Most travelers today are too young to remember the apocryphal story of 1940s movie star Lana Turner being discovered at Schwab's Pharmacy in Los Angeles. But there's something about going to La La Land that raises one's hopes in the general direction of being seen. I'm guessing a lot of visitors secretly dream they'll be found by a talent scout, or at least get to hang out with movie stars while on their vacation.
Cabra, in downtown Los Angeles, is a place that feels like the perfect setting for one of those two scenarios to unfold. Set on a hip hotel's rooftop with lit-up buildings all around and a bluer-than-blue spotlit swimming pool at its heart, this is the place stars and casting directors should be hanging out. Few places in the city are as rawly sexy and glamorous.
And it's not just the setting. The food here, by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, is an of-the-moment take on Peruvian fare that tastes like something only stars usually get. It's super flavorful but (mostly) light and very veggie-forward. Yes, the fare may be fattening—and many dishes come with creamy sauces—but it doesn't taste like it is.
So what should you order? Izard made a name for herself at her Chicago eatery Girl and the Goat, and the goat empanadas here are a delight: fluffy, meaty but not gamey, and sided by an herbaceous aioli mixed with huacatay (an herb from the marigold family that's grown in the Andes). There's also a range of ceviches to choose from, and while none disappoint, the himachi tiradito (pictured above) is celestial thanks to a milky sauce infused with parmesan and almonds that covers meltingly tender fish. Salads, grilled meats and vegetables, and a whole grilled chicken slathered in a green salsa round-out the menu and serve as good foils to the tropical cocktails.
One tip: It can be difficult to get reservation at Cabra LA, but because so many seats are set aside for walk-ins and hotel guests, you can usually get a table for two or two bar seats by just asking.