Here are 7 must-visit Southern California restaurants for dedicated foodies – Orange County Register

Nobu Ryokan

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Malibu Restaurant is one of the go-to places for foodies.

Perched on Carbon Beach, also known as “Billionaire’s Beach”, Malibu’s exclusive Nobu Ryokan offers a specialty menu for guests and gives them insider access to Nobu Malibu, which is one of the best places to stay. Los Angeles to scout Hollywood’s A-list.

It is also one of the most difficult reservations to obtain in the country. That is, unless you are staying at the Ryokan and your concierge is happy to help you. Savor the priceless view of the sunrise from your private balcony while feasting on Nobu-style toasted bao buns. The delicious bites are exclusively served in the room and arrive with golden eggs prepared sunny side up, crispy Nueske bacon, nestled in butter-pan-fried Chinese-style steamed buns. It’s a perfect way to start the day in LA

22752 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu


New York chef John Fraser has returned to California and is showing why he’s a master of plant-based cooking. At Ardor, located inside Ian Schrager’s The West Hollywood Edition, the menu blends Mediterranean influences with locally grown California produce to create vegetable-based dishes. Charred carrots with hummus, fresh herbs and pine nuts, crispy onion rings and milk bread topped with heirloom tomatoes appeal. Still, the desserts are the stars. A phyllo “pizza” with vanilla cream, currants and 25-year-aged balsamic vinegar is cut at the table and best enjoyed in one of the chic leather banquettes. The Michelin Guide has dubbed Ardor as “ultra-chic” with a luxe rainforest vibe.

9040 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood


Ototo is the ultimate Los Angeles destination for sake lovers. This nondescript restaurant in Echo Park serves sake on tap, including special seasonal versions from Japan. The ever-changing menu blends chef Charles Namba’s childhood memories with his mother’s yoshoku cuisine. The food is decidedly Western, but the style has deep roots, originating in Japan’s Meiji period in 1889. Think: potato salad with fried capers and Kurobuta pork sausage, crispy panko-crusted Caledonian prawns with smoked eggs homemade and rock prawn okonomiyaki, a crispy egg-based pancake with cabbage, sprouts and bonito flakes. The menu changes often to echo California’s changing seasons and to better match what’s being poured.

1360 Allison Ave, Los Angeles

Lulu at the Hammer Museum

Renowned food activist Alice Waters brought Lulu to life at the Hammer Museum in 2021. The open-air space decorated with Chinese elm trees is best enjoyed with the lunchtime prix-fixe tasting menu designed by chef David Tanis, who cooked with Waters at Chez Panisse. The restaurant celebrates “regenerative food,” which pushes the food supply beyond sustainability and what Nature magazine calls “a food system to restore the planet.” Lulu also plans to work with the University of California system to educate students about sourcing and cooking local foods.

Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles


Two-Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant kaiseki showcases the creativity of chef Niki Nakayama and his wife/partner/sous-chef Carole Iida-Nakayama. The 11-course tasting menu changes almost daily, but one signature dish represents the culmination of Nakayama’s creative take on California kaiseki: creamy abalone pasta with delicate fish roe and shaved truffles. Nakayama appeared in “Master Chef” and teaches kaiseki-style cooking through her “Master Class,” but the best way to experience her food is to eat at n/naka.

3455 Overland Ave, Los Angeles

knife fold

Ravioli stuffed with wild Burgundy snails served in porcini mushroom broth at Knife Pleat in Costa Mesa (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, <a class=Orange County Register/SCNG)” width=”2600″ data-sizes=”auto” data-src=”″ data-srcset=” 620w, 780w, 810w, 1280w, 1860w”/>
Ravioli stuffed with wild Burgundy snails served in porcini mushroom broth at Knife Pleat in Costa Mesa (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Chef Tony Esnault and his team at Knife Pleat create tasting menus that celebrate holidays such as Nowruz, Persian New Year and the start of white truffle season.

Along with his wife/partner Yassmin Sarmadi, Esnault has expanded Knife Pleat’s offerings: Saturday afternoon tea service and forward-thinking lunches where the lobster Caesar salad remains one of the best midday offerings in OC.

South Coast Plaza, 3333 S. Bristol St., Costa Mesa

Casa Vega

LA’s iconic Red Booth Mexican restaurant is an Angeleno favorite. Recently, he’s been elevated with a few cameos in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Apple TV’s “Mythic Quest.” In February 2022, this family restaurant in the valley was also honored as James Beard “America’s Classics”. At Casa Vega, guacamole is always prepared at the table. Esquites (creamy corn with cotija cheese, cilantro, and lime) and cornflake-crusted vanilla ice cream are old-school Mexican-American dishes that represent nostalgic bites of SoCal’s culinary past.

13301 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks

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