New L.A. Eateries Sizzle Despite Recession

In Los Angeles, restaurants come and go like movie titles on a marquee. A new hot spot opens every week with cumbersome reservation policies that ultimately send it to OpenTable.com purgatory.

The recession has only sped up the process by forcing high-end bistros to shift to budget fare before turning off their ovens completely. But a few new restaurants are proving they have the sizzle to outlast a weak economy.

BOA Steakhouse: This steak chain has opened a new location on Sunset Boulevard last month, and reservations are already piling up. BOA Steakhouse got a L.A. makeover inside a Beverly Hills building that will become the home of the city's first Soho House, an exclusive private club with sites in New York and London.

Cecconi's, a new restaurant in Los Angeles, is prospering despite the recession.

While the restaurant is inside a tower, its two-story architecture minimizes the office-park vibe. Its floor-to-ceiling windows open to a massive outdoor space that attracts a fun happy-hour crowd. Inside, the dining room is bright and airy with concrete floors and freestanding circular booths.

BOA has honed its menu to perfection after many years at its former address. Appetizers include steak tartare that's prepared tableside and crab cake salad with spicy hearts of palm. The owners also operate the equally formidable Sushi Roku franchise. Surf and turf specialties include Maine lobster, dry-aged New York strip steak and Japanese Wagyu beef with truffle cheese fries.

Cecconi's: Soho House West Hollywood isn't opening until next year, but its owners decided to debut their chic bistro Cecconi's in March. The restaurant occupies the former space of the revered Morton's, which had been home to Vanity Fair's annual Oscar party.

Cecconi's is a glittery refuge of regency-style décor that's heavy on pomp and circumstance. On busy nights, the valet will ask for your name and reservation before parking your car. Inside, four super-stiff hosts tend to guests who have been waiting as long as a month for a weekend reservation.

The space dazzles with striped marble floors, Tiffany ( TIF)-blue club chairs and a decadent four-sided bar packed with diners who couldn't score a table. A private dining room that's empty more often than not seems like a waste of space between the main dining room and the opulent bathrooms.

Service is fit for Buckingham Palace with a menu of surprisingly well-priced specialties for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Days begin with ricotta hotcakes or panettone French toast followed by light lunches of $14 carpaccios and spicy shrimp salad. The dinner menu includes veal Milanese, eggplant parmigiana, gooey truffle pizza and baked swordfish with lemon and capers.

Tavern: This gastropub in L.A.'s Brentwood neighborhood is perhaps the tastiest of the city's new eateries. Its playful bar menu offers bite-size portions of fried oysters with bacon, fava-bean puree with toast dippers and onion rings. There's also heavier grub, such as burgers made of turkey, pork and beef with slices of melted manchego or fontina cheese.

Tavern's dining room is a fancier affair. Its menu features duck sausage, slow-roasted salmon, hangar steak with creamed spinach and grilled lamb. Its glass-roofed dining room strikes a sophisticated note with ashy hardwood floors and slate-gray sofas.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.