LA eating dilemma
So here goes. Knowing very little about the dining scene in LA, I was advised to try some rather expensive eateries. This is okay, except that I can only afford one, and I need some help deciding where to go. The two choices are Lucques and Chinoise on Main. I feel like vistiting a Wolfgang Puck establishment is a must, but I also love a great meal and I've heard Lucques is one of the best.
"Knowing very little about the dining scene in LA, I
was advised to try some rather expensive eateries"
I'm puzzled. Do you WANT to go high end? Or are you
going high end just because you don't know any
good non-high-end places to eat? More importantly,
what kind of food are you interested in? If you search
through the postings on the "Elsewhere in America"
board, you will find lots of information on eating in
Los Angeles, including a fair amount by yours truly who
now lives in L.A. L.A. has fabulous food of every
type, from Southern BBQ to North Korean dynasty food to
Oaxacan moles to Japanese sushi to Uzbekistani
cuisine to Isaan (Thai) food. Once you've figured out
what YOU want, ask (for information), and you shall
That said, both Lucques and Chinois on Main are good
places to eat. Lucques is a current "hot spot,"
because it's newly opened. If you like
Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, odds are that you
will get a very good meal there. I've only eaten there
once, with mixed results, but have heard much praise of
the food at Lucques from others. Chinois on Main is in
the Asian-French fusion category. I'm absolutely crazy
about the fois gras in pineapple/ginger sauce served
there--it's definitely a destination appetizer for me.
Although Chinois has been around for quite awhile and
isn't the subject of as much hype being as is currently
enjoyed by Luques, I've always been very happy with the
meals I've had a Chinois. If it makes any difference,
Chinois is the more crowded and noisier of the two.
When I go to Chinois, I like to eat at the back
counter, right on the open kitchen, and watch the cooks
do their thing. That's something you can't do at
Lucques. Joe's in Venice is also excellent and one of
my favorites. If you go through the other posts on
L.A., you will find among the other recommended
high-end places: Spago Beverly Hills (Wolfgang Puck's
newest restaurant); Patina, Joachim Splichal's flagship
restaurant; Valentino's and Vincente's, both serving
great Northern Italian food (I'm especially fond of
Gino Angelini's cooking at Vincente's); Matsuhisa's,
Nobu Mathuhisa's famous site for his non-traditional
variations on sushi and sashimi; and the perennial
If you can be a little more specific about what you
really want, I'd be happy to share any further thoughts
I may have--especially on non-high-end places.
re: Tom Armitage
Ouch, Tom. Point taken. Actually, I appreciate the advice to review all the old posts. I found some excellent suggestions of all types. Jonathan Gold was particularly helpful throughout. I'm heading for Guelaguetza, Tlacolula, and Sanamuluang as soon as I get off the plane.
How do you feel about a place called Serenata di Garibaldi in Santa Monica? I was told it's a great spot for Mexican food.
On the upscale side, I'm debating between Lucques, Campanile, Patina, and Spago. I imagine some reservationist will make the decision pretty easy.
If you can think of any other delicious, cheap, and interesting eateries that may have not been posted in the past, I'd be open to more ideas. I'm particularly interested in a meal that I may not be able to get in NYC, or at least a meal that is better in LA. I know the Mexican out there far surpasses NYC's, from what everyone says, but I've got that base covered.
Guelaguetza is a great choice. There are two
locations: One on the west side of town in Palms and
one near downtown L.A., on 8th Ave. I think. Both are
terrific, although I have a slight preference for the
funkier place near downtown L.A., even though it has
the disadvantage of not serving beer (you can bring
your own). Be sure to have the mole negro. Forget
Tlacolula--Jonathan Gold and others have confirmed that
the food there went way, way downhill, despite
Jonathan's initial burst of enthusiasm. I don't even
know if it's still in business, but who cares.
Sanamluang is one of my regular hangouts, and a great
place for Thai noodle and rice dishes. Be sure to
order the Pad Kee Mow with shrimp, #51 on the menu
(spicy flat noodles with green chili, mint leaves and
onions). Other recommendations include the shrimp
cake, larb, grilled beef salad, fried garlic and pepper
over rice, and spicy mint leaves fried rice. If you
have time to visit other Thai restaurants in the area,
try the wild boar curry at Palm, and the crumbled pork
with Chinese olives and the fried morning glory greens
with garlic at Ruen Pair (across the mini-mall from
Palm). All of the above Thai places are on Hollywood
Blvd. within a few blocks of each other. And they are
only a few of the many other outstanding Thai
restaurants in the area!!
