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Ultimate Restaurant Ranking

  • m

Two houndly needs repeatedly arise on the LA Board:
1. We are visiting from East Jesus for a week, where should we eat?
2. I need a very special restaurant for a very special occasion.

Here’s the LA hound challenge. What are your TOP FIVE restaurant recommendations for food-driven visitors or discerning locals? For purposes of the ranking, food should account for at least 75% of your consideration; all else, no more than 25%. Geographic limit: Los Angeles County.

Here’s the Grubman’s list:
1. Josie
2. Water Grill
3. Café Blanc
4. Yongsusan
5. Cicada

When the votes are in, we should have created the Los Angeles Chowhounds Ultimate Restaurant Ranking. Pythagarub will tabulate.

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  1. Oh, but I don't think it as simple as that my esteemed Grubmeister. Are visitors to La La Land only looking for "high end", "high cuisine" experiences, or could they, to some extent, be looking for "ethnic", or "classic L.A." experiences? So then, does this list need to be split in to multiple lists, by category?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chino Wayne

      Excellent questions from my distinguished colleague from the Vast Wasteland. This is the ultimate list, ie, taking all factors into consideration, where would you send visiting chowcentric firemen? Only qualifier is the 75% weight to the chow itself & LA-based. Consider high-end, holes-in-the-wall, ethnic, fusion, confusion, Chuck E. Cheese ... everyone's eligible.

    2. In no way am I disagreeing with your list. I simply haven't been to all the places you've selected. I'm taking your choices to mean cost is relatively not an object and we are looking for good food and a special atmosphere. That said, I'd pick: 1) Spago, 2) La Cachette, 3) L'Orangerie, 4) The Ivy, 5) R-23.
      Ask me after the first of the year and my ideas might change. In particular, I hear a place called Cinespace will open in Hollywood, featuring good food and independent film.

      9 Replies
      1. re: mc michael

        Cinespace sounds interesting. Sounds like a SF place, Foreign Cinema. Have any more details?

        1. re: LBQT

          Actually, I should have said CineSpace. Opens in early January at 6356 Hollywood Boulevard. Right now, that's all I know. Oh yeah, the Chef has worked at North on Sunset.

          1. re: mc michael

            This is what I found:
            CineSpace: Supper Club/ Digital Cinema Lounge
            Another "cool" addition to the growing hospitality scene in and around Hollywood Blvd. is CineSpace, a unique "Supper Club and Digital Cinema Lounge." CineSpace, slated for opening in January 2002, will be the first venue of its kind in Southern California, allowing patrons to dine on exceptional contemporary American cuisine, drink cocktails, and view the latest and most cutting-edge entertainment. Monica May, formerly of North, will serve as executive chef. Lunch and dinner will be served seven days a week in a venue consisting of a large dining/screening room that will seat up to 100 guests in luxurious booths. Programming will consist of shorts, independents, classics, animation, music videos, and video installation art. Another unique feature of CineSpace will be the large adjacent bar/lounge with an open-air dining/smoking patio overlooking Hollywood Blvd. This lounge will showcase unique visual art and projections along with live DJs and music. There will also be a luxurious VIP screening room that will seat up to 20 people, perfect for private screenings. All rooms contain state-of-the-art digital projection and sound equipment, allowing CineSpace to service special event/private party crowds upwards of 400 people. CineSpace will be located at 6356 Hollywood Blvd."

            1. re: HomeChef

              So will this have the effect of discouraging conversation while people stare at the screen? Gee, sounds great....

              1. re: Scooter Pie

                Sounds like the most notable failure of 2003.

              2. re: HomeChef

                It sounds kind of like the Shakey's Pizza I went to as a kid that played old movies and shorts from the 20's-30's like the little rascals. Except really pretentious.

                1. re: C. Sprouse

                  Don't think they had/have digital sound at Shakey's. Been a while since I've been but I recall they used to have some old guy playing the bango and (shades of karaoke) the lyrics projected on the wall. what goes around....

                  1. re: mc michael

                    I meant digital cinema. They sure don't have that at Shakey's. In fact Shakey's describes the sort of projection they used to have in my youth.

          2. m
            Melanie Wong

            Here's a link to the one the Chicago hounds are working on.

            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            1. Melisse
              Saddle Peak Lodge
              Tito's Tacos
              Carousel (SFV Lebonese)

              1 Reply
              1. re: HomeChef

                I like Carousel as well. I go to the Hollywood store. I was pleased to note that if you are a KCRW Fringe Benefits member you can now get a 15% discount!

