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My parents have offered to watch the kids -- are there any great date night restaurants on the west side (santa monica, westwood, etc.)?

Hi there. We're visiting my parents in Thousand Oaks this week, and they have graciously offered to watch our kids so that my wife and I can have a nice dinner out. The trouble is, we don't know the area very well and TO is pretty desolate when it comes to restaurants.

If you had a single night where you and your wife could relax, have great food, and enjoy the atmosphere, where would you go? We are looking for places that are nice but not stuffy, and would prefer newish, interesting food rather than, say, French classics.

I know that's a pretty vague description but we are open to anything and desperate for suggestions. Because of location, we are looking for places in Santa Monica, Westwood, or points North / West of there.

Thanks!

-Sho

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  1. A couple that pop into mind are Gjelina (on Abbot Kinney) and Wilshire.

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    Wilshire Restaurant
    2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

    Gjelina
    1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

    5 Replies
    1. re: mdpilam

      second the WILSHIRE recommendation.

      although i adore the food at gjelina, must say that i have not found the restaurant to be relaxing at all. tables much too close to each other. noise level high. once when i was there with a party of three our tiny table was in a doorway between the patio and the main room. all that said, the food has been terrific.

      1. re: westsidegal

        Third the Wilshire rec. Reserve for the patio, which is pretty and romantic, and you have a great date night! There's also a piano bar next door, Angel's, where you could stop for a drink afterwards if you were up for it.

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        Wilshire Restaurant
        2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

        1. re: mollyomormon

          4th the Wilshire recommendation and agree on Gjelina, love the food, but it is a bit loud unless you're on the patio

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          Wilshire Restaurant
          2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

          Gjelina
          1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

          1. re: budlit

            For sure Wilshire.

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            Wilshire Restaurant
            2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

        2. re: westsidegal

          +3 on Gjelena being super loud. The food is great (so's the coffee) but the acoustics leave a lot to be desired. You might think being wedged into one of the corners would give you some relief but the noise actually gets concentrated there. And the place feels like asses & elbows when they're at 90%+ capacity.

      2. Gjelina is a shared table restaurant, and EXTREMELY loud, you're best off making a reservation, and seeing if you can get a table on your own. I met a first date there last fall and we walked in, sat down, got up and walked out because we couldn't hear ourselves think, much less talk. We wound up going down to a quiet coffee house down the street, not very elegant, but we had a nice long conversation.

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        Gjelina
        1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

        1. Thanks for the rec's so far! Curious that Wilshire had three votes + a few for Gjelina but no other ideas. Is Wilshire just the "go-to" place in that area for this kind of thing, or are there others?

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          Wilshire Restaurant
          2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

          Gjelina
          1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

          7 Replies
          1. re: skuwamoto

            Wilshire has one of the loveliest patios in the city, and the food is really good. Other nice options include Nook, Rustic Canyon, Il Moro (patio), I also agree with Fig (although "stuffier), and love The Tasting Kitchen.

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            Wilshire Restaurant
            2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

            Il Moro Restaurant
            11400 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064

              1. re: westsidegal

                I'm sorry you had just a bad experience there Westside Gal. I know it's not in your local neighborhood, but I hope if/when you try it again you have better food. Nook is very close to my home - so I end up there frequently and generally eat very good food.

                1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                  that fish should have been thrown out.
                  it was made worse by the fact that my date had also ordered the fish.
                  we both sat there moving the food around on our plates, no one eating anything.

                  i don't plan to return.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    seriously, you've posted about this incident tons of times.

                    frankly, i don't like nook either - but some people seem to (to each his own).

                    but i don't understand why you didn't just send the food back, get a refund, leave and go to your one of your other favorites.

                    1. re: nachosaurus

                      because it was a first date.
                      my date had selected the restaurant on the basis of a recommendation by his son.
                      if i had behaved as you suggested, i would have insulted the date and, by extension, the son.
                      that said, the date, who after the first taste also didn't eat another bite of that fish, and moved it around on his plate for the rest of the dinner just as i did, was pretty embarrassed.

                      there is no reason that i can't repeat my dislike of this place if others can repeat their recommendation of it.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        I can totally understand. And you being a a very discerning pescatarian, I would have to think that you will never forget this one. Going back for the pork belly or flatiron steak isn't an option either. :)

          2. I like Westside Tavern, but be warned they do not take reservations ( but I've never had to wait too long) Really good food.
            http://www.westsidetavernla.com/

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            Westside Tavern
            10850 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

            1. for all your criteria, i do think Wilshire is your best bet, but I'll also throw the Tasting Kitchen and FIG into the mix:

              http://www.thetastingkitchen.com/
              http://figsantamonica.com/

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              Wilshire Restaurant
              2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

              1. Have you heard anything about Josie? We think it's excellent. You can see their menu on their website. Nice, understated decor and a quieter environment. On Pico Blvd. and 25th Street.

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                Josie
                2424 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405

                2 Replies
                1. re: Servorg

                  Josie is solid.

                  May I also recommend some more as you travel down the coast:

                  Saddle Peak Lodge - Malibu Canyon, woodsy & lodgey
                  Don't have many Malibu recs, which is a shame, but it's a better bet in the day when you can at least look at the beach

                  Whist at the Viceroy, Santa Monica - has a great patio, I'd dare to say, even better than Wilshire's, really great decor, food's been decent

                  La Botte - SM- delicious, pricey Italian Food
                  Il Piccolo - Venice - also superb Italian, small but just recently enlarged
                  Melisse - SM - a special occasion restaurant, superb food
                  Penthouse at the Huntley - SM - killer view, mixed on food, some say great, others no, but could go for drinks....

