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DineLA Summer 2013 (7/15-26)

Couldn't sleep last night and was bored today, so I came up with this... http://oheithere.wordpress.com/2013/0...

I’m not the biggest fan of dineLA in general – dumbed-down menus, overcrowded dining rooms, diluted experiences – all for nominal savings. However, if you dig deep and do your research, there’s plenty of gold to be found. Again, the prix fixe menus are in 3 tiers, depending on the participating restaurant: $15, $20, or $25 at lunch, and $25, $35, or $45 at dinner (I like these price points much more than the $16/$20/$24 and $24/$36/$48 ones from a year(?) ago). Here are some of the menus/deals that had me saying “O Hei There!” along with what I’d order, estimated savings of the things I’d order, and some comments (the promotions run from 7/15-7/26):

LUNCH:

$15

Fundamental LA
Optimal Lineup:
- BLT
- crispy pee wee potatoes
- real vanilla cream soda
- gooey chocolate chip cookie
Estimated Savings: $3.75
Notes: Fundamental LA is one of my go-to lunch spots, so saving even a couple of dollars is extra incentive for me to go. The BLT is my favorite sandwich of the ones I’ve tried so far in 2013 in LA, but you can’t go wrong with any of the other options like the mainstay chicken torta and the pork banh mi (very comparable to Mendocino Farms’ version). Basically, for a couple of bucks more than my usual order (or for free even if I’m ordering a different sandwich), I get a full order of the pee wee potatoes (it’s a side, but you get a big plate of them, and they’re quite good), and a cookie.

Short Order
Optimal Lineup:
- grilled portabello mushroom
- s.o. reuben
- nancy’s chocolate chip cookie
Estimated Savings: $8.50
Notes: The signature burgers are not part of the dineLA menus at Short Order, but the reuben that’s usually available in limited quantities is (along with the other sandwiches on their menu). Add some grilled veggies on the side and a cookie, and this is the best deal at the $15 price point during this period of dineLA promotions. Plus, Nancy Silverton is a national treasure. Not sure if I want to deal with the Farmer’s Market/The Grove crowds, but this deal will certainly alleviate the headache.

TLT Food
Optimal Lineup:
- p.b.a.t. sandwich
- brussel sprouts
- fresh fruit limeade
- lime panna cotta
Estimated Savings: $4
Notes: Assuming you don’t get just the 2 cheapest tacos as your main option, you’re bound to save at least a couple of dollars. I’ve actually never been to TLT Food, but everyone I know who’s been there has sang its praises. Sure, Asian-Latin fusion fast-casual has been done to death now, but TLT (from the people who brought you The Lime Truck in OC) seems to be doing it right, taking a lighter and more refreshing approach. However, that pork belly sandwich (along with the carnitas fries) has my name written all over it.

$20

Lazy Ox Canteen
Optimal Lineup:
- pigs ear chicharrones
- lazy ox burger
- rice pudding
Estimated Savings: $13
Notes: Lazy Ox’s website currently doesn’t have any prices, so the savings are based on the menu from the Centeno days (which could mean you might save even more now). Chefs Centeno and Rocher no long helm the kitchen, and the restaurant has decided to keep humming without an exec chef by continuing to churn out the signature dishes from those days, the 3 most popular ones being on the dineLA menu. I actually haven’t been since the first chef shuffle, but I’m sure most of the food is still good. If those 3 dishes above are close to what I remember, then this menu is a STEAL.

Mo-Chica
Optimal Lineup:
- lobster tartare
- arroz con mariscos
- tres leches cake
Estimated Savings: $10+
Notes: While Mo-Chica is no longer the commoner it once was while located in Mercado La Paloma, it’s still the most affordable one of Chef Zarate’s Peruvian triforce in LA. While they do have lunch specials, the options at lunch for dineLA comprise of some dinner items, as well as select dishes from the other Zarate restaurants (something I see at the 2 other locations as well). I’m kind of surprised there isn’t a supplement charge for the lobster tartare (unless it’s a minuscule amount), but even the cheapest options should yield a few dollars saved.

Sotto
Optimal Lineup:
- grilled pork meatballs
- crispy pork belly porcetto
- cannolo siciliano
Estimated Savings: $12
Notes: I’ve been to Sotto once. It was good, but I wasn’t exactly head-over-heals in love with the regional Italian dishes and the Neapolitan pizzas. Still, I vowed to return eventually – but I’ve failed to do so despite the restaurant being a mile from my work. Normally, I wouldn’t consider the restaurant for lunch (since it would most likely be >$20), but the porcetto sandwich is only available during lunch. And for basically an extra $6, you get the pork meatballs app that I’ve read great things about AND a cannoli which I really liked from my lone dinner. It’s time to go back.

