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quiet b-day dinner--Brentwood/Santa Monica/WLA/BevHills/Malibu

I am being treated to a b-day dinner and get to pick the restaurant. Looking for quiet, and not-too-frenetic with farm-to-table food preferred. Solid but not obsequious service--I want to be able to enjoy my dinner and the company and relax. FWIW, I am not a big drinker. Romantic ambiance would be nice but nothing too forced or saccharine.

I've been to Craft before and I enjoyed it immensely, so I may want to go back, but I want to consider other options to before making a final decision.

I am wondering about places by the beach in Santa Monica--never been to any of them so I don't know the food. Also--is Capo overrated? What about beach side in Malibu (I know--everyone will suggest Geoffrey's--which very well might work.) Inn of the Seventh Ray could work too though I prefer beach to inland.

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  1. Places like the Hungry Cat in Santa Monica Canyon across the street from the beach or Josie on Pico Blvd. and 25th Street in Santa Monica would both be good choices for what you've outlined in your post. I think Capo is too much money for what it is. Trying to keep the money crowd ensconced away from the Hoi polloi.. ;-D>

    2 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      You know, I like Hungry Cat (only been there once but really liked it). I hadn't thought of it for this particular evening because despite it's location across the street from the beach, since there is no beach view/access (I should have specified "with beach access or view" in my OP, sorry about that!) it didn't cross my mind. But it could possibly work.

      Never been to Josie--only been "Next Door" and I was expecting more--how is the "Main" Josie compared to the "little" one?

      1. re: sablouwho

        We've been to Josie 4 or 5 times over the years and have always liked the food. It's an "adult" restaurant in that it has a very understated, classy decor and the service is professional and the whole feeling is one of low key, understated elegance without being Melisse or Capo in terms of the impact on your wallet.

    2. Tavern is a good choice in Brentwood and would suit your needs very well. I also like the Hungry Cat. Capo is not overrated, The food is truly remarkable. It is, however, quite expensive. All of the above restaurants are definitely "farm to table". I bumped into the chef from Capo last Wed at Farmer's Mkt. in S.M. Also, I know that Tavern and Hungry Cat also buy every Wed in S.M.
      My first choice, given your preferences, would be Tavern Brentwood. It offers everything you are seeking in terms of food and service,

      6 Replies
      1. re: maudies5

        Hi Maudie--I've been to Tavern before but never for dinner (only been for lunch or at the bar). I know their food is good. I just wanted to double check on the noise level--it doesn't get too noisy in the main dining room at dinner? For whatever reason it doesn't make me think "quiet" or "relaxed" when I conjure up images of the (gorgeous) dining room.

        Tavern is not too far from where I live, though, and not having to fight traffic on a weeknight is a major draw!

        1. re: sablouwho

          I've only been there once, but the main dining room was extremely loud. In a table of 6, I could only hear the people next to me and could barely hear the people across the table. The food was very good, but I don't think you'd enjoy it, if you're looking for quiet and relaxed....

          1. re: sablouwho

            I do not consider the Atrium at Tavern to be very loud. It is the main dining room and I find it to be a very serene and romantic atmosphere. The farther you are away from the bar,the quieter. Ask the host for a quiet table. They are nice about those type of requests. I think that current dinner menu is a winner as is the DineLA menu.

            1. re: maudies5

              Then the acoustics are simply poorly managed. The sound isn't deafening, but everybody at the table complained about the noise. It isn't unpleasant, but it definitely impeded group conversation. We were sitting in a corner booth in the main dining room that was the second furthest table away from the bar. When the room is full (as it was that evening), I can't imagine that *any* of tables are "quiet."

              1. re: ilysla

                Despite the fact that I like their food quite a bit and that it is close to home, I'm not considering Tavern for this meal, it's just not at all what I am looking for in terms of atmosphere or relaxation. I don't want to feel crowded. I really want to just chill, enjoy being with my man, and have some reasonable degree of distance from the next table while enjoying some good food.

                For another occasion it would be perfect, but for this one, it just won't work. I would be terribly worried about the noise levels.

                1. re: sablouwho

                  Hungry Cat is one of my favorite restaurants but for what you want I would go to Craft for great food, service, and a romantic ambience....