I'm not a fan of Seerenata di Garibaldi. There are two
locations: one in West Los Angeles (not Santa Monica)
on West Pico, and one in East Los Angeles on East First
St. If you want to eat good Mexican food in Santa
Monica, go to Border Grill on Fourth St., run by Susan
Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (the "two hot tamales" of
You can't go wrong choosing between Lucques, Campanile,
Patina, and Spago. All good places capable of real
"highs" for certain dishes on a given night. One other
place I'd highly recommend, that is probably not
available in N.Y. is Yongsusan, whcih features North
Korean dynasty food from the ancient capital of the
Koryo dynasty. Fabulous and interesting food in an
elegant atmosphere with moderate prices.
re: Tom Armitage
There is in fact a Serrenata in Santa Monica. It is on
Fourth Street near Santa Monica Blvd. It is where Fama
used to be. I had a great lunch there 2 weeks ago.
Seafood dishes are all great so far. I can't believe
someone from out of town taught you something about LA
restaurants. I guess that is what this is all about.
Interestingly Serrenata is 1/2 block North of Border
Grill on the other side of the street. Lunch this
weekend at Border Grill was great too but a little
There is in fact a Serenata in Santa Monica, but it kind of bites: enough already with the leathery masa dishes, the griddled whitefish and the sauces by the quart. La Serenata was cute once, for about five minutes, when it opened in Boyle Heights, but its reputation soon far exceeded its charm. I'm not especially fond of the Westwood one either.
Border Grill I like (though I could do without the 150 decibel shreiks on weekends). The tortillas are made to order by a master and the recipes are thoroughly thought through--and are often explicitly regional. The prices are high, but so (uniquely in the area, and I've been to nearly a thousand L.A. Mexican restaurants over the years) is the quality of the ingredients.
BTW, exactly whose bona fides are you challenging here?
re: jonathan gold
I am not questioning you bona fides, Tom Armatige a
couple of posts before mine emphatically stated that
there is no Serennata in Santa Monica. You and I know
that there is. It is in the old Fama space. I had a
very nice lunch there 2 weeks ago. It was a non
rubbery masa day. Last week we ate at Border Grill and
it is better. Guelaguetza is the best though in the
area. Have you ever been to El Indio, on Centinela
just North of Culver in Culver City? I like his birria
sauce so much that I even ate it over pasta once.
re: j gold
Now you have me worried. That is where I get my masa
for tamales and tortillas. It also works great for one
of my favorite foods, pupusas. The closest pupuseria I
am aware of near Marina Del Rey is El Salvador Con
Sabor at La Brea and Venice. I can get there in 20
minutes on a good day. You will not be disappointed.
They even do the vegetarian and rice masa pupusas. For
a change of pace try the one with cheese and loroco
flowers, not earth shattering but a new experience (at
least I had never had it before.
Speaking of pupusas, I have tried many, many pupusa
restaurants in LA in search of perfection. The very
best I have found is at Gloria's Mexican/American Food a
pink shack at the unlikely corner of Stoner and
Mississippi in West LA. J. Gold, I would love to hear
what you think of Gloria's. I have found that the El
Salvadorean food is great (pupusas, Salvadorean tamales
and platanos con crema) while everything else is ok. It
always amazes me when people order hamburgers there!
Happy Eating to All.
For the upscale thing, go to Campanile. Definitely. If you manage to catch a Monday-night family dinner or Grilled Cheese Night on Tuesday (the best grilled cheese you've ever contemplated), it's even reasonable.
Have a grilled entree--the grilled prime rib with bitter greens is mind-blowing. Let the waiter choose an obscure Italian red and don't miss the bitter-almond panna cotta with coffee jelly for dessert.
Otherwise: I like the new El Sazon Oaxaqueno on Washington Place at Inglewood, but mole at Guelaguetza is probably even better; Border Grill is just swell (if a little pricy) and La Serenata has never been a fave of mine, either. If you want to do the East L.A. thing, go to Gallo's Grill on Cesar Chavez at Ford for steaks (I love the dried-beef dish called cecina) and cucumber drinks (BYOB); to Ciro's on Evergreen for flautas, carnitas and nonpariel avocado salsa; or to Boca del Rio on Whittier for Veracruz-style seafood. Mi Ranchito, on Washington in Culver City, has good Veracruz seafood too; the less orthodox stuff is at Senor Fish in Eagle Rock.
And try to get out to the huge Chinese mall on Del Mar just north of the 10 in San Gabriel. Of the 18 or so restaurants, choose the Islamic Chinese place.
As a long time booster of Campanile, I am saddened to
report that my last meal there--on a Wednesday night--
was not as successful as my previous ones. The food
was generally good (and the panna cotta dessert was
spectacular) but the seating arrangements in the
middle room (next to the kitchen) were cheek-by-jowl
and the noise level was beyond acceptable--it
seriously dampened our enjoyment of the food.
I would put a plug in for L'Angolo, a reasonably
priced Italian restaurant on Melrose--we ate very well
there in March.