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dineLA reports

First report: Luna Park
Pics: http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/2008/...

Yesterday was my dineLA kickoff. It just happened to be Luna Park since Grace was tonight. Wanted to try one of the cheaper menus, and a friend said Luna Park is good, so we made reservation for 8 pm. Got there at 7:58 but the table wasn't ready. We waited at the bar, which was also jam packed and no seat was available. At 8:20 I was getting pretty pissed, we still weren't seated. At 8:23 the hostess came by and apologized, saying that the tables have had their checks for a while but still have not left. Then she offered us the goat cheese fondue on the house. I took it, naturally, and was much happier now.

We were seated soon after, and the goat cheese fondue followed shortly:

The goat cheese was good with a smoky flavor. The bread itself was not bad although nothing special.

Since we've had this on the house, I got the calamari for appetizer. It was an ordinary calamari, although I did like the wasabi dressing. No picture since it looks like a normal breaded calamari dish.

Then I had the pork cutlet.

The cutlet was crispy. Although it was filled with mushroom and gruyere cheese, it was thin. The sauce was sweet and goes well with the cutlet if you take care not to put too much on. The mashed potato was very good.

They were out of the tarts that I had wanted for dessert. We got the smores and the apple pie instead.

The smores was normal, although it was kinda fun. Neither the chocolate nor the crackers were anything special.

I didn't dig the apple pie filling- it reminds me more of the apple pie from McD ... the ice cream, though, was good.

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  1. Please do report back on Grace --- I have reservations next week and would love to hear your report. Thanks!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Obessed

      We're going to Grace tonight as well, so I'll try to report tomorrow.

      1. re: Obessed

        Quick shot comments on Grace - it didn't WOW me all that much. I would recommend the Salmon instead of the Beef for entree, that's what my group all agreed after tasting both. Donut dessert, was interesting since it's their signature.

        I was really expecting those WOW effect... not disappointment greatly but wasn't overly impressed either.

      2. Had lunch at SimonLA today. Very pleasantly surprised. My one dinner there a year ago was okay but unmemorable. And reports have been mixed to poor ever since.

        But they really rose to the DineLA occasion. Great service. Great choices. All the food was really good. Delicious tuna crudo. Tasty endive & watercress salad. Surf and Turf Tacos. And very decent deserts: Chocolate Rum Pudding with Pistachio Whipped Cream and Blueberry Persimmon Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream. Portions were good too. And a great little bread basket. Even some complimentary cotton candy.

        The opportunity here is really to induce trial and capture diners who may come back again and again. I know SimonLA has been hurting somewhat for business so I think they smartly took advantage of the opportunity to shine. Not sure every restaurant will do the same, but given this first satisfactory experience, I'll keep investigating.

        5 Replies
        1. re: wutzizname

          I had lunch at SimonLA on Sunday. We got a nice booth and enjoyed the food. Service was attentive and friendly, although it was pretty empty at the time. I think some people got the bread basket and some didn't (we didn't).

          I think there are some differences between the actual menu being offered and the one posted on the DineLA website.

          From the DineLA website:
          Choice 1 - Belgian Endive and Organic Watercress Salad, Caramelized Walnuts, Fuji Apple, Point Reyes Blue Cheese
          Choice 2 - Bluefin Tuna Tartar, Lemongrass Oil, Chives
          Choice 3 - Raw Salad, Organic Vegetables, Lemon, Avacado and Pistachio

          No raw salad, but had fried eggplant croquettes with aioli and marinara sauces on the side? Bluefin tartar was nice and fresh, eggplant croquettes were pretty standard fried fare.

