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If can't get into French Laundry for 50th bday where should we eat in Los Angeles?

FromHomeToRoam Sep 7, 2013 04:17 PM

We live in Southern Oregon. My hubby decided he would like to have dinner at The French Laundry for his birthday which is in early December. I have done my research and see that there is clearly no guarantee that I can get a reservation (see that the best chance is to have a platinum American Express and use their concierge service, but we don't have one and it is $450 to get platinum AE - don't want to spend that much just to have a better chance to get a reservation=).

So, the question is if I can't get into TFL where should we go in LA? We have been to Providence three times and Bazaar once - looking for that type of experience but would prefer to go someplace we haven't been before, though may opt for Bazaar since have only been once before. We will be inviting 2 other couples to join us for the weekend.

We have also been to Gjelina's, Bestia, MBP but looking for something a bit more special for the bday dinner. Suggestions??

  1. sarahbeths Sep 9, 2013 06:58 PM

    My vote is Melisse. I've had the best meals in Los Angeles there. Also it has two Michelin stars. I've heard very mixed things about Providence and so haven't gone.

    Also a tip on the french laundry- if you book a hotel in Yountville they can sometimes get you the reservation. My stepmother got a reservation this way and it wasn't 2 months ahead....

    1. Charles Yu Sep 9, 2013 09:21 AM

      We had a 'side' discussion about TFL on the Toronto Board and this was posted by one of our Toronto hounds:


      1. m
        mover44 Sep 9, 2013 09:01 AM

        I was at TFL about 2 months ago, walked in to see if they had any cancellations (Ha Ha). The manager said they were full, but he did say that there is a private room upstairs that can be reserved up to a year in advance. I believe it seats approx. 8-10.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mover44
          c oliver Sep 9, 2013 10:33 AM

          Well, that sounds like just what OP is looking for. I believe she said about six. And for the difference in price between going to Robuchoun (?sp) she could well afford a surcharge if their party is too small. Certainly worth a phone call.

        2. Charles Yu Sep 8, 2013 05:28 PM

          OP, I would love to help and chip in but am at a lost pertaining to your plan and intention?
          If your party is willing to travel all the way to Napa to dine at TFL why not look at options in the near vicinity or SF area as alternatives? There are so many great restaurants in the SF area. Why LA??
          Anyways, Michelin 3* Restaurant at Meadowood would be a great if not better alternative to TFL? Atelier Gren , Benu, SPQR and my favorite Masa's are all worthy candidates.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Charles Yu
            FromHomeToRoam Sep 8, 2013 05:47 PM

            As I mentioned to someone else who asked that previously, just not really a big fan of SF (sorry), and the weather should be nicer in LA at that time (early Dec.) Plus our daughter lives in LA so she could join us!!

            1. re: FromHomeToRoam
              globocity Sep 8, 2013 09:21 PM

              Thank you for your patience in explaining your reasoning.
              I am....well....nonplussed that SF would have a non fan. Especially someone who can appreciate TFL. But.... Variance makes life exciting. Cheers and good luck on your quest.

            2. re: Charles Yu
              c oliver Sep 8, 2013 06:07 PM

              A CH friend who is a cook and diner extraordinaire said that her dinner at Atelier Crenn was the best meal she'd had in her life!

              1. re: c oliver
                foodiemahoodie Sep 9, 2013 01:50 AM

                I wouldn't go that far, but I really enjoyed my meal there.

                And Chef Crenn used to be local - Santa Monica. Which wasn't bad, just not great.

                She's stepped up her game. Kudos. Tiny place, great service, creative, lovely food.

              2. re: Charles Yu
                Searching4Dunny Sep 9, 2013 08:27 PM

                Atelier Crenn and Saison would be excellent TFL alternatives in SF - however VERY different cuisine and experiences.

                1. re: Searching4Dunny
                  foodiemahoodie Sep 9, 2013 11:44 PM

                  Thoroughly enjoyed Crenn, but I believe Melisse to be better.

