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One blow-out meal in LA please

We'll be there for a long weekend (only) in November. Last two visits (which shows how long ago we were last there) we went to Bastide (the Ludo years) thanks to a recommendation from this Board and were wowed and impressed.
Thinking of trying Spago again (now over 3 years and good experience last time), but can anyone point me to a new experience?
You guys came through last time, and normally I would search the Board - but it's hard to find a place you don't yet know!
If it helps, my best recent meals were in NY at wd-50 and Jean-Georges (in that order).
Not yet sure where we're staying, but when that's nailed down I'll be looking for more local fare. Currently considering Uzbekistan - as we don't have any decent Uzbek food in Toronto.
Thanks, guys (non-gender specific).

PS Added after first couple of replies: just had a thought - truffle season may be in full swing by then. Any prospects for a truffle dinner?

PPS In hopes of showing my good faith, I do post on what I experienced:
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/68846

is my response on my last visit.

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  1. With WD50 and Jean-Georges under your belt, your next bet should be to try Providence or Urasawa. Those two are very high on the LA "Wow" list. Providence is LA's equivalent to Le Bernardin and Urasawa is our equivalent to Masa.

    -----
    Providence
    5955 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

    Urasawa Restaurant
    218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

    16 Replies
    1. re: SauceSupreme

      Thanks - by coincidence was already checking out Providence as you posted(trolled some of my favourite LA Posters).
      Their website didn't knock me out! Out of date and virtually no menus.
      So I'm going to 'tentatively' rule out 'primarily seafood' places - indeed if I backtrack on that, will probably try out Providence. Sushi doesn't really do it for me - I prefer Kaiseki style Japanese (not that I'm asking for Kaiseki reccos - just trying to eliminate sushi!).

      1. re: estufarian

        Bastide just reopened with a brand new chef, maybe it's worth checking out to compare with your last experience.

        Since you're ruling out Providence, I'd rec Grace or Cut for a fantastic meal.

        For a great truffle dinner, you can't go wrong with Valentino.

        1. re: hrhboo

          Still checking out your reccos. One point - is foie gras "legal" in LA?

          1. re: estufarian

            Yes, it is. Wolfgang Puck no longer serves it at his restaurants, but plenty of other places do.

              1. re: estufarian

                estufarian, Urasawa does foie gras as part of the shabu shabu course. All Kyoto style Kaiseki.

                1. re: estufarian

                  foie gras is legal...until 2012.

                  1. re: estufarian

                    Foie gras at La Cachette ... can't go wrong.

                    1. re: estufarian

                      Grace is another one spot that I really like; Chef Fraser also serves foie.

                      -----
                      Grace Restaurant
                      7360 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                  2. re: estufarian

                    Hey estufarian,

                    Urasawa *is* Kaiseki-style Japanese cuisine. :)

                    1. re: exilekiss

                      Although Urasawa is technically Kaiseki, I think it might be very raw fish-intensive compared to the ones I've had in Japan - I sense the OP feels the same way... But how could one not consider this place for a blow-out meal, right?

                    2. re: estufarian

                      Gee, don't rule out Providence based on the web site! The web site is not the venue!

                      re think that, providence is one of the best experiences in LA, especially the chef's tasting menu or chef's table.

                      1. re: Diana

                        Hi Diana,
                        I note both your replies.
                        You praise Providence and 'question' Sona (in favor of Grace - also recommended by several).
                        Is it possible to expand the reasons (note: I really liked Bastide and wd-50 was my best 2007 meal so far)? Last time I posted, Bastide evoked a similar "Love it - Hate it" response but I was able to divine the reasons and made what was (for me) a great choice. I also liked Melisse - excellent in its style, but was much 'safer' - lacked the 'wow factor' - but I've sent others there, who I would never have sent to Bastide. Just trying to understand what each place is producing and match it to my current taste. There's no absolute right or wrong - just gathering info.
                        Thanks.