          For the entrees:
          Choice 1 - Surf and Turf Tacos, New York Strip, Crisp Halibut, Guacamole and Fire Roasted Salsa
          Choice 2 - Curried Chicken Salad, Dried Cranberries, Pistachio, Pita Bread, Sprout Soup
          Choice 3 - Seared Pacific Halibut, Quinoa Currants and Pine Nuts

          No seared pacific halibut, but a California Nicoise salad instead. California Nicoise was good, with seared yellowfin tuna. Surf and turf tacos were tasty, but probably not a whole lot more than I would expect from a truck on the street. Desserts were actually pretty good. I liked the cheesecake with the citrus marmalade, and the blueberry crumble was crunchy, sweet, and excellent with the vanilla ice cream.

          Overall, it was nice to try a place that we'd never been. Portions weren't huge, but that's to be expected. Really like the decor of the place. Food was good, but the regular menu doesn't hold a lot of exciting choices. It seems like a few of the participating DineLA restaurants are changing the advertised menus around, so I'm not sure I like that.

          We'll be going to Angeli Caffe this week for lunch and Table 8 next week for dinner. After reading the other review on Table 8, I'm rethinking that choice.

          1. re: brewinphan

            One on Sunset: I had a beet salad to start which was lovely, but not outrageous, and the other people in my party had the tuna with eggplant. Our main choices were beef rounds (can't remember exactly but someone in the party liked it) and delicious scallops over butternut squash in a berry gastrique. We shared all of the desserts on the menu (mini red velvet cupcakes, creme brulee, and molten chocolate cakes) and one was worse than the next. We were shocked! I thought those were things that couldn't be made to taste bad!! The creme brulee was way too floral tasting and not properly carmelized on top (very pale), the macaroons that came on the side were so hard you could break your teeth on them, the cupcakes were dry and hard and flavorless, and the chocolate cakes had a tough consistency. Very odd. But overall, the space was beautiful and the scallops were good. If I were to go back, I would ask for a real table (sitting on those couches really only works for cocktails, very awkward for eating), and skip dessert.

              1. re: danikm

                Are you sure you're not confused, danikm? The menu you just reviewed is nearly identical to the one listed for One Sunset on the dineLA website, not SimonLA.

                1. re: recovering_vegetarian

                  Right you are. Glad that someone's brain is working today.

          2. Had lunch at L'Opera in Long Beach today. It was really good. I'd always wanted to try it, and today was perfect.
            I had the zuppa di zucca soup-butternut squash with amoretti cookie and a shrimp chile beignet. Was the perfect size and had a nice spicy kick to it.
            I had the stracetti medium rare. The meat was so tender and melted in my mouth. The sides were great too. The pasta filled with squash and ricotta was amazing. It tasted like a pie filling-but the sauce and parmesan cheese balanced it out enough to keep it savory. You have to try this if you go.
            The panacotta was good and very creamy, and the gelati was also good.
            Not included but still really good was the passionate litchee cocktail.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cookee

              Nice to hear. I had a fantastic (& very expensive) dinner there years ago. If I still lived near Long Beach that would definitely be on my list for this week...

            2. Patina - Lunch

              Only reservation we could get was at 11:30 a.m. on the patio. Asked if they could seat us in the main room should there be a cancellation (reservation was made a week ago).

              Got there precisely at 11:30 and were greeted by the hostess who told us we would have to sit on the patio and needed to wait for two minutes. We ended up waiting eight minutes before being seated as the restaurant personnel had some sort of pre-luncheon meeting. I must say I would not mind having to stand in the bar in most restaurants for eight minutes. But, this is Patina and there was no bartender even if you wanted a drink, and they were the ones who insisted on such an early reservation. Soignee? Not so much.

              Finally we were seated on the patio, which was not unpleasant at all and reasonably well heated. Our effusive waiter came out to introduce himself and offer menus. We both started with the beet salad which was quite lovely. I had the short rib ravioli and DW had the braised lamb shanks.

              I was quite pleased with the ravioli; nice depth of flavor and a beautiful sauce. Wife not so happy with the lamb shanks. Although there were two very pretty small shanks on her plate on a bed of risotto, she felt that they weren't as good as the one's I make (in all honesty, I must admit she was right, they were tender enough, but slightly dry). She also thought the risotto was too al dente but I thought it was fine.

