HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


Wealthy Manhattanite in Santa Monica - what would impress?

A friend has a trust fund baby cousin from Manhattan coming to visit. Money is no object to her (literally, I am told that she's oblivious to prices).

Where would you take her in Santa Monica, knowing that she has expensive, top notch world class cuisine at her fingertips back home?

Mr Taster

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. my first thought is capo. their wine list is amazing...albeit the mark up is huge.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wilafur

      Capo is exactly right. The food is quite good, the people watching is superb, and it radiates a beachy California ease that is exactly what rich Manhattanites are looking for. And it feels like a secret address. It makes guests feel as if they belong to a member of an exclusive club of taste and refinement, whereas Giorgio Baldi, which has much worse food, operates on a more exclusionary principle.

      Michael's is great in that way too - it makes comfortable people comfortable, the food is much, much better than you think it might be, the wine list is great, and the patio lined with Stellas and Grahams is magnificent.. If she frequents the NYC Michael's, she'll think that you understand her; if she doesn't, so much the better.

    2. Not in Santa Monica, but Providence? Chef Cimirusti did win an Iron Chef America battle.
      Or perhaps, the Bazaar...but I'm not sure if Jose Andres has an outlet in NYC.

      1 Reply
      1. re: attran99

        Providence is a great restaurant, but seriously Iron Chef is not a reason to go to someone's restaurant... nor Top Chef for that matter

      2. Take her to Mellise on Wilshire and 11th. Order the tasting menu with a the wine pairing. You won't be disappointed

        1. Not everyone who's wealthy or is recipient of a trust fund invests in stocks...
          If she has taste and has class...I'd take her to Capo but then again she may have the money but could care less about showing it off whereas a taco joint may suffice.

          1. As a Former Manhattanite (who has been accused of being oblivious to prices), a few suggestions but it depends on the KIND of foodie she is (or isn't). I am assuming -- as you say -- it must be Santa Monica, though I never understand why people limit themselves thusly in this city of all places.

            Every Manhattanite I have taken to Giorgio Baldi loves it because it is such an industry-celeby-LA--Italian...they have food as good or better, but they have nothing like it..

            Is she has been to Giorgios, and if she likes Japanese, The Hump is an LA experience unattainable in NYC.

            Finally Capo, (or, p[erhaps, Chinois, or Michael's though both are 'dated') would deserve some attention and thought.

            I wouldn't consider Valentino, Vicente, Melisse, Jiraffe, or Josie's -- all are good but much better versions are likely where she normally eats.

            If she cares more for what LA is best at, real regional Chinese, Mexican, Thai etc, I know you would take her to San Gabriel, Mariscos Chente, Thai Town etc.

            19 Replies
            1. re: Ciao Bob

              Agree...as a born & raised NYer, living out here since 1991, I would avoid places like Melisse and Providence - NYC has much better versions of those types of restaurants (Daniel & Le Bernadin, for example).

              Everyone loves Chinois, even though it is dated, but the food is terrific.

              1. re: Ciao Bob

                Indeed, NYers, especially NYers with money, love Giorgio Baldi.

                1. re: Newkie

                  Giorgio Baldi might remind them of the cramped tables, high prices, and litany of specials orally recited by the heavily accented waiters was unique to Greenwich Village's Il Mulino.


                2. re: Ciao Bob

                  My friend came to me because she's looking at this as an opportunity to eat at a restaurant that would ordinarily be way out of her price range. Trust fund baby (TFB) is footing the bill, and has set the guidelines of an expensive place in Santa Monica, so who are we to question? This experience is really to benefit my friend, a native Angeleno, moreso than her cousin, so food is absolutely the top priority and celeb-hangout would be way down at the bottom.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    If this is the case either Valentino or Capo.

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Definitely Girogio Baldi. Expensive but very good food. Excellent ravioli, carpaccio (especially beef with white truffle sauce), langoustine, lobster, pasta, risotto. Celeb sighting is common but ultra low-key.

                      1. re: fdb

                        fdb -- How often do you go? Do you know the staff? What is your usual check? Giorgio Baldi is a haughty tourist trap and local favorite, very expensive for what you get. What do you order there?

                        1. re: nosh

                          How can it be a local favorite AND a tourist "trap?" These seem mutually exclusive to me. Locals ought to know what's good - in this case very good, IMHO -- and not fall into a tourist trap (which, of course, traps NON-LOCALS who don't know any better). I agree that GB is expensive...so is food on the Italian Riviera.

