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Best Meal In My Life - Providence

Last night, the lady and I experienced the single most creative, delicious, mind-blowing meal we have ever had. A year ago, my lady would never have opted to head for a "primarily seafood" special occasion dinner as she barely enjoyed a simple piece of fish. However, over the last year, scouring the food boards, blogs and reviews we came to understand that the Providence chef's menu is clearly one of the most highly regarded "special occasion" dining events in Los Angeles. So, enough introduction. Best meal of our lives, hands down. A formal breakdown follows:

1st: Oyster w/ Seaweed Gelee ...with heavy citrus (lime?) accent

2nd: Santa Barbara spot prawn tartare covered with yellow beet gelee, accompanied by lime foam and red beet ....**a highlight

3rd: Abalone with Abalone mushrooms (from China) and thinly sliced cucumbers, prepared like noodles, served atop an abalone shell placed on a bed of red salt ...this tasted incredibly buttery, sea salty and the abalone mushrooms really DO taste like abalone

4th: Kanpachi rolled around a soy gelee with yuzu foam, shiso leaf and cucumber ...absolutely refreshing (and the lady has a "thing" for kanpachi/shiso/yuzu combos - we didn't think Spago's sashimi dish w/ the same flavors could be beat...but it was)

5th: Snow crab topped with caviar (can't remember much else but it should be noted that we chose to do the wine pairing with the meal so by this point, things were becoming an elated, tipsy blur)

6th: Foie gras ball with pink pepperberry foam, foie gras powder (!!!) and cherry powder ...not that any dish here was even less than good but this was the weakest to our taste

7th: Uni sabayon - a single brown eggshell, inside of which was uni, champagne and vermouth, egg yolk foam and black truffle with shaved black truffles on the top ...words don't do justice to this crazy, savory little dish **highlight

8th: Maine lobster with beet agar-agar (jelly) and topped with caviar ...I thought the caviar *made* the dish

9th: Nancy Hill's Diver Scallops w/ Big Island heart of palm, pistachio and spinach chiffonade. ok, we don't know much about this Nancy Hill but we DO know that these scallops were mother-effing out of this world. THANK YOU NANCY **highlight

10th: Niman Ranch pork belly with cinnamon-soaked quince, salsify, oyster plant, ashmead apple and Australian pepperberry **highlight

11th: John Dory with flowering broccoli, carrot vavdouvan and Weiser Farm purple haze carrot

12th: Chitarra pasta with *last of the season* white Alba truffles, freshly shaved at the table ...Oh my god, this beat out any other white truffle, the pasta was so perfectly chewy and buttery and the truffles wonderfully aromatic - a true highlight of the meal)

13th: 28-day, wet-aged, Prime New York steak from Nebraska (served in a 1"x 5" rectangular strip) with sweet onion and bone marrow on brioche

14th: 4 cheese plate (total blur) (very drunk)

15th: white chocolate lollipops filled with rooibos/cardamom blood orange liquid ...wow

16th: Kalamansi soda poured over a bowl filled with vanilla ice cream and mango gelee ...YES!!

17th: Frozen banana capsule filled with some caramel-like substance topped with cinnamon caviar

18th: Chocolate cremaux, toasted marshmallow, graham cracker something or other (ok, we are now recapping this dessert based on the written breakdown our server gave us. in all humiliating honesty, we were both quite intoxicated after our 15th serving of wine)

...and of course, the homemade petit-fours (which, a day later, are still sitting in a box in our kitchen as we haven't quite recovered)

After 18 dishes, hundreds of flavors, 17(?) servings of wine, 4 and a half HOURS and 3 months salary, we were the last ones in the restaurant and got a mini-tour of the wine cellar and kitchen.

We haven't done Spago's Tasting menu but we have had a 17(?) course tasting menu at L'Auberge in Carmel that until this point we thought couldn't be surpassed. At Providence, each dish in the Chef's menu was artfully, delicately prepared by a true master (Michael Cimarusti), the service was impeccable and the sommelier's wine pairings quite impressive. Providence served us the best meal we've ever had.

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  1. omg, that sounds soooooo decandent!!

    1. how did you get so many courses? did you have 2 separate 9 course tasting menus? can I ask what the damage was?? sounds awesome!! i am headed there tomorrow night - is there anything that i should request - what was the best thing you had all night?? you had so many hightlights!!!

      3 Replies
      1. re: allisonteal

        We asked for the Chef's Menu, which is different than the "on the written menu" Tasting Menu, which I think is only 5 or 7 course. You are in for such a treat. The damage was extensive...the Chef's Menu was 150/pp. The wine pairing was 110/pp. And we got one bottle of sparkling water and one cup of coffee, 5 or 6 each. Before tip came out to 574. So worth it.

        I think if you ask for the Chef's Menu, you won't be disappointed. Ask if Nancy Hill's Diver Scallops are on the menu. They were probably the best of all. Give a full report back, would love to hear how your dinner goes.

        1. re: montgomeryrossmore

          I will be at Providence next Sautrday and was all set on getting the Market Menu. But now you have to go and tell me about this Chef's Menu!