        2. Forgot to ask--how is Pecorino in Brentwood? I've only been once shortly after they opened.

          1 Reply
          1. Saddle Peak Lodge is not on the beach, and probably not on anyone's farm-to-table list, but I just had a fantastic dinner there on Saturday for a friend's birthday. I hadn't been up there in a couple years, and it was as good as it's ever been. The setting is spectacular, and romantic, in a one of a kind way, and you can actually converse with your dining companions at normal speaking volume. Notwithstanding the game-focused menu, I wasn't in the mood for meat, so I had a farmer's market vegetable salad, which was possibly the most beautiful plate of vegetables I've ever been served, and the wild mushroom agnolotti, also delicious. My friends really enjoyed their corn soup, soft shell crab, pork and elk. Service was excellent, and they actually encouraged us to linger with our coffee and after dinner drinks as long as we wanted. Highly recommend to anyone looking for a special occasion place that really feels special.

            3 Replies
            1. re: cookie monster

              Just looked at SPL menu and decor photos. Looks terrific -- will keep in mind for future occasions as I'm not sure it's a realistic choice for a weeknight given the drive time and the fact that my dinner date already has to drive to from the South Bay just to pick me up. Would probably be great for my date's b-day, though so I will absolutely keep this place in mind for when we need a special occasion place and have more time. Thanks!

              1. re: sablouwho

                Yes, it is definitely a schlep from almost anywhere. Probably best for a Saturday or Sunday. Sunday brunch there is nice as well - you can get the experience with a more reasonable price tag..

                1. re: sablouwho

                  Wonderful Sunday brunch at Saddle Peak with most dishes around $15. Had a great rabbit confit pot pie and a breakfast pizza made with game sausage, thick bacon and egg, plus fresh hot sticky buns. Great service in this one of a kind rustic canyon setting.

              2. n/naka. Chef Niki serves vegetables from her own garden. Definitely quiet, and the food is fantastic... A leisurely paced modern kaiseki meal.

                17 Replies
                1. re: J.L.

                  Oh dear, I see by the replies that I am getting that my OP was clear as mud. Let me provide additional details:

                  No Asian cuisine. (If it is on the menu that's fine, but an all-Asian food menu will not work).

                  We need an a la carte menu as I get full quickly.

                  A drive to the beach (Santa Monica or Malibu) while not necessary, would be nice. Seeing the beach or the water from the restaurant would be nice too.

                  Geoffrey's (which I mentioned myself) is starting to look more appealing despite the fact that I think it's overpriced.

                  Does anyone know anything about The Sunset Restaurant on PCH?

                  What about the hotel restaurants on the beach in Santa Monica?

                  1. re: sablouwho

                    What about Cafe del Rey? No, it's not the beach, but perhaps the marina will suffice?

                    1. re: ilysla

                      CDR might possibly work...have to marinate on it.

                    2. re: sablouwho

                      Sunset is quite good and the views are fantastic, however it is a very long drive from town.

                      Catch at Casa del Mar is excellent, and the views a beautiful - it's ideal for what you seek.

                      Another idea would be Villetta in Brentwood, sit in the courtyard and enjoy.

                      1. re: yogachik

                        + 1 on Villetta
                        +1 on Catch

                        The Sunset is waaaaay out there, if you go early enough to catch the sunset, there's nothing to look at. They were good for brunch but haven't been in a few years.

                        If you're intent to go to a hotel on the beach, go to FIG at the Fairmount then walk across the street to the Promenade or Pier. Best place on the beach that's not overpriced.

                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                          Oh, I don't HAVE to go to a hotel, I just mentioned them because I know that there are some specific hotels that are RIGHT ON the beach, which is what I am kinda tending towards. (Shutters, Lowe's etc--NOT the Viceroy as it isn't a beach hotel IMO). However I am not familiar with their restaurants, however, so I am hoping someone will chime in on the quality and give a recommendation.

                          The Fairmont is "near" but not on the beach, and has neither a beach view nor beach access. If we go to Ocean Avenue, I am going to want "the actual beach" -- wouldn't mind a view of the pier but its' a little seedy/scary so I am not sure I would actually walk over there.

                          I take exercise classes at The Fairmont so I am quite familiar with FIG and often grab an iced tea after class. I like FIG but don't certainly don't consider dinner there to be a relaxing experience, it can get very noisy. Especially at Fig @ 5.

                          Also, my b-day is on a Monday, and FIG doesn't serve dinner on Mondays.

                        2. re: yogachik

                          I would avoid Villetta for the time being. They are in, yet, another state of transition. They are cutting their lunch hours down to 3 days a week and business very very slow.

                          1. re: maudies5

                            Wow--yet another transition at Villetta? I entertained the idea of going there for a hot second and dismissed it because I am not sure I trust them right now. I was there a few months ago and actually had a lovely experience despite the fact that it already had a lot of negative reviews. So go figure!

                            That said, I love love love the space. It is close to home, romantic, etc. I would have to give up going to the beach, of course, if I went there, but if I could be assured of a reasonably good meal here, I might reconsider it.

