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Best Restaurants in Los Angeles

The famed pastrami on rye 
at Langer’s deli.

Photo: Coral Von Zumwalt

Q: Quesillo

Tangy-sweet quesillo (soft, unripened cow’s-milk cheese) is the key to a mouthwatering pupusa: a disk of griddled corn flatbread filled with grated cheese and your choice of green chiles, shredded pork, refried beans, squash, or artichoke-like loroco flower. Native to El Salvador—which celebrates National Pupusa Day on the second Sunday of November—but beloved throughout Central America, pupusas can be found all over L.A., though none better than at Atlacatl (pupusa $2.10). Still not sated? Come to MacArthur Park June 19 for the annual Pupusa Festival.

R: Rivera

John Rivera Sedlar, the Santa Fe–born chef who pioneered Southwestern cuisine two decades ago, makes his long-awaited return to the kitchen at Rivera (dinner for two $85), a three-point toss from the Staples Center. The sleekly designed space—shades of 90’s dot-com boom—is a bit too faithful to Sedlar’s heyday, but the cooking is reassuringly earthy: the juicy puerco pibil (sous vide–cooked pork shoulder) is so meltingly tender you could cut it with a sheaf of lettuce, while the house-made tortillas—still warm from the griddle—have sage leaves, fresh chervil, dill, tarragon, and edible flowers pressed into their centers.

S: Salad

This is not about a sensible substitution for fries. This is not alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast. This is about the genre-defining Green Goddess salad at Tavern (lunch for two $40), Suzanne Goin’s breezy new restaurant-café-food shop in Brentwood, which is precisely the sort of place where unadventurous diners order salads as a main course. They don’t deserve one this good: a platter of sweet Dungeness crab, poached shrimp, avocado, and bright-green leaves of market-fresh Little Gem—a crisper, nuttier butter lettuce—with a dressing redolent of tarragon, anchovy, and chive. The virtuous never had it so good.

T: Tapas

The Bazaar (dinner for two $100)—a $12 million collaboration at the SLS Hotel between the madcap Spanish chef José Andrés, designer Philippe Starck, and hotelier Sam Nazarian—is a restaurant in the way that Avatar is a movie: every element is engineered to dazzle and disorient, for better or for worse, starting with the wacky, 12,500-square-foot interior (which combines a patisserie, a bar, two dining rooms, a Moss design shop, and an itinerant palm reader). Then there’s the menu itself—half devoted to traditional tapas, the other to metaphysical riffs on same. Sure, some of it reads like molecular gastronomy’s greatest hits: the foie gras cotton candy, the dainty ice cream cones of caviar, the requisite spherified olives (which taste like salty tears). Yet only the jaded could deny the joy here. Behold the seared arctic char, delivered under a silver dome, which the server lifts to unleash a swirl of applewood-scented “smoke.” Or the conserva—canned daily in sardine tins, in the Spanish manner—of king crab with pungent tarragon, edible flowers, and a bracingly tart raspberry vinaigrette.

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