Bestia, Los Angeles review

If landing a table at Bestia wasn’t challenging enough (I could teach a puppy to play chess in less time), when you arrive at the graveyard of derelict factories on the darkest of alleys in the so-called “Arts District” of downtown Los Angeles – a mere Molotov cocktail away from skid row – that uncomfortable lump that you feel in the pit of your stomach is a curious mixture of anticipation and regret: The thrill and satisfaction of finally being able to sample one of LA’s white-hot “it” places, diluted by the frightening realization that this might very well be your “last supper!” But you surrender your car keys to the shadowy figure emerging from the darkness anyway, realizing that there’s just no going back.

The former warehouse is a crowded hive of exposed light bulbs, raw bricks, time-weathered steel girders and industrial doors. And in stark contrast to all the old wood, antique bric-a-brac and semi-middle-aged crowd, there is youthful electricity oozing from the asymmetrical hairdos of the gaggle of handsome, black T-shirted twentysomethings, whose charm and hospitality are only eclipsed by their cocky confidence as they rattle off recommendations from the exhaustively prolific menu. Even the open kitchen, running the length of the room, exposes more than just the hearty preparations of 41 items – it reveals an even cockier bandana-clad cooking crew of even more twentysomethings. The kids have clearly taken control of the ship – and they’re teaching the grownups a thing or two about a thing or two! Not that we tried to or anything, but there wasn’t a single query that could stump our waiter. Even the origin of the stemware was just another aspect of his limitless lexicon of information.

Executive chef Ori Menashe has created far more than just an eclecto-rustic Italian test kitchen. His prowess as a truly gifted salumiere, pizza & pasta maker, and his uncanny ability to sidestep conventional ingredients to give his hearty dishes an unpretentious reinvention, will inspire future snout-to-tail toques, who from hereon out will be referred to as the “Post-Bestia Generation”.

Sea Urchin Crostino - Bestia

Sea Urchin Crostino

The plates grow in sharability as you move down the page. Things start timidly enough with Homemade Country Bread (Menashe grows his own yeast), which reappears toasted under a variety of Crostinos, from Chicken Livers with herbs to Sea Urchin (the latter having to regrettably yield its briny flavor to the garlic and chilies).

Farro Salad - Bestia

Farro Salad

But then there’s a noisy explosion of options, building from the delightfully sweet and tangy Farro Salad in a pickled chili and avocado dressing, to the much-blogged-about Roasted Marrow Bone, and of course the adorably photogenic aged-wood plank of 4 or 5 impeccably house-cured Salumi (including duck), with sour pickled vegetables and a mild, mermaid-green mustard for company. Thanks to the revocation of the California law, Foie Gras Terrine has returned to the menu, and the spreadable ‘Nduja sausage makes a number of spicy appearances – as the flavor driver for Mussels and Clams and as a feature in one of the three San Marzano tomato-based pizzas.

Salumi - Bestia


I’m always a bit weary that an octopod can become mushy when tossed in a dressing. But chef Menashe keeps his cheerful Grilled Octopus and Calamari moist, tangy and shatter crisp, with a refreshing and citrusy chili vinaigrette. His pastas aren’t just house made, they’re house leavened! The melt-in-your-mouth worm-shaped Pici with hearty chunks of deliciously salty lamb ragu and crunchy breadcrumbs will emit a sigh of delight from even the staunchest of Italian die-hards.

Pici with lamb ragu - Bestia

Pici with lamb ragu

Given that Bestia means beast, the selection of land animals is surprisingly short, but the family style Prime Aged Ribeye, fileted to boast a succulent pink interior that tears apart effortlessly, delivers a simple, salty, fire-grilled, tender morsel of umami heaven.

Aspen Ridge Prime Aged Ribeye - Bestia

Aspen Ridge Prime Aged Ribeye

Pastry chef Genevieve Gergis (Menashe’s wife) peppers her half dozen desserts with seasonal fruits like persimmons, tangerines, winter lemons or pink lady apples, but the olive oil and salted caramel Valrhona Chocolate Budino is by far the strongest contender.

Grilled Octopus and Calamari - Bestia

Grilled Octopus and Calamari

Bestia might well be LA’s turning point in defiance of convention, categorization, expectation and formality, heralding a brand new genre of dining on the left coast.


Obicá review

Obicá. The Grand Palace of Mozz

Obicá. The Grand Palace of Mozz

Silvio Ursini is probably not a household name amongst New York foodies, but one of Bulgari’s top creative executives for their Hotels and Resorts division just so happens to have also founded the world’s first Mozzarella bar a decade ago. The concept behind Obika was to create a restaurant around several different varieties of fresh gourmet Mozzarella, milked exclusively from water buffalo in the Campania region of Italy, and thereby earning the much coveted, but seldom seen, “Protected Designation of Origin” certification.