                          1. re: Ciao Bob

                            i really like giorgio balid, their raviolis are dynamite, as well as their tiramisu and when they have it the chocoalte mousse. their pastas are good too.

                            but the main entrees are boring for the most part, pedestrian by the numbers italian stuff, except perhaps the pounded veal chop milanese on the bone showered with basil and a touch of lemon, reminds one of a good Wienershnitzel.

                            anyhow, it is expensive and the specials are exceptionally expensive. if you need to ask the prices please do.

                            anything with white truffles or even black ones will be an upcharge of anywhere from 50 to 125 per dish.


                          2. re: nosh

                            I'm a Santa Monica local and I've not seen any tourist at GB although I have taken many visitors from overseas and they have all been very very happy. I don't know the staff and I am not a celeb but I have never had bad service. I order the dishes as suggested in my post above, and have always been pleased. I can easily pay $100 to $150 pp depending on how much I drink. It IS expensive but it's also very good as I said.

                            1. re: nosh

                              Giorgio Baldi is not only a tourist trap but the quality of their food is really bad especially the seafood... It does have snob appeal...

                              Go to Valentino... better wine, better food, Cheaper, better service and competitive with a San Domenico or Le Cirque

                              1. re: lambrusche

                                i think a lot of their food is good, the pastas especially and esp, the ravioli, if you mean seafood main entrees you might be right. but the simply sauced pastas, whether raviolis or even the tagliattelles are really good.


                                1. re: kevin

                                  Giorgio Baldi was very mediocre. For the $150 we spent the highlight of the meal was Jamie Lee Curtis sitting next to us, big deal though right? Seriously pushy waiters and ugly surroundings.

                                  1. re: zjarrett

                                    Consider yourself wealthy for not having lost more at that mediocrity.

                            2. re: Mr Taster

                              So my suggestions of Hot Dog on a Stick at the pier and Father's Office probably wouldn't fly either ...

                              1. re: Ciao Bob

                                Wow, could not disagree with you more Ciao Bob. Melisse is world class. Get the carte blanch menu with wine pairings. I'd eat there over Jean George anytime. (okay, Jean George doesn't suck, but I'd still prefer Melisse.)

                                And Capo? No comparison. Except maybe in price. Hump? I wouldn't know where to begin. I ate there a week ago, tried a lot of their offerings and am bewildered why anyone would think it was remotely special. C+, maybe...maybe B -. Chinois is definitely better.

                                Valentino? On a part with Capo, but different. I would lean toward Valentino between the two. Still, neither are on the same level as Melisse. Melisse aspires to be a *** star (a la Michelin) restaurant, Capo or Valentino do not. Capo especially. I like Capo, used to go often, but for around the same money Melisse is much more special.

                                Providence is not in Santa Monica, but is great (was just there last week) - terrific. Like Le Bernadin, but I'd prefer Providence. (again, Le Bernadin doesn't suck, and I look forward to going back, but I find Providence to be a little more creative.

                                And Giorgio Baldi? Come on! It's like an average, upscale NY italian. Downright common, filled with Hollywood industry types who don't know food. La Botte is better, Picolino is better, Vicente is better, Valentino is better (and others). Giorgio is a joke. Cost too much, can't bring in wine, tables too close together, and did I say it costs too much?

                              2. Give them something they don't have in Manhattan.... Our view of the Pacific. Go to the penthouse of The Huntley Hotel and have drinks.

                                Agree also with The Hump (for the Tsukiji factor) & Giorgio Baldi (for the Hollywood star factor).

                                1. In this economy, most of the trust fund babys I hang with are very much aware of the price of things since the bulk of their trust is tied to the stock market and their portfolio isn't what it used to be..
                                  I saw screw the expensive Huntley Hotel or Polo Club and head to some of the best dives in LA...that would impress her and you would be doing her a favor..
                                  Just my two worthless cents.

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                    Sounds right. Mariscos Chente or Ondal II, Monte Alban or a taste bud blowing dinner at Jitlada in Thai Town.

                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                      Once again....not all 'trust fund babys' are not tied to the stock market...
                                      It just isn't so and all portfolios are being compromised by this economy.
                                      It depends on the person, their taste, their lack of/abundance of pretention and many other factors.
                                      Some of the wealthiest people in the world prefer great food on the taco trucks to The Polo Lounge.

