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Help, please - anniversary dinner... tomorrow night!

Yikes... our anniversary has snuck up and we need serious help!

Here are the rules: Has to be a place that's new to both of us, and it can't break the bank (ie: would like to keep it around $150 out the door - 2 entrees, 1-2 apps, and a bottle of moderately priced ($50) wine)
My rules: Some where I can hear (ie: Comme Ca or Mozza is TOO loud and cramped).
His rules: Some where the portions are decent sized (ie: Parkway Grill - perfect, Bashan: not so much)
Cuisine: He's a little less adventurous than I am, but loves sushi and stays away from spicy-hot things. If I were to restrict it, I'd say no Mexican.

We're in Pasadena and would prefer to be closer to Pasadena - but given our rules, I don't think it's doable (as either one of us have been to places close by).

From a quick scouring of the boards lately... I have a few questions:

1. Palate Food + Wine - worth it? we both love wine - although, I read some scathing reviews - how is the food, portions, atmosphere?
2. Hatfields - so far, this is the top contender, even though it's farther away and is pushing the bank - how's the noise level?

Other options: Cube, Taste, Vibrato.... Jiraffe, Il Grano...
Would love to do Melisse - but location and $ might be prohibitive... as would Craft and Cut, I'd think....

...this feels like Mission Impossible. Any help is appreciated! TIA!

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  1. Have you been to Trattoria Tre Venezie, in Old Town? Nice, relaxed atmosphere, good Northern Italian (as in Austro-Hungarian influenced Northern Italian), and I think you could definitely get out for that.

    I haven't been to Palate, but it is on my list.

    1 Reply
    1. re: a213b

      Unfortunately (or fortunately) yes - I've been there, so that rules it out :( It would be a perfect spot, otherwise!!

    2. I'll chime in on a couple: Hatfield's. We went on a hot night and it was stuffy (but pretty quiet) inside, and completely enjoyable on the patio (which may have heaters). Might set you back closer to $200 though w/ that wine?

      Cube is fairly casual and probably not the special thing you're after, sort of like an upscale Gale's.

      Maybe Blair's in Los Feliz? Somewhere downtown?

      Something to consider that we've been doing more at nicer restaurants in L.A. - eat at the bar, preferably early-ish, on a weeknight. You can sit close, share easily, enjoy great service, etc. (Increasingly, a table for two means squeezing into a slot at a row of mini-tables, shouting at your date to be heard, and brushing against the elbow of the stranger next to you!) AOC has been good for this bar strategy, as was Fraiche in Culver City (the latter probably too far for you).

      1. I love Hatfield's, but I agree that you'd spend closer to $200 with a $50 bottle of wine...I believe we spent something like $150 (possibly before tip? i can' remember) last time we were there, with 2 cocktails but no wine. It is not too noisy, but your husband may find some of the portions too small. So I'm not sure if it meets all the "rules."

        It would be easier to stay in your budget at Jiraffe, and the portions are on the larger side for fine dining. Downstairs can get a bit noisy, but request a table upstairs and it is quiet. I think it would be a good bet considering all your rules, although it's far from Pasadena.

        Happy anniversary!

        1. If you are willing to travel as far as Jiraffe, I suggest Nook Bistro. Excellent food, good service, generous portions, and will easily meet your price point.

          1. Likewise, if you are considering Jiraffe, I'd also throw in Grace and Josie (along with seconding others' Hatfield's rec).

            ~H.C.
            http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com

              1. How about Pane E Vino on Beverly in the Patio, easy to do, or OlivA on Van Nuys and Moorpark.

                1. How about Max in Sherman Oaks; the menu has been redone. It's interesting, delicious sort of French/Asian fusion food (you can check out menu on-line) in an attractive setting, not too far from Pasadena. You should have no problem getting out of there for 150 or less.
                  Another thought is Chameau, a French-Moroccan restaurant (no bellydancers or anything like that) w/ rather sleek, appealing decor on Fairfax near Beverly Blvd. I had a great anniversary dinner there a couple of years ago. You also should be able to eat there comfortably w/in your budget. If you go, I'd suggest getting 2 appetizers, but maybe splitting one coucous (they're somewhat $-- in the high 20s and very large). It will still be more than enough to eat.

                  1. Also, Vibrato is lovely, a very romantic setting, particularly because of the excellent jazz. Food is not spectacular but very good steak, grilled meats, fish, etc. It is though very $$; I don't think you'd get out of there for less than 200 (entrees generally in high 30s+)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: archer

                      Which made me think of RedWhite & Bluezz in Pasadena. Exilekiss reviewed it recently & favorably.

                    2. Since you said Pasadena... I'm in love with Siena. It's fresh seasonal ingredients. I'm addicted to their squid ink pasta. The dual tuna (tatare and seared) appetizer is so great. their squash ravioli is amazing- however i remember the portion of that not being huge. i've heard their desserts are outstanding, but i've not yet tried any. it's not loud and it's a lovely atmosphere. it will definitely fit into your budget.

                      1. Thanks for the help, everyone! It was MUCH appreciated.

                        Clyde - funny, didn't see your suggestion until now - but we ended up at Siena! I was reading up on Madeline's and saw some various comments on Siena and thought I'd give it a try. I'm planning on writing a full review - but had a GREAT time. Wonderful service - very relaxed. Pasta seems to be where they shine. It reminded me of Briganti with a twist (ie: more diverse dishes, while maintaining authenticity). Very friendly service, and it's decorated warmly for the holidays. Couldn't have found a better spot (and SO thankful to not have to drive after a very long day at work!).

                        Thanks again for all the feedback!

                        EDIT: here's the link to the review:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/577046

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: The Oracle

                          Thank you for reporting back. It is nice when we get an answer to the quandary or conclusion to the story after offering suggestions. And your review that you linked was excellent -- very descriptive, clear that you had an overall fine and happy experience, but with useful observations and criticisms about minor points. Thanks for specifying the bill and apportioning the wine. Nice job and happy anniversary.

                        2. Foundry on Melrose is good and consistent and not as pricey as Hatfields.