Paris native Vincent Samarco brought his vision for a “beautiful life” to Wilshire Boulevard by opening Belle Vie Food & Wine in 2016. The oh-so-French wine bar features a marble bar, red cushioned banquettes, an elaborate stained glass chandelier, and French posters lining the east wall. Chef Cedric Nicolas mainly serves a menu of French classics like moules Marinières. This mussel preparation was supposedly inspired by a 13th Century Irish shipwreck survivor named Patrick Walton who farmed mussels in France. At Belle Vie, plump mussels benefit from “a French Riviera twist” and are cooked in an aromatic broth crafted with white wine, spring onions, garlic, black olives, cherry tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, and basil. Have bread handy to sop up that broth.
Longtime sushi chef Toshi Kataoka trained under Sasabune legend Nobi Kusuhara and has helmed Echigo for years on the second floor of the Palm Plaza strip mall. He presides over a tile-floored dining room and 12-seat bar. He crafts individual pieces of sushi, which encourages oceanic variety. A specials board features several fish you’ll rarely find outside of Japan, many fantastic, though you should start with ankimo. Rich, creamy slabs of monkfish liver, the so-called “foie gras of the sea,” are dressed with shaved scallions and earthy miso sauce. Remember, in this case, “No soy sauce.”
Kato, the modern Taiwanese restaurant from Jon Yao, is best known for a high-value tasting menu driven by seasonality and creativity. His menu changes constantly, so while we’d highly recommend several dishes, they may not appear on your table. Given that, consider Kato’s beef noodle soup night, which takes over the tiny strip mall space one Wednesday per month and features Taiwanese comfort food. Beef noodle soup, known as niu rou mian in Taiwan, is especially good under Yao’s watch. He simmers a broth for 5-7 hours using beef shin bones, slices of shank, and sticky, collagen-rich tendon. The aromatic, well-balanced broth with a beautiful finishing kick incorporates ingredients like ginger, shallots, fermented broad beans, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, clove, star anise, cinnamon, coriander, fennel seed, chile de arbol, and Szechuan pepper. Flat Sun noodles add satisfying chew, and scallions and cilantro are bright, complementary garnishes.
Javan was a longtime West L.A. favorite for Persian cuisine, located beneath Barrington Bridge Club. Restaurateur Matt Barani, who has run Safir Mediterranean Cuisine in Woodland Hills since 2008, recently replaced Javan, but retained the beloved chef. The name Safir means “ambassador” in Farsi, and that savvy move is sure to please regulars. The restaurant features marble tables, a white piano, and some tasty kabobs. Juicy chunks of skin-on whitefish are especially good, marinated with lemon juice, saffron, and “seasoning” and served with baghali polo - basmati rice tossed with fava beans and dill. Each plate also comes with roasted tomato, parsley sprig and a squeezable lemon.
One of L.A.’s best sushi bars, Shunji Japanese Cuisine is in a truly unlikely location, in front of a welding shop and next to an adult bookstore. Talented chef Shunji Nakao helped Nobu first launch Matsuhisa and later worked alongside brother Tetsuya Nakao for years at Asanebo in Studio City. Shunji is now his domain, a restaurant with a highly seasonal selection and exquisite sushi preparation. Kohada (shad) is an unctuous silver-skinned fish that’s braided, brushed with soy sauce and treated to a dab of wasabi. White rice is marinated with red vinegar and served warm, leading to a truly luxurious bite.