              2. Spago Beverly Hills
                Grand Central Market
                Lawry's (though it's popped up in numerous other cities now)
                Sushi Nozawa
                NBC Seafood

                1. Josie
                  Water Grill
                  La Cachette

                  1. Okay, this is a little off the cuff but I think that makes it more honest. If I gave it more thought the list might be different because I would be bound to over think my suggestions...

                    Ocean Star

                    (Why do i always think of Josie's and Lucques in tandem...?)

                    1. Wonderful but expensive:
                      Spago Beverly Hills
                      Dan Tanas
                      Stonehouse Restaurant (at San Ysidro Ranch)

                      Wonderful and it doesn't have to be a special occasion:
                      Soot Bull Jeep

                      There are many transcendent dishes in the city but these places make me feel comfortable and grateful to be there.

                      1. t

                        I haven't had the pleasure of dining at Josie, but I'm sure it would make my list if I had....so in my vast inexperience, here is the astro top 5, in no particular order....


                        Z Sushi (toro toro toro)

                        L'Orangerie (first visit was when I was a little girl and I remember every detail)

                        Il Cappriccio (every single visit is a pleasure on the taste buds and wallet)


                        1. d
                          Donald Stevens

                          I'm relatively new to this board but not to being a "chow-hound". I live in Santa Monica so I have more experience with the West LA/SM area. My five favorite restaurants in Los Angeles are:

                          1) Melisse
                          2) Spago (BH)
                          3) Josie
                          4) Langer's Deli
                          5) Titos Tacos

                          Melisse is a great reccomendation to a visitor looking for fine dinning. In my view, it is comparable to the finest restaurants in any city. Spago BH has fabulous food and in my view is the quintessential BH/West LA restaurant. Josie also has wonderful food and is great for a date. You can't have a list of the best food in LA and leave off Langer's pastrami, corn beef, brisket and most importantly rye bread. Finally, I love Titos Tacos. Its hard to compare with a place like Melisse but I simply love their beef tacos.


                          1. I too am fairly new to this Board, but here goes:
                            (Also in no particular order!)

                            1. Josie
                            2. Nagao
                            3. La Fritte
                            4. Tournesol
                            5. Spago

                            I find it hard to limit myself to only 5. These are all clearly exceptional restaurants to me because I've never had a bad meal at any of them. (And I dine out fairly often.) The food is consistently outstanding.

                            1. l

                              Off the top of my head...

                              bcd tofu house
                              ginza sushiko(if price is no object)
                              din tai fung

                              1. With possibly one or two exceptions, everybody has picked outstanding restaurants so far. I don't believe that many could argue that Josie is outstanding, but I believe you can get that type of food at that high level of excellence in many (ok perhaps only several) major urban centers in this country. Josie, Valentino, et al are great, but are they really & truly Los Angeles?

                                Perhaps it's just an uncontrollable need to walk to my own beat, but I interpret our mission as choosing restaurants that are outstanding AND unique to this city. To pick restaurants that reflect what this city is about. To recommend eating experiences you'd be hard pressed to find equaled in other cities. Forgive me if I'm bending the 75% food quality rule, but my selections are great food that I feel reflect the current culinary & social scene in our city.

                                1) Renu Nakorn
                                2) Soot Jeep Bull
                                3) Sasabune
                                4) Guelaguetza
                                5) The Grill in B.H. (for lunch only - it's still a movie town & this is the best home of the power lunch)

                                1. All,

                                  I would send to Lost Coasters to restaurants in LA based on the following criteria, in order:

                                  1)Especially LA-centric ethnic cuisine (only in LA)
                                  2)Especially LA-atmospheric experiences (Only in LA)
                                  3)Outstanding California cuisine (LA-based)
                                  4)Best-of-class (LA outpost/variamt)

                                  With that in mind, I would suggest the following list(to be adjusted by geographic desirability.):

                                  Outstanding LA-ethnic:

                                  El Cholo
                                  Senor Fish
                                  Fujiyoshi (Little Tokyo)
                                  Soot Bull Jeep
                                  Anywhere in the SGV (debate amongst yourselves)

                                  Especially LA-Atmospheric cuisine:

                                  Checkers at the Beach
                                  Pacific Dining Car
                                  The Lobster
                                  Musso & Frank's
                                  HMS Bounty
                                  Taix (Silver Lake)
                                  R-23 (downtown)
                                  Langer's Deli

                                  Outstanding California:

                                  Spago (BH)


                                  Saddle Peak Lodge

                                  My list is biased to things that my NYC friends *think* they have eaten, but really cannot compare. And deflating their smug NYC biases ("New York has the *best* sushi!!! What are you talking about? Chinese? We *invented* Chinese!!!....")

