Until very recently, LA diners weren't known to be adventurous. Nose-to-tail cooking was a largely foreign concept and it was more about playing it safe
- pizza, burgers and steaks were de rigueur. But as the city's dining scene is fast evolving, so are people's palates. And if there's one restaurant that has helped to push boundaries and lure Angelenos to try new things, it's Bestia.
Opened at the end of 2012, Bestia is an Italian restaurant from restaurateur Bill Chait and husband-and-wife chef and pastry chef team Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis.
It's all about rustic dishes, gutsy flavours and plenty of meat. Right from the start it was a runaway success, serving up to 400 covers a night in the 150-seat dining room. And 18 months on, Bestia remains one of the hottest tickets in LA.
From the outside, the restaurant looks like a warehouse, but once you make your way through the courtyard and into the dining room, you discover a vibrant
space with bare rafters, stripped brick and Edison lightbulbs.
Although this is Menashe's first restaurant as chef-proprietor, he's done stints at some of LA's most celebrated Italian restaurants, including Angelini Osteria
and Pizzeria Mozza.
Open for dinner only, everything at Bestia is made in-house. From the sourdough bread, pizza dough and pasta, to homemade ricotta, pickles, oils, vinegars and a changing selection of more than 50 different types of charcuterie, very little is bought in.
"Most of our dishes require a lot of preparation, but the execution is quick and easy," Menashe says. "We start service at 9am and make everything from scratch for that night. The menu changes in part every day, depending on what I find on the market."
Charcuterie options may include rabbit terrine, chicken liver pÁ¢té, lamb pancetta, coppa di testa, salami and a range of different sausages, with a chef's selection complete with homemade pickles and mustard ($15/£9).
There are 10 varieties of pasta, including squid ink, porcini, pistachio and saffron, as well as stinging nettle parpadelle, which is served with Colorado lamb
ragÁ¹, mixed mushrooms, Fiore Sardo cheese and topped with fried nettles ($22/£13).
"We boil and purée the nettles and fold them into the pasta dough, which then sits in the fridge for a day," explains the chef. "The lamb ragÁ¹ is made with a
stock from the bones of the whole animal, lots of red wine, porcini mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, onions and celery and herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage. The cheese gives it a gamey taste."
More adventurous dishes include grilled lamb heart with pickled chillies, Marcona almonds, rocket, pickled shallots and chillies ($14/£8.50); or panroasted
chicken gizzards with roasted beets, Belgian endive and aged Capra Sarda, a Sardinian sheep's milk cheese ($14/£8.50).
"I love offal because it's always available very fresh," says Menashe. "The chicken gizzard dish is one of my favourites - I never get bored of it. I confit the gizzards in orange, chillies, garlic and thyme, and then sauté them so they're nice and crispy before serving them with a mushroom vinaigrette and an aged balsamic reduction."
Desserts are overseen by Menashe's wife Gergis, who trained at Chez Panisse with Alice Waters. "Genevieve loves sweet but she loves savoury too, so a lot of desserts balance the two. Each dessert has a touch of salt," Menashe says. A case in point is a chocolate budino tart, salted caramel, cacao crust, olive oil and sea salt ($12/£7), which is sophisticated without being flashy.
The wine list, overseen by sommelier Maxwell Leer, offers a mix of unusual varieties almost exclusively from Europe, with a focus on natural and biodynamic wines.
Bestia combines rustic flavours and accomplished cooking with a great atmosphere. With Menashe planning a Middle Eastern restaurant later this year, LA diners have much to look forward to.
Sample dishes from the menu
Beef meatballs, braised beet greens, soffritto, tomato $13/£8
Gorgonzola, kale, mozzarella, Grana Padano, olive oil $18/£11
Spaghetti rustichella: sea urchin, squid ink bottarga, garlic, Calabrian chillies, breadcrumbs $25/£15
Agnolotti alla Vaccinara: cacao pasta parcels with braised oxtail, Burro Fuso, Grana Padano, pine nuts, currants $22/£13
Grilled whole orate, rapini ripassati, anchovy paste, dandelion greens $27/£16
Grilled Stumble Creek skirt steak, snap peas, haricot verts, summer squash, mint oil, cippolini agrodolce $29/£17.50
Raspberry rosé sorbetto, lemon cream, brown sugar meringue, fresh raspberries $11/£6.60
2121 E 7th Place
CA 90021, USA