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The BEST dining experience in LA for $100-150/person

Hello hello-

Long time no post.

I have a friend (read: ex that I am still crazy about) coming into LA for three days. We want to do a "fancy" dinner Sunday night. We were talking about doing a steakhouse (Nick & Stef's or Mortons), but I really would like to do something SPECIAL and MEMORABLE beyond "that was a really good steak". I want a meal we will still talk about a year from now- a start to finish experince.

So, hounds, help me out. Neither of us really drinks, so we can afford a spendy meal. I'm thinking $100-$150 a person without booze.

Keep in mind:
1. I'm looking for a whole experience- if the service or the atmosphere is off, I will be bummed. I don't need waiters in tuxedos, just attentive service, attention to detail and an intimate space.
2. The food has to leave me speechless
3. Romantic is a plus.
4. $200-$300 total food bill.

I live in Silverlake, and work in Century City. Anywhere from Pasadena to Berverly Hills would be GRAND.

I adore you hounds, littlemissbusiness

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  1. Well, sans wine, you can always do the tasting menu (or even maybe the Chef's Table) at PROVIDENCE given your price range.

    Or, you might try MELISSE and if you want a real unique experience, get the rotisserie chicken (for 2), served tableside, and then complement it with the appetizers and desserts of your choice. Of course, the chef's tasting menu at Melisse is also superb.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      As an aside about that chicken at Melisse, are they still using Ron Popeil's set-it-and-forget-it Showtime rotisserie? And still charging $80 for a chicken? I know, there are accompaniments, etc., but still.
      Don't mean to hijack the thread, just curious each time Melisse is brought up.

    2. Well, I spent much more than that at Melisse in Santa Monica for my boyfriend's birthday last year, but we had champagne and wine. I think you could get out of there for that price. Our food from the caviar to the fish to the veal was DIVINE. The restaurant itself isn't all that much to look at, but the food is wonderful!

      Link: www.melisse.com

      1. I don't think you could get the chef's table at Providence for that price. On weekends, they demnand at least 4 people, and prefer that on weekdays, too.Plus, at that table you get the chef's menu, which usually runs enough so that for 2 people with tax and tip you're looking at over $400.

        What about Bistro K in Pasadena?

        1. An dissenting opinion, but I think a super-expensive, fancy-pants dining experience with an ex sounds like it could be kind of un-romantic/too-fussy. Personally might go for slightly more moderate like Chateau Marmont, A.O.C. or Musso and Franks, but I would also be drinking...

          1. I have eaten at Nick and Stef's several times. It is very good meat, the sides are well prepared...but the overall experience is not what I think you may be looking for. The room is comfortable, but designed for an after-work/pre-theater crowd as opposed to special occasion. The food and service are good/very-good but not memorable

            5 Replies
            1. re: nyfoodjoe

              Exactly- I was saying NOT Nick and Stef's.

              $$$ is not the primary issue here. Atmosphere, amazing food, and overall experience ARE. If we spend $60 and it's amazing, so be it. If we spend $300, great.

              Think: Sumptuous, not fussy. Cozy and attentive over the deafening “place to be”. Belly dancers over tuxedos.

              Save me, hounds.

              1. re: littlemissbusiness

                You should be able to dine at the resturaunt at the Hotel Belair for your price range. It certainly has great service, a cozy atmosphere, and good food. On a nice night, dining on the terrace with a nice view of the fireplace is a great experience. The low noise factor at the BelAir makes it nice if you want to catch up with someone you have not talked to for a while. It is also a nice place to linger and stroll the grounds for a while.

                1. re: scrappydog

                  Yes - Hotel Bel Air is fantastic! Also have a drink before or after dinner at The Bar - very old school, dimly lit, with fireplace and piano player. I often go to the Hotel Bel Air just for drinks.

                  Mastro's has, imho, THE most mouth-watering steaks and fantastic service. This would be my first choice. The downstairs is quieter, upstairs can get a little loud on a crowded night.