              Dessert was small plates of mignardise. They were fine, but we supplemented with an order of ice cream; Tahitian vanilla, Valhronna chocolate, sherry and, lavender. Very nice, although you could never identify the sherry if you were asked what was in that scoop.

              On a very positive note, I ordered a bottle of J.C. Boisset Savigny Les Beaunes that was out of stock. The sommelier was a very impressive and stylish young French guy who substituted a J.C. Boisset Pommard for the same price ($69.00). I must say I haven't seen anyone handle, open, pour and serve a bottle of wine as adroitly as he did in a very long time.

              Although they use a very nice coffee, today someone screwed up and it was brewed very weakly. Ah well.

              As we left at around 1:00 p.m. we noticed at least four tables for two in the main dining room that had not been occupied. Annoying.

              All in all, I can't say I'll be in a hurry to return to Patina. This restaurant is not performing at the level some think it has achieved.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bob Brooks

                Don't know if you have been to Comme Ca yet? If not you might be tempted by this photo of their lamb shank taken on a recent visit by one of the LA hounds, Gourmet Pig.

                1. re: vinosnob

                  Did Grace on Sunday. Unlike others, I was wowed. My wife and I split the soup/shrimp pasta aps and the beef/salmon courses. All four were very good and pretty plentiful. And with the donuts, it was a steal. I wish I could find a rez to get back in before it's over.

                  1. re: sloanedone

                    You probably can try the bar, to get the dineLA menu :-p

                    that's what some hounder claimed will do if they can't get a rez... hehehe

                  2. re: vinosnob

                    Had a 7:30 pm reservation at Abode last night; the place was pretty slammed and everyone was ordering off of the DineLA menu.

                    Choices were:

                    Choice 1 - Roasted Baby Beet Salad, Horseradish Goat Cheese Mousse
                    Choice 2 - Caramelized Chestnut Soup, Crispy Artichokes, Mint Aioli
                    Choice 3 - Homemade Pork Rillette, Apple Cider, Pommes Gaufrette

                    Choice 1 - Black Cod, Vanilla Mashed Potatoes, Chanterelles
                    Choice 2 - Duo of Lamb, Pea and Saffron Puree, Tapenade
                    Choice 3 - Shellfish and Vegetable Risotto, Lobster Glaze

                    Choice 1 - Study of Chocolate
                    Choice 2 - Chef's Selection of Cheeses
                    Choice 3 - Assortment of Sorbet and Ice Cream

                    My wife and I both ordered the soup to start. It had a balanced and tasty chestnut flavor and was light as opposed to a heavy creamed version. The soup was served luke warm which is always a pet peeve of mine. To the right of the soup ball sat two small bites of fried artichoke perched on top of a small dollop of basil aioli. Delicious.

                    For entrees, my wife ordered the sable fish and I chose the lamb duo. The fist was fantastic; moist, flavorful and hot and the vanilla potatoes paired perfectly.

                    The lamb duo included one lamb chop and three spoonfuls of lamb cheek served on top of a green pea puree, a few roasted pearl onions, one parsnip and a dollop of tapenade. Again, the temperature of the lamb was lukewarm, but the flavors were perfect.

                    For dessert, we ordered the "study of chocolate" (molten chocolate in an egg shell, chocolate gelato, chocolate mousse) and the cheese plate (bleu d'Auvergne, apple-wood smoked cheddar, tomme de savoie plus quince chutney).

                    I also added on a wine pairing for an additional $20 and thought the selections were solid. The soup was paired with a Pierre Starr gewurztraminer (from Alsace), the lamb with an Ojai Vineyards syrah and the cheese with a riesling (forget the producer).

