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New Yorker returns...needs more help

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  • sam1 Jan 19, 2009 04:52 PM

last winter, you kind folks steered me to some great eats while in town on business with my girlfriend. of all the places i ate, i swooned most at hatfields...in my opinion, just right up my alley and a total stellar meal.

im returning in 2 weeks (albeit with a new girlfriend). ive scoured these boards and other resources but im not sure where to take her for a special evening. i have reservations for providence but i have hesitations about the price and the environment. id like dinner in a more intimate environment (a la hatfields) and was under the impression that providence may be a bit sterile.

other ideas were sona and possibly grace...i wish i got a chance to try bastide but i think ive seen they've recently closed again.

any ideas? food-wise, im a saddle of lamb/rack of lamb type.

thx

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  1. I know not everyone on this board likes Grace, but I really liked the vibe, the service and the food there and found it very easy to converse. You might also check out Suzanne Goin's restaurants AOC and Lucques (Lucques might be more of what you're looking for). Also Comme Ca and Sona, I haven't been to Providence yet but I think I would have the same hesitation that you do - I know from many people that the food is extraordinary but I get weary of having so many courses of a tasting menu explained to me. You might also check a fairly new restaurant in Santa Monica called Anisette.

    1. I'll second the Lucques suggestion; sounds like what you're looking for.

      I'm under the impression that Sona is pretty sterile.

      1. If you don't mind the drive, I would suggest Saddle Peak Lodge.

        www.saddlepeaklodge.com

        1. i went to aoc and luques on my last trip. we have 'ino here in nyc which is a personal favorite so its hard to appreciate small italian meats and cheeses in the aoc environment but it was fine enough. lucques on the other hand was a bit of a disappointment actually. beautiful space but the food was ultra heavy and not what i imagined given the reputation.

          id like to try something new and not end up at hatfields though i absolutely loved it the first time. is josies any good in santa monica?

          also, any sort of hip-ish place i can take some friends out to dinner? something a bit more casual...i was thinking angelini osteria or hungry cat...was hoping to find something a bit more off the beaten path...nothing too expensive either.

          thx in advance everyone...you guys have some amazing food in yr town. im just happy to get away from nyc and enjoy it...

          3 Replies
          1. re: sam1

            You do realize that your feelings about Lucques is near blasphemy but I totally agree. I was very disapppointed with the food. It was pretty uninspired and unremarkable if you compare it to SF or NYC restaurants, mostly because there are so many restaurants in those cities that do it better for cheaper (Sunday Supper aside).

            I was similarly let down by Josie's. I went as a party of 5 and tried a good portion of the menu. Touted favorites like the short ribs, buffalo burger, etc were pretty unremarkable. In fact, I thought the short ribs were undertrimmed with too much excess fat (from someone that adores pork belly). The sepia with lentils was the only good dish that night.

            Comme Ca wouldn't last in NYC. The brandade was good but everything else (duck confit, lamb shank, salmon, pork chop, wines by the glass selection) was surprisingly bland.

            If you liked Hatfields, you should probably try Grace. It's nothing fancy, not really revalatory, but very, very tasty. Save room for the donuts at the end. I didn't think Providence was sterile. The ambience is a lot more inviting than Le Bernardin.

            Sona interests me enough to try on Saturday.

            1. re: sam1

              i agree with the rec for saddle peak lodge, though it's not cheap.

              maybe Wilshire if you were willing to hit west LA

              organic, Akasha in Culver City might be a good option for taking the friends out.

              there are some new places like Gjelina on Abbot Kinney, or Via Alloro on Canon in Beverly Hills.

              1. re: sam1

                I was also disappointed in Lucques. I absolutely love Josie's. The venison is delicious.

              2. I don't like Osteria Angelini (or is it Angelini Osteria?) We have no real osteria in LA. But I do like Hungry Cat.

                Yep, the food at Lucques is heavy. It doesn't have a reputation for lightness, though.

                Josie doesn't get a lot of mention on the board.

                Pizzeria Mozza inspires strong feelings. Don't know if a NYer would appreciate it, though.

                Hip-ish and "off the beaten path" are mutually exclusive in LA. However, off the beaten path, I would have to recommend Pizzicotto in Brentwood for good, not too expensive Italian. For hip, I might say Fraiche in Culver City. Maybe Animal.