                  La Dolce Vita also has outstanding service and what I think is great food (other people on Chow think otherwise). The booths are great, and they never ever rush you.

                  1. re: LisaStitch

                    I also love the bar at the Hotel Bel Air, and I agree that the setting is excellent, but I have to say, maybe I've just hit them on off nights, but the three or four times I've dined there, the food has never really bowled me over.

                    Also agree that the steaks at Mastro's are excellent, but don't think the setting is particularly good for a romantic encounter. (Although it is always nice to see older men taking their grand daughters out to dinner.)

                    1. re: David Kahn

                      Total agreement about the Bel Air hotel. If the weather is nice brunch on the patio is a great idea but our last two dinners there were nothing special in terms of the food or the service.

            2. I would highly suggest Providence. The atmosphere is very intimate and romantic, the food is wonderful and they have a great wine list. Also, the bar by itself is really nice and a great place to "warm up" for your big dinner. Many other restaurants have the food experience for which you're searching but I think it's the food and atmosphere combo at Providence that will really fit your needs. Good luck with the big evening.

                1. These two places that I'm about to recommend are a little out of your way, but if you're willing to drive a little farther --
                  1. Aubergine in Newport Beach is wonderful. It's a small, romantic place, and all of their food, from appetizers to desserts, are so differently and thoughtfully prepared - truly a memorable meal. And yes, they are expensive.
                  2. Have you ever heard of The Hobbitt in Orange County? Now there's a different place! It is literally a house, and they give you a choice, I think, of just 2-3 prix fixe dinners a night, but you start the experience in the wine cellar with an appetizer, then move to the main house for dinner, then a break in the middle where you can go out on their patio, visit their little art gallery, OR you can actually visit with the chefs in the kitchen, then go back for the rest of the meal and dessert. This place makes you truly feel special!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: aurora50

                    Aubergine has been closed for awhile.

                    What would you say is the average age rane of Hobbit customers or is it all over the place?

                    1. re: torta basilica

                      Oh, so sad to hear that about Aubergine. I loved that place. : (
                      I'd say the average age range of customers is 21 and over, I really haven't seen kids there. It's kind of a destination place, so I can't really see families popping into there for dinner at the last minute.

                    2. re: aurora50

                      wher is hobbitt? and what kind of food they serve, sounds exciting

                      1. re: monkfanatic

                        They're in Orange. Their website is www.hobbitrestaurant.com. They're working on a new website, so this one is limited, but you can call them and they can give you more information. They do dinner in several courses, and start you out down in the wine cellar with cocktails and a hot melty cheesy appetizer and where you can pick out your wine(s) to go with dinner. Then you go upstairs, where they tend to do things like Veal Cordon Bleu, Beef Wellington, etc., and in the middle they have a break with a sorbet. You can only pick between 1-2 entrees that are offered for the night, but this is the kind of place where you plan ahead to go there anyway, and they print their upcoming menus so you can plan and choose.

                        1. re: aurora50

                          How much is the prix fixe here, with and without wine (estimated)?

                          Mr Taster
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                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            7-course prix fixe is $74 per person, not including tax, tip or wine. Can't say how much it would be with wine, really depends on what wine you get.

                      2. re: aurora50

                        The Hobbit is definitely an experience, but is it as fun if you're not picking out wine in the cellar? Just a thought.

                        1. re: teach

                          I think it depends on if you are a wine drinker or not. Some people are not, and still thoroughly enjoy the experience with the different courses, the patio, meeting the chefs in the kitchen, etc.. I think it tends to be different experiences for different people, anyway...

                        1. I like Providence a lot, but I don't find the atmosphere (or, in an odd way, the food) to be terribly romantic. (Elegant, sophisticated, maybe even intellectual, yes, but not romantic.) Same for Nick & Stef's and the Water Grill. I don't think Melisse fits comfortably within your price range. The Belair Hotel is a really romantic setting, but I have always found the food to be just so-so.

