Destination: California: Los Angeles
Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Steak is among the most comfortable of the top-chef arrivals, meaning restrained in design (pendant luminaires cast a flattering glow) as well as in scale. Any signs of Le Dome, the longtime celebrity haunt it replaces, have been banished. Service is friendly considering the pricey fair, including the requisite Wagyu and Kobe, served in cast-iron pans with sauces and sides of your choosing, and all other possible varieties of steak. Gruyère popovers—hot, cheesy, delicious and the size of baseball mitts—make a surprise appearance. As a preemptive move, they’re served with the recipe.
You enter this gourmet gem through a back alley in a residential neighborhood on the edge of Century City. Once inside, you bask in the restaurant’s sunny, yellow glow. French-born chef-owner Jean François Meteigner, who oversees the place, worked at the classic-French temple L’Orangerie before venturing out on his own. Meteigner caters to local dietary trends, serving his version of classic French cuisine, which is light on the butter and cream. The results are divine vegan soups of the day alongside weekly country dishes, such as beef daube.
In a few short years, owner-chef Suzanne Goin, a 2006 James Beard award winner, has turned this small place into one of the city’s most popular dining destinations. You sit down to a bowl of toasted almonds dripping in olive oil, along with French green olives (lucques), then enjoy seasonal California cooking. The $40 Sunday-night three-course supper (with a choice of two entrées, posted online weekly) is so popular that Goin wrote a book about it, Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Designer Barbara Barry put her minimalist stamp on the carriage house, which Harold Lloyd once owned. The old brick dining room and open-air patio are equally pleasant.
Suzanne Goin of Lucques turns out small plates of sophisticated fare, including cheeses and charcuterie, at her chic nearby wine bar, A.O.C. (8022 W. Third St.; 323-653-6359; www.aocwinebar.com). Fifty wines can be ordered by the glass or carafe or in preselected flights. If you want to keep it all in the family, head to hubby David Lentz’s tiny, low-key Hungry Cat (1535 N. Vine St.; 323-462-2155; www.thehungrycat.com), in Hollywood, for a late-night, upscale lobster roll or any of the restaurant’s other gourmet takes on Maryland/East Coast seafood.
No matter what anyone says, Mr. Chow still has it after 33 years in Beverly Hills. If you don’t mind the snooty attitude, come for delicious Chinese food and observe some of Hollywood’s movers and shakers while you take in the fabulous decor. Against the creamy lacquered walls are Josef Hoffmann dining chairs, art by Keith Haring and Andy Warhol and dramatic Richard Smith mobile paintings dangling overhead. It’s no surprise that a second dining room was added, in 2006.
For foodies—or anyone really—no trip to LA is complete without a dinner at Osteria Mozza. Following their success with Pizzeria Mozza (next door), Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton (of La Brea bakery) have created a marvelous Italian restaurant that’s wildly, and deservedly, popular. (The place was so packed at 9 p.m., my dining companion and I could barely wedge our way through the door.) The large interior has an upscale bistro ambiance, centered—physically and spiritually—on the huge mozzarella bar. As you peruse the menu, banish thoughts of salad and proceed directly to the über-fresh cheeses. There are more than a dozen picks, each big enough to share, so order several. The incredibly tender and creamy burricotti, for instance, is served on two crostini and topped with roasted radicchio, crisp spiced walnuts, a drizzle of honey and fried rosemary. Or consider burrata with bacon, ricotta with hazelnuts, or bufala mozzarella with pesto. Of course there are fabulous pastas (even a pasta tasting menu), and entrees like gnocchi with duck ragu or cedar-smoked wild salmon. Be sure to try the desserts. Particularly delicious are the bombolini, small doughnuts served with mountain huckleberry compote and vanilla gelato. Osteria Mozza is the kind of place where, before the meal is even over, you are already planning your next visit. Is tomorrow too soon? Reservations several weeks in advance are absolutely essential.
An excellent restaurant in the Frank-Gehry designed Disney Center. One of Joachim Splichal’s outposts, where the gourmet gestures are grand. Think caviar, foie gras and decadent desserts. For those interested in seeing the drama that goes on in the kitchen, cooking classes are offered on Saturday mornings. Tables can be booked online.
There’s something decadent about XIV—pronounced the French way, quatorze—the fourteenth restaurant from San Francisco restaurant star Michael Mina. Maybe it’s the invocation of the Sun King. Or the fact that $95 gets you the “Fourteen from XIV” menu: fourteen mini courses that arrive plated on silver trays. The catch is that everyone in your party must agree on the order (causing a fight between my husband and me) because everyone must eat the same mini course at the same time. Philippe Starck’s decor is crazy fun—half cutting-edge stainless steel, half fake old-world-château flourishes.
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