        2. re: allisonteal

          I highly, highly recommend the Chef's menu. Our server described it as a "tasting extravaganza" and it is worth every single penny.

        3. You had a great meal. I hope you'll go back and eat at the Chefl's Table - an experience that involves a view of the preparation of your meal and course-by-course visits by Michael. The kitchen smells are fantastic as there is a door to the kitchen from the Chef's Table room. Next, convince your wife to go to Urasawa. For seafood in the Japanese way in LA, it can't be beat as the posts on this board will attest.

          4 Replies
            1. re: Diana

              Approx 110- 150 ea depending on the ingredients.

            2. re: TomSwift

              isn't dining at the chef's table the same as ordering chef's tasting menu, only difference being where you're seated?

              op's meal sounds fantastic! i've had both the 5 course and the full tasting at providence but never the chef's tm. it's too bad white truffle season is now over. i'll have to decide between going to melisse for the 1st time (carte blanche) or returning to providence... heck, at those prices, i might as well experience urasawa?!?

              1. re: zack

                Not necessarily. You could order the Tasting Menu of the night OR you could call in advance and request some special favorites of yours, which we've done on occasion. You must experience Urasawa, however, and my suggestion is to get there at 6:00 pm so that you have the option of a 4-1/2 dinner if that is your ilk.

            3. I've got to get the chef's menu next time I go to Providence! My best meal ever was there too but we had the 9 course tasting menu. Each dish was like a work of art. Thanks for the review!

              1. That menu sounds terrific, but the 4.5 hour time investment is a real turn-off for me.

                That's nearlly a third of the time I'm awake in a 24 hour period ...

                4 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  We've been at the Chef's Table for 6 hrs before, wish it didn't have to end?

                  1. re: russkar

                    You're a much better (and more patient) chowhound than I ...

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Hardly, the food and wine just keeps coming and I have my own restroom down the hall. Top Secret! The Handicap R/R near the Wine Cellar , almost always vacant! Which is very important when your under pressure?

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    I'm sure they can do something a bit quicker with the Chef's Menu. They require you to be there by 8:30 if you want the Chef's Menu, and they close up at midnight, so if you prefer 3.5 hours to 4.5 hours, I'm positive it can be done.

                  3. So the Chef's menu is about $150 w/o wine pairings... how much is the 9-course tasting menu and how long does it take to eat? How much is the 5-course tasting menu? Is there only a 5 or 9, or is there a 7-course menu?

                    And, you can do any of the tasting menus at the Chef's table (if it's available?) Does it cost more to sit at the chef's table?

                    Last question: if one person does a tasting menu, does everyone at the table have to get the same one?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chowmominLA

                      According to the website:
                      5 course is $75/$105 with wine
                      9 course is $95/$140 with wine
                      I do believe they request the participation of the entire table for tasting menus.

                      1. re: kevin h

                        Thanks. Okay, we were going to Mako for my birthday dinner on Thursday but now we're going to Providence and getting a tasting menu at the Chef's table :0) We'll decide when we get there whether to do the 5 or the 9 course, but I have a feeling we'll go for the 9 course since it's only about $20 more. The chef's menu looked amazing but that's way too much food and my family would never last for four hours.

                        So would it be totally uncool to take pictures of each dish so I could report back?

                        So excited!

                        1. re: chowmominLA

                          I definitely plan on taking photos when I go there this Saturday.

                    2. Wow, that sounds like a much better menu than the tasting one I had last November, which was VERY disappointing.

                      1. Ate at Providence on Saturday night. Ordered the 5 course menu and ended up with 8 courses because the messed up one of my courses twice!! The chef felt bad and sent over some items from his chef's menu, which I have to say was better than what we had on the tasting menu! Not to say that the tasting menu wasn't good, it was, but nothing really blew us away. Overall I was happy with my meal, but I would not rush back.

                        1. There seems to be a bit of confusion here regarding all the different types of "tasting menus."

                          When we went this last Thursday, there were two available kinds of "tastings:" the printed (on the left side of the menu) 5-course tasting menu, and the Chef's Menu -- an unprinted, extensive serving of the Chef's most inspired dishes that evening.

                          I'm not sure any other sort of tasting menu exists... you can have the printed tasting menu, which, on any given evening might be 5 courses, perhaps on some nights 7, and on some nights 9, or you can have the Chef's Menu, which is an unset number of courses, customized to the available ingredients that evening, how long you are able to stay, how long you are able to continue courses, etc.

                          Regarding the "Chef's Table".... it is merely a table that overlooks the kitchen... its' "rule" is that you participate in the Chef's Menu. The advantage of sitting at the Chef's Table whilst enjoying the Chef's Menu is that you get to watch the restaurant's preparation of all the evening's food, and you are visited by chef Michael after many / all courses. However you are not served an exclusive tasting... you can receive the Chef's Menu at any table in the restaurant, as long as you arrive at the restaurant early enough (generally before 8:30) for the Chef's Menu to be available.

                          Last Thursday, we ordered the Chef's Menu and sat in the main dining room, and had an eye open to another table who ordered the printed 5-course tasting menu. We happened to get a LOT of dishes that night, none of which we saw go to the 5-course table... we can only assume that entirely different dishes are served to patrons of the two different tasting menus.