                          My favorite for the type of meal you've described would probably be Josie (http://www.josierestaurant.com/ ). Excellent food, very good service, and a nice, cozy, atmosphere. Also, maybe it's just me, but their style of cooking seems romantic to me (if that makes any sense). If it's cool out, you can ask for a table by their fireplace. They're a bit west of the geographic zone you specified, but not by much.

                          I would also have suggested Lucques (http://www.lucques.com/ ), but I think they only serve their fixed price Sunday supper on Sunday, and that's probably not what you want for something like this.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: David Kahn

                            Josie sounds like a winner to me, too. I like Providence a lot but don't think the ambience fits your specifications 100%.

                            1. re: David Kahn

                              Just occurred to me that Grace (http://www.gracerestaurant.com/ ) would be another really good choice for this sort of thing. Also, maybe preferable from a geographic standpoint.

                              1. re: David Kahn

                                David, is Melisse without alcohol really going to run more than $150 pp, (food only)?

                                1. re: tony michaels

                                  Depends on what one orders, but I think it's not terribly difficult for two people to exceed $300 for dinner at Melisse.

                              2. i like hobbit but not sure if the food will leave you speechless. same go with raymond unless the menu has changed since last time i was there year ago.
                                what about ritz's dining room in pasadena...i have never been there but heard great thing about chef craig strong

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: rickym13

                                  Hmm, good point about the Ritz Carlton, it sounds like it would totally fill the requirements, with the lovely grounds, etc, but it may not be open Sunday night.

                                  1. re: Babette

                                    dining room not open on sunday.

                                  1. Saddle Peak Lodge, nominally in Agoura Hills or Calabasas (I think), but physically in a canyon in the Sta. Monica Mountains. Unquestionably special and memorable, with service and atmosphere that I have no doubt will provide what you are looking for. Specify that you want a table in the main room, and try to get one of the 5 tables nearest the fireplace. Romantic doesn't even begin to describe it. It's more of a drive than you seem to want, but trust me: it's worth the drive, especially on a beautiful SoCal evening. Reservations through Open Table.

                                    1. I second Melisse or Grace, followed by Lucques.

                                      1. I third Grace, it's got an elegant, sexy interior.
                                        La Cachette in Beverly Hills might also suffice. One of the best French restaurants in the city. Not sure if the prices are too high for your range.
                                        A.O.C. has good food and is nice looking but it's so loud, I wouldn't call it romantic.

                                        1. Try an "omakase" menu at Angelini Osteria, especially one that includes truffles.

                                          1. For food that leaves you speechless, Providence would definitely be my pick. And I do think it has "the whole package" as a wonderful overall experience. But I agree with others that Grace would be more intimate.

                                              1. Gotta go with Grace. Top notch food, great decor, wonderful service. Save room for a chocolate tasting for dessert.

                                                1. this may be off of what you want...but Inn of the Seventh Ray is a great place to eat. It is located up Topanga Canyon...close to Malibu. It's kinda up in the boonies but its totally romantic. I went there for Valentine's day last year. My boyfriend and i are vegetarian so we had the vegan duck...and that's about all that we could afford, but there are many non-veg items on the menu. It is pretty pricey, but if you look at the pics on the website you might just fall in love. There is a lot of outdoor seating, which is right next to a little creek, and the indoor seating is very intimate with a cozy fireplace. check it out


                                                  i don't think you'll be disappointed, especially not with the atmosphere.

                                                  1. nancygrl82, it's been years since I've lived in L.A.. We're headed out there again this year for my boyfriend's birthday. Had a wonderful dinner at Melisse last year and did the Spago thing for lunch. We do the Playboy Mansion parties, so we kind of get the whole "Party atmosphere" fill through that.