                  1. re: foodiemahoodie
                    djquinnc Sep 10, 2013 10:53 AM

                    I def prefered my Crenn experience to my Melisse experince by leaps and bounds. Can't wait to return to Crenn again.

              3. w
                whiner Sep 8, 2013 04:36 PM

                First of all, there are a handful of reasonably comparable restaurants to TFL in Northern CA. There are zero in LA.

                That said, Melisse is excellent and the best we've got in that type of cooking idea.

                I just read that you are considering Saam. Never been, but hear it is nice...

                1. f
                  FromHomeToRoam Sep 8, 2013 03:52 PM

                  Thanks all for your comments and suggestions. I have looked up everything that has been mentioned. Actually, he really liked the idea of Joel Robuchon LV. They don't take reservations more then 60 days in advance either but I'm thinking it will be a bit easier than TFL.

                  Unfortunately, we can't do the last minute cancellation at TFL because we need to plan flights/hotel, etc. plus there is going to be 6 of us, and I think that would be more difficult to come by.

                  For now, I made a reservation at SAAM (we have been once before and did love it) as they don't have a limit on when reservations can be made. On Oct. 6 I'll try to get reservations at either TFL or Joel Robuchon for Dec. 6 and if successful then will plan for flights/hotels accordingly.

                  More suggestions always welcome! My daughter lives in LA so we go down there fairly often.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: FromHomeToRoam
                    brandygirl Sep 9, 2013 05:54 PM

                    I don't remember how far in advance I made our reservations to Joel Robuchon, but I had no problem getting the date and time we wanted. We each ordered the prix fixe menu with two appetizers, one entree, and one dessert for about $200 each, plus we added a cheese course. To be honest, it was really too much food so I would not add the cheese course next time (although I loved their cheese). And considering how full we were, I cannot imagine having their huge tasting menu or their larger prix fixe menu. With wine, the cheese course, and supplemental charges for our more expensive options, I think the bill was slightly over $500 per person.

                    When you make your reservations, be sure to tell them you are celebrating a birthday. Also, if you are not staying at the MGM Hotel, ask if they still have the complimentary limo service.

                  2. r
                    Robert Thornton Sep 7, 2013 11:42 PM

                    Still head up to SF but go to Coi. Incredible, unlike anything you'll get in LA and fun to get out of town. Then do Zuni for lunch on the way out of town. That's what I would want. Easy, romantic trip out of town, amazing restaurant experience, fun hotel with the wife, then a great lunch on the way out.

                    1. m
                      maudies5 Sep 7, 2013 08:50 PM

                      A good friend has managed to score French Laundry reservations 48 hours out. Has worked for her several times. Do not give up!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: maudies5
                        kevin Sep 7, 2013 09:55 PM

                        Is that because of last minute cancellations Maudie ????

                        1. re: kevin
                          maudies5 Sep 7, 2013 10:10 PM

                          J.L. Has a good response. Couldd Be last minute cancellations . Just know that my friend has had at least dozen meals there and always on short notice. Worth mentioning they live in Marin

                      2. wienermobile Sep 7, 2013 08:48 PM

                        Craft is pretty great.

                        1. c
                          cujo Sep 7, 2013 08:21 PM

                          Thomas Keller has an excellent restaurant in Beverly Hills called Bouchon.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: cujo
                            barryc Sep 7, 2013 11:55 PM

                            to be fair, it's a bistro, and the menu reflects that; a lot of stuff that can be cooked days before and reheated, or used/recycled into other recipes. not to say that it won't be expertly executed using impeccable technique, but you're still talking home-style cooking/comfort food for the most part vs. what you might find on the menu at french laundry, which is more about pushing the envelope.

                            bouchon may make the best fried chicken you'll ever have, but it's still just fried chicken.