                          1. re: Servorg

                            Thanks - as soon as the suggestion was made I searched Chowhound and found the same post. Now i wonder why some people DON'T like it!

                            1. re: estufarian

                              Because the service is inattentive, the food misses, and it cost me $450 for two.

                    1. Let me second Valentino as one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. Also, since you mentioned truffles, I can highly recommend Melisse. Here is a link to a post I did about a meal I had at Melisse last December. It's one of the best meals I've ever had in my life.

                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/438819

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: foodie21

                        I had a good meal at Melisse a few years back - more traditional than Spago and excellent wine selection.

                        Is it still the same chef/management/sommelier?

                      2. if wd50 and JG fit your taste, you may want to add Sona and Ortolan to the list of places under consideration. I would second the recommendation of Melisse as well.

                        Sona might be your call here.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: JE33

                          Thanks,
                          Melisse has just moved up the list as they are advertising white truffles!
                          HOWEVER - where might these originate - to my knowledge, the Italian ones aren't available yet! Could they be (horrors) Chinese????????

                          Will check out the other two - I'm assuming that ortolan doesn't actually serve them!

                          1. re: estufarian

                            There are white truffles at the moment, they are Piemontese, but at this point in the year they are ruinously expensive and not very good. And while Melisse is very good, and orthodox French cooking is something Los Angeles is short of at the moment, the restaurant is pretty staid, and the food excitement is elsewhere.

                            Providence, as stated elsewhere, is hitting on all cylinders at the moment. Ortolan is also quite good, if somewhat underrated - chef Eme is Michelin-star talented. Sona is often good, but I suspect that the chef's energy is focussed right now on Comme Ca, his just-opening brasserie.

                            1. re: condiment

                              Aha! That's useful information.
                              It suggests that it's the chef that makes the difference. Most "good" places operate well even if the nominal chef is 'not available'.
                              OK, all, I'm going to do some more research on Providence. My first go-round didn't excite.
                              Comme Ca (at first glance) seems to be more 'comfort' food. From the comments it seems it's not quite open yet, despite its opening party!

                              1. re: condiment

                                i haven't been to Providence although maybe i should; on some posts there are people saying they didn't have great meals there. i don't want to take the risk of an annoying night out.
                                i really enjoyed my meal at Melisse last week, the tasting menu. the desserts were weak and the cheese was no Picholine (nyc) but there were many
                                special tastes, elegantly executed, including a fabulous reconstituted poached egg with caviar.
                                i wouldn't call the place staid. it was quiet but there was plenty to observe in the room and the service was top-notch. i can't think of a better (not including omakase) meal i've had in this town in a while.

                            2. re: JE33

                              On paper Sona seems to be really exciting (still need to do due diligence). Thanks for this recommendation (actually thanks to all). Would never have found this (or several others) without you.
                              But, as a guide, Sona really seems to be something we don't get in Toronto. And I haven't ruled out Melisse or Providence. Both seem to be the best of their style.

                              1. re: estufarian

                                I'll triple the recommendation for Sona. I haven't eaten at Urasawa, because Sona nearly broke my dinner bankroll, but was unquestionably worth it. It might be as close to Kaiseki-Los Angeles style as you'll find.

                                The wine pairings were inspired, the individual courses were head-spinning. My date and I received radically different plates for each course, which was even cooler... Somehow we each got a course that was suited to our palette. The service was exquisite, and I thought I was going to burst by the time I left.

                                Melisse is good, but IMHO Sona is better. Melisse has more of a traditional dining feel, with a spacious, well lit room and heavier, less complicated dishes. Sona is darker, a little more crowded and intimate, with almost as many servers bustling about as there are diners, but the ambience alone adds a seriousness and energy to the meal that Melisse doesn't have.

                                Not that there's a wrong decision here, but if I had $500 to blow on dinner for 2, it'd be Sona, no questions asked.

                                1. re: Detroit Slim

                                  Thanks! Sent some reviws of to AmuseGirl and she's endorsed Sona. But will wait 24 hours before finalizing.

