Chef Ludo Lefebvre Shows Off His Favorite L.A. Eats
- Produced in Collaboration with Bon Appetit
- Copy by Garrett Snyder
- Illustrations by Adam Avery
With a sprawling freeway network and endless neighborhoods to navigate, Los Angeles can seem like an overwhelming city to conquer. That’s why acclaimed chef Ludo Lefebvre teamed up with S.Pellegrino® and Bon Appétit to bring you the S.Pellegrino® Taste Guide to L.A., a culinary road map to the city he loves. The chef of Trois Mec and Petit Trois might be best known for transforming the city’s nascent dining scene with his wildly creative cooking. His personal style actually draws inspiration from across the international spectrum—from silky Oaxacan mole and fiery Thai curry to masterful strip mall sushi. Here is his guide to exploring one of the country’s most exciting dining cities.
Ludo Lefebvre’s Edible Tour of West Hollywood
When Ludo first landed in L.A., he made a beeline to the neighborhood known for some of the most prestigious and groundbreaking restaurants in the city (his first apartment was on the Sunset Strip, overlooking West Hollywood). That tradition has continued, with some of the most widely lauded restaurants in town—and the big-name chefs behind them—staking their claim inside this posh zip code.
Chef Walter Manzke and his wife, Marguerite, serve everything from dry-aged steak frites to foie gras torchon at this gorgeous all-day California brasserie on La Brea. Stop by for a morning baguette and admire the sunlit courtyard, where Charlie Chaplin’s studio was once located. République, 624 S. La Brea Ave., (310) 362-6115, republiquela.com
Ludo’s first taste of sushi was at this iconic Japanese fusion restaurant in West Hollywood, the flagship of legendary chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s global empire. As Ludo puts it, there’s no better place to dive into Japanese cuisine—yellowtail sashimi, miso black cod, sweet shrimp tempura—than at one of the city’s original innovators. 129 N. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 659-9639, matsuhisabeverlyhills.com
Picture the ultimate Italian neighborhood restaurant: Angelini Osteria, run by chef Gino Angelini, one of the most influential figures in L.A.’s dining scene (and the guy who trained half the other award-winning Italian chefs in town). Most nights you’ll find him in the dining room, shaving truffles over handmade pasta, or putting the finishing touches on a whole branzino roasted in the kitchen’s wood-fired oven. 7313 Beverly Blvd., (323) 297-0070, angeliniosteria.com
At this bustling Thai restaurant on the Sunset Strip, the vibe often resembles a never-ending house party. Check out the ice cold beer towers and natural wines from the Loire Valley, paired with the fiery and flavorful Thai-American cooking for which chef Kris Yenbamroong has become famous. Don’t leave without ordering the crispy rice salad. 9043 Sunset Blvd., (310) 275-9724, nightmarketsong.com
When Ludo’s best friends and business partners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo opened Jon & Vinny’s, their family-friendly tribute to red sauce Italian-American comfort foods like linguine with clams and chicken parm, it seemed like half of Hollywood turned out to welcome them. Dive into crispy-edged pizzas like the “LA Woman,” topped with fresh burrata and basil, and you’ll understand why. 412 N. Fairfax Ave., (323) 334-3369, jonandvinnys.com
Ludo Lefebvre’s Favorite Beachside Eats
No stranger to beach life, Ludo spent a number of years during his ascent in the city’s food scene in what’s known as the “Silver Triangle,” a tiny neighborhood wedged between Venice and Santa Monica. Up-and-coming no more, this west-side destination has grown exponentially since he lived there thanks in part to the addition of some of L.A.’s most vibrant and innovative restaurants. Needless to say, it’s never been easier to find a great meal so close to the Pacific.
Few restaurants have been doing luxury modern cuisine better (or longer) than Mélisse, the Michelin-starred stalwart from chef Josiah Citrin. Opt for the ten-course tasting menu and bask in elegant morsels like egg caviar, foie gras terrine, and black truffle risotto. The service, just like the food, is second to none. 1104 Wilshire Blvd., (310) 395-0881, melisse.com
What happens when Southeast Asian flavors find their way into a French brasserie? The answer is Cassia, a gem of a restaurant in Santa Monica specializing in inventive dishes like spicy cod wontons, charcuterie fried rice, and Vietnamese pot-au-feu. Chef Bryant Ng built his reputation helming some of the best restaurants in town, but his cooking at Cassia is his most personal yet. 1314 7th St, (310) 393-6699, cassiala.com
If you want to know what’s in peak season at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, head over to Rustic Canyon, where for the past few years chef Jeremy Fox has been raking in accolades for his soulful spin on produce-driven California cuisine. Make sure to try the pozole verde, made with local steamed mussels, or the roasted polenta topped with fresh ricotta and strawberry sofrito. 1119 Wilshire Blvd., (310) 393-7050, rusticcanyonwinebar.com
Only in L.A. does the best sushi find its way into the unlikeliest places. Consider Shunji, a traditional wooden counter serving some of the best sushi in the city–and housed inside what was once a chili burger stand. Chef Shunji Nakao is known for his wry humor as much as his tricked-out Japanese creations (ask for the tomato “tofu”), so make sure to inquire what fish is freshest for a quick joke followed by mind-bending nigiri. 12244 W. Pico Blvd., (310) 826-4737, shunji-ns.com
Ludo Lefebvre’s Favorite Malibu Dining Gems
When you have dear friends with a house on Malibu’s Broad Beach, as Ludo does, you look for any excuse to head for L.A.’s poshest beach town. Exploring Malibu’s hidden restaurant scene is one of Ludo’s favorite hobbies¬—so much so that he’s put down roots there. This summer, he’ll be adding his own trademark to this historically chic and quirky part of town with the revamp of a sleek new food trailer debuting at Native Hotel.
