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Dinela 2010...is it just me?

Fresser Jan 13, 2010 10:21 PM

Not having yet participated in Dinela, is it just me or do the menus seem uninspired and devised to get the most bang for the buck?
I see a lot of Clam Chowder, Jidori Chx and Panna Cotta's on the menu. Any suggestions from previous years standouts appreciated.

  1. i
    issey Feb 5, 2010 03:51 PM

    Has anyone been to Fogu De Chao for DineLA? It seems to be a good deal with a $13 dollars saving per person for dinner plus a desert.

    I haven't been able to go to as many locations this years as in previous. Unfortunately, the restaurants I went to this year were a disappointment.

    Gordon Ramsey's Boxwood was just ok. The wild mushroom soup w/chestnut was tasty and flavorful but the brown/grey color was not too appealing.

    Cured Salmon Carpaccio with Pickled Grain Mustard, Chive Cream, Crispy Potatoes and Shaved Fennel was the best of the appetizers and would have been perfect w/just a tiny tash of salt.

    The entrees we had were Steamed Brook Trout Stuffed with an Almond Meunière Farce with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes which was cooked well but bland, bland and a little more bland. I had the Steak and Ale Pie with Winter Root Vegetables which was not bad but nothing to write home about. The pie crusts was nice and flakey but the stew itself, was not unique or interesting.

    We got Lemon-Spearmint Crème Brulee with Pistachio Butter Cake and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ganache with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. I really liked the Pistachio cake which had a great tense texture similar to bread. The pistachio flavor was light and it was not over powering sweet.

    Service was not just average and could have been better.....slow to refill water, bread did not come out until entrees etc.

    ON SUNSET AT THE LUXE HOTEL SUNSET BLVD. WAS HORRIBLE! I went w/a friend who wanted to try it. I hate to be negative but I cannot find one redeming thing to mention about the food. I literally spit out a mussel because I couldn't swallow the racid flavor.

    2 Replies
    1. re: issey
      Servorg Feb 5, 2010 04:07 PM


      1. re: Servorg
        issey Feb 5, 2010 04:22 PM


    2. k
      kerosundae Feb 5, 2010 12:07 AM

      I went on a rampage and tried a bunch of restaurants, with the last one being Maison Akira for lunch tomorrow, but I really don't think I'll go.
      The only DineLA resto I tried that was good all around foodwise was the Foundry (service wasn't very good though, although 10000x better than Ortolan), where everything single item on the menu was goooorgeeously prepared. Everyone from my party of 8 was able to try a bite of everything on the menu and everyone loved everything, except the PB&J dessert that my Dear Husband hated because he's French and hence inherently biased against peanut butter.

      Water Grill was good, but dessert were too sweet so the DH had my share.
      Spago was ok, but bored me to tears.
      Ortolan was just horrible, I was sooooo excited to go, and against all the 1-star yelp reviews from the last week and half, I went for a 9pm reservation (and a 10pm dinner). This place is pretty famous for bad service (making it more authentically French?), so I'm not even going to go into how bad it was, but the food was supposed to be excellent, no? The only thing I found palatable was the dessert (passion fruit gelee). I seriously had a hard time swallowing my one bite of the DH's duck torte and could not eat more than 3 bites of my spare rib, so good thing dinner was late so the DH was hungry enough to eat all of my food! Appetizers were very forgetful, other than the wax paper in the DH's ravioli on which I almost choked to death (ok I am being a little over dramatic about choking to death, but why should anyone pay Ortolan prices to eat wax paper?)

      So after Ortolan, I am seriously rethinking Maison Akira--do I want to waste more time/money/disappointment to do another sub-par DineLA menu? forgettable is a word I'm seeing more than a few times from recent yelp and opentable reviews, so I think I'll pass.

      3 Replies
      1. re: kerosundae
        attran99 Feb 5, 2010 07:35 AM

        Quick question...why are you thinking of dumping Maison Akira? I've seen a couple of great nods on the board for it?

        1. re: attran99
          kerosundae Feb 5, 2010 02:37 PM

          I'd been to Maison Akira about 6 years ago and remembered it being excellent, so I know the restaurant is at least capable of great stuff. It's just now looking at some specific DineLA reviews on yelp and opentable (yes, there are some great reviews, but most are just average), it just doesn't inspire me anymore, seems like it's just good and not great. I'm sure if I hadn't just had Ortolan last night, I totally would've gone to Akira, but I don't want to make a drive to have a forgettably ok meal, I'd rather save the trip for a special occasion when I won't limit my choices to the $44 menu. bottom line: I'd rather pay more for better value, today is not the occasion to do that.

