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Trendy, Small, and Avant-Garde?

Hello! I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for new, off-the-beaten-path places that serve excellent food and have an intimate vibe. They can be anywhere in the city - because I am new and still trying to get the lay of the land.

I have friends from France coming to stay with me for a month and I really like the trendy, avant-garde places with chefs doing crazy things with the food.

Examples include Nook, Orris, Empress, BLD, etc.

Please let me know if you tihnk of anything. Thank you!

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  1. BluJam Cafe (http://blujamcafe.com/


    626 Reserve (http://626reserve.com/Content.aspx?pa...


    132 S. Central Ave., Little Tokyo, (213) 613-9554

    1. The new restaurant Canele in Atwater Village satisfies the first part of your requirement -- excellent food with an inimate vibe.
      It's neither trendy nor avant-garde, but perhaps the patrons can fulfill that requirement :)

      1. How about Wilson in Culver City? Chic design, intimate space, interesting food ...

        1. Hatfield seems to be more or less what you are looking for. Tiara Cafe. Providence, Sona and Water Grill aren't exactly ``trendy,'' but they are among the most adventurous kitchens in town.

          1. Great, thanks for the help. Do you know if any of these places have a good wine program?

            Actually on that note, do you know of any good restaurants in general that have a 'funky' or an 'obscure' wine list? My friend is a sommelier, and a self-proclaimed rockstar somm at that. So, I'm looking for great food and wine that is different than the usual fare. Thanks for the help!

            3 Replies
            1. re: poppasmiths

              3847 Main St., Culver City

              Read about it here: http://www.calendarlive.com/dining/cl...

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Brilliant concept here, with opened bottles selected by customers going onto a community board from which all can order but much as I liked the place it has decidedly corporate vibe, along the lines of a "really special" Houston's (don't get me wrong - I love certain things about Houston's), something about the space, the vibe and the logo, etc. Pretty far from the kind of secret, intimate thing you said you're looking for.

              2. re: poppasmiths

                Hatfields has a very obscure list filled with oddities. Providence's list is more mainstream, but is pretty huge.

                You might also want to check out that place above the Wine House on Cotner, which is supposed to have decent, innovative food and obviously has a mondo list.

              3. Not sure on the wine list but have a feeling you might like Chameaux on Fairfax.

                Between beverly and melrose. Very interesting( and tasty) non-traditional morroccan food with a super-fun design/vibe.

                Search recent posts on chow hound for more detailed reviews.

                1. Sorry I believe the spelling is Chameau

                  1. You might consider Opus in the Wiltern building. The tasting menu is very high quality with excellent execution at a great value. It isn't exactly small and intimate but the food can feel that way. The chef is very personable and brought out several of our courses. There have been several good posts about the restaurant and our meal last week was excellent.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: JudiAU

                      Yeah the food is good, but the wine list is not very impressive.

                    2. What about Mako on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. It's definitely in the Orris class of fusion, small plates (for dinner, at least). It's a small space, very intimate, and the food is always good.


                      1. Definitely try Bistro K in South Pasadena. Excellent food, intimate vibe. BYOB with no corkage. You can see their current menu here:


                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Hailyn

                          Perfect suggestion. Your French friends will appreciate Laurent's menu. No charge for corkage, so they can go shopping.

                          1. re: Hailyn

                            If you try Bistro K, and it is a good recommendation as long as you bring a good case of patience with you regarding pace of service(Laurent and staff make everything to order), go to Silver Lake Wines in Silver Lake on Glendale Blvd. and your somm friend will be very much at home with owners and wines. They also do tastings about 3-4 times per week.
                            Or Mission Wines in So. Pasadena itself.

                            1. re: carter

                              Silverlake Wine in Silver Lake will also be expanding-- I think they might have an actual wine bar in the works. I doubt your friends will be here by the time that happens (sometime early-ish this winter, it sounded like), but it'd be an even better place for them to hang out the next time they visit.

                            2. re: Hailyn

                              We vote for Bistro K too. I've had some amazing (and downright kinky) meals there! Restaurants don't get much smaller than this and make sure you have reservations by WEDNESDAY for the weekend. It's a neighborhood place the those of us in the neighborhood really love them.

                            3. As a huge fan of Cortez, where the Hatfield chefs used to be, I think you should choose Hatfields. Besides being avant garde ("Croque Madame" grilled brioche, hamachi, prosciutto, quail egg) they have a very sommelier-friendly wine-list:

                              1. Tagine is trendy & small (only seats 50). Click the link and re-click for Perceptor's slide picture review.



                                1. Lou (on Vine) has a great avant-garde vibe and pretty great by the glass program. The food isn't exactly cutting edge but it's good, and generous (the olive plate for $5 is a deal). Totally LA in a non-descript mini-mall but feels like a real secret when you peel back the curtain. After 5 minutes in the place, I was, like "this is my favorite restaurant in LA." If the food had been out of the park rather than merely perfect in concept and ok+plus on execution, I'd trek all the way over there from SM quite often. As it is, I'm looking for an excuse to be in that part of town...