                            1. re: cujo
                              TripleAxel Sep 10, 2013 12:57 AM

                              Bouchon in Vegas is much much better than the one in LA. Heck, might as well go to Bouchon or Ad Hoc in Yountville instead.

                            2. l
                              la2tokyo Sep 7, 2013 04:38 PM

                              I like Melisse better than the French Laundry

                              22 Replies
                              1. re: la2tokyo
                                foodiemahoodie Sep 7, 2013 05:46 PM

                                Me too. Which is not a criticism of TFL - which is a terrific restaurant and dining experience.

                                Melisse is a closer experience to The French Laundry than Urasawa is.

                                Either "The 10" or Carte Blanche menu should leave you feeling fully celebrated! Have fun and congratulations!

                                1. re: foodiemahoodie
                                  Dirtywextraolives Sep 7, 2013 07:17 PM

                                  Love Melisse, but it is no French Laundry......

                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                    whatsfordinner Sep 8, 2013 01:09 PM

                                    I agree - it's not even close.

                                    The concierge at our hotel in Yountville was able to get us reservations at the French Laundry.

                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                      TripleAxel Sep 10, 2013 12:54 AM

                                      Never had a great experience at Melisse. Food has always been OK, not spectacular. I enjoyed my meals at Providence more, but I would recommend Patina for a more intimate and quieter experience.

                                      Chef Nakayama at n/naka is very accommodating and may be able to swap out the sushi and sashimi courses, but that would affect 1/2 the tasting menu.

                                      1. re: TripleAxel
                                        Dirtywextraolives Sep 10, 2013 10:04 AM

                                        I'm so stoked for my dinner at n/naka this week......

                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                          TripleAxel Sep 10, 2013 02:05 PM

                                          If the former manager/sommelier didn't quit, then you would have had the ultimate dining experience if you were to get the wine pairing. His explanations on the wines and sakes and how they pair with the dishes they accompany is exquisite. Truly enhances the experience. The new person is not very knowledgeable at all....

                                          If you don't get the wine pairing, I'd recommend a bottle of Yuzu Sake, addictive!

                                          1. re: TripleAxel
                                            Dirtywextraolives Sep 10, 2013 02:07 PM

                                            Sounds great, thanks for the advice, will inquire when we go.

                                  2. re: la2tokyo
                                    brandygirl Sep 8, 2013 12:32 AM

                                    I agree with Melisse, which, as far as I know, is as close to TFL as we have in L.A. I've been to TFL a couple of times, and while I loved it both times, I would choose Melisse over TFL because I have some choice in what I order and their food and service is great.

                                    There is only one other restaurant I've been to in the western U.S. with exquisite food and over-the-top indulgence on par with TFL, and that is Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In fact, that's where I went for my 50th birthday, and it was beyond perfect. However, I don't know if you would even consider going to Vegas.

                                    1. re: brandygirl
                                      foodiemahoodie Sep 8, 2013 12:58 AM

                                      Robuchon in L.V. is terrific (been 4 times), but the last time I went I felt the prices were simply too high. Two tasting menus and two of the least expensive wine pairings ended up costing me $1800 with tip.

                                      That's crazy. More than my first two cars and motorcycle -combined.

                                      And there were a few courses that should've been better. I'd love to go again - but not if I'm paying.

                                      1. re: brandygirl
                                        Porthos Sep 8, 2013 05:40 AM

                                        Love Joel Robuchon Vegas. Have been several times. I like it way better than TFL (as good as Per Se). The food is best during fall and winter when truffles are in season. The bread cart, chocolate cart, and wine list are more impressive than the food itself. They also pick you up in a "complimentary" limo.

                                        The tasting at L'Atelier is actually a great deal around $159 and you can request the full Joel Robuchon wine list. The room and lack of bread and chocolate carts make it a less plush experience but it is still very very good.

                                        1. re: Porthos
                                          foodiemahoodie Sep 9, 2013 01:54 AM

                                          Yes, love that bread cart too. I was talking to a baker about that bread cart - we were thinking we could do a bread-only meal. With various butters, oils, cheese. Probably wouldn't catch on in these carbo-phobic times.

