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LA's Best New Restaurant Openings June 2011

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For every romantic comedy red-carpet premiere that happens in LA every month, at least five new restaurants have opened up on our streets. We like the way that stat falls. Here, we list the most promising openings from this month:

Picca: The hulabaloo surrounding the days-ago opening of Picca was nothing short of awesomely raucous. It's the much-anticipated new Peruvian restaurant from Ricardo Zarate, Food & Wine's Best New Chef of 2011. He first suckered our palates with big-chunk ceviche and corn kernels of comparable heft at his "food court" restaurant Mo-Chica; now he's got that entire upper-level of real estate above Sotto (formerly Test Kitchen, wherein Zarate was the lead culinary lieutenant), and he's crafting beautiful bright food that aggressively winks to his native Peru. It can't help but be a little Japanese, too, given both the motherland's demographic and Zarate's former Japanese training. Ordering pairs of skewered anticuchos is a given, but we want more of his black beer sauce, which instead of a lamb shank, at Picca, it's drizzled over duck leg confit.
9575 West Pico Boulevard, at Edris Avenue (310-277-0133 or piccaperu.com)

Black Market Liquor Bar: The fellas that brought dirty/sexy cocktails to Thai Town (La Descarga, Harvard & Stone) and strict dress codes (men, are you wearing a vest and a fedora?) have set up a third camp over the hill. We're not used to sweating anybody's style in the Valley, but Black Market Liquor Bar is … handsome. It makes us blush (a little). Keeping things naughty, you'll want to drink the Smokin' Monk -- we needn't say more than it's the mezcal drink. Then, you'll want to eat the home-cookin' of chef Antonia LoFaso (who was always kind of our third-favorite on "Top Chef"). She likes to finish off her dishes with soft fried eggs, and we're not complaining.
11915 Ventura Boulevard, at Carpenter Avenue (818-446-2533 or blackmarketliquorbar.com)

Papaya King and The Sayers Club: Ah, frankfurters. Former New Yorkers, you know all about Papaya King. We stood in line together the afternoon Hollywood's first Papaya King debuted (it was tough, but we finally settled on the Slawdog with coleslaw and pickle), and we're awfully pleased that these dogs have never been frozen. Then, PK took a move from another NYC hot-doggery with a secret bar, and opened The Sayers Club. The entrance is obviously the yellow door beside the Papaya King's juice bar that isn't leading to the janitorial closet. You need to be on a list, and to get on it, you might have to be on a show called "Gossip Girl." After that small detail, simply relax and enjoy your Mexican Firing Squad drink.
Papaya King, 1645 Wilcox Avenue, at Hollywood Boulevard (323-871-8799 or papayaking.com)

Fundamental LA: After a good butt-whipper of a workout at Equinox, we're sorry, Westwood, but we're just not craving Little Tehran's Ghormeh Sabzi. So when Fundamental LA opened up, we were like, "thank God we can just get a big fat short rib sandwich!" (note to personal trainer: It's got dandelion greens and curried eggplant!). It's a sexy little restaurant, a tasteful-looking and tasty-tasting lunch spot soon to unveil dinner, beer and wine, that is serving the recently deprived denizens of Westwood home-scratch food with of-the-season ingredients -- and most everything is for under $10.
Fundamental LA, 1303 Westwood Boulevard, at Wellworth Avenue (310-444-7581 or fundamental-la.com)

Escuela Taqueria: Tacos, we swear, can't stop getting gussied up. At Steven Arroyo's (Cobras & Matadors) slick new taqueria, LA's cardinal street-food snack gets the primadonna treatment -- proteins like "responsibly-raised" duck, crispy branzino and lengua for days. At $8 a pair, you're obviously paying for your pretty little seat and the ironic wall decor -- two things you cannot get in the parking lot of a 76 gas station. For now, it's just dinner, and forever now, it's just agua frescas (translation: no cerveza). Oh, but there are, of course, churros for dessert, which was always our way of ending a meal at Cobras & Matadors.
Esquela Taqueria, 308 North Stanley Avenue, at Beverly Boulevard (323-939-8226)

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