                          I understand that the Providence website advertises a 5-course tasting menu and a 9-course tasting menu... we gathered that last Thursday there was the 5-course, and the Chef's Menu (any # course)... we paid 150/pp for the food and 110/pp for the wine pairing and after 18 phenomenal dishes we felt that the $$$$ paid was every bit deserving.

                          Hence the website might be outdated... and to answer a common question... Yes, they do ask that everyone at the table participate in the tasting menu, whether it be the printed tasting menu or the Chef's Menu.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: montgomeryrossmore

                            My understanding from talking to them a few times yesterday (and ultimately reserving the Chef's table for tomorrow night for the four of us) is that they don't require you to do the Chef's menu at the Chef's table, just that you all do some tasting menu, whether it's the 5-course, the 9-course or the Chef's menu. I was further under the impression that if the Chef's table would otherwise go unbooked, they'll make an exception to the rule and even serve a la carte... but we're gonna do a tasting menu tomorrow... probably the 9-course.

                            I hope I'm not mistaken on this because we certainly will not be able to eat 17 courses or whatever, nor stay awake for 4 1/2 hours, nor spend over a grand on one dinner for the four of us. I would call back to triplecheck but I'm too embarrased. I figure the worst that will happen is that they'll have us sit at a regular table.

                            1. re: montgomeryrossmore

                              They do serve a 9-course tasting menu. There are actually 3 tasting menu options. And you are not restricted to the chef's menu at the chef's table.

                            2. I know where I am going for my birthday.....

                              1. Just curious, you mentioned a written breakdown from the server. So you got a list of the courses? I know I wouldn't remember it all, especially all the details. I've never been given a list of the items in a tasting menu to take home with me.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: slacker

                                  I did at Bistro 561. It's a great memento.

                                2. keep in mind, the chef's table in the kitchen is usually for parties of 4 or more

                                  1. FYI for chowmominLA - my husband and I took my dad to Providence last year and did the chef's table on a Saturday (perhaps they made an exception re the number of people or the rule was different). There was no requirement that we do the chef's tasting menu, and in fact, no one ever mentioned it (actually, no one ever has and I have eaten there 4 or 5 times). Michael did not come over for every course--actually, I don't think he ever did--but perhaps he only does if you do the chef's tasting. Note: he has come over to say hello during another visit. In any event, I love Providence and am really excited for my next visit, but as others have said, $1000 for dinner is not happening.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. For those who have experienced the Chef's Tasting Menu, a question.
                                      Are there a lot of raw dishes? My husband just isn't open to eating raw fish dishes (I did get him to do the raw dishes at Tetsuya's in Sydney but there, they only do a set menu, so if you want to eat there, you eat what they give you). I just wonder if it's going to be a waste for us to go to Providence and he only eats half of the menu. I find the price point at Providence appealing and since we don't drink, we would be able to get out out of there pretty reasonably.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Muhlyssa

                                        I had the Chef's tasting menu last week and we all thought it was the best meal of our lives. I took pictures and I'm still trying to get them together and on the net to somehow share with everyone.

                                        Our Chef's menu was almost the same as the OPs, but four dishes were different. I'd say that the Chef's menu has about four or five uncooked items, out of 17 dishes total. But I'm sure you could ask for all cooked dishes when you first talk with your waiter. It's a shame though, because some of the most delicious and most interesting dishes are raw and may be somewhat challenging for your husband (e.g., the uni.) Still, a fully-cooked Chef's menu would still be amazing. It will run you about $180 pp after all is said and done, without any alcohol, don't know if you consider that reasonable or not. I thought it was worth it though!

                                        1. re: chowmominLA

                                          Thanks, I hope that my husband is in a trying mood when we go, luckly his sight is bad so he might not be able to see which dishes are cooked or uncooked ;)

                                      2. My experience sounds in line with Alison's. Sort of down the middle. Was probably a year ago so perhaps has changed a bit. Found the atmosphere a little OTT at first look but then kind of relaxed into it and had a nice flow. The staff was very sweet and friendly. Did the tasting menu and enjoyed some of the courses but found others on the sweet side (esp the ones with the red grapefruit gele or sorbet). In the big plus column, the deserts were fabulous -- especially the reinterpretation of Mexican Bread pudding with shockingly good tamaili ice cream. (Brought out as a favor from the chef as there weren't any chocolate desserts on the menu). My husband's dessert included a carrot sorbet that was also unusual and tastey. Am still looking for the ultimate seafood restaurant.

                                        1. I had one of my best meal experiences at Providence on Halloween last year. Guitarists sometimes say that listening to Jimi Hendrix for the first time makes them never want to pick up a guitar again. I'm a restaurant manager, and it was one of those things that made me not want to try and manage ever again, or cook ever again, because I couldn't possibly attain that level. We spent 4+ hours, and closed the joint (and that was after a day of wine tasting in Temecula).

                                          Of course, I'm trying to attain somewhere in the vicinity of the proximity of that level now. Cheers!

                                          1. Just went to Providence on Saturday. I can't wait to go back for the Chef's menu!

                                            Here are the pics: http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fus...