                            If business is very slow that could be a good thing, though, as depending on where one sits at Villetta it can be very noisy.

                            1. re: sablouwho

                              I definitely would not recommend going to Villetta. Beautiful, romantic space. I believe it is now on a ventilator. Lunch has been scaled back to Thurs-Sun (even with beautiful patio in summertime). They are now on their 3rd or 4th chef. Menu has been considerably dumbed down. The website is a complete mis-representation of the restaurant. This is freaking sad.

                              1. re: maudies5

                                Meanwhile, you can't get a table without a reservation, especially on the weekend. The place is always packed. I continue to have great meals and service there, it's still one of my regular haunts.

                                1. re: maudies5

                                  So sorry to hear about the decline, we had a lovely anniversary meal there last year.

                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                    Update: now on 4th chef, Lunch is Fri, Sat,Sun. No dessert chef. Antonio is now there part-time. No one seems to be managing anything. I have heard from several very reliable sources that Villetta is a complete disaster and the investors are very pissed off. When a restaurant goes thru 4 chefs,..the GM is such a total disaster, that he calls himself a "restauranteur" , you know this place is in trouble. Directly across the street, Farmshop is a raging success, This confirms my belief that Maitre'd's do not necessarily make a good restaurant, I believe in chef/owners.

                                    1. re: maudies5

                                      So true, how sad.... Wonder why business was better at Toscano?

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                        Antonio was not the GM at Toscana. He was a Maitre'd (and very good at his job).He also was not an owner. Thus, his responsibilities were not nearly as daunting as actually managing and owning a restaurant. Business appears to still be bustling at Toscana.

                                        1. re: maudies5

                                          I guess there -could- possibly be a silver lining in the mess that is apparently Villetta...it could fold, and then be bought by someone who (hopefully) knows how to run a restaurant, and then we could all go back and enjoy the gorgeous venue and have some good eats.

                                          All that said, I don't wish the current owners any ill-will, I would just like to see this place actually working as it's such a beautiful and unique location/set-up.

                                          Indeed, the investors must be rather ticked. Though I have heard rumors that a few of them were behaving badly at the restaurant ... letting their kids run amok, taking the best seats and staying for a long time while other people who wanted to come in and pay for a good meal were not able to be seated. Yeah, I know that they literally "owned" the place, but still..."hanging out" and acting like a VIP shouldn't be done at the expense of other customers. IMO.

                                          I guess I've been fortunate, most of the food I've had there has been very good, though I've only been a couple of times.

                            2. re: yogachik

                              Yes, I know that the would be quite a schlep...and I know I said I didn't want to go to Saddle Peak Lodge because of the drive on a weeknight (but also because for THIS occasion, if I am going to be "out there" and far from home, I want the beach).

                              How was the food at Sunset? I can't get much of a feel for it here and Yelp isn't exactly a trusted resource.

                            3. re: sablouwho

                              Malibu Beach Inn has a very good restaurant, get a table on the patio

                          2. I don't think Capo is overrated, at all. The food is outstanding, it's quiet, the atmosphere is what you're looking for and the service is stellar.
                            Afterward, a walk to Casa del Mar for a nightcap, even though you're not a big drinker, and a walk along the beach.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: latindancer

                              I completely agree with latindancer. Capo..definitely Capo. Great food, very romantic, not noisy.

                              1. re: maudies5

                                Oh shoot--I just checked and Capo is "dark" on Monday nights. (My b-day is on a Monday this year and I prefer to have my dinner w/my guy -on- my actual birthday, this especially since I am going to have a lively get together with friends the prior Sat evening).

                                I will have to do Capo another time--sigh.

                                1. re: sablouwho


                                  Sams by the Beach is very much what you are looking for. Outstanding. 27 on Zagat Outstanding service, quiet and romantic.

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      Michaels is a really good choice. Have been for lunch recently and new chef is hitting his stride. The patio ambiance is lovely, the service is excellent. Drinks are generous.

                                      Capo is a great choice as well but sadly closed on Mon.

                                      Hungry Cat is too noisy.

                                      Josie's food is boring. So is Jiraffe's IMO. Sam's is OK but Michaels patio is nicer.

                                      Tavern is another good choice. But I vote for Michaels.

                                      Happy Birthday!

                              2. Love Capo. It would be a great choice.

                                1. I forgot to say that Craft would also be excellent. I forgot because I try to stay west of the 405 on weeknights.

                                  So my final vote is Craft if you want to be East of the 405 and Michaels if West of the 405 and/or if you do not care.

