In Los Angeles, some restaurants are like celebrities. You hear about them often and scour Instagram for pictures, but you rarely see them in person.
Bestia in the Arts District is like that. I heard about this restaurant for two years before ever visiting. I enjoyed it my first and second times, but my third and most recent visit blew me away.
The kitchen has a reputation that allows you to order anything with confidence. No matter what, it's going to be good. I'd previously tried the things you should get when you go: roasted marrow bone, the chef's selection of salumi, grilled meatballs and spaghetti with squid ink and sea urchin. This time around, dropping the self-consciousness that can come with ordering at such a highly revered restaurant, I only got what I really, really wanted. (It's a practice I'm finally honing in on across the board in life.)
Salad, bread, pasta, dessert: these foods are the foundation of warm memories and the association of love with food. And that's exactly what my mom and I wanted, so that's exactly what we ordered.
With cocktails of Pernod on the rocks and Make My Day (a too-easy-to-drink combination of tequila, china-china, pineapple, lemon and bitters), we started with the creamiest smoked chicken liver pate with crusty, chewy, grilled bread.
The little gem salad completely surprised us by being big enough to be an entree. I was expecting maybe five leaves of lettuce. It was straightforward and perfect in its simplicity: soft herbs, layers of ricotta salata, barely-there walnut vinaigrette and lettuce that reminds you what lettuce should taste like.
Then it was time for the heavy hitters.
My mom went in on a tagliatelle with speck, anise and sausage. In the greatest compliment MamaJ has ever given, she said it's, "The best pasta I've ever had." This is huge coming from a woman who can cook her ass off.
I similarly went for something meaty. The cavatelli alla norcina is the pasta dish dreams are made of. Behind every good pasta dish stands a good pasta noodle-- ricotta dumplings were just that: sturdy and supportive against housemade pork sausage, black truffle and Grana Padano.
A celebratory dinner of a mother and daughter soaking up time together after being apart for eight months wouldn't be complete without dessert.
My mom ordered the butterscotch coconut tart with coconut sorbetto, and I opted for the frozen strawberry torte. A tart and a torte together, right where they belong.
The butterscotch tart was more of a soft blondie, heavy on the coconut. I mean that in the best way. The frozen strawberry torte, layered with butter cake, strawberry buttermilk and strawberry sorbet, was refreshing and comforting. Strawberry TCBY has a special place in my heart and this torte stirred up all those cuddly feelings.
OVERALL: Bestia can feel uptight at the start. It's hard to get a reservation, and once you have it they're total sticklers for your time slot. Push that aside and allow yourself to let go and trust the process. It's worth it.
GO: Whenever you can. If you love anything close to Italian food-- hell, if you love food-- you need to go. Sit in the exposed brick dining room and order to your heart's content. And it will be very content after this meal. Bring a date, bring your girlfriends, bring your mom, bring the whole family-- it's great for everyone.