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Mar 28, 2012 05:14 PM

$500 - Where to splurge?

My SO and I want to splurge on a really nice dinner, courtesy of an unexpected tax refund. We eat out often and like to try new places, but with our budget, our max is usually $100-$150. So being able to spend more is a very rare treat.

Now the question is where to go! Our total budget is $500 - including drinks, tax and tip.

In terms of cuisine, we eat everything. Location can be anywhere in the greater L.A. area. The SO doesn't like super-noisy restaurants where we need to shout, but otherwise, we don't have any constraints.

We're not necessarily looking for dressy (although dressy is fine) - just wonderful food and an enjoyable dining experience.

I've looked at some threads here, and it seems like Providence, Melisse, n/naka, Tasting Kitchen, Hatfield's, Rivera, Spago and The Royce are often recommended. The price range varies quite a bit, though. And some of the full tasting menus are still out of reach for us.

So I guess what I'm asking is, if you had $500, where would you go?

P.S. I'm new to Chowhound and this is my first post. Please let me know if I haven't provided some information or haven't asked properly. Thanks!

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  1. Congrats on your tax return....and your first post! (which, by the way, struck me as perfectly proper)
    My favorite go-to place is Providence. Terrific food and service. Lovely space. I think you'd also have a lovely time at Melisse or Spago. (though I think the tasting menu is really the way to go at Spago....I've had some bad luck a la carte. but maybe i just didn't order well.) I'm sure you'll get lots of different opinions. And then please re-post when you've decided, and let us know where you went and how you liked it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: perk

      +1 for Providence. Go for the tasting menu. Wonderful. You can even splurge on the desert tasting menu too.

    2. I second Providence. I've also liked Melisse, though not so much as Providence. Spago I can take or leave, I think it's kind of boring. I might also consider Saam at The Bazaar for a fun, unusual tasting menu - you'd even have some money left over unless you went wild with wine.

      1 Reply
      1. re: estone888

        I would second the Providence and Melisse recommendations. The Carte Blanche at Melisse ($250) is certainly going to exceed your budget, but it's one of my favorite meals when I'm in LA. That said, I think you'd be able to do the "Ten" without straining your budget.

        As for Providence I've had some really good food there, but the service just doesn't come close to the front of house at Melisse, at least in my experience.

        1. re: kevin

          The math doesn't work out. They have $500 total for the TWO of them. Urasawa is $450 per person.

          Unless someone dines alone and tells the other one about it...

          1. re: J.L.

            Valentino. Put yourselves in the very capable hands of Piero Selvaggio. He will design a wonderful meal and the wines will be superb.

            1. re: J.L.

              laughing out loud.....about one dining alone and reporting back.....

              1. re: perk

                Ha! I just imagined my SO's face in that scenario.

                Thank you all for your suggestions. I think Providence and Melisse are the frontrunners - it sounds like we can't go wrong with either.

                About the tasting menus: Providence has a 10-course one for $130, with a wine pairing for $195. That will take us right to the budget limit with tax and tip. The wine pairing with the Ten menu at Melisse isn't possible, unfortunately.

                I'm torn between the options. We've never done a wine pairing before and it seems like it could make a memorable meal even more so. On the other hand, the Ten menu at Melisse looks wonderful, and I like that a couple courses have choices so we could taste more dishes. But we would then be ordering a single bottle off the wine list.

                Is it worth it to get the wine pairing?

                1. re: Titiany

                  I have had the wine pairing at Providence and it was wonderful, some real surprises. On the other hand I should have taken a taxi. The drive home was, shall we say, interesting. Hard choice.

                  1. re: estone888

                    how about one person gets the wine pairing and the two can share?

                  2. re: Titiany

                    You don't have to go for the full wine pairings. You can ask for a recommendation for say, 2 glasses each which would go with some specific courses or a range of courses. I did that at a 2* once and we had excellent wine and it was cheaper than the pairings offering.

                    1. re: ocshooter

                      I agree. I love the wine pairings at Providence, but it is a lot of alcohol. And the "pared down" selections are also excellent...and would not lessen the experience at all.

                      1. re: ocshooter

                        That's a good idea - thank you. I prefer to try several wines, if possible, but in addition to the cost, the idea of driving home after a a 10-course wine pairing made me nervous.

                      2. re: Titiany

                        The 10 course is enormous. I had the 5 course + foie gras +cheese course and was ridiculously stuffed.

                        Elmomonster did the 9-course and wrote a review:

                2. providence, melisse, and n/naka would be at the top of my list (like most others), and they are all very different experiences (food-wise, service/ambiance... pretty similar). I guess in a nutshell, Providence would be seafood, Melisse is a California take on French, and n/naka is a modern take on kaiseki. What I'm saying is, what you and your SO enjoy the most might depend on your personal preferences for style of food.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Thanks again to everyone for their help. I'd say it's 90% Providence at this point, although I *suppose* I should let my other half weigh in. :)

                    I'll report back after we go - planning to within the next several weeks. Really looking forward to it!