$25

Paiche
Optimal Lineup:
- albacore ceviche
- pacu ribs
- chocolate tart
Estimated Savings: $6
Notes: The estimated savings above is only true until 2:30pm – Paiche has a “happy hour” promotion from 2:30-5pm, where the entire bill is 20%. So if you go after 2:30pm, you’re probably breaking even. But at that time, it’s not truly lunch, is it? Anyways, I’ve been to Paiche a couple of times since its recent opening, and I’ve come away impressed each time. It’s arguably the most ambitious of Chef Zarate’s 3 restaurants, and for the most part it’s seafood-focused. Things will only get better from here on, and dineLA is a great time to give it a shot.

Rivera
Optimal Lineup:
- piquillos rellenos, chorizo, golden raisins, gruyere
- braised kurobuta short ribs, poblano mashed potatoes
- olive oil cake, creme fraiche, strawberry sorbet
Estimated Savings: $9
Notes: By far the most progressive and ambitious Latin American restaurant in LA, Rivera always gave the impression that it was a bit too sophisticated and sexy for the likes of me. But the dineLA menu is a great way to approach Rivera for the first time, seeing how all the items are menu mainstays. At lunch, you can save up to $9 – use some of that money saved on an acclaimed cocktail (unless you have to go back to work after). DTLA workers should run, not walk, here during the promotions.

Tavern
Optimal Lineup:
- farro & kabocha squash salad w/ sage pesto & truffle cheese
- market fish w/ parsnip puree, celery leaf salad & pomegranate
- rocky road chocolate sundae
Estimated Savings: $15+
Notes: I’ve also been to Tavern once. Like with Sotto, it was solid – nothing more, nothing less. Dishes were well-executed with quality ingredients, but just seemed…kind of boring. I would describe the restaurant’s food as a dumb blonde version of the food from Lucques/AOC (since Tavern is also in the Goin/Styne family). But for food of this quality, saving over $15 at lunch is a pretty big deal (the market fish dish is probably $20 by itself – a version of it is $29 at dinner). And it’s within walking distance of my apartment, so definitely worth a try for me at least.

DINNER:

$25

Freddy Smalls Bar + Kitchen
Optimal Lineup:
- chicken liver mousse on toast
- grilled steak panzanella
- white chocolate namelaka
Estimated Savings: $15
Notes: Is this menu really $25? Using the regular menu as a base, the chicken panzanella is $28 and the rocky road namelaka is $8. I will assume that the steak and white chocolate versions are of similar size and value. So yeah, this is a STEAL. The menu is fairly set – the only real choice is between the buffalo deviled egg or the chicken liver mousse on toast, which are both $4 each. Despite living and working fairly nearby, I still haven’t made it to Freddy Smalls yet. But my friends really like it, and a restaurant like this that opens until 2am is always welcome in West LA.

Lukshon
Optimal Lineup:
- hawaiian butterfish
- tea leaf salad
- maryland soft shell crab (+$5
)Estimated Savings: $4
Notes: Most people consider Lukshon’s cuisine as Asian Fusion, but in reality it’s more of a survey course highlighting different SE Asian cuisines that are executed with fine-dining precision. The optimal lineup above is only if you’re going solo - I’d highly recommend the beef & broccoli if there’s at least 2 people (its $10 extra, though since it’s for 2 people consider it +$5). You’d do plenty well (and save around the same amount of $) without the soft shell crab or beef & broccoli though. Plus, it’s by far the sexiest restaurant at this price point, so first dates are welcome.

Post & Beam
Optimal Lineup:
- deviled eggs with house smoked catfish
- fried chicken thighs with black-eyed peas and greens
- sweet potato pie
Estimated Savings: $5+
Notes: I’m a big fan of Southern food, especially fried chicken, so Post & Beam is actually pretty high on my to-try list. The restaurant offers classic Southern fare executed in a more refined format and setting, although it’s still located in South LA. But who says that people there don’t deserve sophisticated food, which is something I believe Post & Beam does do. It’s a bit hard to gauge actual savings, but assuming the fried chicken is similarly priced as the cast iron chicken, a savings of $5 is as good of a guess as any.

$35

Night+Market
Optimal Lineup:
- peek gai hey-ha
- koi tuna
- khao soi haw
Estimated Savings: N/A
Notes: You’re probably not saving any money here, but there’s a reason I recommend Night+Market time after time during dineLA promotions: it’s the only participating restaurant that tries to do something different and new, instead of just providing the same menu for less or trotting out bottom-feeding dishes. It’s kind of like Chef Kris’ test kitchen period, and a few dishes do eventually make their way from dineLA menus to the occasional daily specials. But you don’t want to be the one who missed out on never-to-be-seen-again dishes like goong ten (think Thai shrimp aguachile).

The Spice Table
Optimal Lineup:
- kaya toast
- raw yellowtail
- duck rice
- kaffir lime custard
Estimated Savings: $8
Notes: I’ve been to The Spice Table once, around their 1-year anniversary. Like with Sotto, I liked the food, but not as much as most people in LA, who’ve sung praises of the restaurant. But since then, the praises have only gotten louder, and the new dishes look even more delicious. This is the type of restaurant, like Night+Market, I strive to support, because it’s true to its cuisine, it’s approachable, and most importantly, it’s fun to eat there. Also, I should probably get my next visit in now, because who knows when it’s going to come back after MTA forces the restaurant to move.