                                                    I'd like to switch it up this year. How far a drive is it from Beverly Hills to Inn of the Seventh Ray? I think he'd also enjoy the drive out there, I remember it being quite pretty when I was a teenager. Thanks!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: HeatherFL

                                                      If you are going to do a drive, go to Saddle Peak Lodge over Inn of the Seventh Ray. IMHO, the setting is the only great thing about Inn of the Seventh Ray -- the food is just so-so.

                                                      Inn of the Seventh Ray is in Topanga Canyon -- it would probably take you around 30-45 minutes from Beverly Hills, depending on traffic.

                                                      If you've enjoyed Spago in the past, I'd go to Providence and do the 9 course tasting menu if I were you (you don't have to sit at the chef's table to do this). I think the atmosphere there is plenty comfortable and romantic, and the food is the best I've had in LA. The 9 course tasting menu will run you $95 per person without wine.


                                                    2. DanaB, thanks SO MUCH! We will definitely try Providence. $95 a person sounds like quite a deal! I'm assuming they have a sommelier who would suggest wine pairings. =) Thanks for the recommendation for Saddle Peak Lodge too. He's never really done much of the coastal drive (small one to Santa Monica Pier) and I'd love him to see the area. I think he'd find it quite pretty! I am not sure about all the deer heads on the wall, LOL, but maybe for a lunch? Thanks again!

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: HeatherFL

                                                        If you try Providence, do NOT get the room to the left of the entrance - with its white tuck n roll upholstery, you will feel totally uncomfortable. A truly awrful decor. You will feel like you are in a car upholstery shop's hallway.
                                                        What were they thinking?!

                                                          1. re: carter

                                                            That's where we were--maybe that's why I wasn't wowed by the ambiance. Where do you recommend being seated?

                                                        1. A few folks have mentioned A.O.C. but recognized its lack of romantic ambience, so on that note, I would recommend Lucques, its sister restaurant (http://www.lucques.com/). If you check out the website, you'll find a much more intimate (and sort of tastefully faux-rustic) atmosphere. The food is elegant, simple, and delicious. Suzanne, the head chef, won the James Beard award last year for best chef in CA. Sure, Lucques is nothing new, but it's still one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles, and has remained consistently good throughout its entire existence. They have a great selection of wine, and totaled, the bill should be right in your price range.

                                                          1. I second the recs on Lucques and Hatfield's though in the romantic/food category I think Hatfield's wins out. The place is tiny and cozy so it doesnt really get too loud. The tasting menu is 7 courses in tandem so you get 14 different dishes and I think its only 78 bucks. If you get the right table at Lucques it can also be very romantic and nice, but I think it can get a bit loud there at times.

                                                            Providence also sounds great but I havent eaten there yet so I cannot personally recommend it. Maybe itll be a birthday treat for me?

                                                            1. nobu taster's menu is memorable

                                                              1. I know Providence has a lot o' fans on CH, but I have to caution you that you will have far from a flawless and perfectly architected meal ahead of you. Of the 3 times we've been, including once when my BF's brother, a chef who staged there, was dining with us, there was never a time when every course made a great impression. In many cases, the courses didn't sing.

                                                                It really isn't on par with Alinea in Chicago and the atmosphere isn't romantic at all. Honestly, the one experience we had at Bastide under Ludovic Lefevre before the restaurant closed literally blew away course-for-course all of the meals we'd had at Providence. (Not to mention the level of service.) I truly hate to say it, but it appears that LA is lacking the same level restaurants found in NY, SF and Chicago.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: purediva

                                                                    not sure to which part of the post Diana disagrees.

                                                                    to the first paragraph, our experience is mostly fantastic at PROVIDENCE.

                                                                    regarding the alinea (pun intended), we can understand the comparison being made between two of the best restaurants in respective cities, but let's be serious, michael cimarusti is not trying to do the same type of food as grant achatz. and yes, if you relocated ALINEA to l.a., it would blow all other restaurants away. if fact, we declared it the best restaurant in america maybe the world (we think the food is yummier than el bulli) two years ago in october.

