Dining

Spring Forward

Tasting Table's L.A. spring 2015 preview
Los Angeles 2015 Spring Preview
Illustration: Libby Vanderploeg

Spring has sprung, and with the new season comes a fresh bloom of restaurant and bar openings, cookbooks and food festivals. We're eagerly awaiting a slew of new restaurants (Indian gone Californian! Californian gone Middle Eastern!), cocktail bars and plenty of ice cream. Here, where to eat and drink, what we can't wait to read and everything else you need to know to have the best spring ever.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS

With the passing of one, comes the opening of another. Chef Bryant Ng makes a comeback after shuttering his much-loved restaurant, The Spice Table, landing in Santa Monica with a posse: Kim Ng and another husband-and-wife team, Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb (Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry and Milo & Olive). Blocks from the Third Street Promenade, Cassia will mix Ng's Southeast Asian cooking with a brasserie-style menu of wood-fired meats, noodles and rice dishes. Keep an eye out for a wineshop next door, too.

As if Grand Central Market wasn't hot enough, the Downtown food mecca is getting another heavy hitter with fast-casual falafel joint Madcapra. Chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson (New York City's Glasserie) offer the fried chickpea street food two ways: elongated gyro-like sandwiches on house-made whole-grain flatbread that's grilled to order, or in salad form. Though falafel may be the hook, the menu will also include more sandwiches and lots of seasonal vegetables.

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo expand their empire on Fairfax Avenue with a new eponymous restaurant. Though the duo's claim to fame may be poutine, offal and other meat-heavy dishes, Jon & Vinny's isn't an Animal 2.0. Instead, expect more user-friendly Italian plates with a California twist (i.e., farmers' market ingredients).

Fans of (the now-closed) Waterloo & City can catch Brendan Collins at his newest venture in Hollywood, Birch, which offers shareable plates of composed yet approachable food, a craft beer selection and a happy hour shortly down the road. The Cahuenga Boulevard restaurant feeds the dinner and happy hour crowd (lunch and brunch soon to follow) with indoor and outdoor seating, a large bar and communal tables.

Akasha Richmond has a confession: "I love all things Indian." After taking multiple trips to India and living in an ashram, Richmond debuts Sambar in April or May. The "Indian-ish" menu features traditional spices and flavors lightened up with California ingredients and taste. Expect lamb burgers; sweet potato-filled dosas; and the namesake dish with dal, tamarind and in-season greens. The former Ford's Filling Station space gets a makeover with all-white tiles and countertops.

Broken Spanish, the hotly anticipated restaurant from former FIG chef Ray Garcia, will mix traditional south-of-the-border flavors with gussied-up farmers' market goods. Garcia steps in as the new boss of the Downtown space that was formerly home to Rivera.

Photo: Courtesy of Pebble Beach Wine & Food 

A few blocks down from its more refined sister restaurant, Broken Spanish, B.S. Taqueria offers a casual menu of tacos, tortas and tamales. And with Garcia at the helm, expect tacos à la California—topped with seasonal produce, that is, on house-made tortillas.

Banh mi panzanella salad? Fried black century egg with sliced pork and basil? These are just some of the dishes you can expect at Simbal, Shawn Pham's new Southeast Asian restaurant. There will also be a chef's counter, dim sum carts and bar/lounge cocktails from Brandyn Tepper (Cocktail Academy).

We can't wait for Sweetgreen to hit the West Coast. For the uninitiated, salads might not seem like much to write home about, but the D.C.-based company has changed the lunch game with make-your-own salads from local, seasonal produce and upgraded add-ins such as Parmesan crisps, lime cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette and baked falafel.

Coming soon to West Hollywood is restaurant/bar twofer E.P. & L.P. E.P. (Extended Play) features a menu of shareable contemporary Southeast Asian food from Aussie chef Louis Tikaram, while upstairs, the rooftop (Long Play) offers a bar menu with a view: cocktails plus small plates such as spicy Thai-style beef jerky and LP Nachos. Bonus: There's a private bar stocked with top-shelf bottles.

PROVISIONS AND THINGS

L.A.'s love for Sqirl is still going strong, and the lines out the door prove it. Now, devotees of Jessica Koslow's darling can head straight to Sqirl Away for coffee, pastries and salads on the quick. "It's like Sqirl to go: You can get your baguette and everything you'd want to bring on a picnic," Koslow says. There'll also be natural wines and specialty beers.

Located inside Jon & Vinny's, Helen's retail wineshop completes the one-stop experience on Fairfax Avenue. Old and New World wine bottles are handpicked for sale by Dotolo and Shook's beverage director, Helen Johannesen.

Is there anything Nancy Silverton can't do? The Mozza empress has proved her chops from bread to Italian and now sets her sights on a new domain: ice cream. Come May or June, Silverton's frozen treats—gelato and sorbetto, to be exact—will be available by the pint at markets across the country. The lineup of Nancy's Fancy flavors include salted crunchy peanut butter with rum-soaked raisins, roasted banana with bourbon and pecan praline, and butterscotch budino with salted caramel swirl.

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COOKBOOKS

We all screamed when Big Gay Ice Cream traveled from New York City to Downtown L.A. And come April, the truck-turned-brick-and-mortar will unveil its tome of recipes, from ice creams and sorbets to sauces and toppings. There are also illustrations, an intro by Anthony Bourdain and stories sprinkled with plenty of sass. (Would you expect anything less from the creators of the Salty Pimp?)

Curtis Stone keeps it simple in Good Food, Good Life. The Maude chef shares his at-home recipes for breakfast crepes with homemade ricotta and maple-kumquat syrup, vegetarian-friendly potato and zucchini enchiladas, and springtime cherry-amaretto lattice pie.

EVENTS

A five-hour-plus drive up the coast takes you to seaside cliffs, PGA golf courses and the annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine. In its eighth year, the four-day event (April 9 to 12) welcomes more than 100 chefs, including L.A's own Kris Morningstar (Terrine), Timothy Hollingsworth (Barrel & Ashes) and David LeFevre (Fishing with Dynamite) for dinners, demos, tastings and more. Carnivores can't miss Meatopia, an all-out meat cookout, and for those with a competitive edge, catch Team USA put on The Imperial Dinner, featuring a menu of dishes that scored them the silver at this year's Bocuse d'Or.

Taco fiends, this one's for you: Tacolandia returns this spring with a lineup of more than 60 vendors. Come June 6, Coni'seafood, Guerrilla Tacos, the upcoming Broken Spanish and more descend onto Downtown for the annual LA Weekly event.

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