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        "Some of the wealthiest people in the world prefer great food on, for example, taco trucks to The Polo Lounge."

                                        My point exactly.

                                      2. re: Beach Chick

                                        Beach Chick,
                                        there are many, many, folks who still have money and who are accustomed to eating at places that provide excellent food, excellent service and amazing ambiance.

                                        Taking such a person to dives that may not even look particularly clean, is not a way to 'IMPRESS', (which is what Mr. Taster specified in his original post). If the visitor likes dives s/he can find many of them on the east coast for when they want to go 'slumming.'

                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                          I understand the trust fund mentality quite well..old money always looks at prices and would be very impressed if I took them to a dive..we don't call it slumming though.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            YO, Lets not get all east coast/west coast up in here.
                                            I will point out — some with very little $$$ dine is some very fine restaurants, just not as frequently as some others with lots of $$$, also a palette is a gift some have and some don't.
                                            $$$$ cant buy taste only access.

                                            1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                              in this case, the $$$$ of the TFB can buy access for Mr. Taster and his friend , which, in my mind, is of value here.
                                              Mr. Taster and his friend can go to the dives on their own, some other time, when they don't have the TFB $$$ available.

                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                if you're looking for a celeb spot how about the Ivy on Robertson (skip the one at the shore which is ultimately lacking in the celebrities). order up black pepper jamiacan shrimmp, crab cakes, and a mint julep or two, or three to wash down the possibly passable food.


                                                1. re: kevin

                                                  What do you have against the food at The Ivy on Robertson other than your obvious distaste of the atmosphere?
                                                  For instance the crab cakes....what is it that you don't like about them?
                                                  Just curious.

                                        2. There is still some cachet in Spago -- people recognize Puck's name (particularly close to the Oscars) and there is great opportunity for star sighting. Most important, while many are there just for the scene, the food can be surprisingly good and impressive, and they do offer a tasting menu. Not far from Santa Monica. If it is a Friday evening (and only a Friday evening) meet first for drinks at the Peninsula's bar nearby, a singular and unique experience.

                                          The other possibility, assuming open tastes and wallet, is Urasawa.

                                          1. If you have to stay in Santa Monica, I'd do the Carte Blanche menu at Melisse.

                                            If you can venture east to Beverly Hills and you all like Japanese, I'd go to Urasawa.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Robert Thornton

                                              I would second the Urasawa rec, for sure. I am not a fan of Melisse, despite having been several times. But I am definitely in the minority on the chow boards. If the TFB and friend are the carnivorous sort, I think there is no food better in SoCal than Saddle Peak Lodge.

                                            2. Fancy restaurants are not going to impress these types... Been there... done that... To impress you have to be unique... I say Musha and a VERY expensive bottle of Sake...


                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Dommy

                                                imho musha is not that unique.

                                                although i love musha for a casual meal, and do go there quite frequently, i would not go there expecting to "impress" anyone.

                                                imho musha is a good place to go on 'movie night' when the meal is not necessarily going to be the central focus of the evening. ( maybe i'd feel differently if i had ever sat in one of the booths in the back.)

                                                urasawa is unique and impressive, but it is not in santa monica: another one of Mr. Taster's requirements.

                                                1. re: Dommy

                                                  imo, the izakayas in nyc trump musha on every level.

                                                2. Melisse has to be on the top of the list. The Buffalo Club is also pretty top notch, too. Fig at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel just opened and is mighty tasty.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: ohdaylay

                                                    I heard a RAVE review of Fig from Tony of Sinosoul last week. Rave.

                                                  2. Melisse would be my pick for this type. Possibly Valentino. You can call ahead at Valentino, pre order a couple of nice (expensive) bottles of wine and have them create a special tasting menu for you based on your wine selections.

                                                    Also, if this TFB has been to Masa in NYC (likely has) then you should take her to Urusawa due to the relationship between Hiro and Masa - it might be interesting to her. And give her something to talk about back in NYC.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: woojink

                                                      I'm trying not to be snarky, but what makes Melisse or Valentino special to a high-living Manhattanite? My gosh, they have Per Se, Masa, and Le Bernadin. Neither Melisse nor Valentino even has a view, or an impressive locale. I don't mean to disparage the ownership, who are well-respected, but not media darlings. I'm sorry, maybe if you have enough money it is a fun experience, but Giorgio Baldi is a west-coast pretender to the old NYC Sardi's or exclusive clubs -- it is a humiliating rip-off joint to someone just walking in. It is a shame we have no oceanfront view restaurants that achieve great food and service as well -- NYC does upscale hotel better than we do too.

