dineLA Winter 2014 (1/20-1/31) Picks

I know I’m a little late in posting this,  but I was bedridden all of the past weekend, and some restaurants still haven’t posted their dineLA menus online (as of Monday morning). For this season’s dineLA picks, there will be 18 new selections, some of which are classic standbys that I’ve previously failed to acknowledge, as well as some restaurant week rookies that appear to be taking the court by storm. I’ve also tried to include a sentence or two about my reasoning behind each selection, and some random notes scattered throughout the post (about past selections, observations, etc.).

First of all, however, a minor rant. I have no idea if the number of participants is lower than last summer’s, but in terms of the number of options that appealed to me seem much lower, particularly at the lower price points at lunch and dinner ($15 & $25, respectively). Of course, that’s just personal opinion. I’m sure that there are plenty of other options not mentioned here or that I dismissed that would please plenty of others.

Second, there is a group of 6 participants entering at a new dinner price point of $85. These are essentially your fine-dining restaurants that are offering a 4-to-5-course prix-fixe at a discounted price. I thought that this was a great idea, as it gives us a commoners an easier way of approaching these places without necessarily lessening the experience. Also, specifically with Patina/Spago, it eliminates the need for $$$$ restaurants that want to participate to dumb and cut down the menu, all while avoiding the massive crowds that would’ve flocked to the $45 price point.

(all photo credits below belong to Discover LA unless otherwise noted)



The Larder at Burton Way
(American, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11am-5pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– market lettuces, cucumbers, radishes, herbs
– the argentine
– seasonal fruit buckle
Estimated Savings: $9
Notes: pretty standard American fare a la sandwiches and salads that is plentiful in these parts of town, but this is a Goin/Styne restaurant (the original Larder is attached to Tavern in Brentwood, which I previously recommended as a $25 lunch option). At $15, you’re basically getting the salad and the fruit for free – it’s arguably the best deal at this price point, but I’m sure that’s just Chef Goin’s way of getting people to eat healthier (ha).

(American, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– corn fritters
– fried chicken sando
Estimated Savings: $7
Notes: I haven’t heard much about Messhall since it first opened, to the flurry of reviews and blog posts, but their dineLA menu does seem to be a great value (you’re saving almost 50%). And fried chicken? People who know me know that those two words are like aphrodisiac.

Next Door by Josie
(American, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– brandied chicken liver mousse crostini
– sloppy roast pork sandwich, fried rapini, aged provolone
Estimated Savings: $4
Notes: the more casual of the two restaurants by Chef Josie LeBalch, right next door each other (get it?). The menu is actually more gastropub-ish than I expected – I was expecting more along of the lines of The Larder (then again, I’ve never been to Josie, so how would I know?). Assuming the crostini is along the lines of what Freddy Smalls served last dineLA, a $4 savings sounds right. Plus, that sandwich sounds pretty good right about now.

Previous picks: Fundamental LA, TLT Food. It doesn’t look like you’re saving as much at Fundamental this time around (probably only $2 max), but I continue to push it as a great lunch option in Westwood (I’ve certainly missed it since our office moved down to Culver City). TLT Food’s deal is just as good as the last one – just don’t go ordering two veggie tacos, and you’ll win out. As of Monday morning, I still haven’t seen Short Order’s menu online, so I can’t speak of its value.


(American, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sat 11am-2pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– warm quinoa salad
– brick-grilled chicken
– chocolate panna cotta
Estimated Savings: $23
Notes: that is not a typo – you’re saving $23. Sans the panna cotta, all of the dishes on the dineLA menu are on their regular one. Assuming portions are similar, you’re saving a lot of money at this critically-acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant. Dinner appears to be just as good of a value, too. I’m glad I waited until last-minute for the menus, because FIG’s became available online during the weekend. Go. Now.

