Hello, Bestia in Los Angeles, California

After seeing how tragically poor of an experience I had at Donna’s, one of my foodie friends tried to make me not lose all hope in Italian restaurants by taking me to Bestia in Los Angeles, California last week, a spot that she had been to in the past and liked.

For our first appetizer, we ordered beef tartare crostino with dry aged beef, tonnato, egg yolk jam, dill, cured peppercorns, and radish. (The slices of toasted bread are not pic­tured.) This was a well-rounded beef tartare with flavor that was strong, but not gamey. The tonnato sauce added a nice u­nique­ness to the beef tartare, but was prepared mildly enough that it did not compete with the umami of the beef.

Our second appetizer was roasted bone marrow with spinach gnocchetti and smoked breadcrumbs, tossed in aged balsamic. This was my favorite dish of the night.

The bone marrow was exactly what you’d expect from high-quality bone marrow, but the gnocchetti was what truly made the dish—the texture was un­like pasta I’ve ever had, in that it had the perfect amount of push-back against every chew without at all being firm or hard. I usually don’t prefer vin­ai­grette because I don’t like the sourness of it, but this balsamic had the perfect intensity such that it wasn’t sour, but it also had enough kick to pierce through the deep richness of the bone marrow.

Our third and final appetizer was mussels with spicy ‘nduja, garlic, lemon, tomato, and fennel pollen with a side of grilled bread. My friend wanted to take this photo, but it turned out blurry because my camera decided to troll her and focus on the menu under the plate instead.

I’m usually not the biggest fan of ordering mussels or other seafood at Italian restaurants because it usually comes out drenched in ma­ri­na­ra sauce and I don’t think seafood really goes that well with marinara sauce. So, when these mussels came out, I was very pleased that the sauce wasn’t just straight ma­ri­na­ra, but rather, a house-made mixture that wasn’t tomatoey or acidic. We ran out of bread at the end, but the ‘nduja was good enough that I was just scooping and eating straight sauce to clean up the dish.

Our first entrée was spinach ravioli with venison osso bucco, celery root purée, apple balsamic, gorgonzola, and grana.

This tasted great and had a well-balanced flavor profile of meaty, earthy, and cheesy. I usually don’t like strong cheeses, but the cheese on this ravioli was very unique—you could distinctly smell the cheese if you held a piece of ravioli up to your nose, but while I was eating it, I couldn’t really detect any of the moldy flavor that usually makes me averse to cheese.

Our second entrée was cavatelli alla Norcina with ricotta dumplings, black truffles, pork sausage, and fresh thyme.

Although it was still delicious, this was my least favorite dish of the night. Out of all the dishes, this one tasted the most “normal” (while all the other ones had a more premium feel to it). The sausage was a bit high on salt, and they went a little overboard with the truffle such that I think even just a quar­ter of the truffle would’ve sufficed for a well-rounded pasta dish.

For dessert, we had crème fraîche panna cotta with winter citrus, topped with wildflower honey and blood orange syrup and a side of Meyer lemon cook­ies. The sweetness was very subtle and it was clear that it came from the fruits instead of from excessive added sugar. This was a nice, clean dessert to round out the rich, umami meal.

Beef tartare crostino $  28.00
Roasted bone marrow $  26.00
Mussels $  28.00
Spinach ravioli $  28.00
Cavatelli alla Norcina $  48.00
Crème fraîche panna cotta $  13.00
Lemon-lime soda $   5.00
Service charge (4%) $   7.04
Sales tax $  17.37
Gratuity $  35.00
Total $ 235.41

The table on the right shows how much we paid.

I feel like I need to give a disclaimer first. The person I went with, who picked this restaurant, also picked all the dishes. She and I have very similar taste, so in essence, this meal was curated and catered spe­cif­i­cal­ly to my liking. As a result, the positive things I say about this restaurant may have a degree of bi­as in it.

With that being said, on the basis of the dishes I tried, I think this is my favorite Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to. Italian restaurants are a big hit-or-miss for me because Italian cuisine tends to just be egre­gious­ly excessive in salt and fat, but Bestia focused more on ingredients rather than seasonings. Just to be clear, there are many other restaurants in general that I like better, but specifically for Italian food, Bestia was fantastic.

If you know me, you know that I hate hidden fees and charges. There have been times in the past when I would not recommend a restaurant on the sole basis of them charging an undisclosed fee. Bestia had a service charge, but theirs was more transparently presented, and it was also optional and could be o­mit­ted from the bill. The service charge was described as a means for the restaurant to “ensure com­pet­i­tive industry compensation [and] health and medical benefits for all our valued full-time team mem­bers.”

Our reservation was after 9 PM and it was already getting really late by the time we were done, so I didn’t want to spend more time waiting for the serv­ice fee to be removed from the bill and instead accommodated by tipping less. If you are a restaurant owner and are reading this, I highly discourage you from adding in extra fees like this. There is no problem with just increasing the price of your menu items. The only people who are going to fall for the service charge are ones who are not paying attention, and if they find out about it later, it will just make them feel bad. Those who are paying at­ten­tion will just tip less.

Overall, I had a good time at Bestia and would recommend it for anyone looking for a nice Italian restaurant.