        2. re: kerosundae
          karynx78 Feb 5, 2010 09:53 AM


          I agree with you on some of the bad performances these restaurants are putting on. It's like they give you a lesser quality of food and service with these recent dinela visits. I actually canceled my Ortholan reservations after reading alll the bad reviews. I mean when you think about it after including drinks, taxes, and tip you are out over $65 a person. And that;s still a price to pay for a sub par meal. Like I was saying in my previous blogs related to dinela. I"m starting to think it's a gimmick.

          Regarding Maison Akira though. I dined there about a year and a half ago and the meal was superb. Every dish was excuted with elegance and perfection. The service was attentive. I don't know how they will be at dinela but I had a good experience there.

        3. b
          baloney Jan 29, 2010 05:26 PM

          Just did the Spago DineLA menu for lunch today and it was wonderful. I think it's got to be one of the best deals on the entire list. We had the Celery Root & Apple soup and Oxtail Tortelloni to start(both were great and the tortelloni portion was ridiculously generous), Grilled Salmon and Poached Shrimp Salad for the entrees(Salmon was beautiful, crispy edges and that chutney was perfect with it. Shrimp salad portion was again beyond generous), and desserts were lemon cake and banana cream pie. I think the desserts were the only somewhat disappointing items on the menu. The lemon "cake" was pretty much a scoop of lemony ice cream on top of a bit of meringue surrounded by lemon foam which tasted overwhelmingly of overcooked egg. The banana cream pie was somewhat more successful but certainly not your average BCP. I didn't taste much banana and it was weird that the layer of banana was frozen and on TOP of the pastry cream, making it difficult to cut through. Anyway, it was fine though not anything I'd want again. But overall, it was a lovely lunch sitting right by the patio and as usual the same good service I've always experienced going to Spago.

          2 Replies
          1. re: baloney
            a213b Jan 30, 2010 04:24 PM

            How funny, my wife and I went to Spago yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed our DineLA Lunch Menu as well.

            We had the same two starters as you, which were both phenomenal -- really outstanding dishes. I, too, did the shrimp salad, which was done in a greek style and was really light and refreshing -- and such a portion (this goes for all the apps & mains we had)!

            My wife had the Kurobata Pork Chop, which was also supremely delicious ... I would absolutely counsel someone to get it. We had the same two desserts as you, and had the same sentiments -- though I quite enjoyed the BCP, which is abnormal because I don't normally like banana desserts. I think, as you said, there wasn't much banana taste to it, so I was actually quite fond of it, though I do agree it was odd the banana was frozen.

            My only real complaint on the afternoon would be that the service was a bit lacking -- especially for a Michelin 2 star establishment. I am not looking for the pomp and circumstance of The French Laundry, but it would have been nice had we not had to ask several times for napkins (though to his credit the server did initially take the white ones away as we were both dressed in black).

            That plus the fact that nary a mention was made of DineLA when we were seated, and no menus handed to us save their standard lunch menu, I got the impression that we were not going to be the most valued of guests ... though things did change once wine was ordered.

            Still, all that being said, the starters alone were worth the menu, and for $28 pp for 3 courses I find it hard to imagine getting a better deal elsewhere.

            1. re: a213b
              kerosundae Feb 4, 2010 11:51 PM

              funny, I went to spago with 3 other people so I was able to try everything on the DineLA menu and was shocked at how underwhelming the food was. Though it was good, I would never have imagined it to be so uninspired; if not for the $28 menu, I would never go there based on what I had that day.

          2. c
            cls Jan 29, 2010 02:53 PM

            Did Drago's last night and the menu was fantastic. I had baby octopus salad with blood orange, black cod with gnocchi, and the cheese plate.

            1. Deidre7 Jan 24, 2010 08:46 AM

              I agree! I hate to be negative, especially when I'm not as affluent on the restaurant tip as many of you are, but nothing was inspiring. I was glad they had majority of the menu's up b because I would have been highly disappointed in many that I'd have chosen to go to.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Deidre7
                eglbc Jan 29, 2010 11:16 AM

                After spending a good couple hours on the dineLA site, I finally narrowed my choices to fig, josie , cache, and michaels. All the good seating times were taken up at my top choices so Michaels it was.

