Yes, the economy tanked. But there have been more high-profile Los Angeles restaurant openings in the last year or so than we saw in the previous five. There's Rivera, featuring the modern Mexican cuisine of John Sedlar; the opulent Italian restaurant Drago Centro; the zillion-dollar bistro Bouchon in Beverly Hills; the mammoth Bottega Louie in the former Brooks Brothers store downtown; and the dozen-odd restaurants in the L.A. Live complex, among others. Tony cocktail bars like Tar Pit, Copa d'Oro, the Roger Room and the Varnish now seem so well-integrated into the fabric of the city that it is hard to remember that none of them existed a year ago.
Culinary trends are fine. I'm as ready as the next food writer to proclaim pig's trotter the new pork belly, or to predict the ascendance of vadouvan, fingerling potatoes and violet liqueur. But in 2009, something truly new was going on that may fundamentally change the way we look at restaurants. But you had to look for it.