                                        2. re: brandygirl
                                          FromHomeToRoam Sep 8, 2013 03:54 PM

                                          Thanks for the Joel Rubuchon recommendation. My hubby really likes that idea. They don't take reservations more than 60 days in advance either but may be easier than TFL. We will give it a try!!

                                          1. re: FromHomeToRoam
                                            la2tokyo Sep 8, 2013 07:34 PM

                                            Robuchon is amazing. Both my wife and I like it much better than TFL, and we have been to both restaurants multiple times.

                                            1. re: la2tokyo
                                              c oliver Sep 8, 2013 08:12 PM

                                              Well, at $1800 I sure as hell HOPE it's AMAZING! What's that? About double or triple TFL? But hey, it's Vegas, baby :)

                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                la2tokyo Sep 8, 2013 08:43 PM

                                                Yeah the last time I was there it was $1500 and I thought that was expensive. It's $435 for the tasting menu now? TFL is $270 including service, but if you add in the caviar and truffle supplements it can get close to the same price. At that price I would consider going to Melisse, ordering the Carte Blanche and spending the rest of the budget on wine, but Melisse wine is not exactly a great deal either.

                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                  Porthos Sep 9, 2013 07:30 AM

                                                  I've been several times and it's usually $500-800 for 2. The bread cart and chocolate cart are so good I prefer the 4 or 5 course prix fixe which runs you $169-189pp. The rest is spent on wines. There are even 2-3 course prix fixe options for less.

                                                  1. re: Porthos
                                                    ilysla Sep 9, 2013 07:38 AM

                                                    Went there once many yrs ago, and our family had the smaller tasting menu. I agree, just fill up on the *phenomenal* bread! Service was impeccable, and I think it'd make a fantastic special b-day meal. They also seemed to have a "patio" area.

                                                    Do they give a complimentary loaves to everyone? (b/c they gave that to us after we dined there)

                                                    1. re: ilysla
                                                      Porthos Sep 9, 2013 04:20 PM

                                                      They'll give complementary chocolate, or madelines, or cakes for the ladies to take home. Never got a loaf of bread though :)

                                                    2. re: Porthos
                                                      foodiemahoodie Sep 9, 2013 09:12 AM


                                                      $435 for the tasting menu.

                                                      2 x $435 = $870.

                                                      Wine pairings are $295, $595 and $995

                                                      2 x $295=$590

                                                      Plus tax. Plus tip.

                                                      That's for the "cheap" wine pairing.

                                                      Here's the a la carte menu.


                                                      For the $127-$250 meals.


                                                      1. re: foodiemahoodie
                                                        Porthos Sep 9, 2013 04:19 PM

                                                        I'm not saying you can't spend $1800 per couple there. I'm saying you can still have a great experience at 1/2 to 1/3 that price.

                                                        1. re: Porthos
                                                          ipsedixit Sep 9, 2013 05:30 PM

                                                          In Vegas, money just doesn't seem all that expensive.

                                                2. re: FromHomeToRoam
                                                  Searching4Dunny Sep 9, 2013 08:24 PM

                                                  Let them know it is a special occasion. Last time I was at Joel Robuchon for my birthday the pastry chef baked a delicious cake for the occasion (in addition to the desserts served with the menu). I felt that was really special.

                                            2. Porthos Sep 7, 2013 04:20 PM

                                              Urasawa. More intimate and more expensive than French Laundry.

                                              In the Japanese vein because LA does that so well: n/naka. More romantic than either one.

                                              I like both better than my meal at French Laundry.

                                              19 Replies
                                              1. re: Porthos
                                                ipsedixit Sep 7, 2013 04:58 PM

                                                +1 for Urasawa.