                                2. re: estufarian

                                  I dunno, I've heard more bad then good about Sona. Grace gets better reviews from chowhouwnders.

                                  1. re: Diana

                                    was going to say melisse as well

                                    1. re: rickym13

                                      To be honest, I have only been to Sona once but was not impressed in the least (we had the tasting menu). Service was uneven at best. There were six or seven of us - all wine drinkers - so there was the potential for a big tip, but that didn't seem to make any difference. All of us agreed: we not going back.

                                      1. re: sherpa50

                                        I think Ortolan is good. Bastide, Providence, et al is always nice. Comme Ca might be open by then and it may or may not be a good optoin.

                                        I read somewhere that Hokusai does Kaiseki, but I doubt it.

                                        1. re: jlrobe

                                          Hokusai does kaiseki, but it isn't what you'd call good kaiseki.

                              2. Chef at Melisse (I thought) left earlier this year to open another restaurant. I can vouch for Providence, Grace, and Sona. However, I really enjoyed the reopening of Bastide. I don't recall truffles on the tasting menus.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: brekkie_fan

                                  I agree about Valentino, but we always enjoy the Ivy or Ivy at the Shore.

                                  1. re: malibu1

                                    The Ivy has also been recommended by people outside this list. I had assumed that it was more of a "scene" than a dining destination - but I recall that I had the same impression of Spago, which delayed my trying that. In truth we had a great meal there and Wolfgang Puck was a charming host who seemed (or well-faked) being genuinely interested in our impressions - he came by twice, with totally different questions/comments each time.
                                    So how good IS the food at the Ivy?

                                    1. re: estufarian

                                      Not good enough for a blowout meal. It's fine for lunch is you fancy a bit of celeb spotting, but the food is only okay. And you probably won't spot many celebs either.

                                  2. re: brekkie_fan

                                    No, Josiah Citrin is still at Melisse (he owns it). Perhaps you were thinking about Valentino?

                                  3. Valentino's always offers great truffles when in season; All'Angelo just had a truffle dinner but might be offering more in November; Ortolan will be offering a truffle tasting menu starting in mid-October.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: New Trial

                                      Thanks - you've just complicated my choices (in a good way)!

                                    2. OK. Thanks all. I've decided on Sona - the 'tandem' tasting menu was the clincher; we can try twice as many dishes.
                                      HOWEVER, if anyone sees a truffle tasting menu I would consider switching (and, of course cancelling the existing reservation).
                                      NOTE: I'm also watching the truffle thread on this Board.

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: estufarian

                                        seriously, I advise you to go to Providence over Sona.

                                        1. re: Diana

                                          I've had both and both are excellent in their own way.

                                          Diana, what didn't you like about your meal at Sona? The service was a notch below Providence on the night I went.

                                          1. re: LAfoodfiend

                                            The serivce wan't as good, and I left hungry.

                                            1. re: Diana

                                              Did you have a tasting menu or a la carte? I found the 9 course tasting menu much more filling that Prov's Chefs menu, and the 6 course more filling than Prov's 9 courses. The dishes are kinda "heavier".

                                              one thing, the marrow serves with the veal was not tasty. Did you have a favorite dish? Mine is the duck with black barley mmmmm!

                                              1. re: LAfoodfiend

                                                I had the Chef's menu at P, and was stuffed!

                                                1. re: Diana

                                                  Oh me too. I was surprised that you were hungry after Sona because 9 courses there were as filling if not more filling than the 14 at Prov. I couldn't even finish the last 2-3 courses at Sona. Did you have the tasting menu at Sona? Even the 6 courses at Sona is heavier than the 9 at Prov. Whoa, lots of food!

                                                  1. re: LAfoodfiend

                                                    my sona experience was just not great. Bad serice, small portions, unmemorable food.

                                                    1. re: Diana

                                                      You must have eaten there very recently, like over the past couple of months right? For it to be unmemorable after such a short time is a very bad sign indeed! Perhaps this has something to do with David Myers focusing on Comme Ca at the moment.