                We were seated in a awkward corner of the patio (with plenty of prime tables sitting empty the whole night), and had to ask for the dineLA menu. At this point the server mentioned the hanger steak was out. I almost considered leaving (and now i wish i did), as this was the reason I chose this menu over some others. The main menu entrees cost nearly as much as the whole dinela menu, so I couldnt justify ordering that way. This left me with cod or jidori chicken, and no substitution for the hanger steak. I clearly stated my disappointment in having 2 choices, without a substation, and I tried to sweet talk a pork chop swap in there to no avail. Strike1

                I then ordered a Chehalem Pino Gris, of the 600 bottles, of course, this was out. Strike 2

                The quail ap was pretty solid, pan roasted with bacon lardons over some tasty wild mushrooms. This was the highlight of the night.
                The butternut squash soup as as uninspiring as the canned version.

                The black cod entree came out, and I havent been this disappointed in a presentation for quite some time.

                The presentation looked like something out of a bargain cookbook. Pile of pilaf. Cod. 4 cherry tomatoes, and a little aoli. Thats it? Thats what 38$ worth of food looks like?

                Chocolate cake dessert was good, creme brulee was as bland and uninspiring as the cod.

                Grand total for 2 people with 2 cocktails, a "cheaper" wine, and 2 dine LA menus + tip, 238.

                I only wish I took that kind of money to bazaar, spago, or BOA, and got my moneys worth, and discovered a new place to return in the future.

              2. k
                karynx78 Jan 21, 2010 08:12 PM

                I agree. I notice that a lot of them have items that they can prepare ahead of time such as braised shortribs. Nothing really exciting. Makes you have second thoughts of still spending $44 which amounts to about 60 pp with drinks for an uninspired meal. I did however make reservations to Bazaar.. was there last time and thought their dinela menu was pretty good. Be careful they get you on the drinks $15-20 bucks ea. Even though your table is ready they make you wait at the bar so you buy drinks.. kinda tacky if you ask me. When we finally got to our table we notice it was empty the whole time.
                Otholan.. never been and very excited. I think their menu is one of the best this time around.
                Craft ... Menu looks blah.. but thought I'd give it a chance and maybe order some other items off the regular menu..
                Will report back after my meals...

                1 Reply
                1. re: karynx78
                  mollyomormon Jan 22, 2010 11:49 AM

                  A decent and inexpensive way to check out Craft is to just go to Craftbar and order off the bar menu.

                2. a
                  attran99 Jan 19, 2010 10:37 AM

                  I've seen a lot of Kabocha squash/pumpkin on the menus as well. Seasonal, I understand, but there are a lot of seasonal produce to choose from. I wonder why this particular item has hit a lot of the menus.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: attran99
                    mollyomormon Jan 19, 2010 12:40 PM

                    I wuold have to imagine there's a delicate balance between coming up a menu that will entice chowhounds/foodies who dine out regularly and people who might be less adventurous diners but want to try new places and squash/pumpkin is pretty non-objectionable to most people. Plus, I would also imagine cost is a factor.

                    1. re: mollyomormon
                      attran99 Jan 19, 2010 01:50 PM

                      I actually didn't expect anyone to answer...more like a rhetorical question. But I am curious as the ingredient was featured in the Top Chef finale recently. I've never had it myself, and found it curious that the ingredient was hitting so many menus.

                  2. c
                    condementia Jan 19, 2010 09:43 AM

                    Josie's menu does have Jidori Chicken but also offers lots of other tempting items. Although I haven't been there during dineLA, all the other times were quite memorable (I still miss their roasted bone marrow app).



