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Help me decide where to have a nice meal on my BF's boss

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My BF has become a bit of a supah-star at his company so they've offered to buy us dinner. Yay us!

Last time we had dinner on "the Company," we went all out with extended omakase at our beloved Sushi Zo. We were contemplating an encore performance at Zo, but am realizing that there are still SO many LA foodie destinations that have been lingering on our to-do list. In our target price range ($200 or less for two), Hatfield's, Lucques, Craft or Grace (in that order) are topping the list.

I'm leaning towards Hatfield's based on everything I've read here on Chow.

I know Lucques is lauded as an LA institution, and I do want to get there, but my hesitation stems from our underwhelment of Coin's AOC. This was one of the first places we tried when we moved out here almost 3 years ago, and it was good, but I wasn't exactly blown away. (We're from Chicago and AOC isn't quite up there with Avec.)

Actually, BF's brother worked as a sous chef under Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern in NY, so it would interesting to visit for that reason as well.

Would also consider any other recommended venues I haven't listed, though I should probably mention we've already been to and enjoyed Osteria Mozza. Have also been to Fraiche a number of times (I work in Culver City) and the food can be good, but overall feel it's overrated.

Appreciate any and all thoughts and suggestions!!

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  1. Of those you list, I'd choose Craft. But if you haven't been, I'd suggest Spago. Really a fun, special experience, the food is topnotch, and the service is great.

    7 Replies
    1. re: nosh

      the last time i went to spago, the bill for two after tax, before tip, with two glasses of wine by the glass came to $311, so, imho, for purediva to come it at $200 or less for two, she'd have to be careful about what she ordered and how much she ordered.

      1. re: westsidegal

        I just looked up Spago BH's menu on www.wolfgangpuck.com (and kudos to Puck's organization for a good website that includes a detailed menu with prices). Gotta admit I was a little surprised by the costs, prices have indeed gone up. Most entrees range right around $40, with some (steak, veal chop, sole) considerably more. What really opened my eyes were the starters, most of which were in the mid-to-high $20s, and I'm not talking about caviar or foie. No dessert menu was listed, as I'm sure it varies, but Sherry Yard doesn't come cheap. So one shared starter, two moderate entrees, and a shared dessert -- add 30% for tax and tip -- and I'm computing that you're at about $160 without wine, drinks, or any beverages at all.

        1. re: nosh

          (that $311 number included splitting dessert, starter, etc.
          we both had the diver scallops as an entree.)

          1. re: westsidegal

            Ouch, so we would have to watch what we're getting at Spago to come in at our price range. Might be more fun/relaxing to go somewhere where we wouldn't have to be as "vigilant" when ordering. :)

      2. re: nosh

        Nosh (and anyone who recommends/has been to Craft)...any advice on must-order dishes...apps, mains, sides, desserts? I took a look at the Craft menu on the site and was a little overwhelmed by the various options.

        I think it's down to Craft or Hatfield's...

        1. re: purediva

          There have been quite a few threads on Craft since it opened last year, most recently a very favorable, well-detailed review posted right after Valentine's Day. I also applaud Craft for a well-designed website with a menu that includes prices. While it does appear that entrees at Craft run perhaps $10 or so below Spago's, Craft's are served a la carte while Spago's include sides, so that is somewhat of a wash. Every write-up I've seen about Craft raves about the roasted mushroom side. Starters seem to be mostly in the high teens (substantially below Spago's), but splurging on oysters at $3/per or some of the other shellfish will blow the budget, as it would anywhere. So even at Craft, you are going to have to be cautious, if not quite so vigilant.

          I really think it comes down to perusing the menus and pricing out a sample dinner, deciding which food is more to your taste, choosing which restaurant's atmosphere more meets your mood, and perhaps your BF considering which his boss would prefer hearing an appreciative memory about afterwards.

          1. re: nosh

            Not that Craft is inexpensive, because it isn't, but the dishes are meant to be shared so the OP and her boyfriend could have, let's say, two appetizers, a main course, two sides and one or two desserts. I still think they would need to watch the prices to stay within the $200, but it would be worth it. Craft has so much more buzz than Hatfield's, they really are apples and oranges when it comes to atmosphere, but I like the food at Hatfield's quite a lot too and both are excellent choices.

