Ever since Bestia opened in November 2012, snagging a table has been challenging. Even now, 18 months later, the next 7 or 8 o’clock dinner reservation isn't available until four weeks out.
Located on a dead end street just east of central Downtown LA, Bestia is without a doubt a destination restaurant. Never in a million years would you stumble across it, unless you a) live in one of the converted-warehouse apartments nearby or b) spend your evenings wandering near the LA River, in which case you might want to reconsider your life choices.
We settled on the earliest reservation we could snag — at 9pm — and arrived early in hopes of getting seated early. It was not so. The hostess found us just after 9 and led us through the restaurant, past the bar and a massive case of house-cured meats, to the far end. We were seated at the five-stool pizza bar, with easily the best view of the kitchen in the house.
Throughout our meal, were forced to watch mouthwatering pizzas, oven-roasted bone marrow, and their famous 39-oz rib eye cooked directly in front of our eyes. All evening, the grill master would unwrap the rib eye, grab a handful of salt, and literally throw it onto one side of the $128 piece of meat, toss it over with one hand, shower the other side with salt, and repeat the process with ground pepper. It was so graceful it was art.
The menu is designed to be shared. Here’s what we had:
Beef Meatballs. braised beet greens, soffritto, tomatoes
Just before we ordered, a pair of these bad boys appeared, compliments of the house. They were perfectly cooked (medium) and had a spicy edge that took a few seconds to hit the taste buds.
Beef Heart Tartare. mint, red onion, pine nuts, fresno chilies, champagne vinegar, dill
Once you got past the smell and the fact that it's beef heart (which Chef ___ sources himself), it was tasty and full of flavor. The additions (mint, red onion, etc) were subtle, allowing the meat to be the primary flavor of the dish.
Salumi. chef's selection of house-cured meats, pickles, mostarda, grilled bread
I fucking love charcuterie plates, and this one did not disappoint. It contained a combination of beef, duck, and pork, our favorite of which was a pork purée, intended to be "spread on bread like peanut butter."
Genevive's Little Gems. walnut vinaigrette, ricotta salata, soft herbs, radish, shallots
As we ordered, our selections were skewing meat and carb heavy. So we threw this salad into the mix, which was full of simple and refreshing flavors. The ricotta salata may have been my favorite part of the salad - an aged, salted version of the raw cheese's younger sibling.
Cavatelli alla Norcina. ricotta dumplings, housemade pork sausage, black truffles, grana padano
If you've never had truffles before, they're mind-blowing. They accented this dish while allowing the flavor of the pork sausage and grana padano (a popular Italian aged cow's milk cheese) to come through. The handmade cavatelli was perfectly cooked as well, with just a hint of ricotta in 'em.
Boulder Valley 28 Day Dry Aged Bone-In Ribeye
We'd been caught starting at several of these hunks of meat, so we were gifted a little sample while waiting for our pizza. Hands down it was the best piece of steak I've ever tasted. Cooked rare, tender, and warm, it had complex flavors, no doubt due to the cut and dry aging, with just a hint of salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Buratta. san marzano tomatoes, castelvetrano olives, oregano, fermented chilies
All night we watched sex-worthy pizzas come to life in front of our eyes... and out to other diners. It was our turn. Bestia serves their pizzas sharing-style -- meaning, it's not sliced (though they will if you ask). The dough was soft and chewy, tomatoes bursting with flavor, and the buratta was, well, when is buratta not amazing?
Sour Cherry Jam Crostata. frangipane, crème fraîche crust, vanilla ice cream
Our waitress recommended the crostata, and as a crostata fan, it was a no-brainer. The cherries were both sweet and sour, the frangipane (almond paste) thick, and the crust drool-worthy. And the ice cream was, well, ice cream. Damn good ice cream.
Zabaglione al Moscato. blood orange sorbet, brown sugar pine nut meringue, candied orange peel
Zabaglione is an Italian custard. This one was whipped with moscato. Why not, right? The meringue added a nice crunch but didn't do much flavor-wise, likely because it was overpowered by the sweetness of the blood orange sorbet. Overall a fantastic balance of flavors and textures.