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HELP! Spice Table or other DOWNTOWN restaurant for good food & atmosphere??!!

Hi Chowhounders who know Downtown,

Need help picking a downtown restaurant with great ambiance and good food for this coming Monday night:

1) Not too loud (like Bottega Louie, Mo'Chica);
2) Prefer it NOT to be small-plates concept (like Baco Mercat or Kitchen Table)
3) Any type of cuisine as long as it's good
4) Can be in Arts District/Little Tokyo/Historic Center/South Park...
5) Warm, friendly service always a plus

Thanks a million, Chowhounders!

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  1. Spice Table meets all your requirements except that dishes are meant to be shared. Portions are generous so not quite small plates concept.

    Spice Table would be my vote as long as they are still open. Not sure when they are closing due to that Metro Rail comstruction thing.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Porthos

      Thanks, Porthos! How spicy are the dishes at SPICE TABLE?

      And if my guest does not go for the spiciness, is there a second-place restaurant you would recommend (with a similar vibe)?

      1. re: Liquid Sky

        The flavors are bold but most dishes are not spicy.

        There is also Colori Kitchen for Italian. I haven't been but it gets favorable reviews here.

    2. Drago is very pleasant.

      I'd avoid Spice Table...I've only been once, but it's a small plates/sharing concept. Also, I really didn't like the food - tasted really greasy in a bad way.

      Bestia might be good, but not sure how loud it is.

      13 Replies
      1. re: manku

        Thanks, manku! I had heard that DRAGO is kind of stiff and formal... but I will investigate. Cheers!

          1. re: Thor123

            Thor: Will investigate CHAYA... thanks!

        1. re: manku

          Check out this extensive Spice Table thread. Most people like it: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/771328

          1. re: Porthos

            Cool! And for anyone who has been to SPICE TABLE more recently... would love to hear if there are any standout dishes.

            1. re: Liquid Sky

              What to order at SPICE TABLE:
              - Deep Fried Cauliflower (don't think coating is too thick)
              - Bone Marrow
              - Lamb Belly Satay
              - Kaya Toast (even better than any version I've ever had in Sing and I've been almost everywhere for it there)
              - Beef Rendang
              - Chicken Curry
              - Pig's Tail
              - Cereal Prawns
              - Duck Rice
              - Crispy Quail
              - Kaffir Lime Custard

              Spiciest thing above is the Chicken Curry, but it's not even a wine killer. Things were much spicier when they first opened. Better now.

              DRAGO is a great lunch spot and the pastas are terrific, but I don't love the vibe in the PM unless I'm in the bar watching a game on the flatscreen.

              1. re: revets2

                revets2: Many thanks! The duck rice sounds great. I just hope it's not one of those dishes with tons of rice and very little duck.

                Also, we're more wine people so it helps to know which dishes are VERY spicy versus a little spicy. Much appreciated!!!

                1. re: Liquid Sky

                  Because a good experience is largely rooted in expectation, the duck rice may need explaining. This is not rice topped with large meaty pieces of duck. My last rendition there a couple of weeks ago was fried rice laced with ground duck, duck offal, and crispy fried duck "chicharrones". It's not dominated by rice and it's not dominated by duck. It's a good balance.

                  We, too, are oenophiles. It's a small, solid wine list with some of our favorite pairings being anything from the Wachau, the Txakolina, or a Gruner. If you have to go red, steer towards rose or a lighter body red. Better yet, it has a kick-ass beer list. If you ask, they might put you on the mailing list for the beer pairing dinners. They're great. Nothing has been a major wine killer there, but let your server know about your spice preference.

                  Hope it's a delicious experience for you.

                  1. re: revets2

                    Sparkling rose is our go-to when the the various dishes ordered don't add up to either red or white. I only do beer at Spice Table as we both have mentioned their great beer choices - and because I personally feel beer works far better with most Asian flavors. Does Spice Table ever offer a sparlkling rose?

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      I can't recall if they've ever carried a sparkling rose. Did they carry Albrecht Cremant Brut Rose? My memory fails me. But you're spot on. Beer or rose always seems like the compromise if we're only two because we tend to not order wine by the glass. We've been ordering the Txakolina as the Finca Jakue has been a little hard to find.

                      That would be a good suggestion for them.

                        1. re: Liquid Sky

                          Never had a sparkler in a carafe, but looking into their corkage might be a good alternative....

                        2. re: revets2

                          Don't know if they do/did carry Albrecht, but it's a great value.