                    Overall, we thought the food was very good in terms of flavor/creativity and not too fussy. The presentation was clean, elegant and "artsy". As you would expect, the portions were small. For example, if I went back and ordered the lamb duo off of the regular menu, I would hope I would get more than one chop and a few bites of cheek. But for the DineLA promotion, the portions we received were fine.

                    Service was definitely impacted by the initial dinner rush. We waited about 15-20 minutes before our server appeared and he never fixed our teetering table as he frantically rushed from table to table. However, when the dinner rush abated later on, the attentiveness improved.

                    In the future, we'll go to Abode for drinks/wine in the cozy bar and order off of the bar menu.

                  3. pictures: http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/2008/...

                    Running out of options, we decided to try Circa55 since you can't really go wrong with 10 oz new york steak for dinner. I just got back from the dentist, so I wasn't really eating that night, but I'll report on what my friends had.

                    The starter was a crab cake with garlic aioli.

                    The crab cake was pretty big, and had a lot of crab in it. The garlic aioli was really good.

                    Then comes the New York steak.

                    The steak was well prepared, cooked just the way we asked. The blue cheese was really good and a really nice touch for the steak. The only thing was that the mashed potato was cold ...

                    For dessert one friend has the Journey to Chocolate.

                    Chocolate sponge cake, which we thought was infused with sage. Good, and unique.
                    The others were an opera cake (good, like normal), and a chocolate shot thing, which she didn't comment on.

                    All in all the food was pretty good, and it was a pretty good value for $34.

                    1. Report from Ruth's Chris last night (Friday). It was very nice. I picked that restaurant just by virtue of for some reason I've never been and I was also dining with someone with a very serious gluten intolerance. He is very restricted by what restaurants he can eat at, and steakhouses usually work for him.

                      They were very busy, and even though we showed up 20 minutes late they seated us with only about a 15 minute wait or so. We had a really nice booth, and our service was great. Two of us had salads for our appetizers-- I found them to be good, not overdressed, which is very rare. I had the tuna, which was good, but a tablemate really enjoyed.

                      We all had steaks. They were all great. The creamed spinach was delicious and the mashed potatoes were probably an 7 or an 8 out of 10 on the mashed potato scale.

                      They were out of the DineLA desserts by the time we ordered dessert. And I was so surprised-- Ruth's Chris just subbed in more desserts from their regular menu onto the DineLA menu. They didn't force us to pay regular price; they didn't act like this was going to be a problem. They were so gracious. So instead of the chocolate cake and the bread pudding (which were getting mixed reviews on this board anyway), we had the options of ice cream (great for the gluten intolerant person!), cheesecake or apple crumble. We had one of each. Honestly, all three of us could have split either the cheesecake or the apple crumble. They were both very good, traditional versions of those desserts. (It was an Italian cheesecake, by the way, which was more appropriate I think after the steak.)

                      So, I had a very nice time. I mean, this food isn't reinventing the wheel, but that isn't why I went there. I went there to eat some really good food and have a glass of wine for about $50 with some friends. And I did. I would highly recommend if you are in the mood for some steak this week.

                      1. I went to Asia De Cuba for lunch last Sunday with bf. We had:

                        1) Lemongrass Skewered Chicken: My favorite dish of the whole meal! Chicken was grilled on a stick of lemongrass, served with coconut chili sauce. It was so delicious!
                        2) Braised Pulled Pork Empanadas: It's good, but nothing special.

                        Main Course:
                        1) Miso Cured Alaskan Butterfish: Delicious. Very well done. Fish was soft and creamy with a hint of miso.
                        2) Cuban BBQ Chicken: Surprisingly good. Tender & juicy chicken breast with Cuban BBQ sauce. The Thai sticky rice side was yummy.

                        1) Cuban Opera: Huge piece of chocolate cake + coffee mousse with a side of coffee ice cream. It was so good I had to finish it all.
                        2) Sorbet of the Day: The flavor we were served on that day was coconut strawberry. Tons of fresh strawberry in the sorbet, but a bit too sour for my taste.