      3. I would go with either the tasting menu at Providence or Bastide. Both are great and I frankly think they are a cut above the choices you've listed.

        2 Replies
        1. re: glutton

          Providence has two tasting menus -- the 5 course and the 9 course. However, both of them would come in over $200 for two, especially if you include wine. The 5 course is $80 per person, or $110 with wine, while the 9 course is $105/$150 with wine. So, I guess with the 5 course and no wine, they might squeak by right at $200.

          Hatfield's is more moderately priced, but still has great food and is elegant and fun. I vote for it or Craft.

          1. re: DanaB

            Providence has three tasting menus, actually. You forgot the best one, the Chef's tasting menu.

        2. I would go with the aforementioned Providence, if you can. I'm not sure the tasting menu is within the $200 or less for two, though.

          i also second Spago. We had a fabulous time there!

          Also mentioned on other threads are the Water Grill, the Hungry Cat, Chaya, Grace, Comme Ca, Bashan, Josie, Chez Mimi (YUM!), Max and more.

          If you would consider maybe not so expensive but just as innovative places, maybe with an up and comer rather than superstar chef, your $200 would buy you both a whole lot more!

          1. The poster said she wants the meal to come in at $200 or less for the couple. It would be a major faux pas to stick the boss with a bigger check than was anticipated, and playing games like covering an amount over $200 is tacky and potentially more embarrassing. So I'm thinking food + cocktail or glass of wine each + tax and tip has to total not significantly over $200. Tasting menus at Providence or Bastide are out of the running. Either Spago or Craft is classy, top-level, with buzz and star-sighting potential. And both will permit you to construct a wonderful menu of starters, mains, sides, and dessert, with some shared, allowing some room for beverages, and stay within the budget.

            3 Replies
            1. re: nosh

              Agreed. No way you can get out for $200 at Providence if you do the tasting menu. Hatfields is good, but if you do the tasting menu, it'll be over $200. My gf and I recently did the tasting menu w/ a bottle of wine ($60) and the total tab w/ tip was $300.

              Craft could be doable for $200, Lucques definitely doable. If you like steak, Mastros might be a good choice.

              1. re: TailbackU

                Hatfields is totally doable within $200 if they don't have the tasting menu and instead just have 3 courses each...the food there is quite rich. Not that Hatfields is necessarily my first choice. I might choose Craft, but staying within $200 all-in could potentially be a challenge.

                1. re: Debbie W

                  I have to admit...the word "rich" has a nice ring to it. Any rec's on the current menu?

            2. jiraffe and the little door are pleasant.. not formal (unless thas what you're looking for but with ur budget i think not). or perhaps la cachette.

              1. I think Hatfields is a wonderful choice. It is a wonderful little restaurant with amazing food and great service, definitely one of my favorite restuarants in LA. Also, you should easily be able to get a great meal under $200.

                Mentions for Jiraffe and Bashan- Jiraffe is also a great value for great food. I haven't been to Bashan but it is on my must try list for 2008.

                How wonderful for you and your BF!! As a "boss" and a foodie, I love taking my staff out to lunch/dinner for the great work that they do.

                1 Reply
                1. re: PrettyPlaty

                  Thanks all for the responses...having to choose between so many great restaurants is such a great "problem" to have. :)

                  We actually have been to Bastide (under Lefevre) and Providence 3x (in fact BF's brother did a chefing stint at Providence). Have also been to Jiraffe. Nosh is correct re our wanting to keep the tab in the $200> range, which is what was driving my shortlist. Sounds like Craft, Hatfield's and Spago are all strong contenders...don't know much about Bashan, but will look that up as well.

                  Will let you know which way we're going and of course report back!

                2. Have you thought about Boa in Santa Monica?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cfwjared

                    With all the other options listed above I would never consider Boa. The food is so-so. I feel like this place is almost a fake steakhouse. It's practically a chain. Please don't waste money there.

                    1. re: LMelba

                      I tend to agree LMelba...Boa's not really on the radar. It's someplace I'd probably be cool with if it were a company outing, but not necessarily a place I'd seek out on my own.

                  2. Been to Craft and Grace, and I think Craft would work.