                  You will probably get more recs, but that should start you. Enjoy your night out!

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                  Saddle Peak Lodge
                  419 Cold Canyon Rd., Calabasas, CA 91302

                  Wilshire Restaurant
                  2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

                  1. re: Servorg

                    Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas may be a good choice if you're coming all the way from TO.
                    I wouldn't want a TO to SM drive for a date night, as nice as Wilshire is.

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                    Saddle Peak Lodge
                    419 Cold Canyon Rd., Calabasas, CA 91302

                    Wilshire Restaurant
                    2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

                  2. Thanks, everyone! We booked a table at The Tasting Kitchen. I know I said "date", but it seemed a bit more our speed than Wilshire (which also seems great... we'll see if we made the right choice!)

                    There are definitely times when we visit my parents and are not in the mood to drive as far, so we'll keep Saddle Peak Lodge in our back pocket for the next visit.

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                    Saddle Peak Lodge
                    419 Cold Canyon Rd., Calabasas, CA 91302

                    Wilshire Restaurant
                    2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: skuwamoto

                      I'm curious as to what impression you have of Wilshire, as I think that they probably draw similar crowds. I do think the menu at Tasting Kitchen is a much more interesting read, though. Definitely report back! I haven't been since right after it opened but am definitely interested to hear how it's faring.

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                      Wilshire Restaurant
                      2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

                      1. re: skuwamoto

                        Thanks for telling us which you chose. Enjoy your date!

                      2. Sho,
                        Enjoy TTK! It's one of my favorites. FYI, upstairs is a bit quieter but not as good for people-watching. As of Tuesday, the bigoli with lamb is fantastic as is the grilled squid. I have never had a bad dish and the service is top notch.

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                        Sho
                        10658 Riverside Dr, North Hollywood, CA 91602

                        1. Thanks, everyone! We had a great time at TTK. We had a great time strolling through the neighborhood and then had a lovely dinner.

                          We split an appetizer (grilled calamari with avocado and fresno chiles) which was great. Split a pasta which was to die for (tagliatelle with hedgehog mushrooms and some sort of cured pork belly -- I think it was called teso, but I'm having trouble googling that ingredient) and two entrees, which were good, but not as memorable as the starters (cod with chorizo, smashed fingerlings and a saffron aioli, and hangar steak with turnips + balsamic reduction. Now that I am typing those ingredients, I am not sure why I ordered that steak, but it seemed like a good idea at the time).

                          As for why we thought TTK was more up our alley than Wilshire.. I dunno. Perhaps we were duped by the marketing. Between everyone raving about how beautiful the Wilshire's patio was, and how TTK printed their menus with their funky distressed typewriter font, we had the feeling that Wilshire was going for more "fancy urban hip" and that TTK was going for more "edgy I don't care if you like what we're doing, but we like what we're doing."

                          Without being regulars in the SoCal dining scene, we just had no idea, but we had the sense from how they presented themselves that perhaps TTK would be more willing to experiment at the cost of perhaps turning us off.

                          Next time we visit, we'd love to try Wilshire, Gjelina, or any other places that people recommend. Thanks everyone for all your help!

                          -----
                          Wilshire Restaurant
                          2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

                          Gjelina
                          1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

                          8 Replies
                            1. re: skuwamoto

                              I think you're right in your assessment :), I was just curious. I think it's totally fair to say that Wilshire's food tends toward the safer side. So glad you enjoyed it and thanks for reporting back!

                              -----
                              Wilshire Restaurant
                              2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

                              1. re: skuwamoto

                                Thanks for the report and feedback, skuwamoto. You chose well, though Wilshire is also very good, TTK is more experimental.

                                Perhap's it was Tasso?
                                "Tasso ham is a specialty of Cajun cuisine. It is a spicy, peppery version of smoked pork made from the shoulder butt. In this case, "ham" is a misnomer, since tasso is not made from the hind leg of a pig. This cut is typically fatty and, because the muscle is constantly used by the animal, has a great deal of flavor. "
                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasso_ham

                                -----
                                Wilshire Restaurant
                                2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

                                1. re: Ciao Bob

                                  Nope, not tasso. Or at least I'm 100% sure that the menu didn't print it as "tasso" because I know that ingredient, and I distinctly remember having to ask the server to explain what "teso" was to make sure that we weren't going to be eating something we'd rather not eat! :-)

                                  1. re: skuwamoto

                                    Its tesa. A type of flat pancetta. And that dish at TTK is delicious.

                                    1. re: citizenx

                                      I ended up going to The Yard in Santa Monica this weekend. I was just expecting "bar food" and turns out the chef is CJ from Top Chef. My friend and I had the peas with burata and mint. Such a nice twist...Also had this salad with Grilled Avocado. Never had grilled Avocado before. Had the skirt steak which was good but the vegetable dishes really stood out. Oh almost forgot the scallops are quite excellent. Perfectly cooked. Service was extremely friendly and for the price was reasonable. It's on 2nd street near the promenade. Nice change from Burgers and Fries.

                                2. I like Wilshire, but how is Jiraffe--WAS fab.

                                  -----
                                  Wilshire Restaurant
                                  2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404