HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >

Help with 1st Wedding Anniversary: Melisse, Spago, Cut, or ?

The Oracle Sep 13, 2011 04:54 PM

Our 1st Wedding Anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks and I'd like to have a memorable dinner.

My recent attempts to plan memorable dinners have been highly disappointing: Mastro's BH (food quality), Drago Centro (long wait for food and portion size), and Lazy Ox (underwhelemed by food and service).

I need your help!

Some thoughts:
-DH pretty much loathes smaller/tasting type portions (recent meal at Drago Centro he found ridiculous (from a price point to portion size perspective)). My #1 hesitancy on Melisse is that it will be a similar experience.
-Anniversary is on a Sunday
-DH is leaning towards sushi- which I'd be okay with - but I'd rather do something more special occasion feel (table linens vs. a sushi bar).
-We are in Pasadena but traveling to the westside is fine
-Would like to spend no more than $300 (with wine/tip, etc.), but am happy to spend less! :)

Other possible contenders (that I have no idea would fit or not): Spago (I've been, DH has not, I'd love another visit), Cut
Not interested in: Providence, Hatfields, Lucques

...so, maybe I've just narrowed it down to Spago, Melisse, or Cut - any thoughts between these? Or somewhere else I should consider?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. J.L. RE: The Oracle Sep 13, 2011 05:11 PM

    Sunday sucks for sushi in L.A.

    Not sure if you can get a decent meal out of CUT at under $300 for 2. Plus, I think it's not as good as Mastros.

    If tasting menus/smaller portions are not his cup of tea, then that eliminates many eateries I would have otherwise recommended.

    Maybe you can try Craft, in Century City.

    2 Replies
    1. re: J.L.
      wienermobile RE: J.L. Sep 13, 2011 05:16 PM

      Craft is closed Sunday nights. The Providence Tasting menu is the best meal I've had in Los Angeles, but it sounds like that's not what you are looking for. I do love the Spago patio.

      10100 Constellation Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067

      5955 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

      1. re: J.L.
        The Oracle RE: J.L. Sep 13, 2011 05:32 PM

        J.L. - out of curiosity - what other eateries would you have recommended?

      2. Porthos RE: The Oracle Sep 13, 2011 06:18 PM

        If you're not dead set on the ambiance and table linens, I'd recommend LQ@SK. It's the most creative, refined, and straight up tasty cuisine in LA these days IMO. At 45pp for 5 courses, this leaves you a good chunk of your budget to bring your favorite wines and room to indulge in their unrivaled cheesecart: 40 types of cheese imported from France, many unpasteurized.

        It's not your typical "anniversry ambiance" but more creative cuisine and a better deal cannot be found in LA.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Porthos
          The Oracle RE: Porthos Sep 14, 2011 08:57 AM

          I had a reservation for LQ@SK a few weeks back and DH was not into the menu, unfortunately. I'll need to save my LQ@SK visit for a dining opportunity without him. Plus, from seeing blog posts and reviews about it, I think the portion size/tasting menu type meal would be a turn off for him. Thanks for the suggestion, though!

          1. re: The Oracle
            Porthos RE: The Oracle Sep 14, 2011 09:04 AM

            In that case, Spago.

            176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

        2. b
          BSW6490 RE: The Oracle Sep 13, 2011 06:49 PM

          Il Piccolino on Robertson just east of BH is great food (Italian), service and ambiance. Highly recomend.

          Il Piccolino
          350 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90048

          2 Replies
          1. re: BSW6490
            maudies5 RE: BSW6490 Sep 13, 2011 07:28 PM

            Spago. You will never regret having celebrated your 1st Anniversary at Spago.

            176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

            1. re: maudies5
              The Oracle RE: maudies5 Sep 14, 2011 08:58 AM

              I was thinking this same thing last night about Spago. It's classic, in my mind... the only thing is it's the beginning of Dine LA week and for some reason our anniversary night isn't available on Open Table today. I'll call them later on and see what's up.

          2. ipsedixit RE: The Oracle Sep 13, 2011 08:09 PM

            If you don't want to fight "Sunday traffic" then maybe The Royce at the Langham?

            The Royce at the Langham
            1401 S Oak Knoll Ave, Pasadena, CA 91106

            4 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit
              The Oracle RE: ipsedixit Sep 14, 2011 09:01 AM

              ipsedixit - I thought seriously about The Royce - I was a little concerned it might be a similar experience as Drago Centro and a tad too stiff and fussy. One of my favorite meals was at The Dining Room (when Craig Strong was there) - do you think the current chef/staff lives up to those older days?

              1. re: The Oracle
                Jack Flash RE: The Oracle Sep 14, 2011 10:27 AM

                We dined at The Royce for our anniversary this year; and we also went last year, when it was still the Dining Room and Michael Voltaggio was at the helm.

