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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.

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  1. 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.
    http://www.joesrestaurant.com/

    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).
    http://www.fraicherestaurantla.com/

    -----
    Fraiche
    9411 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

    Joe's Restaurant
    1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

    1. Josie in Santa Monica for more American food.

      Chinois in Santa Monica for French-Asian fusion.

      Nook in West LA.

      And I second Joe's on Abbot Kinney.

      1 Reply
      1. re: glutton

        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.

        -----
        Nook Bistro
        11628 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 9, Los Angeles, CA 90025

        Orris
        2006 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

      2. 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)

        www.ilcarpaccioristorante.com

        2 Replies
        1. re: Servorg

          Here is one photo of the food off of the restaurant web site (just to tempt you a bit more into making the drive).

           
          1. re: Servorg

            Yes to Joe's, yes to Nook (Joe's actually was picked by the Michelin Guide). You might also try Rustic Canyon on Wilshire and 11th. http://www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com

        2. Upstairs 2 (on top of LA Wine) does wonderful small plates and offers many wines by the glass. It's very low key but very tasty.

          2 Replies
          1. re: fdb

            Another suggestion alone the small plates line - Violet on 32nd St. and Pico in Santa Monica
            http://www.violetrestaurant.com

            1. re: fdb

              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.

              http://www.upstairs2.com/

              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.

              http://www.wilsonfoodandwine.com/

            2. 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...

              2 Replies
              1. re: nosh

                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.

                1. re: nosh

                  If the OP is willing to drive from the Hotel Bel Air to the Mozzas, then a whole bunch of options open up.

                2. Like others have mentioned, Josie, Fraiche, Nook and Orris are great recs. Upstairs 2 is great for wine fiends, but the food is average IMO.

                  I would also add Enoteca Drago, Jar, AOC, and La Cachette.

                  1. Try Carlito's Gardel on melrose in West H'wood. Intimate, family-owned Argentinian steak place. Great food, amazing wines, homemade dulche de leche deserts from the grandmother. IMHO Don't bother with Jar, Joe's ,AOC or Rustic Canyon. These are all boring trendy food places that aren't worth the money. Grace is pricey but worth it. Fraiche is great. Spago of course. Angellini Osteria.

                    1. Another vote for Nook. Make a reservation though, every night I've been it's been packed.

                      La Vecchia Cucina is a great Italian spot on Main Street in Santa Monica. Not too pricey but the food is excellent and the atmosphere warm and bustling.

                      Definitely have a drink at the bar in the Hotel Bel-Air. One of my favorite bars in LA. They also have a great burger.

                      -----
                      La Vecchia Cucina Restaurante
                      2654 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                      1. Jar, Cut, Spago, Toscana, Il Pastaio (sp) on the westside. Campanille (east of Beverly Hills). Pacific Dining Car in downtown L.A. (I think the Grammys are at the Staples Center downtown L.A.). Musso & Frank in Hollywood. You're coming to L.A. to stay at one of the most beautiful hotels and go to one of the greatest events (and hopefully after parties), so I would go to places with great food and energy. More important, are you nominated???

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Bite Me

                          Jar and Il Pastaio fit the bill of not over the top expensive or trendy (I fear Cut and Spago do not), and Il Pastaio is definitely good *wine cuisine.*

                          If it weren't so expensive, I'd suggest Via Veneto, one of my faves for Italian in Santa Monica..

                          I'd also suggest Lucques, Pane e Vino (concur w/ paprkutr re the gorgeous patio), and Vibrato Jazz and Grill for a night of good food, wine, and jazz.

                          If you'll travel a bit further: Angeli Caffe, AOC, Tasca, and Lou on Vine.

                        2. Not too far away is Pane E Vino, nice Italian restaurant with a good menu of pastas, fish chicken, veal and steak. Good bar, and wine with very resonable prices. If it isn't raining sit outside on the beaufiful patio. You wouldn't know you are right in the middle of L.A. They have a great rib steak with the bone with roasted potatoes and fresh veggies. They are located on Beverly Blvd at Sweetzer, just east of La Cienega.

                          1. If Culver City is considered "westside," how about Ford's Filling Station on Culver Blvd. Fresh and uncomplicated American "gastropub" fare. Last summer we had an incredible heirloom tomato salad there. I think I ordered the trout with shiitake mushrooms...which led to our devouring two baskets full of freshly baked bread, sopping up the delicious sauce!

                            www.fordsfillingstation.com

                            1. i understand joe's on abbot kinney just changed chefs -- mark someone? josh left? we had an amazingly creative tasting menu there 2 years ago and want to go back but i'm nervous about being disappointed.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: melissaaimee

                                The new chef at Joe's seems to have an affinity with scallops flown in from Maine... IMHO, Joe has an amazing knack for not only creating great dishes but also for bringing great talent into his kitchen. He also has his reputation to uphold, especially now that he's (rightfully) earned a star... Your reservations are understandable, but I think most would agree that one could spend alot more elsewhere and do alot worse than Joe's on an off-day...

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  The new chef is a temporary thing. He's the former chef at Cafe Rouge in Orange County. He's helping out until he opens his own restaurant. And, yes, he's big into fish -- he's a downtown-fish-market-at-5AM type of guy. That's a good thing.