                                                1. re: Porthos
                                                  FromHomeToRoam Sep 7, 2013 05:07 PM

                                                  Thanks for this suggestion - it looks fabulous and that's exactly the kind of experience we want - tasting menu or omakase!! Sadly, one of the people we want to have join us doesn't eat sushi - I am sure he would grin and bear it, but for that price we want everyone to really enjoy the meal =)

                                                  1. re: FromHomeToRoam
                                                    ipsedixit Sep 7, 2013 05:13 PM

                                                    Look at SAAM, Allumette, or Providence.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                      wienermobile Sep 7, 2013 07:17 PM

                                                      +1 for the Providence Tasting Menu. Best meal I've ever had in Los Angeles.

                                                    2. re: FromHomeToRoam
                                                      andytseng Sep 8, 2013 12:44 AM

                                                      n/naka is very accommodating on that front, if that is something that interests you.

                                                      1. re: andytseng
                                                        foodiemahoodie Sep 8, 2013 12:51 AM

                                                        n/naka is a good choice too - kind of a cross between Melisse and Urasawa.

                                                        1. re: andytseng
                                                          djquinnc Sep 10, 2013 10:51 AM

                                                          Another nod to n/naka. A singular experience. Chef Niki is amazing.

                                                        2. re: FromHomeToRoam
                                                          Ciao Bob Sep 9, 2013 09:11 AM

                                                          I went to Urasawa once with a group of 8, including one who ate only vegetables. No fish, shellfish, or meat - and they accommodated her needs quite nicely. Anyone could debate the "value" of that meal -- the price was the same as the rest of us -- but looking just at the food value, may miss the point.

                                                        3. re: Porthos
                                                          Dirtywextraolives Sep 7, 2013 07:18 PM

                                                          I am so psyched for n/naka...... Glad to hear it is romantic, I was picturing more austere......

                                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                            J.L. Sep 7, 2013 09:04 PM

                                                            Lucky for you, austere is NOT how I'd describe n/naka.

                                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                              J.L. Sep 7, 2013 09:05 PM

                                                              Try staying at a local B&B in Yountville and asking the concierge to work their magic. I've scored 2 TFL tables this way.

                                                              1. re: J.L.
                                                                ipsedixit Sep 8, 2013 12:05 PM

                                                                AMEX Concierge has never failed me -- anywhere.

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                  PeterCC Sep 8, 2013 12:51 PM


                                                                  1. re: PeterCC
                                                                    ipsedixit Sep 8, 2013 04:11 PM

                                                                    Never needed one for Totoraku.

                                                                    AMEX has gotten me last-minute reservations at Luger, and Luger doesn't even accept CC (except their own).

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                      Servorg Sep 8, 2013 04:18 PM

                                                                      Can they get you a table at Rao's in East Harlem, NY?

                                                                      1. re: Servorg
                                                                        ipsedixit Sep 8, 2013 04:28 PM

                                                                        Never tried. And Rao's doesn't really pique my interest for whatever reason.

                                                                        And I don't like to abuse her services (or her staff's). Sometimes the reservations she gets me isn't so much having an "in" (although many times it is), but simply hard-work and diligence on her part (i.e., reservations at Ko). And she gets a nice holiday present from me each year for her efforts.

                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                          Servorg Sep 8, 2013 04:29 PM

                                                                          I've heard it's the toughest table in the US to get, outside of private clubs.

                                                                          1. re: Servorg
                                                                            ipsedixit Sep 8, 2013 04:57 PM

                                                                            If we want to be technical about it, does Rao's even have reservations in the true sense of the word?

                                                                            If the common belief is to be taken at face value, the tables at Rao's are owned like family heirlooms -- passed down from generation to generation. It's sort of like the restaurant version of Green Bay Packers season tickets.

                                                                2. re: J.L.
                                                                  Searching4Dunny Sep 9, 2013 08:18 PM

                                                                  The concierge at the Vintage Inn in Yountville scored us a table at TFL last time my family and I were in Napa. Lovely place to stay as well.

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