Bestia (Los Angeles, CA)
2121 7th Pl.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Dining date: 3/28/13, 4/27/13, 6/7/13
Bestia opened in downtown LA late last year, and continues to be one of the most popular restaurants in the neighborhood. Ori Menashe is the chef here (formerly of Angelini Osteria) cooking up Italian food based around a house salumi program, a wood-burning oven, and housemade pastas. Wife Genevieve Gergis heads the pastry program, completing the husband-and-wife team.
The menu is on the larger side, featuring about twenty small plate antipasti, about six pizza options and just a handful of larger entrees. My favorite part of the menu may be the pasta section, with a constantly-changing lineup of around eight at a time. There’s a lot of great-sounding stuff too; I’m always indecisive here.
This post spans three separate meals at Bestia, which I can confidently say is my favorite restaurant in downtown (and one of my favorite in the city) at the moment.
Similar to much of Bill Chait’s other concepts (Sotto, Picca, Rivera, Short Order, Petty Cash), Julian Cox takes the reigns on bar program here. Though I haven’t enjoyed his cocktails here as much as other places, it remains a strong point of the restaurant.
Salumi chef’s selection of house-cured meats, pickles, mostarda, grilled bread
A specialty of the house, the selection of cured meats changes on a frequent basis. Unfortunately, I can’t recall which ones we had here, but they were all quite good especially with the warm, crusty bread. I believe this is house-baked with Menashe’s own yeast starter.
Hand-Harvested Diver Scallop Crudo sea urchin bottarga, bread crumbs, chili oil, lemon scallion
Layers of sea flavor from the scallop and bottarga provided the depth, while just a touch of chili oil brought some complementary heat. Some breadcrumbs added texture for these light, but tasty bites.
Grilled Grass-fed Beef Tongue berlotti beans, fermented chilies, red wine vinegar, salsa verde
The thick slices of tongue were tender, leading me to think they were braised before getting a crispy sear. Loved the tender, yet crispy texture and the luscious beefy flavor. So good. Creamy beans and a bright salsa verde lightened things up.
Pan-Roasted Chicken Gizzards roasted beets, belgian endive, aged capra sarda
I think these were also braised before being finished in hot oil. They had a nice crispy exterior, yet were very tender inside (unlike some of the chewier versions I’ve had, which I enjoy as well). The gizzards had great flavor, while a balsamic-based sauce helped to cut through the richness. Beets and endives added some freshness to balance.
Spaghetti Rustichella sea urchin, fermented chili, bread crumbs, grated squid ink bottarga
Sea urchin and bottarga provided layers of fresh sea flavor to complement the chewy spaghetti. Subtle chili flavor and breadcrumbs helped to make these more complete bites. Another highlight.
Cavatelli alla Norcina ricotta dumplings, housemade pork sausage, black truffles, grana padano
Al dente cavatelli pasta was paired up with sausage in a buttery sauce, complemented by black truffles. The cheese and salty, meaty sausage helped to make this a very comforting dish. Loved the texture of the pasta.
Tagliatelle allo Zafferano hand-cut saffron pasta, calabrian sausage ragu with cherry tomatoes, young rapini
This may have been my favorite pasta. The tagliatelle was a little thicker than I usually see, lending a different kind of texture similar to a Chinese knife-cut noodle. A subtly spicy tomato sauce was pretty delicious with the sausage, while bitter bites of rapini helped balance things out. I would order this anytime.
Pici alla Vaccinara oxtail & chestnut ragu, formaggio misto stagionato
A rich oxtail ragu bathed this thick, round pasta. Tender chestnuts added a different texture and sweetness to the dish. While a good pasta dish, this one didn’t stand out as much as the others.
Tagliolini di Spinaci hand-cut spinach pasta, mushroom and artichoke ragu, poached farm egg, fried spinach
Strong earthy flavors came through on this pasta, centered around the perfectly-poached egg.
Wood Oven-Roasted Sonoma Suckling Pig anson mills polenta, spinach, kale chips, fruta di speziate
The lone main entree we tried was this suckling pig. The skin, as expected, was very crispy…though kind of chewy at the same time, making it hard to eat. Succulent pieces of pork were delicious, especially with the creamy polenta. Candied citrus pieces and fresh peaches complemented the pork nicely.
Zeppole di Castagne con Gelato al Caffè Latte chestnut doughnuts, softly whipped cream, coffee gelato
Soft, almost pillowy “donut holes” were a nice sweet end to the meal. I’m not sure I got the chestnut flavor, but I didn’t mind. A rich coffee gelato and whipped cream were ideal accompaniments to the warm donuts.
Valrhona Bittersweet Chocolate Budino Tart salted caramel, cacao crust, olive oil, sea salt
Here, a fudgy chocolate with a layer of salted caramel sat in a dark chocolate crust. The flavors were a good, familiar mix; olive oil and salt helped to brighten things up. Between the donuts and this one though, I’d opt for the former next time.
On my first trip to Bestia, I came with moderately high expectations and left impressed. I wanted to visit again just to make sure, and I’m happy to say my stance hasn’t changed. I’ve been really enjoying Bestia. Rarely can I say that I pretty much liked almost everything and that I haven’t really had a letdown dish. The antipasti and pasta here have presented some of the best dishes I’ve had in LA this year, from the beef tongue and chicken gizzards to the spaghetti and tagliatelle. Food-wise I think Bestia has much of the homestyle, rustic appeal that keeps people coming back to Angelini Osteria, with a few added touches that add flair and clearly separate this as a different concept.
As great as the food is at Bestia, the noise is so dreadful as to make this restaurant totally unacceptable to me and several others I know. It’s always packed, so clearly many disagree.
You’re not alone on that; I’ve heard that complaint pretty consistently and often feel I’m shouting over others just to talk to someone across the table. Having said that, you’re right – seems like the food outweighs that point for most (including me).
Indeed, on our last visit (which will be our last), our server got half of our order wrong, almost surely because he couldn’t hear us.
Had dinner tonight at Neal Fraser’s new Red Bird. Loved it…great food and service, and although the restaurant was packed, we could talk in a normal tone of voice without shouting!
Yikes, that’s just too bad. Being too loud is one thing, but when it gets in the way of the service, that’s another level.