                                                                    we appreciate michael for what he does best and appreciate grant for the same.

                                                                    that being said, purediva, we empathize. if our memory serves us, you recently came from the bay area. we've made the same transition and have suffered the same adjustment you're experiencing. the volume of establishments dedicated to quality of ingredients is greater in the bay area in our experience. hope you've found your tartine replacement, but know how tall that order is. have you been to the original la brea bakery next to campanile? note that there's no seating. if you haven't had weekend brunch at campanile, we think you'll really enjoy it. reserve in the front room.

                                                                    buen provecho

                                                                  2. Okay folks, here's the verdict:

                                                                    Next time I'm going to Providence.

                                                                    Could not get reservations at Providence or Josie's, so went for Lacques. Big mistake. Food was lack luster, waiter was practically a ghost (trying to get coffee after dinner proved to be nearly impossible), and the atmosphere was so-so. I would NOT NOT NOT go there again. We were there for the "Sunday Supper" menu- a limited weekly offering. Since the kitchen had limited itself to two entrees, I expected both to be truly stellar. My scallops were nothing beyond what I could readily sear at home. Maybe the "Sunday Supper" was not the night to attend Lucques... Total bummer.

                                                                    The great part about that is that exie and I made a running joke out of the bad service. God bless a sense of humor.

                                                                    Other places we went (more casual for the rest of the trip):
                                                                    Took a crowd to dinner at The Kitchen in Silverlake off Sunset- they were wonderful and the food was great for the price (~$20 per person w/ beverages and appetizers). My pork chops with warm goat cheese were lovely. Grilled squid appetizer was a crowd favorite. Waiters were charming, chatty, and attentive.
                                                                    Cliff's Edge in Silverlake for brunch - romantic and cozy up on the mezzanine. Exie and I lounged on pillows and sipped coffee. Lovely. Food was enjoyable, as always.
                                                                    Manna in KTown (olympic and st. andrews) for all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ with a big crowd- a blast- great fun for a group. Take someone with you who can speak Korean- makes the experience much more enjoyable. We had 6 kinds of meat and had to roll ourselves out. Yum.
                                                                    Paradise Cove in Malibu for lunch- was looking for something on the beach. PC was a bit too Jimmy-Buffett-loving-tourist for my taste- should have gone to Geoffrey's or just buzzed into the Malibu Country Mart. Food was okay- standard seaside fare. Proportions HUGE. Would go back in the summer and eat outside- the restaurant is RIGHT on the beach.

                                                                    The trip went very well, and he'll be back down again soon. I'm planning on taking him to either Providence or Josie for a proper pampered dinner. Also planning on Moun of Tunis for fun. More ideas: Where should we go for Japanese small plates? Other suggestions?

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: littlemissbusiness

                                                                      "Where should we go for Japanese small plates?" Musha in Torrance, (most who have been to both seem to like the Torrance location better) or Santa Monica or maybe Terried Sake House on Santa Monica Blvd. in West L.A. or Nanbankan, (more of a chicken skewer specialty house) - also in West L.A. on SM Blvd., (not too far down the street East of Terried).

                                                                      1. re: littlemissbusiness

                                                                        Well, I am very excited that "exie" is coming back for round 2. Maybe he won't be "exie" for long, but I digress! We went to Lacques when it first opened and once was enough for us. But, I think that when you have an out of town guest and you're short on time, you can pick a local neighborhood or two and show them around (we love Venice and Malibu and take guests there but we don't live too far) or forget the tour and just stay close to what's convenient and keep the driving to a minimum. Driving in L.A. can be a big drain and waste of energy. Depends on the overall itinerary. Close to Century City that may fit the bill is The Grill on the Alley. Or Cut. Or Spago? Or, heading toward Downtown L.A. en route to Silver Lake (is it two words?) how about Pacific Dining Car. Old School and great for conversation. Went there recently and saw all age groups. We haven't tried Providence yet but because of all the buzz from the Chows, that's my next selection. Good luck and have fun!