                                                      1. re: nosh

                                                        IMO, Melisse is a west coast version of Daniel - although Daniel is more refined. I have dined at both many times. Food at both is top notch.

                                                        The allure of Valentino is their wine list in both size and scope. And their ability to tailor a menu to specific wines. Truly terrific.

                                                        Of course there are world class, and better, restos in NYC. But these two can also deliver a world class meal if the TFB wants one and is willing to pay.

                                                        I still think the best option is Urusawa.

                                                        1. re: woojink

                                                          Melisse (carte blanche)
                                                          Spago (TM)
                                                          Valentino (TM) Private dinner in the Wine Cellar is always relaxing.

                                                    2. Not sure how feasible this would be, but perhaps you could get Stefan, the almost-winner of Top Chef to do a special custom meal. Since he's based in Santa Monica, this would probably be something unique that would not be as easy to achieve in NY. Maybe one of the nice hotels could serve as the venue. Just a thought.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Juji

                                                        That sounds like fun, despite someone else's statement above that being on Top Chef should not be an influence driving us to one chef's kitchen over another. His food almost always looked amazing and I was surprised he lost.

                                                      2. Also, if celeb watching is a big deal to her, then check out the Chateau Marmont. Lots of celebs hand there.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: woojink

                                                          The watching is fine at Chateau Marmont, however the food is soo lacking.. I find the small dining room inside off the living room lounge with olde time radiator very odd. It a pass for me. I personally like Capo as the Santa Monica destination as the OP requested. In any event hope the Op posts back would like what know what you had decided on..

                                                        2. may I suggest
                                                          THE LOBSTER,
                                                          reserve table w/ best view of pier/merry go round.
                                                          IVY AT THE SHORE.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: NumeroUnoEat

                                                            pretty sure Ivy at the Shore is long gone...

                                                            1. re: JPomer

                                                              even if it was still here, the food is/was not supurb AND it doesn't have a view.
                                                              imho, we need either one or the other in this case.

                                                              1. re: JPomer

                                                                It (Ivy at the Shore) moved a couple of doors north of its old location and then Tengu Santa Monica (which IS closed) took over Ivy's old location which was across the little walkway from Il Fornaio. It is STILL OPEN (no restaurant in this economy needs the false rumor posted on any food discussion website that it is closed WHEN IT IS NOT).

                                                                Ivy At the Shore
                                                                1535 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                  I guess not in the Ivy, who seems to scoff at common decency if you don't happen to be a celebrity.

                                                                  oh, well.

                                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                                    I'll second this comment.
                                                                    Point well made.

                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                      ooops. my bad. you're absolutely right

                                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                                        i had a delicious luncheon at Ivy at the Shore very recently, although I would not take someone there for dinner or to impress.

                                                                  2. In no order of preference:

                                                                    Katsuya in Brentwood ... if only the food was as lively as the scene

                                                                    Coast at Shutters Hotel ... no matter how rich you are you simply cannot see the Pacific on the east coast

                                                                    Penthouse at the Huntley ... (see above)

                                                                    Kogi at the Alibi Room .. okay not a pricey joint, but no way is she getting ghetto Korean tacos in NYC no matter how much money that trust fund's got.

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      Perhaps do the $250 "everything tasting menu" at Bazaar (at least from what I read - not having been).

                                                                      As to your postulate that "no matter how rich you are you simply cannot see the Pacific on the east coast" I must report that I have seen the Pacific from the east coast of Kauai many times. ;-D>

                                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                                        Michael Mina's XIV also has a 35 course "gamut", though I'm not sure if she can get stuff like that already in NY.

                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                          LOL! My not-so-foodie NY friend loved Katsuya, particularly when we ran into Gene Simmons on the way out. Shutters is also a great rec for a drink or someplace to stay.

                                                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                                                            "My not-so-foodie NY friend loved Katsuya, particularly when we ran into Gene Simmons on the way out."

                                                                            Did she do anything that may have earned her a "tongue lashing?" ;-D>

                                                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                                                              Shutters or even better, Casa del Mar.

