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Anniversary/Bday/Reunion Romantic Dinner.... where haven't I been? Help!

My birthday is also our 9 year anniversary PLUS he's coming home from a 6 week gig out of town. I want it to be very romantic and have that whole ambiance and not too loud/crowded/sceney, however I am also a (surprise) food snob and want great food and to try a new place. A tasting menu, maybe. No sushi. Willing to drive up to 2 hours away... Are there amazing romantic restaurants in the OC I should consider?

Here's the kind of places that would be great but I've been:

Giorgio Baldi (too cramped)
Riva Bella
Madeo (love)
La Botte (love)
Valentino (love)
Red Medicine (not romantic enough)
Gordon Ramsay (so pretty)
Cut (not a fan)
Tar and Roses (love)
Drago Centro
MB Post
Piccolo in Venice
Bestia (didn't love may need to retry)
Sotto (not romantic enough)
Craft (meh)
Asia De Cuba (love the patio for romance)

Places that seem too silly: Il Cielo, Ivy, One Pico, Little Door ???

Should I be considering: Wolfgang Puck at the Bel Air? Ink. ? Maison Akira? Montage Laguna Beach?

Not interested in: Providence, Steakhouses

Have a reservation for Saddle Peak Lodge but am concerned about the deer heads on the wall and the likelihood of rabbit or venison on the tasting menu which I don't eat....

Feel like I am overlooking something, and my silly google searches for romantic LA restaurants aren't very helpful.

Thanks chows!!!

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  1. WP at Hotel Bel Air is your huckleberry.

    Saddle Peak Lodge is non-game-eater friendly as well (though true food snobs eat game - Hehehe).

    Little Door is a not silly choice.

    Consider also the Restaurant at the Getty Center.

    I bemoan the loss of L'Orangerie, Ortolan and Bastide (a la Ludo Lefebvre's era), cuz they would have been a great fit.


    12 Replies
    1. re: J.L.

      Huckleberry a good thing, right?

      I know, I know about the game. I eat foie though!

      1. re: sarahbeths

        Huckleberry a good thing, right?
        It's a reference from the movie Tombstone.


        I'll log a vote for Hatfield's. Request a booth overlooking the kitchen.

        1. re: Porthos

          Classic line and performance by Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday.


          Almost on par with "Can I move? Im better when I move"
          "Who are those guys?" and
          "You keep on thinking Butch, thats what your good at"


          Best thing about both flicks is the great food they feature. Ofter overlooked.

          1. re: Thor123

            Two of the best culinary westerns ever made! Great clips!!

            1. re: BSW6490

              i wonder if you fine people could help me out.

              i've seen both of those movies about 11,300 times, and i don't remember any standout food scenes in either of them.

              could you please refresh my memory?

              or is this some sort of terrifically ironic joke i'm not getting?

              1. re: linus

                Yes! Need to keep Big Brother from wiping the great clips clean. Although I do recall Butch and Sundance cooking over a camp fire while on the run.

        2. re: J.L.

          Could not agree more..... On all counts.

          Hotel Bel Air is THE most romantic spot in LA, IMHO.

          RIP L'Orangerie, Ortolan & Bastide. Wonder when we get a new place that comes even close to their romantic vibes did.

          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

            thanks! Interested in Bel Air, but thinking that might be $400 plus with tip and booze? I wonder if that's nice to do to my bf! :P

          2. re: J.L.

            Restaurant at the Getty is a wonderful choice, isolated, elegant and good food, but I think they're only open Saturday nights for dinner, no?

              1. re: TripleAxel

                very interesting!! we do love us some Getty

            1. Hmmm...

              Some that might fit your criteria:

              Angelini Osteria
              Le Comptoir
              Osteria Mozza
              The Tasting Kitchen
              Trois Mec

              6 Replies
              1. re: chrishei

                Angelini is my fav restuarant period, but I wanted somewhere new. I will investigate the other suggestions! :) (Been to Vincenti, don't think I can get into Trois Mec )

                1. re: sarahbeths

                  +1 on Hatfield's being a romantic venue that should also satisfy the food snob in you. :-)

                2. re: chrishei

                  Tasting Kitchen is NOT romantic at all. Cramped and noisy as hell. Might as well go over to Joe's Restaurant or Gjelina.

                  1. re: TripleAxel

                    Yeah I know it's not romantic, but it's closer to the OPs criteria than most places IMO. There's probably something wrong with all the choices anyways (Alma too casual, Angelini too cramped, Osteria Mozza too loud, etc).

                    1. re: chrishei

                      Except for Hatfield's. ;-). It's pretty darn romantic (hey, wanna go sometime? j/k!), not loud, has a nice tasting menu, etc.