                                  1. Okay--b-day dinner has been rescheduled for tonight (Sun) even though my actual b-day is tomorrow. I've decided I definitely want a "Beach" dinner with a VIEW and a drive to Malibu is do-able but not necessary. Please help me narrow down from the following choices:

                                    -Catch at Casa Del Mar Santa Monica
                                    -One Pico at Shutters Santa Monica
                                    -Geoffrey's Malibu
                                    -The Sunset Malibu
                                    -Malibu Beach Inn (aka Carbon Beach Club? are these one and the same?)

                                    final option is to grab some Cheese/Charcuterie/picnic dinner at Bouchon or Tavern and find a spot on the beach in Malibu, just not quite sure WHERE, beachwise, is a nice place for this?


                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: sablouwho

                                      Just another idea....Nobu has just moved from it's original location to a new beachfront property located at 22706 Pacific Coast Highway Mailbu. Views of the ocean are available from nearly every seat, and outdoor patio seating too. And for dessert Grom Gelato is just down the street (across from the from the old Nobu location).

                                      Saddle Peak Lodge is still my favorite in the area, but alas no ocean views just great food.

                                      1. re: wienermobile

                                        My guy doesn't like sushi so Nobu is out, unfortunately. And SPL will be great for another night, but not tonight.

                                        1. re: sablouwho

                                          Absolutely a no-brainer I think - head to Catch, with great views and great food. Why sit in traffic on PCH heading to Geoffreys or The Sunset?

                                        2. re: wienermobile

                                          I forgot to say--my mom adores Nobu (she only wants to go to the one in Malibu, since she likes the PCH drive and isn't interested in La Cienega), so now that it is in its new digs, it would be an EXTRA terrific place to take her to when she's visiting (she arrives in a few days.)

                                          As for the guy in my life, he has only tried sushi a few times and didn't like it--this was way before I knew him and I don't know what kind of quality he tried. He might be willing to try Nobu sometime, though, because they at least have items that aren't raw. I'm stretching him a bit when it comes to food--he used to think the kind of food I like is "foo foo" but the other day he ordered something that was plated in a stack, and I said "Oh, that looks kind of foo foo" and he said he didn't care because he liked the way it tasted. So...we're making progress!

                                          1. re: sablouwho

                                            So where did you end up going? And happy birthday one day later!

                                            1. re: PeterCC

                                              Hi PeterCC~

                                              Thanks for the b-day wishes and for asking. Unfortunately I wound up feeling not-too-great and as much as I had wanted to go to the beach or drive along PCH (I have to admit--I don't understand the some of advice above suggesting we avoid Malibu restaurants that required driving on PCH when I specifically stated that taking such a drive was something I would particularly enjoy!), on that particular day even the idea of a car ride sounded like more than I could handle.

                                              So we went to West at the Hotel Angeleno for a few reasons: A huge reason and a huge plus was that I could walk there easily from where I live. Also I'd heard that they have a new chef who came over from FIG and they're getting very good reviews on Yelp. Plus they have a preferred/perks card they are giving out to locals (which I definitely am, since I am in reasonable walking distance). And I have events coming up and was considering using their lounge area... And I felt pretty confident that it would be a nice quiet venue (unlike Tavern, which was mentioned above, and which I like though I've never been for dinner and didn't want to do for my b-day since I think it's way too noisy/crowded feeling in the atrium...not the atmosphere I wanted for this particular evening.) Finally, the view at West is killer.

                                              So for all these reasons we went to West. The food was quite good, though I didn't really eat very much since I was just feeling blah. All I ate was the crispy egg with bacon jam appetizer. It was quite good but rich and I didn't have room for much more. My guy had a braised pork appetizer that he really liked (I tried it, and while good, it wasn't my thing as I grew up in a household where pork was verboten so I never really developed a taste for it). Then we split another appetizer--the charcuterie plate. This was also very good.

                                              My mom and step-dad are coming to visit for a week (they arrive tomorrow) and West is next door to where they are staying (the Luxe @ Sunset) so we plan on going back. I look forward to experiencing more of West's food when I am feeling better...based on the food I ate there the other night it is definitely worthy of a return visit. And since my mom really likes Nobu, I will hopefully get in my drive up PCH afterall!


                                              1. re: sablouwho

                                                Hope you're feeling better! Thanks for the report on West, haven't been back in a while. I too, plan on visiting Nobu very soon!!

                                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                  Thank you! Well who knows, maybe we will see each other at West or Nobu in the near future! Be sure to ask the ppl at West for a preferred perks card thingie--they are really reaching out to the local population, which I think is terrific!

                                                  1. re: sablouwho

                                                    Thanks for the update. Hope you are feeling better.