Little Dom’s
(Italian, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 8am-3pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– rice ball of the day
– poached eggs w/ shrimp, mirliton hash & creole hollandaise
Estimated Savings: $4
Notes: The casual version of Dominick’s, an Italian institution, Little Dom’s doesn’t lack in the classy vibe, but it just does it more comfortably and with a creole twist. I’ve been hearing great things about the restaurant for years, and this might just be way to get me in. Classic Italian + creole touch + breakfast for lunch = quite interesting. Re: the rice ball though: is it just one arancini?

The Pikey (photo credit: Serious Eats)
(British, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:45am-2pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– pig’s head terrine w/ watercress, pickled onions & grain mustard
– grilled trout w/ roast fennel & marinated olives
Estimated Savings: $5+?
Notes: it’s hard to determine actual savings here, because these dishes aren’t on the menu – I basically guessed based on average prices. Normally that’s not a good sign, but in this instance, they actually look as good as the ones on the regular menu, and perhaps even more British gastropub-ish, as the restaurant is such.  Plus, I kind of have this place on my mind, because my ex-coworker who’s a huge food enthusiast just raved to me about it recently.

Previous picks: Lazy Ox Canteen, Mo-Chica. These two have almost identical savings compared to last summer. Lazy Ox’s menu, in particular, is pretty much the same as last time (and pretty much the same in general for a long time), but it is a very good deal. No mention of Sotto, because they’ve discontinued lunch.


(American, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– spanish fried chicken, romesco aioli & chili-cumin butter
– farmer’s lunch
Estimated Savings: $3
Notes: this is the first time I’ve seen AOC doing dineLA, and it’s only for lunch. You actually might save more if you choose the charcuterie + cheese, but you know…fried chicken calls. Save 10% and eat well with sexy people around you. And with this selection, I think I’ve inadvertently featured every Goin/Styne restaurant in my two dineLA features…

(French, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– “porchetta” (+ $5)
– coq au vin
– riz au laut
Estimated Savings: $20+
Notes: bistro fare at fine-dining prices – what did you expect from a Keller restaurant? He’s not going to dumb it down, not even with the Bouchon bistros. It’s a bit difficult to determine actual savings, but I think it’s safe to say that you’re saving $20 during dineLA, which is really good for a $25 lunch. Take those savings and splurge at the bakery.

Drago Centro
(Italian, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– veal carpaccio, crispy parmesan reggiano, toasted capers
– polenta stuffed quail, baby kale salad, barlett pears
– chocolate & olive oil terrine, salted caramel gelato, almonds
Estimated Savings: $10+?
Notes: Drago seems like an excellent place for Downtown workers to grab a power lunch, and dineLA makes it an even better choice. I’m going to guess ~$10 in savings based on average prices on lunch menu, so it’s a very good value.

Previous picks: Rivera remains a good value at this price, at ~$3-8 in savings (and regular menu dishes for the most part). Tavern’s value isn’t as sexy this time around – I estimated $2 max. So maybe no go for this round. As of Monday morning, I still haven’t seen Paiche’s menu online, so I can’t speak of its value. Note: JiRaffe and Vincenti’s dineLA menu are VERY good deals ($20+ in savings each), but they only offer lunch on Fridays.



Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar
(American, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sat 5:30-10pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– pink eggs & ham
– duck wings
– steak & smoked spinach
– strawberry butter tart
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: Blue Cow is like a more sophisticated, grown-up version of Mendocino Farms (same ownership I believe), and the menu reflects that. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard good things about the place in the past when it first opened. And it hasn’t really been in the spotlight since, so call this my dark horse pick – or better yet, my Hei horse pick.

The Corner Door
(American, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 5pm-12am, Fri-Sat 5pm-2am)
Optimal Lineup:
– pappardelle
– smoked mussels
– frozen coconut meringue
Estimated Savings: $15
Notes: I actually went to The Corner Door for dineLA last summer, since it’s conveniently located from my friends’ apartment (and right next to A-Frame and Waterloo & City), and was pleasantly surprised at what I had (particularly the drinks). Instead of a prix-fixe format with 2-3 choices for each course, this time it’s choose-3 of anything on the dineLA menu, choices that basically encompass the restaurant’s entire menu. As long as you don’t just choose the cheapest dish + desserts, double-digit savings await. Buy a drink with that.

