AS the end of 2018 approaches, expect to see a lot of ‘best of’ lists. 

One such roundup that Angelenos, in particular, look forward to is the Los Angeles Times’ ranking of the city’s top 101 restaurants. 

With the passing of Jonathan Gold this summer — whose annual 101 list became a bucket list of sorts for foodies — the Times’ food writers Jenn Harris, Andrea Chang and Amy Scattergood took the late restaurant critic’s list from last year and “tried to introduce the new and fill in the gaps where appropriate to reflect the city as a whole.” 

“Writing a restaurant list without Jonathan Gold was incredibly difficult, but we felt it was important to continue to celebrate talented chefs and their restaurants and to give readers some direction as they explore L.A.’s dining scene,” Harris wrote in the introduction to the list. “We did our best to honor Jonathan’s legacy and keep the ideas he championed in our minds, thinking about diversity, equality, deliciousness and the stories behind the plates of food before us.”

Instead of ranking the restaurants, this year’s list is unnumbered, alphabetized and categorized by neighborhood.

Charles Olalia (Photo by Fried Chicken Sandwich Studios)

Ma’am Sir 

One newcomer is Filipino-American chef Charles Olalia’s Ma’am Sir, which opened in Silver Lake in June.

Olalia — whose fine dining background comprises of Patina, The French Laundry, and Restaurant Guy Savoy, among others — envisioned a restaurant based on “party and beach fare” and comfort food dishes he grew up eating back in the Philippines.

“Think of Ma’am Sir not so much as the latest of L.A.’s new wave of wonderful Filipino restaurants but as the triangulation of chef Charles Olalia’s career,” Scattergood wrote in her review of the restaurant. 

Charles Olalia’s Ma’am Sir sampled the sea urchin lumpia (pictured here) and the banana bibingka to attendees of the Los Angeles Times’ ‘101 Restaurants We Love’ launch party on Monday, December 3. (AJPress photo by Christina M. Oriel)

The menu highlights — which are meant to be shared — include lumpia Shanghai (stuffed with shrimp and lardo sausage and are topped with sea urchin) and shrimp deviled eggs (palabok-egg salad and celery hearts). There are takes on kare kare, sisig andgrilled bangus as well. 

“Every time I open a restaurant, I always want to create a community,” Olalia told the Asian Journal in a previous interview. “I’d love for people to make us part of their lives.”

The praise for Ma’am Sir has also included a place on Eater’s ’18 hottest restaurants in LA right now’ and a four-star review from TimeOut. 

Ma’am Sir is opened six days a week (closed on Tuesdays) for dinner service and also features a full-service bar with specialty cocktails. 

LASA 

Brothers Chad and Chase Valencia operate LASA, a former pop-up series, which found its home inside Chinatown’s Far East Plaza in 2016. Photo courtesy of LASA

Retaining a spot on this year’s list is Chase and Chad Valencia’s LASA, which held the No. 18 spot in Gold’s ranking in 2017. 

Scattergood remarked that the brothers’ outpost in Chinatown “feels lived in [with] a comfortable dining room” and that “Chad’s cooking has evolved with the restaurant” by introducing Filipino dishes from a second-generation, Californian perspective. 

“Imagine family cooking from a test kitchen, the flavors exacting, the end result addictive,” she added. 

Gold had dined at several times since the former pop-up found a permanent home in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza in 2016. 

Gold wrote back then, “But nobody has quite caught the spirit of modern Pinoy cooking like Lasa, named after the Tagalog word for ‘taste.’”  

In the summary of the top 10 dishes of 2016, the late critic included LASA’s O.G. pancit — canton noodles, calamansi butter, and patis cured egg yolk, topped with scallions.

“So what seems to be a simple bowl of pancit noodles becomes a complex composition balancing butter, a bit of fragrant calamansi lime juice, and shavings of egg yolk that has been cured with patis, the strong Filipino fish sauce…it’s less street food than an umami-rich Filipino wink at spaghetti carbonara,” he wrote. 

In addition to the pancit, other dishes to try are the kesong puti dumplings (roasted & raw carrots, carrot ginataan, butter & whey, queso de bola) and beef kilawin (flat-iron tartare, patis aioli, salt & vinegar taro chips). 

LASA is open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and lunch Saturday and Saturday (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Christina M. Oriel
Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is the Managing Editor of the Asian Journal Weekly Newspapers.

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