will seamlessly integrate the courses into the progression of the meal. I love the idea. The wine pairing of six pours was an extra $40.
Dining date: 11/28/13
The Thanksgiving post has become a sort of tradition on my blog – this is the fifth annual post. As has been the case over the last few years, Thanksgiving is a tale of two meals. Lunch is a casual buffet-style affair at my aunt & uncle’s (mom’s side) while dinner is a sitdown meal at my grandmother’s (dad’s side).
Happy Thanksgiving! Coincidentally, today marks the fourth year anniversary of this blog. This past year was filled with far less travels but still lots of great eats. I’ve stayed within the U.S. this year and, as a result, this year’s list isn’t nearly as worldly as last year’s (in which each of the top 5 were outside of the country).
Thinking back on a year of meals that was very LA-centric, it seemed to be a year of many pop-ups and collaborative dinners. I appreciate the fact that there are so many opportunities to try food from up-and-coming chefs and well-known ones from outside the city. In fact, I was lucky enough to attend meals in LA from 4 of NorCal’s most notable chefs/restaurants this year (Chris Kostow/Meadowood, Douglas Keane/Cyrus, Tim Hollingsworth/The French Laundry, David Kinch/Manresa). I missed out on the ones with Daniel Boulud and David Chang (and others I’m sure), but it’s exciting to see so many coming to LA to eat, see and cook.
Here, now, my five most memorable meals of the past year:
Wolvesmouth Underground Dining
Dining date: 11/22/13
It’s been a busy year for Craig Thornton and his Wolvesmouth team. His underground dinners have continued to be in high-demand, easily the most noteworthy of its kind in the city (and perhaps country). The success of his underground dinners has spawned collaborations and events across the nation, notably in NYC and his ‘Cut Your Teeth’ residency at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMoa).
I was the lucky invitee as a guest of someone that got a reservation to this public dinner. Held in downtown, the decor of the dinners has continued to evolve, getting deeper into the wolf’s den theme. The SMMoa installments have really delved into connecting the dining atmosphere with the food for a more complete experience, and Thornton has brought more and more of that into his regular dinners.
Orsa & Winston
122 W 4th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 11/9/13
Orsa & Winston is Josef Centeno’s latest venture in his growing lineup of downtown restaurants. The highly-acclaimed Baco Mercat came first, quickly followed by Bar Ama and now Orsa & Winston next door. All three restaurants opened up within a span of two years and within a block of each other creating quite the Centeno base. For me, Centeno’s food has been a little hit-or-miss, but I was very intrigued by this restaurant given its fine dining concept.
The food at Orsa & Winston is described as fine dining with Japanese and Italian influences. After taking the helm of a few casual small plates restaurants, Centeno is drawing some of his experience during his time as chef de cuisine of Manresa in Northern California. A few menu options are available including a 5-course, 9 course and ridiculous sounding “super omakase” of ~20 courses priced at $60, $95 and $195 respectively. A family style option is also available, 4 courses for $50. Given this was my first time coming in and I haven’t been completely sold on Centeno’s food, we went with the 5-course as a sort of audition for a return trip on a larger meal.