                I liked Voltaggio's menu better. It was definitely more memorable, though I had no problem with the service or execution in the current iteration. However, it's still a small plates/tasting menu concept, so it doesn't sound like the right thing for your DH.

                If DH really wants sushi, consider Drago Centro's neighbor, Chaya Downtown. They have quality sushi, but also a full menu. I've eaten there several times and it has been top notch each and every time. Pretty room, too. Oh, and on Sunday nights, they often have a very interesting sounding prix fixe menu for $25/person, and HALF PRICE bottles of wine. I'm almost positive that the prix fixe is in addition to (not instead of) the regular menu.

                Here is a link to a recent Sunday prix fixe menu.

                Drago Centro
                525 S. Flower St., Suite 120, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                Chaya Downtown
                525 S. Flower Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                1. re: Jack Flash
                  The Oracle RE: Jack Flash Sep 15, 2011 03:38 PM

                  Thank you for mentioning Chaya! That is a great deal and may be where we end up (we'll be in downtown in the afternoon). I think I'd still like to go to Spago... but, we'll see. :)

                  176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                  525 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                2. re: The Oracle
                  ipsedixit RE: The Oracle Sep 14, 2011 08:13 PM

                  I think it's better than when Strong was manning the kitchen. But that said, it might not fit your criteria.

                  If your DH wants sushi, but you don't want the "sushi bar" experience, how about Matsuhisa?

              2. w
                will47 RE: The Oracle Sep 14, 2011 01:03 AM


                3 Replies
                1. re: will47
                  J.L. RE: will47 Sep 14, 2011 01:35 AM

                  Am I not reading the original post correctly?

                  n/naka (not Naka) is a completely tasting menu-based restaurant. Isn't that something the OP was trying to avoid? I mean it's a great place, don't get me wrong, but let's try to cater to the OP here a bit.

                  3455 S. Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                  1. re: J.L.
                    will47 RE: J.L. Sep 14, 2011 08:07 AM

                    I did read the post, and did have the same thought. But then, the OP's husband is fine with sushi, which is generally a lot of small courses too, so I thought a kaiseki style meal with a sushi course might be of interest. And, since the concern mentioned was quality of food for cost, I also don't think that will be a problem.

                    1. re: will47
                      J.L. RE: will47 Sep 14, 2011 05:13 PM

                      But the kicker is that n/naka's menu is only about 50% nigiri sushi, and again, Sundays are just not great for sushi.

                      On top of that, the OP used the words "...loathes smaller/tasting type portions..." to describe her thoughts on exactly what Chef Niki would be serving.

                      Again, nothing against n/naka whatsoever (heck I'm scheduled to dine there again on my own dime later this week!). It's just that n/naka is almost the antithesis of the dining style that the OP is looking for, from a portions & pacing standpoint.

                      3455 S. Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                2. r
                  Robert Thornton RE: The Oracle Sep 14, 2011 10:55 PM

                  If you want semi-formal but not stuffy with some good raw fish and not tiny portions on the westside, Il Grano is good.

                  Melisse and Providence are both going to be too stuffy and small portions, if Drago Centro was that way for you.

                  Il Grano Restaurant
                  11359 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                  1. sarahbeths RE: The Oracle Sep 15, 2011 06:49 PM

                    Hi Oracle!

                    I have been to all of your final three and I say definitely Melisse. I went to Cut for a big birthday and was sorely disappointed, and I wanted to like it so much. It really feels like "just meat", not creative and not super yummy to justify those prices. The service was impersonal as well as the atmposphere.

                    Spago I have written a review of on this site...The first time was for Dine LA and the service was bad and food good but not exceptional. I felt they were holding back because of the DIne LA price. The second time food was delicious the 2nd time, but the service was incredibly non-existent. Literally I could get our waiter to visit the table, didn't see him once throughout the tasting. I did, as others suggest, send my review to Spago management and was sent a gift certificate to come back and try again. I will happily do so, but I wouldn't take the chance on a special meal.

                    Melisse was one of my very best meals in Los Angeles, if not the best. The food was fantastic, creative, fun, complex, and delicious. The service was a bit on the regal side, which is, frankly, how it should be when you are paying a lot for a great meal. There were all the little extras that you want from a formal dining experience, like the take home chocolates and the cheese cart. It reminded more of my trip to the French Laundry in terms of elegance and service than any other restaurant thus far in Los Angeles. You want to feel special on this great occasion, and I think this is the perfect place. I really look forward to having an occasion like yours so I can go back!

                    176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sarahbeths
                      The Oracle RE: sarahbeths Sep 16, 2011 09:20 AM

                      sarahbeths - thank you for your comments. I remember your review of Spago (the tasting menu experience & aftermath)... I've been wanting to go to Melisse for the LONGEST time but wasn't sure if it was still up to par. If there ever was a reason to splurge, this would certainly be it. Did you do a tasting menu at Melisse or order a la carte?