Obicá - Caprese Classica

Caprese Classica

I vividly remember been blown away on my first visit to the bar in Rome’s Parlamento district, by the creamy sweetness of each of the four cheeses, complemented by their feather-soft texture from skin to center. (I should have a penny for every time I’ve had to plough through “so called” Mozzarella di Buffala, that was either tight, runny, hard, crumbly, sour, chalky or ho-hum.)

Ursini’s little idea turned into a global brand with eighteen mozzarella bars worldwide. To celebrate their tenth anniversary, they just opened their newest location and renamed the brand Obicá, which means “here it is” in a Neapolitan dialect. And so if you stand just off the northeast corner of Broadway and 21st, you too can say “Obica!”

Obicá - Bufala Beet Salad

Bufala Beet Salad

The battleship gray, sleek interior with mirrored surfaces and discreet lighting feels more like a Japanese designer boutique than the Grand Palace of Mozz, but the four brine-filled tanks housing the baseball-white puffs of goodness flown in twice a week is unmistakably why the place is so crowded. The “Classica” is what all mozzarella dreams it could be: sweet, smooth, silky, light and ever-so-slightly salty. The almost caramel colored “Affumicata” has a sharp and distinctive hay-smoke bite to it. The “Burrata” is the runnier, cream-centered version of the classic, and it’s brother “Tartufo” is infused with black summer truffles.

Obicá - Bufala in Carrozza

Bufala in Carrozza

You can order them solo, with Salumi or Antipasti, on Bruschetti, deep fried (In Carrozza), on pizzas or in several salads (the Caprese Classica is a cheerful collage of multi-colored tomatoes, and the Beet salad has roasted pine-nuts and string beans for crunch).

Obicá - Pappardelle al Ragú di Anatra e Arancina

Pappardelle al Ragú di Anatra e Arancina

Unlike their lunchtime bar in the IBM building on 56th street, chef Enzo Neri’s menu elaborates way beyond the Mozz to include more substantial dishes like his signature homemade pastas, pizzas, seafood and vegetables. The Rosemary flavored Pappardelle al Ragú di Anatra e Arancina has an incredible Tuscan-style duck ragú spiked with a surprising zest of orange, and the Taglierini di Botarga e Granchio is like an enchantment-under-the-sea dance with a blend of crab ragú with roe from Sardinian mullet, topped with fresh sea-urchins.

Obicá - Ananas Carpaccio

Ananas Carpaccio

The desserts are a very fresh respite from the usual institutional suspects. Three guesses what cheese the Crema de Ricotta comes from…Mmm!

And what better way to walk home than with the crisp and lingering taste of Ananas Carpaccio – X-ray-thin, mint syrup marinated Pineapple slices with lemon sorbet and pink peppercorns.

Chi Spacca – Los Angeles review

Chi Spacca - The newest venture from the Mozza group is an uncompromising carnivore’s delight. Wedged between Mozza and Mozza2Go on what is fast becoming Hancock Park’s hungriest block, Nancy Silverton and her team have given birth to Chi Spacca – a holy shrine to flesh. The rust colored, black shelved room boasts a demonstration-style kitchen that harkens to the space’s former life as an experimental cooking lab and slaughtery. Chef de Cuisine Matt Colby’s comprehensive knowledge of protein and all its complexities, yields a daring menu that shows off his proudest contributions to the LA food scene.

Chi Spacca - Affettati Misti

Affettati Misti

Sectioned into unrelated chapters rather than sequential courses, Colby offers diners (of all appetites) a rather arbitrary range of small plates including ricotta stuffed Squash Blossoms, honeycomb and hazelnut adorned Pecorino, a selection of Pane Bianco (Bruschettas) and house made Pickles.

Chi Spacca - Focaccia Di Recco

Focaccia Di Recco

There’s no mistaking his Focaccia Di Recco for any conventional Focaccia you’ve ever tasted. This one is a crusty, fluff-less flatbread, smothered in a melted salty-sweet Stracchino cheese and dribbled with olive oil.Chi Spacca - Drying cabinetHis on-site salumeria houses more than a ton of meat (quite literally), aging and curing for up to 2 years before being served on planks as Affettati Misti, a heavenly selection of salami’s, lardo wrapped grissini sticks, a coarse butchers paté and the most delicious fritters made from pigs trotters and chunks of smoky pork.

Salads and sides include a wondrous roasted Cauliflower smothered in a rich Bagna Cauda (anchovy, garlic, lemon) and grilled Broccoli in a lemon vinaigrette.

Chi Spacca - Bistecca Fiorentina

Bistecca Fiorentina

The larger plates grow in portion and price from the delicate bacon wrapped veal Sweetbreads to a honkin’ 50oz Bone-in New York Steak. Traffic-stopping favorites are the Milk-Roasted Pork Loin and the Bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine steak), which requires 45 minutes to roast and arrives with the bone upright, (obviously proclaiming man’s victorious domination over the cow) and a domino row of salt charred (yet rare) medallions of melt-in-your-mouth, succulent, tender, dry-aged beef in a pool of olive oil. No sauce, no spice, no need. (Just the faintly muted sound of a grown man crying!)