In addition to its beaches, beautiful people and agreeable weather, Los Angeles has been making quite a name for itself lately in the constantly evolving, cut-throat world of restaurant industry. From Roy Choi, the founding father of commercial gourmet food trucks, to Bryant Ng, chef and owner of the wildly successful Spice Table in Little Tokyo, there is no end to the culinary talent that abounds in Los Angeles’ most revered dining hot spots.
dineLA Restaurant Week, which takes place Jan. 21 through Feb. 1, is a 12-day event in Los Angeles that promotes some of the city’s best restaurants. This week of eating and merriment started as a collaboration between the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board and American Express.
Taking notice of the epicurean boom that was occurring in Los Angeles, the partnership created dineLA Restaurant Week, a strategic marketing program to showcase and promote Los Angeles was one of the best cities for fine dining. The first dineLA featured 143 restaurants from all over Los Angeles. Nearly four years later, more than 250 restaurants participate in dineLA, from swanky jazz clubs like Vibrato Grill & Jazz in Bel-Air to the homier, more bohemian restaurants such as Grub in Hollywood.
But how exactly does dineLA work? In order to provide the most enjoyable dining experience, participating restaurants create specially priced, prix-fixe menus for customers. This way, diners don’t have to stress over what to order — all they need to do is pick one dish from the already narrowed-down choices for starters, entrées and desserts. The best part about dineLA? You get all this food at a price lower than what you would usually pay ordering on a normal, non-dineLA day.
However, to navigate dineLA successfully, one must keep a few rules in mind.
First, if possible, avoid the usual suspects such as grilled salmon and Jidori chicken, among others. Though a restaurant might prepare these common dishes brilliantly, dineLA should be a time to get adventurous and let your tastebuds run free. Hostaria del Piccolo in Santa Monica, for example, offers a unique squid ink taglioni served with shrimp and prepared with white wine.
Try to avoid salads. If you want to get the most out of your dineLA experience, watching your figure is out of the question. At ROFL Café in West Hollywood, diners can choose from one of the following as a first course: meatball bottino, mussels with hand-cut fries and the ROFL house salad. The salad might be a healthy option, but the bottino, with meatballs, fresh mozzarella and farm-fresh basil, or the mussels, savory and garnished with saffron onions and tomato-chile butter, are definitely the tastier options.
Don’t order the same thing as everyone else. Since you can’t try everything on the menu, have each person you go with order different combinations from the prix-fixe menu. Abigaile, an American brasserie in Hermosa Beach, offers up to 13 choices for each category and there is no end to how incredible each dish is. Banana curry scallops with mango chutney and coconut-peanut relish, roasted bone marrow with chimichurri, sea salt-and-confit garlic brioche toast and braised lamb-belly poutine with caramelized onions are just a few of the dishes Abigaile has to offer.
Finally, know what’s on the menu ahead of time. If you are a regular at a certain restaurant and plan on visiting that restaurant during dineLA week, prepare yourself for a very different menu. Restaurant Week is a chance for restaurants to experiment and change up their usual style, so plan accordingly.
There are, of course, the restaurants that cannot be overlooked. Rivera in Downtown offers exotic fusion dishes such as xochimilco, a chile-infused chocolate cake with creamy avocado mousse and drizzled with a zesty lime sauce. Meanwhile, Little Tokyo’s Aburiya Toranoko serves fresh, umami-packed dishes such as oysters with ponzu sauce and homemade yuzu sorbet, which makes for a light and satisfying lunch. For a heartier meal, Akasha in Culver City offers a dinner that includes aromatic saffron seafood risotto and pink peppercorn pavlova, a meringue dessert made of Greek yogurt, passionfruit curd and blood oranges. Then there’s the always crafty Bar and Kitchen on Flower Street in Downtown. Offering a $20 lunch, its prix-fixe menu boasts dishes such as parsnip and pear soup with crispy duck prosciutto as well as shrimp and grits with Spanish chorizo ragout.
Not all restaurants serve lunch and not all restaurants serve dinner, but in all cases, reservations are highly, highly recommended. If you plan on walking into a restaurant that participates in dineLA, be prepared to wait at least an hour.
Take these tips and suggestions to heart and dineLA will surely become your favorite time of year.