                      176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                    2. c
                      cdub RE: The Oracle Sep 16, 2011 09:29 AM

                      I thought that I'd throw out Scarpetta. I had an absolutely briliant meal there recently and wouldn not hesitate in the least bit. Plus, it an elegant setting.

                      225 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                      1. j
                        Jwsel RE: The Oracle Sep 16, 2011 10:07 AM

                        I love Spago and Melisse, but Melisse would be my choice bar none. I've reviewed it a few times here, and it is always exceptional. Cut is a great steak, but Melisse is a special restaurant and perfect for an anniversary.

                        One thing worth clarifying is that Melisse's four-course menu is not a tasting menu (like its 10-course or Carte Blanche is). You get four courses -- appetizer, fish/pasta, meat, and dessert -- that you select from a lot of options (plus you can mix and match from the other menus). They are not tasting-menu portions. Some of the dishes, due to their ingredients, are small sized, e.g., foie gras, caviar egg, but those would be the size at most restaurants.

                        Having said that, I don't see how you could get out of a restaurant like Melisse with wine and tip for $300. The four-course menu is $115 each. Just with tax and 20% tip, you would be at $300 before any drinks. And many of the best items on Melisse's require paying supplements on top of that $115. (For instance, all of their truffle specials right now could be had as part of the 4-course menu for a $50 supplement.) I guess it might be possible to stay around $300 if you did an ala carte dinner, sharing an appetizer or two and only getting one course after that, but it could still be a challenge.

                        As for Spago, as much as I love it, its tasting menu is light years ahead of its ala carte menu. If you are not going to do a tasting menu (with small portions) because DH did not like it, I would not bother with Spago. At the same time, I have always been stuffed after the Spago tasting menu. While the individual menu items are small, I can't imagine anyone complaining about price point to size after 8-10 menu items plus multiple amuse bouche.

                        176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                        1. The Oracle RE: The Oracle Oct 3, 2011 04:10 PM

                          UPDATE: Just wanted to thank each of you for your input. I had reservations for Spago, thought my husband signed off on it, and in the afternoon of our anniversary he informed me that he really didn't like Wolfgang Puck and his restaurant empire (..imagine my shock at this revelation!). I tried to explain to him the why's behind Spago, the flagship aspect, my memorable meals there, etc - but decided it wasn't worth trying to convince him and canceled our reservation.

                          We had attended a concert at Walt Disney Hall and headed back to Pasadena and were going to get drinks. We stopped at the bar at Parkway Grill and ended up staying there for dinner. It was night one of Dine LA and I opted for that, while my husband ordered off the menu.

                          I ordered the cocoa crepe, the whitefish, and the meyer lemon custard. He ordered the tiger shrimp corn dogs and an off-menu rib eye entree.

                          --The cocoa crepe was lukewarm when it was brought out, which affected my overall enjoyment of the dish.... but it hasn't changed one bit. The lobster cream sauce, while heavy, was very flavorful.
                          --The tiger prawn corn dogs were very good. Served 4 on a plate with a thai style chili sauce and mustard.

                          --The white fish entree was a bit of a disappointment. It's been a few years since I've ordered it and I remembered it to be such a wonderfully classic Parkway Grill dish. While the fish was cooked well, the beurre blanc served with it did not complement the fish. The accompanying risotto was also lackluster and fell flat, IMO. The taste also didn't complement the dish - it was a very disjointed dish on all counts. The best part of the entire dish were a few, small, glazed red beets. They were absolutely delicious.
                          --The rib eye, on the other hand, was AMAZING. It was melt-in-your mouth tender and very flavorful. Perfectly seasoned and served with a port wine reduction that was a perfect accompaniment. The dish had a side of garlic fries that were also delicious.

                          --The meyer lemon custard was very tart, as expected, but almost inedibly so. It was served with a raspberry puree with was a nice complement - but the custard was too tart for me to enjoy. The highlight of the night was a scoop of pistachio ice cream served on the side of the dish. It was very good and I would have been happy with a bowl of just the ice cream! We inquired and learned they source the ice cream from Fosselman's. The nostalgia was our wedding cake was from Fosselman's and included pistachio ... so it was a fitting end to our anniversary dinner, in my mind.

                          The damage: 1 Dine LA 3-course meal, 1 app, 1 entree, 1 beer, 1 cocktail, 2 martinis (their lime basil martini is light, refreshing, and delicious, btw!): $154 before tip.

                          Thanks again for all your help!

                          Parkway Grill
                          510 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: The Oracle
                            J.L. RE: The Oracle Oct 3, 2011 05:09 PM

                            Thanks for reporting back! Sorry the hubby didn't keep an open mind about how radically different (and better) Puck's flagship eatery would be compared to the lower-end Puck franchises...

                            I agree: No need to run the risk of ruining your special occasion by forcing it upon him.

                          Show Hidden Posts