Hostaria del Piccolo
(Italian, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 5-10pm, Fri-Sat 5-11pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– costicine
– pollo
– tiraminsane
Estimated Savings: $16
Notes: I’ve been told that the fancier Piccolo has been a great deal during dineLA for years (truffle supplements at no extra cost), but I believe this is the first year little brother(s) is featured. And it’s a great deal, too, at both the Santa Monica and Venice locations. Lunch is just as good re: savings. You’ll be saving money with any combination during both meals, I guarantee it.

Previous picks: Post & Beam is still decent at this price point, saving ~$3-6 this time around. As of Monday morning, I still haven’t seen Lukshon’s menu online, so I can’t speak of its value. Do note that Lukshon has a very good history during dineLA, so I have faith that it’ll deliver once again. And Freddy Smalls is now offering dinner at the $35 price point, which is still an amazing deal (~$10).


Black Hogg
(American, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Sat 6-10:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– pork belly taco
– duck bun
– jerk chicken & coconut rice
– butterscotch custard
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: the range of savings for this Silver Lake restaurant is $4-12, so any combination works really.  I still haven’t been here, but the menu seems to be quite appealing (if not all over the place), especially to those who love meat dishes and an Asian flare to things (we won’t use the “f” word here).

The Gorbals
(American, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Wed 6pm-12am, Thu-Sat 6pm-2am)
Optimal Lineup:
– beets, burrito, sea beans, crispy barley, honey malt vinegar
– coulotte of beef, sweet potato galette, radish, turnip
– sticky toffee pudding
Estimated Savings: $6
Notes: it feels as if The Gorbals has been around forever, and even longer when you realize that Chef Hall won Top Chef in Season 2 (it’s now 11). From what I remember from dinner years ago, it was good, and the restaurant has now been flying under-the-radar for the last few years. But the menu still looks good (think Animal’s nose-to-tail approach with a touch of Jewish/British-Irish), and that sticky toffee pudding is up there with Waterloo & City’s.

(Italian, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Thu 6-11pm, Fri-Sat 6-11:30pm, Sun 5-10pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– polipo
– brasato al barolo
– panna cotta
Estimated Savings: $20+
Notes: another newish trattoria in LA? Gusto, unlike some of the new Italian hotness (see: The Factory Kitchen, Maccheroni Republic), hasn’t really gotten much love from publications and bloggers alike. But the few that have been have said very good things about the restaurant. And now you get to find out for yourself, at a very good price ($20+ in savings!).

Previous picks: Night+Market is again trying some new things during this dineLA season (had the tub hwan a couple of months ago when it was a daily special, and it was amazing), and I’ll most likely be going once again. Waterloo & City remains one of the most consistent performers with regards to savings, and that looks to be the case again this time around. R.I.P. The Spice Table.


(American, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Sun 6-10:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– kurodai sashimi
– branzino
– octopus confit
– chocolate ganache
Estimated Savings: $11
Notes: regardless of its hipster location or wunderkind chef, Allumette is definitely an intriguing restaurant. Menu looks extremely promising – reminds me a bit of Red Medicine in more ways than one. And this dineLA menu, if you go with what I chose for optimal lineup, is actually a better deal than their standard 5-course tasting (that saves you $5).

The Bazaar
(Spanish, dineLA website, website, Mon-Sun 5:30-11:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– “philly cheesesteak”
– jamon serrano fermin
– sea scallops
– seared quail
– “pan con chocolate”
Estimated Savings: $30+
Notes: my opinions are somewhat mixed on The Bazaar. I’ve been twice – once with a group of friends when it felt like we weren’t sexy enough to be seen and heard at such a place and pretty much disregarded, and another time when the food and experience was better. But there’s no denying the savings here, especially if you order a jamon platter. Not sure if they’ll let you double up on it (and you probably shouldn’t anyways, for your health), but you might be able to save as much as $45(!). And all the dishes are from their regular menu, and there are plenty of choices.