Waterloo & City
Optimal Lineup:
- housemade mortadella, quail egg in jelly, “grilled cheese”
- pan roast of beef, short rib spring roll, celery root flan, coleman’s hollandaise
- sticky toffee pudding, vanilla ice cream
Estimated Savings: $10+
Notes: Waterloo & City continues to be one of the most underrated restaurants in LA in my opinion, and one of my favorites. The food is always great, the charcuterie is the best in the city, the happy hour menu is extensive and affordable, and the dineLA menu is always one of the best deals. While no chicken liver mousse on this menu, there’s still a charcuterie option in the mortadella, which I believe is new. Add a great entree and the always-dependable sticky toffee pudding to that, and it’s a great meal at over $10 off.

$45

Fogo de Chao
Optimal Lineup: your starting 5 is playing the entire game – same set menu as regular dinner
Estimated Savings: $13.50
Notes: My usual choice during dineLA week. You’re saving $13.50 (or $10.50 at lunch) for EXACTLY the same meal as you would get without the promotion. That means AYCE of over a dozen varieties of Brazilian BBQ meats, and unlimited access of the extensive salad bar – enough said. Just be aware that everyone else is in on the game as well – you might be forced to wait up to an hour past your reservation time due to all the young people feasting at the finest and most glorious meal of their lives.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib
Optimal Lineup:
- the famous original spinning bowl salad
- special 8 oz. cut of our signature roasted prime ribs of beef and broiled nova scotia lobster tail
- dessert
Estimated Savings: $14
Notes: Like with Fogo de Chao, Lawry’s is a mainstay at dineLA, offering basically their regular offering at a significantly discounted price (I mean, who’s going to go to Lawry’s to eat salmon, right?). I’ll assume the 8 oz. cut is similar in size and price to the California cut (the cheapest and smallest offering), which is $37. Add a $14 lobster tail to it, and what a deal this is. Dessert is fairly standard here, but it is usually $8 on the menu, so consider it free. I just wished there was a supplement option to increase the size of the cut, but that’s because I’m a fatass.

Lucques
Optimal Lineup:
- cucumber and cherry tomato salad with burrata, purslane and zhong
- duck confit with haricot verts, barbara’s greens and bing cherry compote
- chocolate-hazelnut napoleon with fleur de sel and coffee ice cream
Estimated Savings: $18
Notes: Wow. I didn’t realize how much you can save during dineLA promotions at Lucques until I took a closer look. That cucumber and cherry tomato salad? $17 on the dinner menu. The duck confit? $34. Desserts are $12 each. Enough said. None of these dishes are throwaways either – all of them are on the regular dinner menu. Lucques is the crown jewel of the Goin/Styne empire, and rightfully so, as it’s one of the most-acclaimed restaurants in LA, and well-known around the nation – basically the champion of farm-to-table cuisine in the city. I need to go to there.

So there you have it, 3 choices per price point for a total of 18 options selected by yours truly, and there are other good options as well, despite what I say about dineLA in general usually. Maybe I’ll see some of you at one of the participating restaurants, starting Monday.

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  1. thank you for doing all the leg work!

    1. How about this for a value:

      Dhinois on Main for lunch --

      Chicken salad vs. Chinese Chicken salad from the lunch menu $13.50.

      Beef medallion dish vs. Szechwan beef from the lunch menu $29.25.

      dessert has to be $7 or more.

      around $50 for $25, and in my experience portions are regular or close to normal.

      3 Replies
      1. re: nosh

        Not my last experience, a couple years ago, at Chinois.

        Apps were half portions, and mains didn't resemble anything that chinois would likely serve....looked, and tasted, like a lunch special at xian.

        I had an extended discussion with manager, but won't return again.

        1. re: manku

          my last two trips to Chinois for DineLA lunches were within the past year-plus. both times were excellent. if their chinese chicken salad wasn't regular sized, it was sure close. the sliced beef in szechwan sauce wasn't filet, but it was flank steak or similar and quite plentiful and delicious. and another reason i like Chinois is the fine service, and my ordering from the DineLA menu didn't diminish it a bit.

          so i plan to hit them for lunch this cycle again, and Fogo de Chao is in my plans, too.

          1. re: nosh

            don't forget to buy the WP gift cards at Costco...they sell $100 for $80, and are good for virtually all restaurants (except cut in LA, I think)

      2. Great post. I wasn't gonna do dineLA much this time around but your recs are all really tempting!

        1. see you at lazy ox! =)

          1. To spend those kinds of dollars for lunch, and to get what the various lunch specials are being offered, no thanks.
            As to dinner, Lucques is about the only one I would really enjoy.