                                                      1. re: Diana

                                                        Maybe your sparkly Life day box will get you to Bastide next year. Very good value for an excellent meal. With the multiple amuses and two desserts it ended up being around 11 courses. It definitely had the Sparkle of Fabulousness you're seeking!

                                                          1. re: Diana

                                                            Sauce Supreme reviewed our dinner here:
                                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/450415

                                                            There was pumpkin ravioli involved. And uni. Not at the same time! Lovely lovely bread too, and loads of it.

                                                            1. re: hrhboo

                                                              My God..both Pumpkin Ravioli AND UNI?!?!?! Two things I love?!?!

                                                              Do I dare ask if there was a Diana hat trick and an Eggplant Dish?

                                                              1. re: Diana

                                                                I thought the bread was the hat trick! No eggplant unfortunately, but I believe the menu changes monthly.

                                        2. I would suggest you put Providence back on your list. The seafood is over the top - a given. Don't dismiss Michael's meat dishes - the second best rack of lamb I've ever had, terrific duck, New York strip with bone marrow sandwich. If wine matters, Drew is knowledge and very helpful. If you will be in LA on or after Nov 14 the Michelin Guide will be available. Another great spot Mako in Bev Hills. Cheers LAJay

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: LAJay

                                            Lamb caught my attention. I'm an afficionado. Prefer the basque breed (which is available in US but rarely used in restaurants). Most California places use Colorado (or Californian) - NOT the same breed though.
                                            Wine DEFINITELY matters - so does the price! But, realistically I can have any specific wine almost anywhere, so as I'm only there for the weekend (9-12 November) it's the food that is most important in decision making - I then search for the value within the list.
                                            I want something I can't (easily) get elsewhere (so the Ludo version of Bastide was a great choice). Providence indeed was on my shortlist but was eliminated (despite the raves) because I've had great seafood in Seattle and Vancouver; also I can (theoretically) get great seafood in New York (relatively easy access from Toronto) - but in fairness, I can't imagine passing on either Jean-Georges or wd-50 on my next trip (last visit both were unbelievable - my best 2 meals in North America for restaurants still open).
                                            And, AmuseGirl also (independently) chose Sona - we typically each choose a place independently and try to outdo the other (in a friendly way).
                                            Indeed, we may not choose the 'finest' - but given the above choices (thanks all - these stay on my list and are passed to friends who travel down) I can't see how we can lose at any of these! Suffice it to say that I always champion LA compared to SF. There are indeed some fine places in SF, but we've regularly found greater 'enjoyment' in LA - more diversity all round (e.g. our off-night last time was at Guelaguetza - we don't try and do 'fine dining' on consecutive nights). And given our pending trip to Uzbekistan (for longer than a weekend!) I'm guessing that the eponymous restaurant will be our 'off-night' destination.
                                            PS Had bone-marow in London at St Johns. AmuseGirl hated it; I loved it.
                                            Also checked out info on Mako - It was already on my 'back-up' list (compiled from the Small Plates thread). I'll move it up.
                                            Thanks again.

                                            1. re: estufarian

                                              I've always enjoyed Sona as well - hope you have the same experience. You may want to ask about the corkage policy and go to the new K&L wine store semi-close by; if you do ask for Keith! Cheers LAJay

                                              1. re: LAJay

                                                That hadn't occurred to me. I might just bring my own from Toronto (or check the K&L website).
                                                Thanks.

                                          2. This may not have the truffle dinner you desire right now, but friends from San Francisco were extremely happy with the meal they had at Josie which we recommended to them in June '07:
                                            http://www.josierestaurant.com/enterm...

                                            1. estufarian: I must say the courtesy that you have extended to the LA Hounds is quite refreshing. Your basis for decison making was well articulated and very thoughtful. Perhaps some HOUNDS here myself included can learn a thing or two from our Northern Friend! Enjoy your stay and most of all enjoy the dining that our city has to offer..