                  1. re: Servorg

                    Capo and patio at AOC definitely.

                  2. Hatfield's
                    Rustic Canyon
                    Hungry Cat Santa Monica (or not, since you rule out Providence)

                    The Little Door and Saddle Peak Lodge are lovely spaces that definitely fill your romance request. If you have a lot of food restrictions, you should probably just order a la carte instead of a tasting menu - btw the elk at SPL is the best!

                    While ink. has very interesting food, I would not call it romantic at all - the restaurant is painted black, sparse, and what I'd call industrial.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Upstairs dining room at Fig & Olive? FIG Restaurant inside the Fairmont Hotel in SM? Rustic Canyon in SM? The 22-mini course tasting menu in the Saam private dining room inside Jose Andres' The Bazaar (seats 40 and is completely isolated from the noise outside in The Bazaar)? Maison Akira is nice and bistro like, traditional French with a Japanese twist. Wolfgang Puck's WP24 for high end Chinese on the 24th floor of the Ritz Carlton in downtown LA (wonderful views and elegant dining room)?

                      If you don't like steak, you should avoid Saddle Peak Lodge as beef, lamb, venison, rabbit are all on the menu, and yes, you will be staring at dear heads and such hanging from the walls (unless you ask for an outdoor table).

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: TripleAxel

                        Would not eat at Fig & Olive for free.

                        1. re: Thor123

                          I was underwhelmed at Fig & Olive... what a waste of money! It IS a pretty space, though!

                          1. re: The Oracle

                            It is a pretty space, but probably the most f--cked up service anywhere.

                            1. re: The Oracle

                              I didn't like Fig & Olive either when I went... it fell into "scene over food" for me.

                        2. By the way, you may want to consider Asia de Cuba as they're shutting their doors after Labor Day.

                          1. I like the setting at Michael's but the food has been very hit or miss over the years. However, I'm pretty sure they have a new chef (new within the last year?) so maybe it would be worth considering. I also really like the restaurant at the Sunset Marquis, very romantic and the food is solid.

                            1. I guess Maison Akira is romantic in a traditional sense but I find it stodgy.

                              2 Replies
                                1. re: J.L.

                                  Had a lovely meal back ages ago when we lived in Pasadena..... I would imagine, yes, unless its been recently updated.

                              1. How serious are you about the whole 2-hour drive thing? And where are you located?

                                Given your answers above, maybe consider Stonehouse in Santa Barbara.

                                That place could make me fall in love with Roseanne Barr, even completely sober.

                                Wherever you go ... Happy Anniversary and B-day.

                                21 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Leave it to you, my friend, to come up with the ace of spades. Great rec.

                                  You might want to go full board with a room for the night ;)

                                  But that will make Hotel Bel Air seem like a bargain. But it will be worth it.....

                                  (I'm such an instigator....)

                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                    Does this get me an invite to your (upcoming) meatball house party?

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Mais oui, mon petit Chou-Chou, you have always been first on the list..... ;)

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                        "...you have always been first on the list..."

                                        That would be the not totally sober ipse (down on one knee not just to propose to Rosanne, but also for the sake of steadiness) beating the others into his lean position.

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          Sober or not, ipse & I share cigars, liquor, law and great food in common. And we may even have more in common than that.

                                          But, it would not be an LA Chowhound party without you, my bicycling friend.....

                                        2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                          Ok, then, I'll bring the balls.

                                          The meat ... I leave up to you.


                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            We've got humidors, wine, liquor & food up the ying yang... That would be all we would need......

                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                              I'll bring the cigars and a couple of bottles of Talisker.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                You rock. We've got several humidors, but by all means, bring what you like....

                                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                  I'd love to be a fly on the wall at that gathering.

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      My home away from home...

                                      One of the most beautiful places on earth & well worth the drive from LA. R&R is never so good.
                                      Good call, ipsedixit.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Interesting! But I'm traveling to Santa Barbara for two weddings in Sep, Oct. And the lodging there is SO SO SO expensive!

                                        1. re: sarahbeths

                                          It's harvest season in wine country (including Santa Ynez Valley), so the pricing is up accordingly...

                                          1. re: sarahbeths

                                            San Ysidro Ranch is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
                                            The prices are high but it's worth it and there's a reason for it.
                                            I have been staying there regularly for many years....the food is spectacular, the grounds are beautiful and it's just a quiet, calm and peaceful and very private oasis for those who need the privacy.
                                            The service is beyond stellar.
                                            Nothing compares in Santa Barbara or Montecito.

                                            1. re: latindancer

                                              Nothing compares in Santa Barbara or Montecito.

                                              Or LA.

                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                            What a recommendation!!! I will have to go there next time I'm in SB...