                                  www.louonvine.com (site's look doesn't quite do justice to the place)

                                  1. It's not quite a restaurant and you can't get wine, but Jin Patisserie does some unusual flavors with chocolate. And it's a really pleasant courtyard for spending an hour reading the paper, etc.

                                    1. Bistro K gets my vote. The chef is doing all the outre things--ant caviar was a special one night, and wild boar is on the menu, as are duck tongues and hearts, and I had the goat dish one night. But it's really well done, not weird-for-weird's-sake. The guy's a genius, and I guess he doesn't really need the money, because this place is way underpriced (and I hope it stays that way) for the quality. Also, it is very small and intimate, in a sleepy, little, tree-lined, pretty neighborhood. The decor is inviting and nice, if not hip. There is outdoor garden seating with little lights, not too close to the (fairly quiet) street. You can bring several bottles of wine and open whichever you want to go with your meal, and there's no corkage fee. Get the grapefruit-crab appetizer. This is definitely where I would take out-of-towners to show them a side of L.A. that they wouldn't expect.

                                      1. Oh, and, yes, sometimes the pace is slow, but who wants to rush?

                                        1. I like the Library Alehouse patio. It feels intimate and the food is pretty good and lots of beer on tap as well as Muscato! =)

                                          Also been reading about Upstairs 2, but haven't had a chance to check it out yet . . .

                                          1. cafe stella, hungry cat, chateau marmont

                                            1. Literati II on Wilshire

                                              1. If you go to Bistro K you could stop at Topline Wines first. It's in Glendale so it's not nextdoor, but if you're coming from the westside it's sort of on the way. They have a wonderful selection of French wines for incredibly cheap prices.

                                                By the way my vote is for Bistro K. None of these other places that I've tried come close. That said, it's very French so if they're looking for something different you might want to try something Asian or Mexican.

                                                If they like a place with an "exciting" atmosphere, I'd probably go to Hungry Cat. The cocktails should excite them and it's always busy. Sparse and industrial design. Strange location. Great food. You can walk across the street afterwards and have a drink at Bowery Bar, which has horrible food in my opinion, but often a fun young artsy beautiful LA love-to-hate-them crowd at night.

                                                Otherwise I like LOU as well, and it's owned by Minohla Dargis' husband so you sometimes get an interesting intellectual set at the bar.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: njr

                                                  really is it owned by manohla's husband, i thought he was opening another wine bar in the east hollywood area (i presume they're bicoastal while she's at the ny times). does she write about food too?

                                                2. Suzanne Goin does interesting things with interesting foods at AOC with incredibly delicious results, and it couldn't be more trendy. It's a beautiful restaurant too, and if you want intimate, ask for the patio upstairs. Just be sure to make a reservation! I can't think of a place I more enjoy taking out-of-town guests - it's unique and wonderful.

                                                  1. This is a two-stop idea:

                                                    -- Go to the Wine Country in Signal Hill (2301 Redondo Avenue) and buy a couple of bottles of good wine.

                                                    -- Drive over to Benley-- A Vietnamese Kitchen (8191 E. Wardlow, East Long Beach). You can't be in a hurry; the kitchen is meticulous and your food comes out at a leisurely pace. This is high-style Vietnamese, beautifully prepared and presented.

                                                    Probably farther than you want to go, but it's certainly unique.

                                                    1. If you're thinking small and avant-garde, I would go with the smaller, more local version of AOC and go to Cobras and Matadors. On the corner of Stanley and Beverly, it's Spanish tapas (as opposed to AOC's more French-inspired "small bites") and the wine shop next door sells a great selection of Iberian wines.

                                                      Another suggestion, though not quite as avant-garde but definitely trendy and small is Father's Office.

                                                      1. agree about Opus; not the greatest design, but great food at Metro Cafe, in Culver City, on Washington Place and Sepulveda (they now have wine!); cannot forget La Buca, too.

                                                        1. I just had dinner at Blue Velvet downtown and was completely surprised by the menu and the chef's capabilities. The space is very slick, but somehow still warm and organic (must be the giant marshmallow light fixtures in the lounge and the swiss chesse-porous wall in the dining room. Great views of downtown skyline and Staples Center (because its on the east side of the 110). The space is really very intimate; the dining room was full last night, and there were only about eight or ten tables. The menu is somehwat conceptual, but the kitchen really pulls it off. We had several OH! What is that? moments with many of the dishes (a whiff of curry in a carrot salad amuse; a tart swipe of something on the dessert plate). The very fashionable New Yorkers next to us were in heaven. A few standouts to me: fried yogurt cheese with spinach puree and Indian spices, it's saag paneer turned on its head; dreamy corn agnolotti with lime brown butter, i was licking the bowl; venison loin with braised oxtails; and a black cod dish with some kind of spicy lentils. The most unique: Beet cake with goat cheese ice cream. Seriously, I NEVER would have ordered this and I do like beets. It just sounded odd. But it was delish.

                                                          So it's got great design, great crowd, great food. Very chic, in a downtown way, which we don't have much of. Nice wine selection (we started with a gruner vetliner and moved on from there).

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: diningdivala

                                                            It's on the west side of the 110, isn't it (not the east)?