                                              15 Replies
                                              1. re: Foodandwine

                                                Well said! We ALL could take a lesson from such a well-mannered and thoughtful visitor!

                                                1. re: Diana

                                                  Hey guys, thanks!
                                                  I just thought that giving my 'logic' would help me find the best choice. As I said up front, I've relied on this Board before, so you're sort of "old friends".
                                                  Especially vauable at the high end, where the cost of a mistake is high. My conclusion so far is that I'm going to be happy whatever my choices.
                                                  Hope you make it up to Toronto some time - I'll be happy to return the favour.

                                                  1. re: estufarian

                                                    I enjoyed this string and thought I would throw in my two cents. No one has mentioned Patina. I know, I know....some say (count me among them) its not what it used to be but I recently went back and among many great things: I had an amazing truffle dish. Perfect, Porcini mushroom rissoto with tableside shaved truffle. LOTS of shaved truffle. It perfumed the entire room and caught the noses of people twenty five feet away. It was expensive but spectacular. If you can get past the occasional crappy wine service, you will love it.

                                                    1. re: thomtompkins

                                                      We actually tried Patina several (?) years ago - honestly I can't recall a thing about the meal. by inference that implies it was good, but not exceptional.

                                                      1. re: estufarian

                                                        Estufarian,

                                                        If you will be here on a Friday, i would recommend Bastide's old chef, Ludovic's cuisine. He has an event he calls Ludo bites at the breadbar (W. third st.). He might even do something special with truffles if you call ahead. Anyhow, his a la carte tasting menu choices range from 4-15 bucks, so its cheap, and its also BYOB! Grab some wine at Joans on third or the Farmers Market down the street, then go for an inexpensive meal. the cheese plate he does is always fun. Here is a link to a blog that talks about the food.

                                                        http://immaeatchu.wordpress.com/2007/...
                                                        http://thirdandfairfax.blogspot.com/2...

                                                        Also, Bastide is probably your best bet for a blow away meal. It might even be better than your last visit. who knows
                                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/450415

                                                        Ortolan usually has a fantastic truffle menu and they are very good at modern cuisine that uses french cooking techniques.

                                                        So again....

                                                        1) Bastide
                                                        2) Casual drop in to Ludo Bites at Breadbar
                                                        3) Ortolan (especially if they still have their truffles menu

                                                        )

                                                        With all due respect the Ivy should not be on your list. Ortolan should be mentioned just as often as Sona and Providence. Also, the foundry on Melrose is quite decent and I think it should be comparable to Grace at least, although I think you have had better American (new) in other cities.

                                                        Although not innovative and mind blowing, I think Jar makes a mean steak.

                                                        PS:
                                                        If you want some asian inspiration

                                                        Mako or Orris can be fun. Don't expect to be blown away though unless you go to Ursawa. If you do go to Ursawa (super expensive) call ahaed and tell them you dont want tons of sushi, but more traditional kaiseki. they may be able to rise to the challenge and accomodate you. Some chefs at these really personalized spaces will try and accomodate you. Here is a link to some of their cuisine
                                                        http://www.tylerpaik.com/urasawa/

                                                        Also

                                                        I hear the dining room at the ritz is decent and red seven at the Pacific Design Center is supposed to have decent asian inspired food as well.

                                                        I hope you have a wonderful time in Los Angeles.

                                                        1. re: jlrobe

                                                          AAAArgh!
                                                          Now I have to develop a muti (course) personality!!!!!!!
                                                          I had just decided that we could 'possibly' manage BOTH Sona and Providence.
                                                          Now you add these.
                                                          I think I have a Haddock!
                                                          Going to sleep on it.
                                                          PS Thanks!

                                                          1. re: estufarian

                                                            I wouldn't want to cause you anymore stress. That would be rude of me, however, it is my duty to give you the best recs I can :) Enjoy.

                                                            PS: One word of advice. LA has delicious food, especially cheap authentic ethnic food, but it doesn't have international destination food like wd-50, french laundry, per se, or alinea.

