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Monthly recap

The best places to eat and drink in L.A. this month, according to our food writers

April showers bring May flowers — at least that’s what Angelenos are hoping for. After two years of record rain, we’re ready for the dry Mediterranean climate our region is known for, along with all of the typical seasonal activities.

That includes home Dodgers games now that baseball season is in full swing. The neighborhoods near Dodger Stadium are filled with long-loved dining destinations like Philippe the Original and Guisado’s, but don’t miss our guide for finding lesser-known food and drink picks, spanning artisanal sake, fresh oysters and a Cypress Park slice shop.

Spring is also prime time for road trips, especially now that the desert festival crowds have departed. If you’re heading out to Palm Springs or as far as Yucca Valley, be sure to keep restaurant critic Bill Addison’s recently published restaurant guide handy.

And if you’re cooking at home, there are several spring cookbooks to aid in those explorations. World Central Kitchen chef José Andrés’ “Zaytinya” cookbook celebrates the connections between dishes pulled from across the Mediterranean and Middle East, with recipes such as a chilled yoghurt soup and buttery shrimp with dill. Closer to home, chef-restaurateurs Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer are releasing “Kismet: Bright, Fresh, Vegetable-Loving Recipes.” The cookbook follows a similar ethos as the pair’s L.A. restaurants with casual yet complex dishes that bring the best out in vegetables.

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Springtime also invites us to seize the sunlight with midday meals. Weekday lunch is a great way to shake up your work routine and to try a popular restaurant that’s typically booked for dinner — don’t miss our staff guide with some of our favorite lunch menus ranging from prix-fixe power picks to casual taco spots. On weekends, brunch runs this town. Thankfully, we have Addison to guide us toward the best of the best.

Keep reading if you need even more dining ideas this month, including a new Korean restaurant from a Michelin-recognized team, a viral bakery in Koreatown and a soba noodle bar in Culver City.

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Alice B. in Palm Springs
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Alice B.

Palm Springs Eclectic $$
Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of influential L.A. institution Border Grill and more recently Socalo, have planted new roots in Palm Springs with Alice B, a restaurant tucked in an LGBTQ+ living center for residents 55-and-up called Living Out. Restaurant critic Bill Addison highlighted the restaurant in a recent Tasting Notes newsletter as one that feels particularly personal in its mission . With executive chef Lance Velasquez at the helm, the menu harnesses Feniger and Milliken’s global approach, Cal-Mediterranean flavors and marries it with continental cuisine in a hat-tip to Palm Spring’s MidCentury Modern style. A starter of cornmeal-cheddar drop biscuits is a requirement for the table, followed by steak Diane in a brandy-Dijon mustard cream sauce or seed-crusted chicken cutlet served with a colorful salad dotted of apple, radish and pomegranate seeds, depending on the depth of your appetite. Bookmark the restaurant and make it a stop on your next road trip to Palm Springs.
Read more about Alice B. in Tasting Notes.
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Negima, Curry Pan and Charred Sweet Potato at Budonoki
(Ron De Angelis / For The Times)

Budonoki

East Hollywood Japanese Bar Bites $$
Just a few months post-opening, Virgil Village’s Budonoki has hit a brisk stride with its dimly lit izakaya that pulses with decades-spanning R&B hits every day that it’s open. Diners come for snacky items such as sour Thai pork sausage with crispy rice, pressed sushi and flaky curry pan pastries filled with Wagyu and cheese, and stay for sake cocktails in tiki-inspired mugs. With potted plants back-lit in violet and blue light and a menu that jumps between chef Dan Rabilwongse and chef de cuisine Justin Vu’s respective Thai and Vietnamese heritages, Budonoki isn’t your usual take on an izakaya, but it sure is fun.
Read critic Bill Addison’s Budonoki review.
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The flat croissant from Coin de Rue in Koreatown.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Coin de Rue

Koreatown Bakery $
A flat croissant might sound like a pastry abomination, but columnist Jenn Harris insists that the viral delights coming out of Koreatown bakery Coin de Rue are more than a gimmick. Pastry chef Rachel Lee flattens her croissants with a special press her father, owner Hyo Sang Lee, bought from Korea, where the trend originated. The result yields 2-D croissants that are buttery and crunchy but not brittle, ideal for those who prefer the crispy part of the crust, with whipped cream served on the side. Plus, you can still order regular, fluffy-centered croissants, along with thick toasts, shaved ice, coffee drinks, tea lattes and slushies.
Read about the flat croissants at Coin de Rue.
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The L'Haute Dog sausage dripping with cheese fondue and peppers on a white plate with knife at Coucou West Hollywood.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Coucou