                                  Of course, I don't get out much. I think my categorizations are valid, though. Comments (donning flameproof hat)?


                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Stock Clerk
                                    Donald Stevens


                                    I noticed you mentioned Langers. Have you taken your New York friends there? In the October food issue, the New Yorker magazine said that Langers had the best pastrami sandwhich in America. (The New Yorker also included some snide remarks that if Langers were in New York there would always be a long line out front).

                                    The other thing about Langers which is cool is the best way to get there is on the red line. Not only did my New York friends say they had the best pastrami sandwhich they've ever eaten, but they got there on a metro system they didn't know existed.


                                    1. re: Donald Stevens


                                      Eaten a 2nd-hand, next-day leftover half sandwich from there, and it was great.

                                      Tried to go there last week, missed the 4PM close by minutes, and was really bummed.

                                      Amusing story about your East Coast friends; yes, that neighborhood is surprisingly Spanish Harlem, now with the Red Line.

                                      Did you read the interview in the Weekly -- All the old deli guys interviewed by Jonathan Gold (?)


                                    2. re: Stock Clerk


                                      To refine my earlier post, I suggest there are the following categories of "can't miss" LA restaurants:

                                      Unique LA-ethnic (Mexican, regional-Mexican, Korean, Japanese, etc.)

                                      LA-Atsmophere restaurants, to which I will add the Skybar, Formosa, Jones, and the Sunset Strip places.

                                      Outstanding California: (Chadwick, Spago, Patina, etc.)


                                      Valentino, Matsuhisa, Rockenwagner, etc...

                                      Agree with my categroizations? Have some suggestions?


                                      1. re: StockClerk

                                        Speaking of Chadwick, did it reopen? Nice selections BTW. And you do seem to have the line on New Yorkers.

                                    3. These are the top five I recommend to friends:

                                      1. Matsuhisa
                                      2. Patina
                                      3. Campanile
                                      4. Angelini Osteria
                                      5. Urth Caffé (for the coffee and cafe atmosphere)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Marco Polo
                                        Lord Lipitor

                                        With the exception of Urth Caffe, I would have to say ditto. I make most of my coffee at home.

                                      2. Yongsusan*
                                        Spago Beverly Hills
                                        Ocean Star*

                                        * = very affordable

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Just Larry
                                          Lord Lipitor

                                          Yongsusan? Very affordable? I haven't been there in a couple of years. Have they lowered prices?

                                          1. re: Lord Lipitor

                                            My six or eight course lunch was less than some of the appetizers at Spago or L'Orangerie. Maybe "very" is the wrong word.

                                            1. re: Just Larry

                                              What is the price range of appetizers at Spago and L'Orangerie?

                                              1. re: nubi

                                                the cheapest set menu at yongsusan is about $20 a head without drinks. The next level (which is what I like) is about $23. If you go beyond that you start paying for lots of seafood and can get up to the highest menu which is about $50 as I recall.

                                                1. re: nubi

                                                  At Spago anything with Foie Gras is over $20.00. The Ahi and Smoked Fish apps also. At L'Orangerie, Scrambled Egg with Caviar or Smoked Salmon are over $20.00. It is not cheap but it is great.

                                          2. Japanese: Shibucho (Costa Mesa)/Hanabishi/Sasabune
                                            Chinese: Green Village/Harbor Seafood/NBC (for dim sum)
                                            Korean: Soot Bull Jeep/Young Dong Tofu House (SG)
                                            Mexican: La Seranata de Girabaldi/Yuca's Hut
                                            Asian Fusion: Cafe Blanc/Shiro
                                            Italian: Valentino/Il Pasteo/Angelini Osteria
                                            Californian: Lucques/Josies
                                            Breakfast: Orig. Pancake House/Doughboys

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: dkawai
                                              Chichiri no Aijin

                                              I'm interested in going to Hanabishi in Little Tokyo. Since you mentioned it, I was wondering if you could tell me a little about it such as type of Japanese food served and price range.


                                            2. My Top Five, given food being 75 % :

                                              Water Grill
                                              Napa Rose

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Tom P

                                                When was the last time you were at Patina? It was stellar with Joachim in the kitchen. The chef that replaced him was just OK earlier this year. They hired a new chef a few months ago, have you tried his food?