                                                                        1. re: littlemissbusiness

                                                                          Have been to Lucques a bunch -- but never for the Sunday dinner. The times I've been the food has been very tasty, the wine excellent and service solid to good but I have learned to AVOID THE MAIN ROOM AT ALL COSTS. First time I went I sat in the main room and found the tables cramped and the atmosphere uptight -- all in all kind of a downer. In a subsequent visit (not suggested by me as I had been so off-put by my first experience), my friend and I sat in front of the fire-place while waiting for table and found it so comfortable decided to eat the meal there and it was a lovely, intimate experience. Have had other dinners on the back patio which have also been pleasant. The bar is pretty cool too for a more casual bite.

                                                                        2. Just another "thank you" for this thread. I booked our annual trip to L.A. last night for my boyfriend's birthday. If there are any new places that will be "must-try" by the end of June, please do add them!

                                                                          Also, he is big into magic, so I want to take him to the Hollywood Magic Castle for a show and dinner one night. I know we have to have an Associate Membership and I'm taking care of that, but has anyone heard of how the food is there? Thanks again!

                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                          1. re: HeatherFL

                                                                            food at magic castle is ok at best...but you are not really there for that.
                                                                            have fun!

                                                                            1. re: rickym13

                                                                              Thanks. I wonder if we can get away with not doing the dinner and just attend a show. It would blow to have a sub-par meal before such a fun event.

                                                                              1. re: HeatherFL

                                                                                Both time I've gone to the magic castle have been by an invitation from a member. One time I was obligated to buy dinner (and pay the door fee, which was $15 I believe) and the other time I got away with just paying the door fee.

                                                                                I'm glad we didn't have to buy dinner the second time because the food really was mediocre to poor. I managed to get away with some ok food because I had done some research beforehand (I stayed with the "famous" chili and I think I also had some kind of scampi dish to go over the $15 minimum dinner requirement) but my friends who ordered veggie and pasta stuff were sorely disappointed. Definitely go with the meaty, steakhouse type stuff.

                                                                                However if you purchase a membership, you may not be obligated to eat there. Not sure really, but that's the scoop as far as going as a guest.

                                                                                The Magic Castle itself is a blast.... really super fun and nothing else like it. Little secrets and surprises around every corner. I'd go again for the experience even if I had to eat the bad food :)

                                                                                Mr Taster
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                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                  I thought you had to be a magician or in the industry to be able to get a membership.

                                                                                  1. re: Diana

                                                                                    No, you can pay (a much higher price) to become a member as a non-magician.

                                                                                    But really getting reservations from a member is usually as easy as going to the "now appearing" page on their website and emailing one of the magicians a request for an invitation on one of the nights that they will be performing.


                                                                                    Mr Taster
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                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                      Really!!! Wow, this is the first time I've heard this from anyone, and I've been interested in going to the Magic Castle for years!!!! I've always been told by friends and co-workers, "You have to know someone", but maybe they were just being mysterious and exclusive -- or THEY didn't know themselves --

                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                          I didn't know that! I was about to dish up the $1200+ for the membership! Thanks so much for the heads up! A million times, thank you!

                                                                                          1. re: HeatherFL

                                                                                            You can send a tip to my paypal account ;)

                                                                                            Mr Taster
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                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                        I went once and skipped dinner. No one in my group was a member or affiliated with magic in any way, but one of us knew a waitress and it was no problem getting in. We went at 5 or so and spent the evening at the various shows and bar areas - a really fun night! But from what I've heard and the looks of it, I would skip the food if possible.

                                                                                        1. re: smonkey

                                                                                          It would be a fantastic trick indeed if you could make the mediocre food from the Magic Castle disappear.

                                                                                          I've been often as a guest of some magician friends; the best are the parlors-- the main stage is bad, especially if you have a seat at the ends of an aisle.