West Hollywood French $$
Husband-and-wife restaurateurs Jesse and Hayley Feldman have brought their French bistro concept Coucou to a second West Hollywood location, with new menu items alongside signature favorites such as L’Haute Dog, a decadent pork sausage in a buttery brioche roll that’s topped with cheese fondue and pepperoncini. While it’s tempting to stick with reliable standards of fried olives and oysters paired with cucumber mignonette, dishes exclusive to the West Hollywood outpost are worth branching out for, including a pizzette topped with escargots and smoked bacon and albacore tuna tartare. Weekend brunch is also limited to the new location with br?léed crêpes and Ni?oise salad. The cocktail menu from Isabel Hales of Healdburg’s Barndiva brings a host of new cocktails as well.
Read about the second location of the French bistro.
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An overhead photo of sliced zabuton steak with bone marrow on a skillet at Danbi in Koreatown. Kimchi and salt on the side.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Danbi

Koreatown Korean $$
Long Hospitality, behind Michelin-recognized Liu’s Cafe, has flipped their Tokki tapas spot with a new passion project called Danbi. In the corner of Chapman Plaza, the menu from chef Lareine Ko plays off of Koreatown staples with bone marrow tartare that can be supplemented with bibimbap and a seafood pancake dotted with scallops. The spirits list overseen by John Li sources exclusively from Korean labels for a soju-spiked take on an espresso martini and a kimchi mule with white kimchi-infused soju, and the desserts menu from pastry chef Isabell Manibusan includes whimsical takes on traditional Korean sweets, such as sujeongwa cinnamon punch as an icy granité with Korean pear and pine nut tuile.
Read about the new opening from Long Hospitality.
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A variety of cookies from Fleurs et Sel bakery in West Adams.
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times )

Fleurs et Sel

West Adams Bakery $
One month after getting furloughed in March 2020, Lara Adekoya launched Fleurs et Sel, a cookie pop-up out of her West Hollywood home. The home baker quickly gained a following, including famous fans Lena Waithe and Issa Rae, for bulky and dense cookies in flavors such as sea-salt chocolate chip, matcha white chocolate and Earl Grey vanilla. Now, she’s the owner of a new bricks-and-mortar shop in West Adams, where she offers cookies for walk-in customers as well as “drops” that can be pre-ordered online for easy pickup. Flavors rotate regularly as Adekoya experiments with new combinations such as a Funfetti birthday cake cookie with sprinkles and crumbles of Golden Oreos baked inside. Hours and days of operation are still in flux, but the Instagram is regularly updated with the shop’s schedule and available flavors.
Read about the new cookie shop in West Adams.
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A plate of oysters
(Annie Noelker / For The Times)

Found Oyster

East Hollywood Seafood $$
Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer Benny Blanco took columnist Jenn Harris on a “bang bang” of his favorite L.A. food spots, including Found Oyster, a 101 best restaurants pick in Virgil Village. The duo splurged on the Overboard seafood platter with oysters, Old Bay-seasoned shrimp, crab cocktail and smoked trout dip, plus scallop tostadas, caviar-crowned oyster shooters and a round of spot prawns. Blanco is friends with the restaurant’s chef and co-owner Ari Kolender, who collaborated on recipes for his just-released cookbook “Open Wide: A Cookbook for Friends,” co-written with Jess Damuck. Blanco tells Harris that Kolender’s saucy lobster dish is one of the most prized recipes in the book.
Read about Benny Blanco’s food crawl with columnist Jenn Harris.
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Stuffed chicken wings at Hakata Izakaya Hero in Westwood
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Hakata Izakaya HERO

West Los Angeles Japanese $$
On the hunt for a local izakaya that hews close to those found in Japan, critic Bill Addison in a recent Tasting Notes newsletter recommended three across L.A. County that fit the bill with unfussy drinking foods and worthy sake rosters. In Westwood, Hakata Izakaya HERO stands out with a frequently appearing special of tonkotsu ramen with black Iberico pork, pork belly skewers and pork-stuffed fried chicken wings, plus seasonal sake and a smart wine list. The unassuming storefront doesn’t dissuade multigenerational crowds who keep it bustling throughout the week.
Get Addison’s top izakaya recommendations.
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Strawberry milk cake at Harucake
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Harucake