                                                1. re: Just Larry

                                                  To be honest, I think it has been about 6 months since I dined at Patina. I was there three times in the 12 months before that, and all were excellent meals. So I guess I have not tried the new chef. I will soon be going again, however, as a good friend was given a free meal there and she was nice enough to ask me to go. I will report back, we should be going sometime before New Year's Eve.

                                              2. Oooh! What a fun debate.....I think people who come to visit la la land should definately mix up the cuisine hi/low style, so my votes would go to:

                                                Spago Beverly Hills
                                                the Wat Thai weekend food fair
                                                Zankou Chicken
                                                Yucca's/Alegria on Sunset/Loteria Grill (sorry- couldn't decide--three way tie!)

                                                1. I feel like I'm looking at a highlights magazine. Which item doesn't belong:

                                                  1. Pretty sure we haven’t yet reached a Chowhound critical mass [No dog park jokes, pls.] on this query. Pls respond w your top 5 LA restaurant recommendations, ranked from best down, for visitors and/or special occasion. No limitations other than choices must be chowcentric & in LA County. Newbies welcome – this is a totally subjective no-flame query.

                                                    1. Valentino
                                                      Saddle Peak Lodge
                                                      La Seranata di Garibaldi (East LA)
                                                      Grand Central Market

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: pam

                                                        oh - and Nouveau Cafe Blanc

                                                      2. O.k. Mr. Grubb. I tend to agree with the previous post about showing visitors places that are the essence of L.A. and capture its character. Places of which the relatives from Omaha/Brooklyn are unlikely to have seen the likes. So, I've come up with two lists, in no particular order. One higher end, one lower end, but both, I think, offer things that you'll find only in L.A.

                                                        1. Langer's
                                                        2. Tommy's (Beverly & Rampart only)
                                                        3. Original Pantry (Breakfast only)
                                                        4. Pink's
                                                        5. Philippe's

                                                        1. Valentino
                                                        2. Spago
                                                        3. Water Grill
                                                        4. Lobster
                                                        5. Saddle Peak Lodge

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: TomSwift

                                                          Nice lists. I'm assuming you picked Lobster for the view. In the same vein, consider Geoffrey's in Malibu. As for Tommy's, I concur, scenewise the only one to go to would be Rampart & Beverly. Tastewise the only one to go to is not really Tommy's but his former employee's Jay's Jayburger, Santa Monica & Virgil.

                                                          1. re: mc michael

                                                            I did pick Lobster for the view, but you're right, Geoffrey's is also a winning view. I guess you trade off the serenity of Malibu for the frenetic atmosphere of the Pier. You know, I had my first Jay Burger two weeks ago and totally agree - it is superior to Tommy's for flavor but not for atmosphere. Great lemonade too.

                                                            1. re: TomSwift

                                                              Late on a Friday or Saturday night, all the cars and patrons swarming around Tommy's remind me of June Bugs around a light post on a summer evening.

                                                        2. Campanile
                                                          Water Grill
                                                          The Palm
                                                          La Bonita

                                                          1. j
                                                            Jon Leventhal

                                                            In no particular order:

                                                            Langer's: Every hardcore New Yorker (and I grew up there) can't believe how good it is.

                                                            Spago: The ultimate Hollywood spot. Dining outdoors is great, you always see a celebrity or two and the food can be transcendant, usually excellent.

                                                            InandOut: Obviously, visitor has to be from out of state (including AZ), but I know many people who miss this place the most when they move out of CA. The location by the airport is great fun too watching the planes land overhead.

                                                            Geoffreys/Lobster/Casa Del Mar/Shutters - I group these all together, because while the food is decent at all, its the beach ambiance that visitors, and I too, love.

                                                            Soot Bull Jeep: Most cities have Korean, but I've never seen the charcoal anywhere else in the US. Foods great, lively and cheap.

                                                            Others that you could throw in:

                                                            The Grill/The Ivy: Hollywood scene, OK, but too pricey food.
                                                            Yujean Kangs: Lunch special is amazing. Visitors can not believe the quality for under $10 pp.
                                                            The Hump: Great view, good people watching, superb sushi.
                                                            Sushi Sasebune: Never had sushi like this in anyother city. Just order a la carte.
                                                            Grand Central Market: Great scene,great tacos&gorditas.
                                                            Chinois: The birthplace of Asian Fusion. Still rocking after 15 years.

                                                            I'm getting hungry.



                                                            1. Josie

                                                              1. CAFE BLANC IN BEVERLY HILLS
                                                                PARKWAY GRILLE IN PASADENA
                                                                CHINOIS IN SANTA MONICA

                                                                1. First 3 for sure!