L.A. Weekly‘s “The Essentials” event took place this past weekend at the California Market Center in Downtown Los Angeles, the same week that their 99 Essential Restaurants 2015 list was released. This was just the second “Essentials” events, with the inaugural one just last year after a break in 2013, coming off of four years of “Gold Standard” events before Jonathan Gold moved to the Los Angeles Times.
I was somewhat apprehensive about this event, having read and heard from people who attended last year’s event what a mob scene it was, with packed crowds and long lines, and with restaurants running out of food after just the first hour of general admission (VIP tickets granted early admission)! However, those fears were somewhat unfounded, as I thought the event ran relatively smoothly this year!
Having GA tickets, I had wanted to arrive at least a half hour early for the 2 PM start time (VIP entry started at 1 PM). Unfortunately, I did not arrive until closer to 1:50 PM, when lines had already snaked out of the building. I queued for about 45 minutes and got into the actual event after 2:30 PM.
Lines for individual restaurants varied, but most were manageable, with relatively short wait times. Some of the more popular restaurants had long lines nearly the entire time we were there–Animal, Bestia, Maude, etc.–but they moved relatively fast. As far as restaurants running out of food, I didn’t notice any until around 4 PM, and most served up to the end. First place that I noticed had closed down their table was Guisados, but Petit Trois and Guerrilla Tacos had also run out before I could get a chance to try them–my fault, as they had food for most of the event, I just hadn’t prioritize hitting them earlier.
As far as crowds, while the event was lively and full of people, it did not feel too crowded. Elevators/restrooms in the center of the floor naturally separated the event space into two halves. Depending on which direction you came out of the elevator banks, it was easy to end up just circulating around your half of the event space. Many people remarked they had not realized there was a lot more to try across the floor.
But enough about that, let’s get to the food! Too many to recap individually, below are just some of the highlights for me.
Seafood Highlights: Coni’Seafood‘s shrimp, octopus, scallop ceviche; Sotto‘s albacore conserva; Chichén Itzá‘s octopus tostada; Providence/Connie & Ted‘s raw oysters; Saint Martha‘s uni tataki on seaweed “Doritos”.
Meat Highlights: Mélisse‘s wagyu beef béarnaise; Bestia’s crispy ciccioli; Tar & Rose‘s lamb tartare; Spago‘s pork belly bánh mì; Little Sister‘s beef shank & tendon bánh hỏi, Maude’s white asparagus pain perdu w/foie gras mousse.
So to recap the event: Yes, it was frustrating to queue up for so long before getting in. If I had arrived even later, and missed a more significant portion of the 3 hours, I might have been more upset, but arriving early for a popular event like this is, or should be, par for the course.
On the food front, I was very satisfied with what I had at the event; I probably got to try over two dozen different samples in a little more than 2 hours. Since I’m not a huge drinker, I would have liked to have more drink options than wine and cocktail samples, and Jarritos soda, but at least drink lines, like the food lines, were also manageable. All in all, I thought The Essentials 2015 was a relative success!