                        It was such a good deal for $22. I would definately go back again.

                        Pictures: http://eileent.com/eat/?p=924

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: eileen216

                          DineLA restaurant #2: Angeli Caffe

                          We went for lunch on Friday, and for $15, I thought it was a great deal. Menu matched what was being offered online, so no discrepancies there.

                          The bread (which is important to me, even though everyone tells me not to fill up on it) was excellent. Hot and crusty on the outside, doughy on the inside. Dip it in some olive oil and I'm happy!

                          Appetizers: I had the eggplant croquettes, my wife had the caprese. Eggplant croquettes were good, not spectacular, and probably could have benefited from some more flavor. The caprese was pretty good, the mozzarella was nice and soft.

                          Entree: I had the beet gnocchi, my wife had the butternut squash lasagne. Gnocchi were light and fluffy, not the dense and chewy things I usually expect from gnocchi. It was definitely a little heavy on the parmesan, and the beet juice gives the gnocchi a slightly weird pink color. I told my wife they sort of reminded me of Peeps. The butternut squash lasagne was great though. It was also a little heavy on the cheese, but the sweetness of the butternut squash really comes through.

                          Dessert: I had the flourless chocolate cake, and my wife had the lemon/blueberry tart. Cake was good, not too sweet, served with whipped cream. Lemon blueberry tart had a good crust, and the blueberries and lemon balanced each other out well.

                          Service was excellent, very attentive. There weren't too many tables occupied while we were there, but it looked like everyone was ordering from the dineLA menu. I thought it was a great deal, and I really liked the space (the huge glass windows really cater to my love of people-watching), so I think we'd be likely to go back and try out the regular menu. I wish we could have gotten to try the roasted chicken that they seem to be known for, but that's only served during dinner.

                          I'd say a pretty successful DineLA experience.

                          Next up: Table 8 tomorrow night

                        2. Had lunch last week at All'Angelo. I was a bit distracted since we took the baby, but the food was really fantastic. Starters were Cauliflower Timbale with a saffron mascarpone sauce that was teensy but delicious and octopus carpaccio which was a little bland but had a lovely texture. Mains were braised pork belly, which was unbelievably good -- much meatier than I expected and just melt in your mouth tender, and a guinea hen dish which I vaguely remember being tasty. They were kind enough to pack up our desserts to go when asked (baby was being a bit of a pill -- she's usually great at lunch) and the standout was this lemon cornmeal cake thingy. Other dessert was blueberry panna cotta which was fine, but not spectacular. I think they did a good job with restaurant week though.

                          1. Try Red Seven
                            Below is the review, check out the pics at http://www.kats9lives.com

                            Since you haven't written about it, I thought I'd beat you to the punch.

                            Came here Friday for lunch and I am really glad I came. This was one of the first restaurants I wanted to try because the menu looked really good and it is one of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants. The decor is very simple and modern. If you have never been here before, it might be a little hard to find the restaurant but just keep your eyes out for signs.

                            For the first course we both ordered the Seared Hamachi Salad with Jalapeño Ponzu Vinaigrette. The hamachi was very tasty and the accompanying salad was delicious. Just beware of the jalapeño because they can be very spicy, but they are wonderful with hamachi.

                            In order to try more entrees, we decided to split the Miso Broiled Butterfish with Chili Orange Noodles and the Kobe Burger with Wasabi Aioli, Teriyaki Onions, Jalapeño Jack Cheese, & Sesame Bun. Fair warning, the butterfish dish was extremely tiny but delicious. Even though I had eaten butterfish the day before, the fish here was very tender and full of flavor. The noodles were done nicely and complimented the fish.

                            What I really enjoyed was the Kobe burger. It was spectacular! First of all, it was 10x heavier than the butterfish. I normally hate hamburgers but I thought this was a perfect blend of favors. I recently went to Daniel Baloud's Brasserie and had their famous truffle burger, if I had to choose I'd rather eat this yummy Kobe burger. The onions really gave the burger a sweet taste and really brought out the flavor of the meat. I'd definitely come back for lunch because of this burger.

