We will be in Santa Monica (coming from DC) for three nights later this month. We have plans for the first two nights. In previous visits there I've seen JiRaffe and have been tempted to go. It used to be listed in the LA Magazine restaurant guide but seems to have been dropped at some point. Is it still good? Alternatively we were thinking of Josie's, which used to get raves on this board. Is it still good? We're staying at 2nd and Wilshire, without a car, so Josie would require a taxi.
Thanks for any and all advice.
Greg J/Washington, DC
For some reason, at least to me, Josie just isn't as good as it can (or should) be. It's that odd feeling that all the ingredients are there, but somehow the whole is less than the sum of the parts. That said, it's still a fine restaurant.
Have not been to JiRaffe in quite a while, but when I was there about 4 or 5 years ago I remember having a pleasant meal, and a rather delightful cream cucumber soup.
Josie is the much better bet between your two choices.
Rustic Canyon, a newer restuarant, is also fantastic and closer to your hotel. Some here have complained about the noise, but I have found it very comfortable.
I also highly recommend Orris, Melisse, Violet, and Nook; which are all near enough to take a taxi.
Enjoy your trip.
Yes, I think the food at Rustic Canyon is on par with Josie. I particularly liked the menu's seasonality and the Mediterranean feel. One caveat -I have been to Josie's three or four times a year, and have only been to RC twice since it opened.
The service is more casual at RC than at JiRaffe or Josie, but just as professional and accomodating. Unfortunately, the severe allergy issues that we must bring up everywhere tend to function as service "tests". I also find the more casual service refreshing, but understand that others might not prefer it.
I ignore the "scene" - good, or bad, if I enjoy the food. Once, I went to RC later than normal to avoid the weekend crowds. Likewise the decor; while I enjoy an elegant setting, I'd rather have amazing food than a beautiful view. (hence..Orris:)
I don't remember exactly what we ordered at RC- but we tend to order several different things and share everything. I do remember noting tasty produce and herbs used well.
I don't mind casual service at all, but the first time I was there our server forgot about us entirely. We had to finally flag someone else down and ask them to bring the bottle of wine we ordered once our apps had been cleared and the busboy brought our mains because we realized our server had completely spaced it and had never checked back in. And we had ordered the wine before we even ordered our apps. Maybe it's because we're on the younger side they thought we wouldn't care? I dunno. The bad service continued that particular night but on the upside, the manager observed it and comped our dessert which I think is a great gesture. Both times I've been I've received way overcooked meat (the burger and the skirt steak) and way underseasoned food (nasty asparagus soup, cream of spinach under the filet that managed to not taste anything like cream or spinach). One of the times we tried going later (10:30) and managed to only have half our meal be really noisy. Anyway, maybe it's time for another visit since, from your post, it sounds like maybe it's gotten better.
I contrast that with my experience with Josie where I've never been forgotten (but not overbearing service) and everything I've eaten has been good to excellent. Plus, I can hear the person I'm eating with.
I'd be very curious as to what you ordered at Rustic Canyon that you thought was fantastic. I want to love the place because it's so close but have had bad experiences with both the food and the service. I might be able to put up with having to shout to be heard if those were in place, but the noise really caps off the unpleasantness for me.
Back to the OP's question, I think Josie is definitely better than Jiraffe.
Josie's is simply phenomenal; I've been several times over the years and each experience has left me with a wide grin and a satiated, happy belly. The room is elegant and intimate, the service top notch and the food is consistently some of the best I've had in LA. You can't go wrong.
My past experience with Jiraffe was a major disappointment due to lackluster food and rude, unattentive service. However, keeping an open mind, I tried it again recently and it was a completely different experience. Warm, well-paced service and delicious food.
I don't think Rustic Canyon is on par with either of the above. RC lacks the elegant ambience is really more small plates focused with a casual feel overall. Has a great "Father's Office" inspired burger and is much more of a "scene".
We steered friends from San Francisco to Josie two weeks ago and they were thrilled--they pronounced it some of the best food they had ever had.