                                                                          2. I really liked Cecconi's it reminded me of my time in NY.


                                                                            1. capo is a good suggestion. but melisse is different than new york fine dining. it has a definite california influence. if you want to travel away from santa monica and you want to impress go to cut.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: woofer

                                                                                Cut does not have anything on the the better Manhattan steakhouses, e.g., Sparks, except for the Richard Meier design, which quite frankly feels cold and corporate

                                                                                  1. re: woofer

                                                                                    it really does scream Los Angeles, and if someone is looking for an LA experience...

                                                                              2. I think the real question is whether she's a foodie? Maybe not. We have an heiress in the family and when we go out she orders mash potatoes and sting beans. Why not take her to the Bell Air Hotel? It's a beautiful place, bound to see some famous people. We went on a Sunday night one time and 20 feet away was Ronald and Nancy Reagan plus some other personalities. The food was good, the service better and the setting is spectacular. And its expensive enough. Just a thought.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Baron

                                                                                  bel air hotel is a very good rec.

                                                                                2. Not Capo. Hump. Or a great taco truck. For those who know and love food, money is not the deciding issue.

                                                                                  1. I'll throw in a new and different idea -- with the sunsets getting later, how about a dinner (has to be a Saturday night) at The Restaurant at the Getty? Unbeatable view, better food and service than she might expect, and it is a place well worth checking out for the architecture and gardens. The tram and all makes it even more unique and fun.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: nosh

                                                                                      The Getty is a very good idea. I'll remember that the next time I play host to my East coast friends and relatives. New Yorkers think they're so darn cultured and all.

                                                                                      1. re: Baron

                                                                                        Agree. I'm a NY'er and I know it is all pretense. Off to SGV to enjoy more of this city's treasures.

                                                                                    2. Hi Mr Taster,

                                                                                      Nice. :) Reading all the responses, if it's really about impressing the trust fund baby cousin with something she doesn't get in Manhattan, if your friend is willing to drive ~20 minutes east from Santa Monica, I'd say Urasawa would be the place to go. It's truly a special dining experience that's one of LA's treasures.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                        but then again maybe she's been to Masa in the Time Warner Ctr, and urasawa will just feel blase to her.


                                                                                      2. I missed the part that your trying to please your friend who is being treated by the cousin. I'll still stick with my suggestion of the Bel-Air Hotel. Take a look at their website:


                                                                                        It's all together a very special place.

                                                                                        1. Mozza, Jiraffe, and Animal have all impressed my foodie guests from NY.

                                                                                          ETA: I just realized these don't really fit your requirements -- sorry.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                            tell your "wealthy manhatanitte" friend to give me money and take me ford's filling station. that would make his trip better


                                                                                            1. re: GrillEmAll

                                                                                              we can go together. i want to roll around on a bed of truffle potato chips.

                                                                                          2. My first thought was Melisse, but why not enjoy something more Californian? My vote would be the back patio of Wilshire. Food is fresh, local and wonderful, and the outdoor patio is lovely. The Bazaar is also a must see for out-of-towners.

                                                                                            1. Seems like its too late now, but this board has failed poor Mr. Taster.

                                                                                              One word...Urasawa.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: 2ndAvenue

                                                                                                You mean the other 6 or 7 posters to this thread that mentioned Urasawa failed somehow (especially given the fact that Mr. T specifically asked for Santa Monica recommendations)? How's that possible?

                                                                                              2. OK, I guess it's time to quell the anticipation and let you know what happened here.

                                                                                                They went to Jiraffe and loved it. I fished for more specific details of my friend's account of the evening but was unsuccessful.

                                                                                                Thanks 1,000x to everyone who contributed to this thread!

                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                1. Chinoise on main street always comes to mind amongst the most impressive- although i have not had the opportunity (read someone else's expense account) for a long time

                                                                                                  Chaya Venice is pretty much up there.

                                                                                                  Have fun

                                                                                                  1. hey mr taster
                                                                                                    too late - but since the thread was bumped...
                                                                                                    i'd say u'sawa or melisse for conventionality.
                                                                                                    I'd also say that saddle peak woudl be a lovely drive and fun.
                                                                                                    If she likes wine, la botte is walking distance, with a GREAT bottle off the list and tell the kitchen to go crazy.
                                                                                                    OR - for scenesters - bottle service at the Viceroy.