Chef Michael Cimarusti’s Intuitive, Seasonal Cooking Takes Center Stage at Best Girl
Written By: Taylor R. Haynes
Photography Provided By: Best Girl, Atelier Ace Celebrity Chef Michael Cimarusti
Angelenos flock to downtown Los Angeles’ Ace Hotel for the vibrant rooftop patio and pool, the cozy, impeccably decorated rooms or the renowned theatre with its long lineup of often sold-out shows. And, as of the last two years, there’s another reason to swing by: Best Girl, the Ace Hotel’s first-floor fine dining establishment, which, on most evenings, is brimming with the same kind of energy the hotel has become so well adored for.
Aptly named after My Best Girl—the first film shown at the adjacent theater on Oct. 31, 1927— Best Girl opened its doors exactly 90 years later, which is a simultaneous homage to the building’s storied past and a tasteful look to the future. The jewel-toned space is an open floor plan lined by pillowed booths and tall windows that peer into ever-busy Broadway.
At the restaurant’s helm is Chef and partner Michael Cimarusti. He’s somewhat of a celebrity in Los Angeles’ food-focused circles and the city’s de facto expert in anything seafood. His much-loved Hollywood establishment, Providence, topped Jonathan Gold’s Best Restaurants list four years straight. The chef’s second restaurant, Connie and Ted’s, is a long-time neighborhood favorite. He’s the perfect person—with the personality, expertise and refreshing vision—to also turn Best Girl into a classic.
But with plenty on his plate already, how did Chef Cimarusti end up at the Ace? Celebrity Chef Michael Cimarusti
“From the very first time I walked into the [Ace Hotel] lobby in New York City, I realized it was something special and different,” he recalls. “When the LA location asked me to be involved, I thought maybe I wasn’t cool enough. But the more I came here and met with the chefs and the management team, the more I realized what this restaurant could become.” Celebrity Chef Michael Cimarusti
Best Girl has quickly become one of the best spots downtown to grab a bite during most hours of the day. Diners shouldn’t worry about being cool enough; instead they should be sure they have enough time and budget to try at least a few menu items. Chef Cimarusti’s devotion to high-quality ingredients and his skill as a chef are immediately apparent on the menu; it’s a challenge to settle on only one option!
Chef Cimarusti takes an intuitive approach to menu design, and it all starts in his own kitchen. When he’s not overseeing one of his eateries, he enjoys hosting friends and family, which he calls the perfect opportunity to test out new recipes, experiment and ultimately gauge a response. “The menu at Best Girl is really inspired by what I like to cook at home,” Chef Cimarusti says.
A precious day off might look like this: Chef Cimarusti browses local produce at either the Hollywood or Santa Monica Farmers Market. Then he zips over to Highland Park mainstay Cookbook Market for some locally and ethically sourced protein. After that, it’s back home again, which is where the creative sparks really start to fly. He’ll often arrange the ingredients—vegetables, seasonings, meat, etc.—in a sort-of edible collage to not only provide a visual representation of the dish for other chefs, but also to determine how the flavors and colors will complement and amplify each other.
“Sometimes, more simplicity is better,” Cimarusti explains. “It can be hard to pull off; it’s something I’ve had to grow into as a chef.”
If anything’s certain, he’s mastered the art of beautifully simple cooking. The result: expertly prepared, wholesome meals that place fresh ingredients front and center, elevating all the best aspects of new Californian cuisine.
Several ingredients on the Best Girl menu are sourced locally. Seafood choices—the chef’s specialty—range from a half-dozen oysters to a fragrant, inimitable Portuguese fisherman’s stew. Chef Cimarusti works with fisheries, farmers and vendors up and down the coast. Over the years, he has built steadfast relationships in the industry. “It all comes down to sourcing,” Chef Cimarusti explains. “We try to work with local vendors, and we’re lucky that, along the Pacific coast, there’s a great diversity available to us.”
There are numerous other dishes worthy of consideration. Those who are vegetable-inclined will likely devour the roasted carrots, which retain all the earthy comforts of a classic root vegetable dish with an additional unexpected sweet-and-spicy zing thanks to red onions and chopped Mission figs scattered across the top. Or perhaps your server will recommend the bucatini a cacio e pepe—after all, who can deny that a twirl of noodles belong with creamy butter, cheese and a dash of cracked black pepper? At Best Girl, the food feels satisfyingly decadent without being overly indulgent. Chef Cimarusti himself recommends the duck breast, served tender, surrounded by roasted Tokyo turnips, black olives and seasoned with citrus and coriander.
For many, the Ace Hotel might represent a home away from home or perhaps a go-to retreat to escape the routine of everyday life. Now, you don’t even have to leave the building for simple, seasonal and sustainable dining at its best.
927 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015
929 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Celebrity Chef Michael Cimarusti