ATLA, at last
RESTAURANTS • First Person
For a city with no shortage of excellent taco stands, Los Angeles has a dearth of high-end Mexican restaurants. The Mexico City-based chef Enrique Olvera set out to change that in 2020, when he touched down with fine dining Damian, an instant winner with its sleek interior, Caesar-topped uni tostadas, and perfectly crafted margaritas.
This summer, Olvera doubled down, opening ATLA in Venice. It’s more casual than Damian, but dapper enough for date night, with pale blue walls, bright yellow menus, leafy plants, and blonde wood bar shelves stocked with mezcal. There’s a spacious, stringlit patio in the back.
ATLA’s origins are in downtown Manhattan, where it garnered fanfare for herb-laced guacamole, flaxseed chilaquiles, and seductively high ceilings. The LA outpost is similarly appealing and, in a way, a more natural fit for beachy Venice.
Those who have spent time in Mexico City are familiar with the effortless elegance pervasive among its best restaurants, like Contramar and Olvera’s firstborn, Pujol. At Damian and now ATLA, this vibe feels at one with a stylishly laid-back slice of LA.
The standout dishes: a divine chicken soup with warm tortillas, the butter-poached lobster burrito, a Brussels sprouts taco with spicy peanut butter. And as for the margaritas? Perfect here, too. LA could get used to this. –Emily Wilson