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Best Restaurant in Santa Monica area? (not incl. Melisse)

I am looking for the best restaurant in the Santa Monica/Venice area for a special occasion... I am considering Jiraffe, Abode, Catch, the Huntley, Drago, or anywhere else where the food is wonderful....help? I would appreciate any suggestions!!

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  1. My favorite restaurant ever - Via Veneto. Food (Italian) and service are both impeccable. Dimly lit, so can be romantic.

    1. I like Jiraffe a lot, but I think that it's too loud for me to really consider it for very special occaisions. Penthouse (the restaurant at the Huntley) has an amazing view and pretty good food, but again the volume of the crowd (and the sometimes spotty service) I think should rule it out. I'd say either Josie, Michael's or Abode.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mollyomormon

        We had our wedding at Michael's and use to really like it around 2000.... but it is pretty mediocre as of late (the last couple of Chefs are pretty clueless).

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Good to know, thanks for the heads up. I stick by Josie as my number one rec.

      2. My two favorite special occasion restaurants in Santa Monica are Josie's and Via Veneto. Josie's is elegant and quiet, and known for its game. Via Veneto is more lively and the tables are very close. I love their spaghetti with bottarga and giant prawns.

          1. re: tdo ca

            agreed. fantastic burrata salad, fire grilled meats, killer wine list and attentive service.......drawback? its quite pricey.

          2. Josie is wonderful. and perfect for special occasions!!


              1. Joe's Restaurant... it doesn't get much better than that in L.A.... $45 to $55 for 7ish course tasting menu... + 1/4 & 1/2 glasses.

                9 Replies
                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Thank you so much everyone! It is for a friend's birthday. I have already been to Valentino and Joe's.... We are now thinking Josie, Abode (but we're nervous), Piccolo, and La Botte...

                  1. re: Drehound

                    I would avoid Josie and avoid Piccolo and La Botte like the plague.
                    Valentino needs to have improved -- don't know personally whether they have yet.
                    Joe's is fine but poorly laid out.
                    Capo is the clear winner for a special occasion that will impress.

                    1. re: jcwla

                      I sort of get your advice with respect to Piccolo and La Botte, but curious as to why you'd say avoid Josie like the plague. Bad experience?

                      1. re: mollyomormon

                        Yes -- I find the men working at the front of the house to be jerks and the women to be liars.

                        1. re: jcwla

                          But the food tells the truth, and the truth is beauty.

                          1. re: jcwla

                            at La Botte you found the front staff to be jerks? what happened?

                            1. re: epop

                              I think he was talking about at Josie. I'd still like to know what happened there, though!

                      2. re: Drehound

                        Josie is wonderful -- food, service, atmosphere -- I've had many great meals there.

                        1. re: djdebs

                          Agree, never but the best in food and service at Josie.

                    2. if valentino's out of contention, definitely go for josie.

                      the food is always fantastic [chef jill davie is a rock star], the atmosphere is warm and inviting, and the service is professional and efficient without being intrusive.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: 1_healthnut

                        I know I am crazy, but what about Sam's by the Beach? The choices are killing me!!

                        1. re: Drehound

                          My wife and I really enjoyed Sam's-when we were there, I think 4 tables had birthday celebrations...it's very low-key, candle-lit and solid. The food is quite good and they have a thoughtful wine list. The vibe is very good.
                          I agree with the remark about Jiraffe-it's not a special occasion kind of place, in my opinion.
                          Haven't been to Josie's, so I can't compare. And yes, you are crazy, but so are we all.

                        1. I was less than impressed with Capo. High prices, big attitudes, and FOOD that didn't live up to the hype. If food is the main point, then I'd give this place a miss.

                          Jiraffe is consistently tasty, they have excellent seasonal cocktails, but the room can be noisy.

                          I DO like La Botte - I've eaten there many times, and every time the food has been excellent. I've also recommended it to friends who have also enjoyed it. I like the decor, and it isn't too noisy. Wine is pricey, though.

                          I enjoyed the view at the Penthouse (Huntley Hotel) and the food was tasty. My friend's steak arrive RARE and he ordered medium-well... as the previous poster mentioned, this is fixable, the other way isn't. So it seems that the staff ask, and then the kitchen doesn't deliver what the customer ordered! But the place is so noisy that I would think twice about going there on a special occasion.

                          The environment at Michael's can't be beat, but the food isn't what it used to be.

                          Beechwood and Wilshire have that split personality that can be fun... a very separate dining room and lively bar. I've enjoyed the food at both, but the outdoor space at Wilshire is more festive.

                          Enjoy your meal!

                          1. Again-Josie. I also like Nook Bistro alot even if it a bit more casual. The last few times I've been to Violet have been good.

                            1. i like the new place Catch in the Casa del Mar hotel

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: NYCnowLA

                                What do you normally order there?
                                We've known Alan Ludwig since his days at The Grill.

                              2. Of all places mentioned, La Botte, Capo and Via Veneto either don't allow BYOB (Botte) or have disgustingly restrictive BYOB policies, like single bottle for the entire party, irrespective whether it's 2 or 10.

                                All 3, not surprisingly, love higher-than-normal markups.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: RicRios

                                  Good Point RicRios!
                                  Good reason to go to Valentino's which is much better anyway.

                                  1. re: RicRios

                                    And the fact that Capo has never received even ONE vote in the, (non-Chowhound sanctioned) year end Ultimate LA restaurant voting speaks volumes about how the hounds really feel about its food to price value.

                                    1. re: tony michaels

                                      One of my favorite CAPO stories is that a Major Wine Collector(2 million $ Cellar at home) friend of mine used to eat there weekly for over a year. One day he brings a large group of 10 people and they won't let him open more than 2 bottles for the entire table. That was the Last time he darkened their door. Can you imagine?