Just Back from L.A. - Trip Report
Just got back from a week in L.A. and since everyone on this board was so great in helping us plan our trip, I thought reporting back on our experiences was the least I could do. Most of the places we went to are popular restaurants that have been reviewed many times here so I'm not sure that I have any unique insights. My wife and I did go to each place with our sons (twins, age 11 1/2) and our college-age niece was with us at several of them so maybe this could be useful to anyone thinking of trying any of these restaurants with kids in tow. We also ate at some less noteworthy places (such as the ESPN Zone at Disneyland) which I haven't bothered to describe in this post.
Angelina Osteria -- We loved Angelina Osteria. To be honest, I was on the fence about going here because although it is highly regarded in general I have read some mixed things about it recently. However, we had a great experience here. The service was warm and gracious and the food really delivered. Nothing was too complex but everything they did they did very very well. A wonderful choice for families.
Patina -- Patina was ok, but I though it was way overpriced for the quality and service we received. I knew going in that Patina was not what it once was but we chose it because we were going to a concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall and we wanted a high-end place to take our niece to before the concert and this seemed like the best bet near the concert hall. The food was a mixed bag. As a first course, I had a garlic veloute that was wonderful but my main course of monkfish was nothing special. While our server was pleasant, the service generally was harried with a long delay between the first and second courses (our reservation was at 5:30 but we just barely made it to the 8:00 concert and it's right next door). We ordered a bottle of wine and after the sommelier poured the first glass, he put the bottle on a side table at the other end of the room and disappeared. No one poured us another glass when we finished our first and we had to ask the server to retrieve the bottle so we could have more. Not a big deal in a more casual restaurant and I wouldn't even mention it, but for a place with the aspirations and prices of a Patina, it's a pretty glaring lapse. Not that they will want it, but my advice to Patina would be to decide whether they want to be a serious, top rank restaurant or a lower priced, but still high quality bistro where people can get a good, interesting meal before the concert. Right now, it seems they are trying to combine the high-end fine dining experience with the pre-concert thing and based on our meal there, it's not really working.
Joe's -- We liked Joe's. A creative menu and relaxed vibe. Had some really nicely prepared fish dishes. Chef quite adept with sauces. A nice choice after strolling and window-shopping on Abbott-Kinney Boulevard, a really fun, offbeat street to explore. Good, solid bistro cuisine.
A.O.C. -- We were able to get a reservation here at the last minute. I was trying to talk the group into Mexican but couldn't sell my wife or niece, neither of whom are big fans of Mexican cuisine. A.O.C. was really fun. We loved the small plate concept, particularly for a group. Everything we had was great. Memorable dishes included a leek tart, rabbit ragout, ham/egg/gruyere brioche. Fantastic desserts. Service was efficient and our server was smart and engaging and repeatedly steered us in the right direction.
Pizzeria Mozza -- After the initial rave reviews of this place, there seems to be a little Mozza backlash so I went here thinking it might not live up the hype. But if you can deal with the deafening noise (which is not necessarily a bad thing when you are with kids), the pizza here is terrific. It won't change your life, but for gourmet pizza, it's hard to beat. I'm from Boston and we have a number of Figs around here which are a Todd English take on gourmet pizza. Pizzeria Mozza blows Figs out of the water. Not even close. We had the fennel sausage pizza (my favorite), the three cheese pizza (my wife's fav -- it has a cooler sounding name than that but I can't remember it) and the goat cheese and bacon pizza which was also fab. Also fun people-watching.
Lucques -- This was the restaurant I was looking forward to going to above all of the others based on the great reviews it has gotten over the years and what I anticipated would be a very relaxed and comfortable setting. I had also been told that among the top places in L.A., Lucques would be one of the more kid-friendly restaurants given the whole Sunday Supper ethos. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with our overall experience at Lucques, primarily based on the way we were treated when we arrived. I should note that we took our two boys to the restaurant but all of us were nicely dressed (I was in a jacket and tie, my wife in an elegant outfit and the boys in polo shirts, jeans and loafers). Our kids are almost 12 years old, not toddlers, and we have taken them out to eat in nice places in Paris, London, Rome, Venice, Vienna, New York and Boston. We make a big deal out of proper behavior in restaurants and they are well behaved when we go out to eat (we really stress manners, especially when eating out). The reservation was for 7 p.m. on a Wednesday not prime time on Saturday or Friday (not that that should matter), which I figured was a good time to eat out with kids. But the woman at the front desk could not have been ruder to us when we arrived. She made it very clear to us through her behavior that they did not want us there. She seemed to be astounded that we had the temerity to bring children to the restaurant and then engaged in a sotto voce conversation with the maitre'd which was obviously about about where they could stash us out of sight of the hip clientele (her motives were so obvious that this conversation would have been hilarious if it weren't so offensive). So even though I had made the reservation almost a month in advance, we were banished to the most remote table in the patio/airplane hanger in the back. My wife was none too happy about how we were treated but asked nicely if we could be moved to the main part of the restaurant where several tables were clearly available. Eventually, we were moved (although the maitre'd didn't do it right away, he had to check and then came back and said he first had to break down a table. I think he was hoping we would relent). All of this was too bad because the food was very good and our server was a delightful guy. The rest of the meal was fine. But unfortunately the tone was set by the woman at the front of the house and we had a negative feeling for the rest of the night. I was disappointed because I didn't think Lucques would be the type of place that would treat people differently based on who they are or are not. That is not the message I got from reading reviews of the place or from Suzanne Goin's cookbook (of which I am a big fan). So I hope it was just an off night for the person at the front and not representative of the typical experience there.
Thanks again for all of the help I received in planning our trip. We had a wonderful time in L.A. and still have a long list of other places to try on our next trip. Sorry for the length of this post.
I can assure you that Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne (owners) would be very upset you were treated such. I have a feeling they might find out through this post, but were I you, I'd write a letter. It really is a wonderful place and it is a shame it was tainted, understandably from the beginning by what happened.
Lucques is one of those restaurants I've wanted to try since it opened but haven't gotten around to it. I was actually thinking of going next month. I don't have kids, but from what you wrote, I'm reconsidering going there. While I have been astounded at some of the bad behavior children have shown in public (which is really the fault of the parents), most of the children I see in nice places know how to behave. Restaurants should always give the benefit of the doubt and treat all customers, even children, with respect unless their behavior doesn't merit it. And if they treat families with children this way, they may also treat others that don't "fit" their ideal.
Great summary / reviews of your LA experience. It's always nice to hear feedback from people visiting.
I agree with the other posters - my condolences on your experience with the rude front of the house at Lucques. You should definitely take the time to write a letter to Suzanne Goin.