You won’t find a more stunningly situated restaurant than Nobu Malibu, a sleek Bond-villain-esque structure located so close to the sand that you’ll feel the temptation to kick off your shoes and run into the waves. The vibrant modern Japanese menu, with delights like wagyu wonton tacos, is just icing on the cake. 22706 Pacific Coast Hwy., (310) 317-9140, noburestaurants.com/malibu
One of the best kept secrets among locals, this wood-fired steakhouse straight out of a Hollywood Western is hidden deep within the Malibu Hills, housed inside a historic post office that dates back to the 1880s. The menu is short and the reservations are scarce, but those who’ve sampled the flame-kissed ribeye often find themselves making plans for a return trip as soon as they leave. 29983 Mulholland Hwy., (818) 706-9001, oldplacecornell.com
For the past few decades, Giorgio Baldi has been the place where celebrities slink into dark romantic booths and indulge in Old World Italian favorites like lobster scampi, beef carpaccio, and housemade agnolotti in cream sauce. Be sure to dip into the vast cellar of Italian wines—the waiters always know what's best. 114 W. Channel Rd., (310) 573-1660, giorgio-baldi.com
Nothing says West Coast quite like driving up the Pacific Coast Highway and stopping at one of the classic fried seafood shacks along the road to Malibu. Ludo’s favorite is Malibu Seafood, a time-tested seafood market where the beer is cold and the fish and chips arrive hot from the fryer. 25653 Pacific Coast Hwy., (310) 456-3430, malibuseafood.com
Ludo Lefebvre’s Edible Guide to The Valley
With two energetic twins to raise, Ludo and his wife now call the spacious Sherman Oaks area of the San Fernando Valley home, an inviting and laid-back neighborhood known for its friendly vibe and diverse array of trending restaurants. Only a 20-minute drive from the din of downtown, it’s the perfect respite from the city’s more bustling quarters. As a bonafide Valley veteran, Ludo can attest to the many hidden gems that make his neighborhood worth exploring.
This fast-casual Neapolitan pizza spot is the absolute favorite of Ludo’s kids—though their pizza is perfectly crisp and chewy enough to please parents, too. After customizing your pie with everything from pesto to prosciutto, snag a seat under the gnarled olive tree growing right in the center of the dining room. 14612 Ventura Blvd., (818) 788-2178, mymidici.com
When you’re a French expat like Ludo, there are many things you often miss from L'Hexagone. Great wine, perhaps, most of all. Luckily there’s Augustine, a cozy Parisian-inspired wine bar that pours vintage bottles found nowhere else in the city (and maybe the country). Pair a glass of Bordeaux with a wedge of triple-créme cheese and find yourself in Euro-heaven. 13456 Ventura Blvd., (818) 990-0938, augustinewinebar.com
One key to beating the Valley’s infamous summer heat waves: ice cream. Ludo (and his kids, of course) usually find themselves cooling off at Wanderlust Creamery, an artisan ice cream shop known for creative flavor combinations like Honey Lavender and Smoky Road. 18511 Ventura Blvd., (818) 990-0938, wanderlustcreamery.com
If you can’t tell already, Ludo is something of a sushi obsessive. His personal hidden gem is Okumura, a minimalist sushi counter known for exceptionally fresh fish enlivened with the right amount of modern flair. Reserve a seat at the bar and dive into the omakase; decorated sushi chef Ryota Okumura will craft a meal based on whatever he’s feeling that day. 17302 Ventura Blvd., (818) 986-9712, okumurarestaurant.com
Ludo Lefebvre’s Favorite Koreatown Eats
Koreatown’s vibrant cultural scene can often feel like you’re visiting a (delicious) foreign country right in the heart of Los Angeles, which is why it’s one of Ludo’s favorite neighborhoods to hunt for great restaurants. If you’re excited about Korean cuisine—or one of the many other styles of cooking located here—there’s no better place to immerse yourself.
This family-run traditional Korean restaurant is best known for its mixed rice bibimbap, a multi-layered assemblage of grilled meats and vegetables served in a sizzling-hot stone bowl. Even more enticing is the array of banchan (pickled side dishes) that arrive to start your meal, which range from tangy, crunchy kimchi to soft scallion pancakes. 2716 W. Olympic Blvd. #101, (213) 386-5678
In a neighborhood absolutely packed with Korean barbecue restaurants, Park’s BBQ has long been considered the top choice, both for its stellar service and fantastic array of meats. Steakhouse-quality cuts of pork belly, marinated bulgogi, and sliced brisket are cooked tableside on shiny steel grills mounted into every table. 955 S. Vermont Ave., Ste. G, (213) 380-1717, parksbbq.com
When Ludo first tried the mole negro at Guelaguetza, an iconic family restaurant serving traditional Oaxacan cuisine in the heart of Koreatown, it was love at first bite. Equally famous at this colorful dining hall are the crispy tlayudas topped with grilled meats, and the micheladas and mescal cocktails, served from a lively side bar. 3014 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 427-0608, ilovemole.com
When the late-night craving for Korean fried chicken hits, Ludo heads to this old-school Tudor-inspired pub famous for its comfy red booths and piano ballads (also, it’s where the show New Girl is shot). The crackly-skinned chicken arrives double-fried for extra crunch, served with sweet pickled radish and something cold to wash it down. 3198 W. 7th St., (213) 389-1586, theprincela.com