                    Choice of Appetizers

                    Oro Blanco Grapefruit Salad
                    baby lettuces, radishes, tarragon vinaigrette
                    Picpoul de Pinet, Cave de Pomerols, Côteaux du Languedoc, 2008

                    Kabocha Pumpkin and Heirloom Apple Soup
                    roasted vegetable hash
                    Riesling, Reuscher-Haart, Mosel, 2007

                    Crispy Berkshire Pork Belly
                    celery root purée, blood orange
                    Pinot Noir, ‘T. Solomon Wellborn,’ Tantara, Santa Barbara County, 2007

                    Choice of Entrees

                    Josie's Famous 'Campfire' Trout
                    whole boneless trout, green beans, asparagus, tomato, lemongrass nage
                    Sauvignon Blanc, ‘Paragon Vineyard,’ Tangent, Edna Valley, 2007

                    Brittany Salt-Crusted Jidori Chicken Breast
                    Allen Brothers’ grits, pancetta-roasted carrots, baby mustard greens
                    Garnacha, ‘Tres Ojos,’ Bodegas San Gregorio, Calatayud, Spain, 2007

                    Braised Pork ‘Osso Buco’
                    black barley risotto, cavolo nero
                    Syrah, ‘La Coppa,’ Stolpman, Santa Ynez Valley, 2005

                    Choice of Desserts

                    Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding
                    chocolate sauce, whipped cream
                    Brachetto d’Acqui, Braida, Piemonte, 2007

                    Sticky Pecan Pumpkin Cake
                    muscovado sugar ice cream, caramel sauce
                    Banyuls, ‘Rimage’ Cornet & Cie, Banyuls, 2006

                    Heirloom Apple Crisp
                    toasted oatmeal crumble, vanilla bean ice cream
                    Moscato, ‘Vigna Senza Nome’ Braida, 2008


                    (Not included in dineLA Restaurant Week menu pricing.
                    )Appetizer: Seared East Coast Diver Scallops - baby pink turnips, butter-roasted cauliflower, horseradish sauce $5
                    Chardonnay, luli, Santa Lucia Highlands, 2008

                    Entree: Prime ‘Bistro-Cut’ New York Steak - garlic mashed potatoes, candied garlic – watercress – Gorgonzola salad, Pop’s peppercorn sauce $10
                    Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley, 2007

                    1. k
                      kerosundae Jan 18, 2010 01:49 PM

                      yea, most look uninteresting, though I still plan on trying lots of them since I haven't really eaten in LA. I think I'll do:

                      Lunch: Spago, Maison Akira, Water Grill, Michael's
                      Dinner: XIV, Bazaar, Ortolan, Foundry, Grace, Cafe la Boheme.

                      yes, that's a lot of eating... any other good values that stand out? or the list I've mentioned that are not good values? The key here is value, otherwise I'd just go on any random day of the year.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kerosundae
                        Jerome Jan 18, 2010 07:48 PM

                        I enjoyed the Cafe Was menu last time this came around.

                      2. mollyomormon Jan 15, 2010 12:15 PM

                        some are kind of blah, but i think that's typical. ones i think look intersting:


                        while i don't think the menu looks particularly interesting from the descriptions, i'm kind of excited ortolan is on the list this time around.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mollyomormon
                          mollyomormon Jan 24, 2010 04:59 PM

                          two more that I think sound good and have interesting choices (braised tongue? alright!): FIG and Akasha.

                        2. Servorg Jan 14, 2010 05:19 AM

                          I don't know. For instance, take a look at Angeli Caffe's (on Melrose) DineLA http://discoverlosangeles.com/play/di... lunch menu below. It looks pretty creative.


                          Choice of Appetizers

                          Soup of the Day
                          All our soups are vegan
                          Eggplant Croquettes
                          A delicious fried tidbit of roast eggplant puree, parmesan, garlic, herbs

                          Insalata Forte
                          Salad of baby greens, fennel, Belgian endive with garlicky parmesan vinaigrette

                          Choice of Entrees
                          Beet Ricotta Gnocchi with Melted Butter, Sage and Parmesan
                          Butternut Squash Lasagne
                          Rosemary Garlic Lemon Roast Chicken

                          Choice of Desserts
                          Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding
                          Seasonal Fruit Crumble

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Servorg
                            chefjess Jan 15, 2010 11:47 AM

                            i think it's worth giving it all a shot.... especially in these economically trying times, restaurants are trying really hard to put out good food at a reduced price that will please everyone and get people in to try out what they are doing. you never know, you could stumble upon your new favorite restaurant!

                            1. re: Servorg
                              missyp Jan 18, 2010 05:31 PM

                              That Angeli Caffe chicken is outrageously, addictively good, and it's normally around $18. The salad is delicious too. (Was just there last week, hadn't been in several years.) Seems like decent deal.

                            2. westsidegal Jan 13, 2010 10:46 PM

                              i felt the same way.
                              most of the time that fish was an option, it was salmon, salmon, salmon.

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