Wanted: romantic restaurant in LA
This weekend is my sweetie's birthday. He is seriously romantic and I need a birthday dinner recommendation that will knock his socks off. He's a photographer so it's all about the setting for him -- lighting, ambience, ability to cozy up, smooch, and chat without having to scream. I'm a chowhound from San Francisco so I need good food too! He took me to Inn of the 7th Ray a couple of months ago. I thought the setting was magical, but the food just okay. Any suggestions to top that would be great. He lives in Marina Del Rey but I'm willing to drive for the perfect spot. Thanks!
We went to the Little Door on Sunday night at 6. Perfect time --no crowds, lots of attention. My boyfriend loved it. It was just the ticket in terms of romance. The whole place is lit by candlelight. After some cajoling, we convinced the hostess to let us sit side by side on the couches along the wall. She was reluctant because it meant pushing two tables together and she didn't want to lose a table. But it was early enough to get away with it. The food was good (not as great as I'd hoped but the ambience made up for it). I had a fantastic crab cake appetizer mixed with ricotta cheese that literally melted in my mouth. He had a Moroccan pumpkin soup that was delicious and exotic. My entree (Lamb shank over couscous) was a bit of a disappointment. The lamb was tender but not as flavorful as I like. He had filet minon that came with some very tasty cheese on top. The meat was the tenderest I've ever had. He loved it. For dessert we went for the chocolate cake over ligonberry sauce. It was very rich and tangy. He like the cake better than me, I like the berries better than him. Wine list was fantastic. They serve what seems like hundreds of wines by the glass. Thank you all for your recommendations. I know I will be checking them out in the future.
For my wife's birthday we went to Chez Mimi in Brentwood. Our main reason for choosing that restaurant was that they were the only place in L.A. I could find that served vichysoisse. Soup great, food good, service mediocre/poor, setting quite charming.
-- One Pico -- in Shutters Hotel. Food is okay, decor is quite nice. Elegant romance.
-- 5 Dudley -- never been there, but many seem to love it. Decor sounds ideal, plus it's steps from the beach. (http://www.restaurant5dudley.com
)-- Beau Rivage -- in Malibu, this place, for better or worse, reeks of romance. When we ate there, a formal wedding ceremony (!) was taking place in the courtyard. Good, traditional food; Zagats review nails it perfectly.
-- DC-3 -- Went there on my birthday last year. Positively stunning, sleek, modern location overlooking the Santa Monica Airport. Food was great, but I hear that the chef's have left there as well
-- Campanile -- Don't overlook this standby. It's a gorgeous location (an old office building of Charlie Chaplin) with vaulted ceilings. And the food is perfect.
-- Figaro (in Los Feliz) -- If you two are Francophiles, don't over look this bistro. Concentrate on wine and croissants, but the Parisian owner has recreated a bistro that would look super-charming in France.
and of course, the most perfect and obvious of all LA "romantic" restaurants:
-- The Hotel Bel-Air. The head chef left recently (illness?) but the setting is magnificient. The terrace overlooks a swan lake, for gosh sakes. Plus, the celebrities flow like water there -- saw Norman Mailer and the head of the motion picture academy last time.
Others I've heard good things about but never visited:
-- Traxx (inside of Union Station, downtown; supposed to be very good, and the train station is beautiful)
-- The Raymond (in Pasadena)
-- Off Vine (a cottage in Hollywood)
I'd say the patio of most restaurants is the way to go, especially in So Cal. How about Il Cielo in Beverly Hills? The courtyard looks lovely. (I've never eaten on the courtyard, because the last two times it was booked for private parties.) I've also enjoyed The Little Door's front patio: intimate, lots of brick, a water fountain, hanging plants and twinkling lights.
If it's too cold at night to eat outdoors, Le Chardonnay is great too. High ceilings, dim lighting, lots of dark wood, mirrors, very friendly wait staff. Ambience wise, it's more sophisticated than the other two, which have a younger crowd and is trendier. Foodwise though, it's a cut above.
This type of restaurant used to be easy to find in L.A., but now the good food seems to be at either very plain or very noisy places. A currently unpopular, but very quiet and elegant place, is still Bernard's at the Biltmore downtown. Diaghilev on the Sunset Strip is very elegant (and expensive). It seems to me, though, that you have to choose between good food and highly romantic places at this point. A different type of Chowhound challenge.
Alas, romantic dining is rather hard to find... I certainly agree with Four Oaks as a romantic hideaway setting.
Another option: Legacy in Redondo Beach has a new chef who used to cook over at Cafe Del Rey, and the dining room is beautiful, quiet, and softly lit. I haven't been there since he started, but I have heard good reports. The restaurant is a block from the beach, suitable for a romantic after-dinner walk.
re: Richard Foss
I've always had good luck at the little door. The patio is very nice and mostly enclosed so it stays warm even on chilly nights. The food is generally very good, and the restaurant interior is quite beautiful. They have a very large number of wines by the glass available. It is a little hard to find the first time you are there (there is no sign to my knowledge) so be sure to get the address. Also it is a little loud at times. Still, it's probably a good bet. Let us know.