                                                            We all want you to have a fun time and enjoy your food, but with all this searching, your expectations might be extraordinarily high. Although many of the restos people have recommended are wonderful, none of them can stand the pressure of over build up, anticipation, and hype.

                                                            Once you have finally picked a place, try keeping your expectations at a moderate level.

                                                            1. re: jlrobe

                                                              After French Laundry and Per Se - nothing could fall further below expectations! But that's another thread.
                                                              I think the key is always to be able to say after:"If I hadn't at least tried it, I'd kick myself for being so close and passing". And indeed on my off-night(s) (I'm there 3 nights) it will definitely be ethnic. Blow-outs on consecutive nights just doesn't work for me. But I do hope to be excited. I'd be astounded if Sona pleases me on every dish - if it did, I probably wouldn't be able to get a reservation.
                                                              And the great thing is that Sona wasn't even close to my radar - Providence was (of course). And I didn't know about Ludo Bites either. So my choices have certainly expanded - a good thing.
                                                              So thanks again to all of you - I head out on a trip in 2days with no internet access (probably) so will make my reservations before I go.

                                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                                For a non blow out meal that's good, I reccomend going to Little Ethiopia and visiting Rahel or Messob. Ethiopian is quite a unique and satisfying experience. DD

                                                                1. re: Diana

                                                                  Thanks for the suggestion - except Toronto has a large representation of both Somali and Ethiopian places. Mexican and Central American is very weak up here (hence Guelaguetza last visit).

                                                                  1. re: estufarian

                                                                    I wonder if the Ethiopian is dieefernt in any way. I gotta visit Toronto soon.!

                                                                    1. re: estufarian

                                                                      for top notch Mexican:
                                                                      Babita Restaurant. 1823 S San Gabriel Blvd. San Gabriel, CA 91776 (626) 288-7265

                                                              2. re: estufarian

                                                                Both Sona and Providence in one trip sounds like a fantastic idea! I'd love to read a side-by-side comparison. You should absolutely stick with this plan. Ludo Bites at Breadbar is very casual, not a special occasion meal at all.

                                                                1. re: hrhboo

                                                                  Agreed. I had originally written that Ludo bites was very casual, but I edited that part out for some reason. I mentioned it as an easy way to go to multiple places without breaking the bank.

                                                                  Anyhow, you don't always have to go fancy to be blown away. Sometimes excellent food in a casual setting is a fun change of pace.
                                                                  Sona and providence are great choices, but my vote is still bastide.

                                                  2. I have to go with Sona, as well. Grace, Melisse, Providence...they're all great and I've spent many happy evenings in these places but I always find Sona manages to be slightly more impressive. I've never experienced bad service there and everything I have is always en pointe. I'd suggest going during "off-peak" hrs - during the weekday, if possible, and if it must be on a Fri. or a Sat. then I'd recommend a later dining time (9-930). This might help you avoid the bad service some of the others commented on. Bon appetit and I hope you have a pleasant trip in L.A.!

                                                    1. Check out
                                                      -Hatfield's
                                                      -Water Grill
                                                      -Craft

                                                      1. OK Thanks all - I'm going to cut this off (temporarily at least) as I will not have internet access for the rest of the month.
                                                        I've made reservations at both Sona and Providence - neither of which I've tried before. Seriously considered several others but dropped both Bastide and Ludobites because I suspect that both will suffer because of my higher expectations from the superb Ludo-Bastide meal.
                                                        And I also have Babita tentatively scheduled for lunch (or early dinner, depending on what show I decide to see. Life isn't all wining and dining (heresy I know) - still have to find a quirky show to attend.
                                                        Great advice everybody - I can't do every place recommended - but hope to return before too long (airfares have been too high recently, hence my lack of LA visits - but some other great trips - Loved Albuquerque, St Louis was pretty good; and Phoenix already scheduled). Which is not to say I have to leave Toronto, but AmuseGirl and I plan to get away for a weekend most months and we decide based on sell-offs, cheap flights etc.
                                                        And look for my report mid-November.