                5 Replies
                1. re: jaykayen

                  As a former longtime Manhattanite I appreciate Mozza. It's a style of pizza you don't find in NYC (corrections welcome, though). I think it's one of LAs truly unique food institutions.

                  1. re: Peripatetic

                    Otto in NY is pretty similar to Mozza. I, too, would skip Angelini, though I haven't dined there, only at its sister restaurant La Terza. I would check out Nook Bistro in WLA, which serves upscale comfort food and won a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin guide.

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      I love Nook -- I've taken family and friends there and I think it is the best value on the westside, with better food and service than places charging almost double their prices. But I'm not sure it fits this query -- the OP was considering places like Providence, Sona and Grace. Perhaps a better choice, for a lunch or the casual dinner for friends, is across the street and a few blocks west on Santa Monica at Brockton at Monte Alban, for extraordinary moles and other Oaxacan specialties.

                      1. re: nosh

                        Points well taken, nosh -- Nook is definitely more casual and less refined than the places mentioned by the OP.

                  2. re: jaykayen

                    I'd definitely second the rec for Animal for the 'hip' meal...

                  3. from what ive seen, im really digging sona...does anyone have experience with the 6 course tasting? is it puny or will i be satisfied? i dont entirely feel like a $140 tasting menu unless it was really out of this world.

                    same goes for providence...is the 5 course tasting just a tiny sample and best avoided?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: sam1

                      Re. Providence. We did the 5 course tasting and supplemented with 1 additional course each off of the market menu (the matsutake soup with scallop sashimi and the salt roasted spot prawns). We were pleasantly full. The 5 course will either leave you just right if you're a medium eater or a touch hungry if you're a big eater.

                      1. re: sam1

                        Why not go somewhere you cannot find in NY - no matter how much money you are willing to spend - and that is incredibly delicious, will set you back maybe $15 per person before tip, and is definitely so far off the radar of almost anyone on either coast that it will give you absolutely exclusive bragging rights when you go home?

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/585334

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/588004

                        1. re: Servorg

                          oh my good friend...i am planning eating loads of mexican, chinese, japanese, and ethiopian...

                          i agree with you completely...yr city has the best ethnic food in the country in my opinion.

                          1. re: sam1

                            What about Thai (mmm, Jitlada!) or Korean (Ondal 2? Or if you're a meat kinda guy, go to Park's BBQ and get Kobe beef kalbi and Tokyo X pork)...

                      2. I'd urge you to go Puck -- Spago is really two restaurants: a sceney place that caters to the industry-types who want to be seen and table-hop on the one hand, but Lee Hefter and Sherry Yard are both at the top of their games and a tasting menu out in the courtyard at Spago can be a wonderful food and service experience. And Chinois on Main in Santa Monica serves everything to share, has bold flavors, an amazing '80s decor, and they revamped their menu a year or so back. A few of their small plates, with one entree (the sliced filet in szechwan sauce or the deepfried whole catfish with ponzu) and a dessert or two creates your own tasting menu there. A bit loud and crowded to be romantic, but a great vibe and excellent service.

                        1. Providence isn't sterile. Isn't even large and is divided into covered patio and main dining room. I prefer the main dining room. We ate there last week and were very impressed by the food and the service. (It recently recieved 2 michelin stars). Very imaginative fish and shellfish dishes. The spicing is lovely. It was actually better than our lunch at Le Bernadin last year and is very much in the same league.

                          As the previous poster suggested Spago and I *am* fond of Spago. But I would never, ever recommend the Asian or fusion dishes at Spago or Chinois at all. I think they are actually kind of embarassing. Heavy-handed gloppy 80s fusion. I actually gave an Asian dish another chance at Spago in December and was unimpressed. It was tasty but nothing like the food can be. Nothing like what Providence can achieve.

                          I like Grace and Lucques more than Sona, which is very high concept. Grace and Lucques have stronger meat-y meat preparations although Lucques is going to be more braised lamb than rack in personality.

                          1. thx everyone for your help. i now have reservations at animal (for my group), hatfields yet again, and im going to yakitori bincho in redondo.

                            im going to try anisette for brunch and eat as much sushi and mexican and chinese in the daytime.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: sam1

                              Whoever suggested Animal was right on - that's exactly what you should have - something you won't find in NY. Your itinerary sounds perfect...and delicious.

                              1. re: Bria Silbert

                                Agree, Animal is a great choice.