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Dinner for 7 in Malibu or Santa Monica

A group of us (early-mid 30s) are heading from NYC to Malibu for a wedding. We will be in town a day early and are looking for a place to meet up for dinner. No one is a picky eater, we're just into great food with a good atmosphere. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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  1. Where are you staying? Will you have a car - all of you?

    Santa Monica and Malibu are both filled with amazing restaurants - what is your budget per person? Do you like trendy spots? Seafood? Italian? Celeb spotting? Japanese? A view?

    4 Replies
    1. re: yogachik

      We will all have cars. We are staying in different hotels, but all will be in Santa Monice or Malibu. We're looking for somepalce not too loud, we haven't seen each other in awhile and would like to be able to converse without screaming. Outside dining is always a nice option. Thanks.

      1. re: lilly1114

        Whist at the Viceroy is a great suggestion for Santa Monica, outside.
        Chaya Venice is great but can get loud.
        Nobu in Malibu is pricey, but you can get a round table which is conducive to catching up with everyone.
        Tra di Noi in Malibu is another idea, outside patio, but could be cramped with 7
        Allegria is my favorite restaurant in Malibu - the food is fantastic, service perfect, and it's not loud at all.

        I absolutely do not recommend the other ideas of Casa Escobar or Taverna Tony's - not good food, and very loud (and gross, frankly).

        1. re: yogachik

          I like Tony's for lunch on the patio, but it gets really, really loud at night. I agree the food at Casa Escobar is awful. Allegria is probably one of the best restaurants in Malibu, but it gets painfully loud inside. The patio is probably a better bet there.

          I'd suggest Musha in Santa Monica. Good Japanese pub food and fun low-key atmosphere.

          1. re: yogachik

            i like Allegria - but i don't think it could possibly stand up to good italian from ny. it's not even all that great for la. the service is wonderful and the food is good - but just not outstanding.

            border grille in santa monica is v. good and good for groups - but can be a little loud.

      2. In SM, Chaya Venice is what you seek. Rustic Canyon on Wilshire is good too, albeit a bit loud.

        Out in Malibu, I'd suggest Taverna Tony for Greek food that's great especially for sharing.

        Also look at Beechwood, Primitivo, Viceroy, and Boa.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Emme

          The patio at Casa Escobar in Malibu is a nice venue --good food, nice service and reasonable prices. Lovely atmosphere. Shrimp Tacos are amazing!

          1. re: maudies5

            Update: Went there yesterday. Food was seriously disgusting. So much salt that I gained three pounds overnight. Avoid at all costs--unless you want swollen ankles the next morning.Those shrimp tacos reeked of iodine. Yuck!

          2. re: Emme

            Our dinner group (6 people) went to the Taverna for dinner once (never again) and we could only hear the person right next to us between the Greek music and jammed in crowds! Not a place for conversation as the OP requested. If you can do an early dinner and sit on the patio then the Taverna is okay but be prepared to be seaparated from a good sum of your money.

            I suggest Duke's! Very casual atmosphere, fantastic ocean views, not overly expensive and food is acceptable.

          3. Go to Moonshadows. The food etc is not great but will give you exactly what you want from a CA beach setting. They have those little couch/cabana setups that are really neat and overlook the Pacific.

            Any decent restaurant in Malibu won't have a great atmosphere, and the ones with great views and SoCal ambience won't have great food.

            1 Reply
            1. re: NAspy

              I like the idea of the poolside cabanas there, I called and it is a $500 minumum food and drink for one. yeeks- we have a little group and we dont have THAT much of a budget-- we want to cool places with good food anything more pocket friendly?

            2. Try Whist, the poolside restaurant at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica - Very decent food, and a fun atmosphere. Ah, summer outdoor dining in Southern California.... welcome to LA!

              1. Duke's in Malibu is a nice option on the PCH in Malibu. The food and drinks are good and you can definitely have a nice conversation, and the view is gorgeous. They focus on fish (in the 20+ range for dinner), but they also have chicken and burger options and a great drink selection. They also have two nice bars if you want to linger and hang out after dinner.