(American, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sat 5-10pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– albacore tuna, kumquat & beets, baby gem lettuce, cranberry & avocado vinaigrette, smoked chicken rilette
– salmon creek farms pork, polenta & brussels leaves
– butterscotch panna cotta, lemon souffle tart
Estimated Savings: $20+
Notes: pretty much a dineLA HOFer (that’s Hall of Fame for those who don’t follow sports) at this point, I’ve never given much thought to the restaurant despite working so close to it these past few years. But I’ve heard way too many good things about Craft re: dineLA to not give it a proper shoutout. You’re getting plenty of appetizers/desserts to share in addition to your main, and I heard they’re plenty generous with amuses, etc. as well. Definitely not getting a “dineLA experience” here.

Previous picks: Fogo de Chao, Lawry’s The Prime Rib, and Lucques all remain excellent choices (saving $14, $15, and up to $16, respectively). I would like to mention that the $45 dinner price point is by far the most-stacked during this dineLA season – there are a number of good options. Looking at my spreadsheet very quickly, some are: Petrossian, The Royce, Scarpetta, Scratch Bar, Vincenti, and Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. So yeah, quite a few choices here. Note: Kiriko isn’t doing dineLA this season. It has always been a great value, but I felt that the restaurant always became a shitshow every time – not the food, but the experience, because it’s a small place and everything becomes chaotic. Plus, you shouldn’t want to go to a high-quality sushi restaurant like that and order the least of what they can offer (which is basically what their dineLA menu was like IMO).


(Steakhouse, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Thu 5:30-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30-11pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– maine diver scallop “ceviche”
– slow braised oxtail consume
– pan-roasted maine black sea bass
– dry aged new york sirloin steak
– chocolate decadence
Estimated Savings: ~$40?
Notes: pet peeve about Wolfgang Puck restaurants’ website – they never list prices on the menus. I had to use MenuPages just to roughly estimate that $40 figure, and who knows how outdated those prices are. But I do think that’s the ballpark of how much you’re saving, and at least you’re getting a steak (albeit not wagyu). 5 courses at $85 is pretty damn good at a place like CUT – I spent ~$200/person last time I was there.

(French, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Thu 6-9:30pm, Fri 6-9:45pm, Sat 5:45-9:45pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– naked cowboy oyster
– wagyu beef tartare
– chatham bay cod
– tea smoked & grilled beef ribs
– chocolate, peanut butter & coffee
Estimated Savings: $40
Notes: Melisse had an unofficial dineLA menu at this price point last season, so maybe the $85 price point was partly inspired by the restaurant’s efforts. Therefore, it’s only right to include it here. Like with CUT, I think you could be saving ~$40 here. And the dishes looks like it could be part of the regular menu (that wagyu tartare is actually a +$10 supplement on the regular tasting menu, so that helps).

(French, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Sat 5-9:30pm, Sun 4-9pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– amuse gueule
– american caviar
– wild striped bass
– slow braised kobe shortrib
– valrhona chocolate terrine
Estimated Savings: $20+
Notes: I’m completely guessing here, based on average prices on the dinner menu and of similar-sounding dishes, but I actually came up with a range of $26-35. Patina was always a popular place during dineLA at the $45 price point, and now they get to flex their muscles a bit without having to compromise anything.

The inaugural class of the $85 dinner is small – six restaurants total (the others: mar’sel, Spago, Valentino). All six presumably are great deals, but I didn’t choose these three because the savings for mar’sel and Spago are more ambiguous, and Valentino’s savings are a little less than the rest at ~$15 max. Mar’sel’s savings should be slightly higher than Valentino’s, assuming you don’t choose the “cheapest” appetizers + desserts. I really have no idea how much you can save at Spago, but 5 courses at $85 (exactly the same as CUT) sounds like a deal for the restaurant.

So there you have it – 18 new choices from yours truly. Enjoy these next two weeks!

P.S. no more statement credits for dining out AMEX?!? And I thought cutting down to a single $5 credit for last season was bad enough…

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