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Providence or Spago?

I'm taking my honey out for a birthday dinner. I have heard raves about each - any hounders willing to take position on one or the other? Recent good or bad experiences? Thanks in advance for your advice.

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  1. Providence
    Melisse
    Valentino
    Spago

    1. Just went to Providence last weekend - our party of 6 had the chef's menu. It was outstanding, but I don't remember the details of all the courses.

      Amuse Bouche 1 - tequila/lime/oyster shooter
      Amuse Bouche 2 - tuna tartare (I think)
      Amuse Bouche 3 - smoked salmon/creme fraiche mousse

      Course 1 - Sea Scallop
      Course 2 - Octopus
      Course 3 - Pork Belly
      Course 4 - Striped Bass
      Course 5 - Duck Breast

      Cheese course

      Dessert 1 - White chocolate "lollipop", filled with a raspberry liquid
      Dessert 2 - Can't recall
      Dessert 3 - Can't recall

      petit fours

      Wines: Bottle 1 - Alsace white
      Bottle 2 - Turley White Coat (Viognier/Roussanne)
      Bottle 3 - Movia Pinot Noir (Slovenian)
      Bottle 4 - Can't recall - dessert wine

      All in all an excellent, but long (assuming this may be a problem for you) dinner. We allowed the sommelier choose our wines in which he chose very reasonable wines for our dinner (most expensive was $85). Our group knows both Donato and the sommelier, so this certainly could have influenced our experience.

      I have been to Providence on 3 occasions and have had excellent meals all 3 times. We also have been to Spago 3-4 times, and also thoroughly enjoyed each of our meals. However, I would stick to the tasting menu if you're going to Spago.

      I think it's going to depend on what type of experience you want - Providence is a more intimate, but the Spago tasting menu will give you a wider variety of dishes (as opposed to primarily seafood courses).

      We haven't been to Valentino for a while, but we enjoyed our last meal there. I liked Melisse, but my wife didn't care for her food and the night we dined the service was off.

      Hope this helps -

      1. I must have dined at Providence the same night you were there! We had the same tasting menu and the same wine pairings. Although our dinner didn't start until 9pm, so we only had one amuse, or perhaps you had three due to your connections at the place?

        I thought the pork belly was outstanding!

        We actually did the tasting menu at Melisse just this past weekend and had a great experience. Funny you mentioned the service, which started out stellar, seemed to fade and we didn't even receive a detailed description of the main courses as she was off somewhere else...

        I have never done Spago, but if you want a scene and a more lively experience... I think it has to be better than Melisse or Providence, which I think offer some of the best food in LA County however, there isn't much sizzle in the scene at either.

        Just thought I'd throw in my .02.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Vickie McCorkendale

          Hi - we were there on Friday, the 30th (I guess that would make it two weekends ago). We did receive a lot of perks that night, and to be honest, we were all so full by the end of the dinner, I think we would have enjoyed it even more had we not been so full!

          What I think is great about Donato is that the first time we went to Providence, he remembered us from when we dined at Bastide (after meeting us only that one time), and we weren't even with the person who knows him! I suppose that is why he's so highly regarded -

          As for Melisse's service, I hate to judge a place on one visit (although consistency is important), but the night we were there, our waitress wasn't very polished. Perhaps we'll have to give it another go one of these nights.

          Now that I'm thinking about the Spago tasting menu, I think that'll be our next nice dinner out -

        2. Spago is better in my opinion.

          1. Thank you so much for all of this. I think occasion and the notion of a varied tasting menu makes Spago Thursday's destination. By the way, I had considered Urasawa, but have decided to postpone. Never been there. Finally, info on Melisse is very helpful. I noticed casual service as well.

            1. Having to choose between Spago and Providence is like choosing between an outstanding metaphor and a superb metaphor.

              1. We were at Providence two Saturdays ago and Melisse just this past weekend.

                Small world.

                1. It all depends on what you want. Spago is hands down my favorite overall restaurant in LA based on food alone. But there service is slow and spotty, and there is something very manufactured about the hugeness of the dining room/not a very intimate setting. If you end up going there, request to sit outside in the courtyard.

                  Providence is a beautiful restaurant, but I dont feel like the food is at the same level. Service is attentive and good, but it feels a little misplaced in the neighborhood its located in. I'm also biased because I had a subpar meal the last time I was there. :)

                  1. You are faced with the hound win win! Both will give you a special experience. First think about getting home after a little wine. Second, it's truffle time and both have great dishes with our short time friend. So far both are great - so do you want to be around people that are foodies and maybe to hip or foodies? Cheers & enjoy either.