          2. I was not too thrilled with my visit to Spice Table last year. Ambiance wise, it is attractive but spoiled by poor lighting

            I thought the beef rendang was good, however nothing else I ate made me want to return, e.g., fried cauliflower (coating too thick), curry chicken wings (same), laksa noodles (pretty standard Malay)

            3 Replies
            1. re: Ernie

              Thanks, Ernie! If you have any downtown recs, would appreciate it.

              1. re: Ernie

                Agree with the lighting issue. My first visit was at 2PM and not even afternoon light helps.

                I found the food to be good to great, but the offerings for dinner are far more interesting. The beer list is excellent as well but IMHO it's not a comfortable space to sit back and enjoy.

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  bulavinaka: We'll be going @ night so darkness is not a problem at all. Would love to hear about the "great" dishes there. Thank you!

                  1. re: RicRios

                    RicRios: Tried C&S before. Had oysters, duck confit... for some reason, nothing stood out or was memorable. Also our portion sizes were really small. Thanks, though!

                    1. Just had another great meal at ALMA. Not open on Monday, though.

                      Forget just in Downtown, SPICE TABLE is one of the best restaurants in all of L.A.! It might not have been to manku's taste, but Bryant Ng is pulling out some of the most creative dishes (elevated SE Asian/Singaporean) in America. Having lived in Singapore and traveled through Asia extensively, some of his dishes are better than you can get in-country.

                      Try the cereal prawns and beef rendang. Those are two dishes I crave when I'm traveling in Europe or South America and hunger for Asian food.

                      It's not a fluke he's one of F&Ws Best New Chefs and I think it was a mistake for James Beard Fdn not to include him.

                      1 Reply
                      1. Don't hear as much about it on this site as I used to but I think Rivera is still a very solid choice for what you're seeking. Have been there for formal dinners and casual get-togethers and it's always been great!

                        5 Replies
                          1. re: FranklinJefferson

                            Been a couple of years for us but Rivera was great. Nice wine list, but the place can get loud.

                            1. re: bulavinaka

                              LOUD seems to be the "in" thing downtown, unfortunately.

                              1. re: Liquid Sky

                                fwiw, nothing "loud" the last time I was there 3 months ago.
                                Of course, I'm a Red Medicine habitue so take that for what it's worth....
                                Seriously, though, no problem with a one on one conversation after 8pm... And I'm well over 40, so...

                                1. re: FranklinJefferson

                                  Thanks, Franklin. Rivera is definitely on our must-check-out list.

                          2. Macherroni Republic was really good in my opinion. It just opened in late 2012 but its chefs/owners have supposedly been doing Italian in LA for 25 years. Definitely worth a shot in my opinion. But then again I also really like Spice Table. Not sure you can go too wrong with that

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: set0312

                              Thanks, set0312! We're going to hit Macherroni at a future date...

                            2. Hit The Parish last night or our first time; very enjoyable, though it might be loud for some.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: a213b

                                a213b: At Parish, are there tv screens everywhere? Besides uber-noise, that's my one pet peeve... I think restaurants should be about people, not screens.

                                Would love to hear about the food and environment at Parish. Thanks!

                                1. re: Liquid Sky

                                  No TVs at The Parish. It's truly one of the coolest set-ups in LA. It's a well-done, beautiful gastropub. It's loud inside with the best tables being in the fireplace room. We love the summer on one of their two patios.

                                  Haven't been to the Parish in about a month, but we were fairly regular there before. We're big fans of Casey's, but the food had not been popping there lately. No fails, just good. Could be that we're a little numb on gastropub and lots of fried food.

                                  If you do go, the fried chicken has been consistently good. The best thing we've ever had there was the frog legs and though it's on the on-line menu, Casey took it off soon after opening. His standards must be must higher than ours because we'd go back for the froggies over and over again. Maybe it's hard to find consistently good fresh frog legs.

                                  The wine list is great and brave. They opened the restaurant with a 1:4 red to white wine ratio and wanted to keep it that way. That's changed, but it's a solid list sans a lot of douchebaggery.

                                  Cocktails are great. If you decide to go somewhere else DT for dinner, even a stop for a cocktail is a great idea.

                                  Leaving Alma last week, driving up Main, I sighed and said, "I love DTLA."

                                  1. re: revets2

                                    I'll just co-sign what revets2 says. I thought it was a lot of fun, and very good all around.

                                    1. re: a213b

                                      Did you notice if the frog legs were on the menu, by chance?

                                      1. re: revets2

                                        Don't believe they were, though I couldn't swear to it.