                            We also ordered different desserts so we can taste more of the menu. The Iced Mango Pudding served with Candied Cashews & Fresh Fruit was superb! They must have used ripe fresh mangoes for the pudding. I would recommend you to order this dessert. Don't order the other one we tried, Almond Roca Samosa with Caramel Banana Chocolate Dipping Sauce. At first I thought it sounded so interesting and delicious, but the dish fell short. It was only a big fried dough with barely any melted chocolate inside. You couldn't really taste the Almond Roca. I ate the pudding first, so I was extremely disappointed about the samosas.

                            All in all, I will definitely be back again and this experience has increased my opinion of Wolfgang Puck.

                            1. Chaya Brasserie in Beverly Hills
                              Below is the review, but if you would like to see pics of the food check out my blog at www.kats9lives.com

                              Definitely a happening place. For Dine LA week, we decided to try this restaurant out and I am really glad that we did. You got to love the price, $34 for a 3-course prefix meal. The decor is very nice, a little dark but it could be very romantic if it weren't so loud. When we went it was extremely crowded, but we made reservations so they sat us immediately. We sat at a corner table where we all squeezed in to sit on the booth, laced with decorative pillows, since no one wanted to sit on the chairs.

                              For the first course, we all ordered the Lobster Ravioli. It was prepared in a basil pesto cream sauce. All in all it was only alright but you definitely can taste the chunks of lobster. Another reason I think it wasn't as tasty was because I opted for the seared Foie Gras. How could I not! It was prepared with a Black Truffle Mac & Fontana Cheese with bacon, mushrooms, and there were a lot of shaved truffles under the foie gras. You are surrounded with the luxurious aroma of black truffles when they bring the dish out. I let my friends try the truffled mac & cheese, and they ended up splitting an order later on. It was just that good! Based on that dish alone, it won me over. I know it wasn't on the special priced menu but it was worth the $19. The only thing bad I have to say about this dish is that there are too many delectable items fighting for my taste buds. I think the dish would have been better if they were separate because the foie gras was flavorful by itself and so was the mac & cheese. Once you eat them together they both are trying to over power each other and you don't get to truly enjoy the divine qualities of each dish. Based on this dish you can tell they must have pretty decent food overall, so I will definitely return to this place in the future.

                              To ensure that we would be able to try more menu items, my friend and I agreed to share the entree. We ordered the Pan-roasted New Zealand White Sea Bass and the Slow Braised Short Rib with Champignon Truffle Oil Risotto. Lets just say it was a truffle filled night and you can never go wrong with that! The sea bass was prepared nicely atop a medley of rice. The flavor was nice but not very powerful. I think we all wanted something stronger in flavor since the truffled dishes were so delectable and flavorful. My friend loved the short rib and definitely loved the risotto. I don't think I am a huge short rib fan. I do not like cooked meat but the meat was very nicely done. You can easily pull it apart and it was fatty, not too fatty, enough for it to melt in your mouth. What can I say about the risotto, it MADE the dish! I don't think the meat was by itself very flavorful but once you accompanied it with the risotto it just brought out all the flavors inside the mouth. Based on this, when I come back I will definitely order dishes with truffle in it because they really know how to utilize the flavors.

                              As for the dessert I ordered the Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich, it was good but nothing that I would ever crave or order by myself. The one thing I like about the cookie is that it had pistachios in it. One of my friends decided on the M-Lato. They actually ended up bringing the wrong flavor so we actually got to try two flavors as they quickly brought out the correct flavor and apologized for the mistake. We tried the Macha and Banana & Walnut gelato. Maybe I just don't like macha, but I thought it was only alright. I liked the banana & walnut flavor more, but both were only alright to me. My favorite place is in Paris, oh how I miss Paris!