                I also second Musha as a Santa Monica option. It can get a little loud in the main room, but they have a small room in the back that looks like it seats about 8 which would be perfect for your group.

                Whist at the Viceroy has a nice atmosphere, but I've been really unimpressed with the food. We generally go at lunch for work, so I've not tried dinner (maybe that is better). Nothing to complain about, but if I'm going to eat okay food at those prices, I'd rather have an ocean view.

                1. If food is your number one priority I suggest Chinois on Main in Santa Monica. Wolfgang Puck's original fusion restaurant, spectacularly decorated by his ex. Everything is served to share. Concentrate on the starters but be sure to order the spectacular deepfried catfish and the wonderful sliced beef filet in szechwan chili sauce as mains. A lot of energy, very professional service. For a party that large, make a reservation as soon as possible. I think it will be the most memorable dining experience your foodie friends will talk about, and after dinner you can go to one of the beach hotels for drinks.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: nosh

                    totally agree - chinois is absolutely outstanding - but sort of expensive. i love this place so much - and it is really great for a group.

                    1. re: bu dat

                      chinois isn't so expensive if you concentrate on the starters. they mostly come with greens/herbs/sauces accompaniments which bulks them up. for a group of 7, i'd allocate 8-9 starters, 3-4 entrees, 3-4 desserts to share.

                      9 starters avg 14 = $126. three entrees avg 36=$108. four desserts = $36.

                      everybody is now fed for about $350 = $50/pp. add drinks and wine and coffee and another starter or some fried rice and tax and tip and one bottle of wine + some drinks before you are seated and near $100/per.

                      you won't get out of moonshadows for less. you can't get into the high-end sm hotels for equal.

                      like i said -- two or three or even four appetizer dishes for every entre -- the way to do chinois and have the best experience in l.a. near the coast.

                      1. re: nosh

                        I don't know about you folks, but I find Chinois to be really, really loud! Tough for a table of four people to hear each other, let alone seven.

                  2. I hate Duke's. Went there for brunch once, had the most basic brunch food almost as if I were at a hotel convention. The "Hawaiian" food was mediocre. Decor is all a totally cheesy tiki theme, complete with all the employees wearing Hawaiian shirts. Avoid if you have any class at all.

                    I love Moonshadows though. Much nicer ambience, and the patio is fantastic. Make a reservation and request the patio. I was there on a Saturday night recently and they had a DJ outside who plays very relaxing music. One of the best nights ever. And the food is very good. My friends and I shared the calamari, garlic-herb marinated chicken, and the lobster shrimp and crab ravoili. Fun crowd too, as it is also a bar outside.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: LisaStitch

                      i like duke's - but i think it is equivalent to islands with a view. food is ok - but just like chain restuarant good.

                      i love moonshadows too - but don't think the food is all that. the view/atmosphere on the patio is amazing - probably the best in la - and i think that is good enough to go. i don't think the food is bad - just not impressive.

                    2. Call the Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica and get one of their big tables in those banquette/booth setups they have...can easily accommodate 7 people, with great views...food is fine and the atmosphere and view are outstanding...it is a much more cosmopolitan place than almost anywhere else on the westside...for out of towners, it will make you all want to live in LA....Nobu Malibu is good, but there are two or three of them in NYC and the menu is exactly the same...Chaya Venice is great, too...I would second the Viceroy recommendation and would also add Catch at the Casa del Mar hotel...great food and great views there, too....it has been pretty quiet the couple of time i have been there...I am surprised at the recommendations for Chinois as every time I have ever been there it has been unbelievably loud

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JE33

                        Depending on the day of the week (Thurs - Sat definitely), I'd say the Penthouse can be obnoxiously loud for dinner.

                      2. I like the Lobster. I know some Chowhounders will disagree but I've always had great food, great service and it feels like a sunny California experience with and a lovely view. Yummy scallops.