Koreatown Desserts $$
Nine months after opening, passersby now know that the throng of people idling on the corner of 6th and Kenmore on the weekends are standing in line for Harucake, the highly conceptual Koreatown bakery from Ellie You, who spent years dreaming up the design of her shop and the aesthetics of her playful, decorative cakes. After going viral on TikTok, customers clamor for fluffy cakes that are layered with genoise sponge and airy milk cream frosting, in flavors that celebrate You’s Korean background, such as Yogurt Green Grape, Matcha Strawberry abd Mugwort Injeolmi. The baker told writer Khushbu Shah that her goal is “to make Americans fall in love with Korean cakes.” Judging from the pastry case that sells out almost daily, she’s well on her way.
Read writer Khushbu Shah’s profile of Koreatown’s Harucake bakery.
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A hand shaves black truffle onto salmon and rice at Iki Nori sushi bar in Hollywood.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Iki Nori

Hollywood Sushi $$
The sushi menu at Iki Ramen has proved so popular that the team just expanded with Iki Nori, a 12-seat sushi-focused bar just down the street from the ramen shop’s Hollywood location. In addition to hand rolls offered a la carte or in four- to six-roll sets, Iki Nori serves nigiri, sashimi and sides such as seaweed cucumber salad and a crispy crab taco. The beverage menu features sakes, Japanese whiskys and dashi martinis. Partners Jeffry Undiarto, Hiroyuki Masato, Sebastian Karyadi and Andy Juliady plan to open another sushi restaurant in Arcadia soon.
Read about the sushi restaurant from Iki Ramen.
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Baked crab salad with daikon at Izakaya Hachi in Torrance
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Izakaya Hachi

Torrance Japanese $$
In Torrance, Izakaya Hachi represents another successful stop along critic Bill Addison’s traditional izakaya tour. Though the buzzy pub is run by an international restaurant conglomerate, it’s got a laid-back, neighborhood feel. The menu is lengthy and service is quick as tables and bar seats fill over the evening. Addison recommends leaning on Japanese drinking food standards such as chicken karaage, meat skewers, pressed sushi with mackerel and seaweed salad, paired with sake or a citrusy shochu highball.
Read about three traditional izakayas in L.A.
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The seasonal hairy crab special at Izakaya Tonchinkan in Arcadia
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Izakaya Tonchinkan

Arcadia Japanese $$$
Izakaya Tonchinkan is owned by Yamato Miura, who also runs Sushi Kisen, one of critic Bill Addison’s favorite sushi restaurants in the region, so it was no surprise that he found himself partial to Miura’s clandestine bar across the street. It delivers an upscale take on izakaya culture with seasonal sushi and sashimi, plus Hokkaido hairy crab with vinegar dipping sauce that Addison recommends as a worthwhile splurge if you’re with a group. The sizable sake collection invites exploration.
Read about Yamato Miura’s Arcadia izakaya.
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An overhead of a fried-gyoza bento box with rice, egg roll, and an array of sauces at Kaminari Gyoza Bar in Little Tokyo
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Kaminari Gyoza Bar

Downtown L.A. Japanese $
During the pandemic, chef Shigemitsu Fujii flipped his Little Tokyo fried chicken spot Kabuto to focus on gyoza that were boxed up for takeout. Now Fujii, who hails from gyoza capital Utsunomiya, Japan, has launched indoor dining at Kaminari Gyoza Bar, including beer and sake. Thinly wrapped gyoza can be pan-fried, deep-fried or boiled in soup, and are available a la carte or in bento boxes, with dipping sauces such as cilantro chile, yuzu kosho and ponzu.
Read about the launch of indoor dining at Kaminari Gyoza Bar.
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Dining scene of 'Kuya Trays', featuring lucena chon, right, and hiramasa collar from Kuya Lord
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Kuya Lord

Filipino $$
When Lord Maynard Llera brought his La Ca?ada Flintridge-based pop-up to a permanent location in Melrose Hill, it became an immediate favorite for the chef-owner’s expressive take on Filipino barbecue, with highlights such as crispy, herbaceous pork belly that’s rolled into a tight cylinder and hiramasa collar grilled over almond wood. The restaurant has placed on critic Bill Addison’s 101 Best Restaurants guide for two years running and, as reporter Stephanie Breijo revealed, Llera is a finalist for best chef: California in the 2024 James Beard Awards. He’s the only L.A. finalist in the category, and one of just two L.A. County finalists across this year’s nominations.
Read about the 2024 James Beard restaurant and chef award finalists.
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La 'Croque

