Esquire Magazine Spotlights Most Memorable New Eateries
Esquire Magazine has released its year-end lists of the best new restaurants in the United States, and while the number of restaurants in Los Angeles that were singled out is short, they are very memorable. Esquire chose five Los Angeles restaurants, most of which were on the city’s east side, but two are definitely worth mentioning here.
Kevin Sintumuang, Esquire’s Lifestyle and Culture Director, wrote about Ubuntu, which is between West Hollywood and the Fairfax District. He said of the African, plant-based, and very new restaurant: “Shenarri Freeman, our Rising Star chef of 2021, made a name for herself serving vegan soul food at Cadence in New York. With her second restaurant, she applies her talent for creating crave-worthy plant-based dishes to the broad cuisine of West Africa. That means fragrant, spicy jollof arancini; luscious grits made from the African heritage grain fonio; and the home run, a comfort food that you’ll wish you could’ve eaten every day after school: a riff on the Nigerian meat pie made with lion’s mane mushrooms and dipped in tamarind applesauce.”
Sintumuang also feted Chef Diego Argoti’s Poltergeist, and he stated, “The MIDI blips of retro video games and the fuzz of indie rock are the fitting accompaniment to the stoner-on-acid fun that Chef Diego Argoti summons at Poltergeist, inside Echo Park’s bar/arcade Button Mash. Expect fun, not fright, despite the ominous name. The night I went, he emerged from the kitchen wearing a Hello Kitty T-shirt to bring us familiar foods gone gonzo: a Thai Caesar salad fragrant with lemongrass and crowned with croutons remixed as a mountain of puffed rice, Chinese takeout broccoli beef done up as short ribs and oxtail in ravioli; a whole dorade fried in masa, like a fish taco reimagined for a Dalí painting. Poltergeist is haunting, but like Casper the Friendly Ghost, you’ll want to hang with it.”
I can attest that Poltergeist is a one-of-a-kind restaurant that, with Argoti as chef and leader, is a restlessly creative soul. It’s a not-so-well-kept secret that Argoti is also responsible for the bar menu at the arcade, Button Mash, where Poltergeist lives. Even though I am not vegan, I hope to check Ubuntu out as well since it is obviously something special.