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Mar 14, 2012 12:55 AM

One night, get out of jail free card- where to hit?

...been out of the loop on new LA restaurants since giving birth to twins eight months ago. My husband is giving me a get out of jail free card to go out for an evening with my out-of-town sister, who, like myself, really enjoys a great eating experience.

Any new and interesting restaurants we should consider? Would be great to not only get a fun atmosphere, but also some interesting and well done food and drink offerings (a'la Animal) or unique (a'la Alinea in Chicago, where my sister is visiting from, but we'd probably like to not spend quite as much!) There's really nothing we don't eat, and love pretty much all cuisines and types of food. Fancy drinks aren't important, but a nice solid wine list would be great.

We live on the East side of LA, but would be willing to cart ourselves to the Westside for something to shake up my mommyfied, cheerio-laden, pureed everything existence as of late.

Thanks in advance!!!!!

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  1. First of all, Congrats on the new additions to the ChowFamily! I too, am enjoying the recent arrival of our new ChowPup in the house (also about eight months ago!).

    If you like sushi kaiseki (set course meal, with many cooked items as well as great sushi), then you must try Chef Niki Nakayama's restaurant, n/naka.

    Saam at the Bazaar is another fun option. One can experience Chef Jose Andres' take on modern Spanish cuisine.

    If you want modern Peruvian, then try Chef Ricardo Zarate's restaurant Picca. The mixology at Picca is quite interesting!

    Wherever you go, have a great night out!

    1 Reply
    1. re: J.L.

      Second Picca. Also, below it Sotto is fantastic Italian.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        She certainly deserves it and owes it to herself.

        1. re: latindancer

          Urasawa would be my pick with Providence as 2nd choice.

          5955 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

          Urasawa Restaurant
          218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

      2. Since you mentioned Alinea, I'm gonna recommend Red Medicine. The chef, Jordan Kahn, is an alum of that Chicago resto and created the most impressive dinner I'd had in all of Los Angeles in 2011. That's including the 18 course Truffle menu at LQ@SK and the opening weeks of INK and Picca... We called ahead to see if they could put a set menu together w/ wine pairing and a cocktail to start and what they came up with was sublime. Run, don't walk! And congrats on the new wee little one:)

        1 Reply
        1. re: FranklinJefferson

          +1 on Red Medicine. Didn't realize Kahn had the Alinea pedigree. That explains a lot.

        2. There have been several great recommendations (not personally a big fan of Picca, but others seem to enjoy it). I think you may need to narrow your scope (budget? casual? okay w/ small plates? etc...) a bit to pin down one place; as you can tell, there are plenty of places that serve great food and drinks, especially considering that both of you are open-minded.

          Since you mentioned that you've been out of the scene for the last year or so, here's what's opened since then that I believe is chow-worthy:
          ink, Baco Mercat, Spice Table, Milo & Olive, Sotto, n/naka

          6 Replies
          1. re: andytseng

            Thanks for the recommendations and congratulations! We actually popped out two little future foodies who I am slowly moving from pureed food to... hopefully uni and foie in the not too distant future (hmm. I wonder when little ones can start to eat such good stuff?)

            My sister and her husband loved their experience at Alinea and will be actually going to Next in a few months. Red Medicine would be interesting- but I wonder if she's done the whole Grant A. thing, this would seem similar? Thoughts?

            To Andy's point, I should probably be a little more specific. Budget-wise, I'm not looking to blow the roof off Aschatz style, so probably topping out at $30-40 an entree. Small plates are great, and we really do love all cuisines and are pretty adventurous. While we love our fine dining, the bigger goal is just great, tasty food, and we're not ones to necessarily care about the scene as long as you hand us something delicious. To give you an idea of the role of food in our lives, my sister got married at Spiaggia last fall in Chicago, and I got married at a winery up in Sonoma.

            If it's helpful, seafood is always a top notch choice for us (we grew up in the Mid-Atlantic). No one mentioned Son of A Gun- how does that fall in the list above? Stick with Urasawa?

            1. re: wenster

              As an ex-Chicagoan (4 years, Pilsen/Chinatown/Wicker Park/Bridgeport), 2 things I truly missed were Japanese & Vietnamese food. Actually, save for Thai food (2nd biggest Thai community outside of LA), the dearth of Asian food in Chi-town was rather alarming.

              Urasawa is a $350++/pp, so your budget of $30-40/an entree won't cover. But joints such as Mori/Kiyokawa/Kiriko/ad nausea is/was pretty hard to match in Chicago (at least as of '07). I mean, there's Katsu, and then what?

              1. re: wenster

                Urasawa is out of your price range. n/naka is sometimes referred to as Urasawa-like without the hefty price tag, and since your profile lists sushi as your favorite comfort food (4 out of 5 times), n/naka should still be in your final list of candidates.

                Our 8-month old Chowpup is exploring the glory that is jamon iberico de bellota in Madrid as we speak...

                1. re: wenster

                  Congrats on your Chowhoundettes. Were it me for my night off, l might go for sleep. l am with Porthos on Red Medicine. Congee with Uni most exciting dish in years. Far less eccentric than Alinea but a true WOW.

                  1. re: wenster

                    Per the Manifesto on the Red Medicine website: "Red Medicine is a restaurant that we envisioned while opening restaurants for Michael Mina. Conceived after 18-hour shifts in the restaurants, at 3 in the morning, usually at some dive in Chinatown, over steaming bowls of pho. The lack of sleep, partial apathy, and blurred vision are all symptoms to expect during the stressful time of opening a restaurant. We always needed some sort of medicine to cure our ails during the last few moments of freedom, before returning again, hours later. It seemed our cravings always migrated towards Asian, particularly Vietnamese. The smell of mint, cilantro, and peanuts, the radiant warmth of Thai chili, the satisfying richness and funk of fish sauce, the acidic slap in the face of lime. It was as heart-warming to us as our grandmother’s cooking… except, of course, she wasn’t Vietnamese. We are not Vietnamese. We’re not even Asian. Not even close. As nights like this continued, the concept began to take shape. At some point, it became clear what we would set out to do.

                    This is not a traditional Vietnamese restaurant. We are not Vietnamese. Hell, we’ve never even been to Vietnam! Don’t try to compare our banh mi or spring roll with your favorite spot in Westminster that you’ve been eating at since childhood. Ours is likely not better, just different. Our bun cha is not striving to replicate the one that your mother used to make. Hers is better, and next time she makes it we’d love to be over. We are not attempting to create a fusion, nor replicate classics. We are simply inspired by the cuisine itself, and how it makes us feel. This is our homage, our adoration, and our inspiration – this is our 3am dive in Chinatown – our version anyways."

                    In my experience, Red Medicine would be to Alinea as Ad Hoc is to The French Laundry. While the food is visually stunning, the overall Restaurant aesthetic is more industrial with simple tables and chairs and mis-matched serviceware placed in cups on the tables. The food is remarkably complex and nuanced but the flavors themselves are all very familiar... provided you're familiar with Pacific rim food which, it seems, you & your sister clearly are. And the price is nowhere near being as stratospheric as Alinea.

                    Again, my highest recommendation for this place for your GOOJF Night!

                    1. re: FranklinJefferson

                      Then Red Medicine it may be... the votes are solid, and I love the idea of the creation of a restaurant in the midst of bleary post evening shift. Thanks for all the great advice... Urasawa will now be placed high on the list for an anniversary dinner, and- J.L., your Chowpup is such a lucky, lucky little bear. We'll need to explore the beautiful cuisine of Spain with the munchkins very, very soon!