                                                        1. fyi,

                                                          there is a white alba truffle and barolo dinner at valentino in november. i think its next week...

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: modernist

                                                            Thanks for the info - just doesn't quite work - we arrive the same night as that dinner (Thursday) - but too late to attend. Would have been a great option.

                                                          2. fun thread.

                                                            i could give you some great holes in the wall (cafe eight for guilin nooldes) but given your list and your desire not to have your head explode, i'd suggest babita's strongly. nice atmosphere and will be different than many other places. esp if they still have the chiles en nogada (you can always call ahead and request it, all they can say is no).

                                                            if you have local "foodie connections" i'd get over my sad personal bitterness and say to try and use them to get into totoraku - search the board.

                                                            the dali on film show at lacma, and the birth of the cool at the orange county museum of art are both fun. as is the museum of jurassic technology if you're never been. hope this one sentence doesn't get the post deleted (http://www.mjt.org) (ocma.net) (lacma.org)

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Jerome

                                                              Thanks for the suggestions. Babita's is on my list anyway (dropped the Uzbeki restaurant after o/d ing on Plov on my recent visit to Uzbekistan). But trying to leave some time for unscheduled roaming.
                                                              Have seen (probably) all the Dali films (certainly Bunuel, Hitchcock and Disney) so will skip that. The OC Museum is a good bet as we will be in Irvine anyway (AmuseGirl does some amateur singing and there's a Cole Porter show at the Irvine Barclay Theatre).
                                                              In order to keep this relevant (and prevent deletions) - can you recommend any lunch places near the OC Museum/Irvine - and also in the Palms district (near the Museum of Jurassic technology - this latter is totally new to me, but the Nabokov translation of Alice in Wonderland holds out several bizarre possibilities)? That goes in my list for future visits anyway.

                                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                                on topic - culver city is closer to the mjt than is palms.. there are several fun places in the old helms bakery building check out beacon, la dijonaise and the jazz bakery for performances with baked goods. there is a place offering santa maria style tri-tip in culver city with supposedly real pinquito beans but i can't remember it and can't recommend it. (not more than a few blocks from the mjt - there's also an in-n-out burger a block away). but santa maria tri-tip can't be had outside of california.

                                                                the dali show isn't just the film screenings - it's mostly about how film and film celebrities and his relationship with them affected his art. (check out moca-la.org as well).

                                                                you might want to post separately about food near the oc museum of art. i don't know taht area well - when i go there, i only eat at the shibucho (sushi restaurant) in costa mesa which i think is the best in california. haven't been to urasawa and that's really a whole different animal.
                                                                fyi on the santa maria style place
                                                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/382651

                                                                1. re: Jerome

                                                                  Did end up at the Helms bakery building.
                                                                  And at an In 'n out Burger near OC museum.
                                                                  More complete report pending.
                                                                  Thanks.

                                                                  1. re: estufarian

                                                                    Did the complete report ever get posted?

                                                            2. Best Blow Out Meal in Los Angeles - get the Cart Blanche menu at Melisse or the truffle menu (if we're in season). Sona is noisy and hip and you get a lot of variety, but is it great? I wish I liked it more. Not great, but still very good. Never had a bad meal there, but you can't go wrong at Melisse. Urasawa is a different experience, but that can easily be a blow out meal. Gonna cost you though.

                                                              Melisse is a restaurant that strives to be great and achieves it. And it is. When I first ate there it was very good, but I didn't rush back. A few years later and I was knocked out. The "Carte Blanche" menu was terrific 4 years ago - and yet it slowly and methodically continues to improve.

                                                              I've had one very good meal at Grace, one pretty good meal and one - a tasting menu too where the chef was trying to impress - and it was disappointing enough to cool my jets on a return visit.

                                                              Cut? Good steaks but what's the fuss? The french fries has the most potato-y tast I've ever had. But is that good? Is it the crispy stuff that makes a great french fry? We didn't even finish them.