                                            My update is that I have two reservations - one for Wolfgang at Bel Air and one at Capo.... and I'm leaning towards WP right now. Thanks for all your help!!! I'm noting all these suggestions for other nights out.

                                            1. re: sarahbeths

                                              If it comes down to those two, then definitely do Bel Air.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  ... and I see we've returned to my original pick (contorting as I try to pat my own back)...

                                                  1. re: J.L.

                                                    Don't hurt yourself.

                                                    The handicap access at Shunji sucks.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      It's walkable for me.

                                                      The drive to Shunji for me takes 2 minutes 42 seconds on surface roads (assuming all the green lights), at just under speed limits. Yes, I've timed it.

                                            2. In the valley...maybe Brandywine?

                                                1. "Have a reservation for Saddle Peak Lodge but am concerned about the deer heads on the wall and the likelihood of rabbit or venison on the tasting menu which I don't eat.... "

                                                  Go to the Saddle Peak Lodge anyway. If you find the heads on the wall of the large downstairs dining room offputting, ask for a table in one of the rooms upstairs -- one is called the Library, and I can't remember what they call the other one. But no deer heads (though there may be a taxidermed bird or two). Note, however, that the large room downstairs -- the one with the deer heads -- is more romantic, especially if you are seated at a fireside table.

                                                  As to your uneasiness about rabbit or venison on the tasting menu: (1) the menu they have posted online today (8/15/13 -- http://www.saddlepeaklodge.com/chefs-...) doesn't have either of those on it; and (2) if one or the other is on the tasting menu when you are there, don't order the tasting menu, order the elk tenderloin off the dinner menu. It is possibly the best piece of meat I have ever eaten.

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: ozhead

                                                    Respectfully disagree. Many easier choices where you won't have to worry about a long drive.

                                                    1. re: Thor123

                                                      Not much of a concern for me, since I live in Topanga Canyon; Saddle Peak Lodge is about a 20- to 25-minute drive.

                                                        1. re: ozhead

                                                          By that count, I suppose none of this should be a concern for you as it's probably neither your anniversary, nor your birthday.

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            Just ozhead's way of saying "Easier for whom?" to Thor123?

                                                            1. re: PeterCC

                                                              Presumably, easier it should be easier for the OP since she is the one who wants to have a big celebration and presumably not have a long drive back.

                                                              1. re: BSW6490

                                                                But it's all relative to where someone lives. And OP specifically said she's willing to drive up to 2 hours. And obviously she's already willing (and interested) to go there if she already has a res there, she just had concerns about certain ingredients and decor (and not distance) that ozhead addressed pretty well.

                                                                *shrug* I don't have a horse in this race. My vote was for Hatfields.

                                                                1. re: PeterCC

                                                                  My bad. Missed that. Take a car or Uber if your not staying over.

                                                      1. re: ozhead

                                                        I will definitely hit up Saddle Peak someday, it's on my to-eat List. I'm just not sure its right for this particular occasion.

                                                      2. Hey Everyone !

                                                        Just wanted to follow up- We went to the Wolfgang Puck at Bel Air. I really wanted ambiance and romance above all else. It was pretty romantic! I loved just touring around the hotel (I had never been) and checking out the swans, the fireplace in the lobby, the gardens, and having a fancy drink at the gorgeous bar before dinner. The bar automatically put the drinks on the restaurant bill and seated us when they were ready.

                                                        The setting was romantic, and the waiter right away checked what kind of occasion we were celebrating. The server brought us samples of different wines just to pick which we would order by the glass! (Almost never happens, always blows my socks off when it does). We ordered the "4 course" tasting menu with one modification (no lamb). I use quotes because you also get an amuse and dessert, so it's more like a 5 course. Plus a great bread basket. We had caviar, a fish crudo, lobster ravioli, Were told we'd be brought beef instead of lamb, either the short rib or the new york steak. By a lucky twist of fate with got BOTH! A bank error in our favor, as they say in monopoly. The server also gifted us a glass of his favorite red to share with the short rib course. It as the perfect amount of wine for us, very sweet. The dessert courses also had one plate reading "Happy Birthday" and one plate reading "Happy Anniversary", and then the full plate of cookies after dessert was a big hit. Not the best meal I've had in LA, but definitely worthy of the occasion and super romantic. Not at all wasted $$$$.

                                                        Thanks chows!!!

                                                        ps. Totally going to Saddle Lodge sometime. And many of your other suggestions....

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: sarahbeths

                                                          Sounds wonderful! So glad we could help with suggestions, and glad it lived up to your expectations! Thanks so much for letting us all know, we really appreciate the feedback!

                                                          1. re: sarahbeths

                                                            Right on! Thanks for reporting back!