SF Chowhound Needs Westside Recommendations
My wife and I will be heading to LA next month for the Grammy Awards. I attended UCLA in the early 90’s, but rarely make it back so I need some help. We’ll be staying at the Hotel Bel Air and I’m looking for restaurant recommendations on the Westside. For this trip I’m looking for a few restaurants that provide good food and a memorable experience, but are not over-the-top fancy, trendy or expensive. We prefer wine-friendly cuisine such as Italian, French, good ol’ American steak or any combination—but no Asian or Mexican. Thanks—I look forward to reading your suggestions.
How far are you willing to drive? One of my favorite Westside destination is Joe's on Abbot Kinney in Venice, recently awarded a Michelin star.
I count Culver City as the westside, so I'll also throw in Fraiche as a recommendation. It's actually next door to a wine bar also (Bottle Rock).
9411 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232
1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
Definitely second Nook in West LA - great food at affordable prices and not "trendy" (although nicely designed inside).
I'd also suggest Orris which isn't straight-up Asian necessarily (more like French-Japanese fusion but heavy on the French and definitely wine-friendly) on Sawtelle.
11628 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 9, Los Angeles, CA 90025
2006 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
If you feel like a little cruise west on Sunset Blvd. to the beach then you will find an incredible Italian place with most pastas under $20, a relaxed beach proximity vibe where no one cares what you are wearing, then you really need to go and try il Carpaccio in the Pacific Palisades.
This place is owned and operated by Antonio Mure who was a partner / chef at two west side hot spots for Italian food, Piccolo in Venice and La Botte in Santa Monica. Top notch food at "I feel like I just bought it off the back of a truck in the alley" prices, (one caveat on pasta prices -- if offered a pasta dish with freshly shaved truffles *ask* the price before committing to save possible heart palpatations when you get your check)
Upstairs 2 is a great idea, and closer to where you are staying. Really diverse small plate menu, terrific wine selection (its above one of the largest wine distributors in California), and a diverse, unpretentious crowd which seems to have no similarities other than a love of wine.
Second Joe's as another great recommendation, and would give it a nod over Nook in both food and ambience, unless your wife is cool with driving up to a mini-mall and walking in next to a 7-11.
If you're in more of a French mood, you can try Lilly's which is right next to Joe's on Abbott Kinney.
If you want to try Culver City, Wilson is a strong option with wine-friendly pairings.
The best suggestions are not far from the Hotel Bel Air:
Cut -- Wolfgang Puck's new steakhouse in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in a room designed by Meier, the guy who did the new Getty. Yes, the prices are high but there has been wide approval for the level of cuisine (kobe beef by the ounce, sophisticated starters and sides such as bone marrow flan) and service.
Craft -- Tom Colicchio's Century City outpost. Many have lauded the pork belly dish and the side of wild mushrooms.
Mozza Pizzeria or Osteria Mozza -- Batali's pizza venture with Nancy Silverton opened first, followed more recently by the Osteria. Very hot, but they've been smart allowing bar walk-ins. There have been quibbles with the noise level and hardrock soundtrack, some perceived overly high prices for lightly topped pizzas, and other letdowns. But another notable pair of star restaurateur openings.
For solid food and a great value, Nook is excellent. It is an ideal neighborhood place serving tasty, comforting, and very wellprepared food. It is a great favorite place -- their shortribs are scrumptious and they do a fine bistro burger -- but not necessarily the knock-your-socks off showcase. I'd probably choose Orris, a small-plate fusion-French share a ton of dishes place on Sawtelle. Check out their online menu and posts on this board -- people especially love the grilled romaine, the foie dishes, and oh my, so much more. Yes, Orris has a bit of a Japanese influence and you didn't want asian, but think of some of the dishes at Masa in SF two decades ago...
If you are looking for a drink and a bite just a short drive to the east, the Bar Marmont has received some good reviews lately. And for a quick nosh in the area, Carney's in the train car has perhaps the best dogs in L.A. with good chili and burgers.
There is little of interest these days in your old stomping ground near UCLA in Westwood Village. They did open a branch of In'n'Out Burger on Gayley just down from Le Conte. Diddy Riese still sells their cookies -- now 3-for-a-buck rather than a quarter. Lamonica's still has the best pizza. No good bars -- Stratton's is now a Good Earth, for goodness sake, and the old Yesterdays is now a Chili's.