Long Beach Sandwich Shop $
A new sandwich destination has launched in place of former bakery-cafe Happy Cow Kitchen in Long Beach. From chef-baker Claudette Pentz, the revamped operation is offering sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, like the Capretzel with heirloom tomato and sheep’s milk cheese on pretzel bread and the house specialty ‘Croque Monsieur with cured, thin-sliced ham and melted Gruyere on sourdough toast. Vegan options are also available, as well as pastries including a vegan apple turnover and a triple-chocolate cookie with Maldon sea salt.
Read about Long Beach’s new sandwich shop.
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An order of soba from Sobar in Culver City.
(Sobar)

Sobar

Culver City Japanese $$
In a city flush with ramen options, chef-owner Masato Midorikawa is hoping to make the case for soba noodles. At her small bar in Culver City, Ju-Wari soba, a naturally gluten-free noodle made with buckwheat flour and water, represent the menu focus. You can supplement the noodles with cold or hot broths swirling with scallions, sesame or wasabi, or add starters such as shrimp tempura and slow-cooked duck breast. Columnist Jenn Harris prefers the noodles dry and topped simply with yuzu and matcha salt.
Read about the Culver City soba bar.
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Benny Blanco surrounded by plates of food at Spicy BBQ Restaurant.
(Annie Noelker / For The Times)

Spicy BBQ

East Hollywood Thai $
The first stop on columnist Jenn Harris’ food crawl with Benny Blanco is Spicy BBQ, a Thai restaurant in East L.A. In the small dining room, the pair order a spread that includes spicy jackfruit salad, Chinese broccoli, spicy BBQ beef, fried egg salad and nam prik neum. As they eat, Blanco regales Harris with tales of his teenage years spent in rural Virginia, where cannabis-fueled munchies helped establish his love of cooking and hosting dinner parties, with the aid of a George Foreman grill.
Check out the spots from Benny Blanco’s food crawl.
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Find classic cocktails like a Painkiller in a tiki-style mug at Strong Water in Anaheim.
(Sarah Mosqueda )

Strong Water

Anaheim Tiki Bar $$
Favorite Southern California tiki bar Strong Water was named as a finalist in the 2024 James Beard awards in the category of outstanding wine and other beverages program, serving as the only Orange County representation in this year’s restaurant and chef awards. Not only is the space transportive with netting, faux tropical flowers and other details that mimic the interior of a sunken vessel, but the beverage program infuses classic tiki cocktails with creative flourishes, such as a Taro Colada that adds taro cream to spiced rum. The food menu makes this a worthy dining destination as well, like the Loco Moco burger with a Wagyu beef patty, Spam, egg and bone marrow gravy on a Hawaiian bun. Make a reservation for the immersive interior if you want to experience the sunken ship aesthetic.
Read about the 2024 James Beard finalists.
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Benny Blanco at Tacos Y Birria La Unica.
(Annie Noelker / For The Times)

Tacos y Birria La Unica

Boyle Heights Mexican $
On the last stop on his food crawl with columnist Jenn Harris, producer and songwriter Benny Blanco affirms something that Angelenos know to be a fact: “L.A. is like one of these crazy places where a truck serving tacos on the side of the street could be better than the double Michelin restaurant.”

Tacos y Birria La Unica’s food truck is one such place. Here, Blanco orders goat and beef queso birria tacos with a mixture of cabeza and lengua cuts. He eats half the taco in one bite, first dipping the crispy, sauce-stained shell in a hot cup of consommé.
Visit the spots on Benny Blanco’s food crawl.
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An overhead photo of a chorizo, black bean, cheese and guacamole taco from Villa's Tacos in Grand Central Market
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Villa's Tacos

Downtown L.A. Mexican $
The Michelin-recognized taqueria from Victor Villa has expanded to a stall in the historic Grand Central Market in downtown L.A., taking over the former Belcampo Meat Co. space. The menu will be the same as their original Highland Park outpost, with signature L.A.-style tacos on blue corn tortillas with griddled cheese, cilantro, onion, a scoop of guacamole and proteins such as house chorizo and black beans and cactus salad. Villa plans to add new menu items exclusive to each location in the coming weeks.
Read about the second location of Villa’s Tacos.
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