My Top dineLA Restaurant Week Lunch Picks for Summer, 2013: July 15 – 26

RivaBella’s Nidi di Rondine

This summer’s dineLA Restaurant Week commences today and lasts 10 days – over two weekday stretches and one weekend. And since we’ve had a few of these by now, it’s probably time we got smart on maneuvering through the multitude of menus. The trick with dineLA prix fixe is that it may get people through the door, but it may or may not be quite the deal you had in mind. The danger is that you might just be stuck with fewer, albeit recommended, choices for about the same price you’d normally pay.

May I propose lunch? They tend to be better deals than dinner – often true between both offerings of the same restaurant – because there’s more incentive to increase lunch traffic with dinner reservations filling up more readily. So whether you’ve got a 9-5 in the area or are in a certain neighborhood for an audition or client appointment, there’s probably a great dineLA power lunch strategy wherever you end up.

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The Highlights of Great Chefs of LA

Riso al Salto con Midollo | Saffron Risotto Cake, Braised Beef Marrow, Mustard Greens

We got there kind of late, but there were great hits to be had at Great Chefs of LA. It was overcast and we had just come from another culinary extravaganza – still determined to conquer. The range of bite options varied more than ever – right on down to those Sushi Popper People – but those that showed up at the top of the available selection did a really good job doing so.

Burrata, Housemade Pink Lady Apple Gelato and Parma Prosciutto

What the heavyweights brought to the event often came in pairs. Like Lago’s Bone Marrow and a Burrata dish paired with Housemade Pink Lady Apple Gelato and Parma Prosciutto. I have a hard time arguing with either bone marrow or burrata, but the application of especially the burrata made for a refreshing, mildly-sweet take on the fresh, wet cheese. Autumn savory notes were alive and well in Studio City.

I was also happy to see Michael Shearin and Ian Gresik of Drago Centro there. They presented Michael’s Smitten With Britain – with Tanqueray gin, chives, limes and fever tree tonic – and Ian’s Celery Root Panna Cotta, Pancetta with Basil Crouton. It wasn’t coincidence that they went together so well. I grabbed another Smitten With Britain to wash the rest of my panna cotta down.

Sashimi Plate

Another “solid” was the super generous sashimi plate from Sushi House Unico from the (yes, Italian) Giacomino Drago group. I opted for no rice, though you could have ordered sushi as well. The fish was fresh and though I was full from another food event, I just couldn’t leave the pieces down on the plate.

La Grande Orange was on hand to showcase pizzas (including a truffle topped variety) from their newly-opened The Luggage Room in Pasadena. The Border Grill truck returned this year for another stop. Stefan Richter’s L.A. Farm had hand-dipped liquid nitrogen orange ice cream popsicles.

The Beer Chicks curated the mini beer garden, and invited the individual brewers to Great Chefs, which made it one of the best places to consume beer that weekend. The Bruery, Deschutes, TAPS (Pumpkin Ale!), Duvel and Ommegang were all there to represent – and boy was I happy.

There were tons of food event options this particular day (forget about the weekend, period) – but Great Chefs again proved that they were a contender for your time, money and appetite.

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Held last Sunday, November 7, 2010

12 – 3:30 PM

CBS Studio Center
4024 Radford Dr.
Studio City, CA 91604

Ramen Jinya Is Good For Your Ramen Fix

Tonkatsu Premium Ramen

I’ve had a lot of ramen. Truth be told, those bowls of ramen don’t come from very many places. My inaugural non-Top Ramen bowl was at Shin-sen-gumi in Arcadia, but my favorite is (and the majority of those aforementioned bowls were from) Santouka with their Shio broth being the trump card to my ramen cravings. With those locations being San Gabriel and the Westside – and my new apartment being in Hollywood proper with Torrance and Gardena even further away – I became eager for other options. Ramen Jinya does a great job filling in.

Curry

Another confession: I have a bias against chicken broth ramen. Give me that chashu in all forms – fatty pork slices and fatty pork bone broth. So while Ramen Jinya is like Ramen California (so I have heard, haven’t tried) in offering chicken broth options, I just have a hard time making the leap. So Tonkatsu and Premium (bonito-infused) Tonkatsu ramen it is. With, perhaps, a side of curry. In retrospect, it’s not the most complementary side you can order with ramen, but I can always eat curry. For everyone else, I’d go with the gyoza. They’re bite size, but they’re good and have a proper crisp on the outside and a hot center. (Unfortunately, I was off form on my first visit and don’t have a picture.) As far as price point, you can get a salad, side and ramen combo for $13.50 and a bowl of ramen alone for $8.50.

I’m not sure where my menma (bamboo shoots) were, and the egg was perhaps a little stale, but the broth was solid and less salty on my second visit than my first – a good thing. It could maybe use more body, though I did like the Premium broth better than the regular Tonkotsu. A bonus: You’ll find yourself scooping soup less since the spoons are so big. The noodles, though, are my favorite thing about Ramen Jinya, and house made from what I could tell. They have good bite yet are plump enough to keep you satisfied.

Ramen Jinya is great for this South Bay-averse ramen lover. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be adventurous enough to try the chicken. According to a tweet of Mattatouille’s, however, I hear that the newly-opened Robata Jinya on 3rd Street offers their restaurant family’s ramen – and I just so happen to work in Beverly Hills. Even better. Who can argue with accessible, good ramen?

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Sun – Thur 11 AM – 10 PM
Fri – Sat 11 AM – Midnight

Ramen Jinya
11239 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City,CA 91604
818.980.3977

Dine LA Restaurant Week Happens Now: My Picks

Duck "Shawarma" With Oven-dried Tomatoes, Fig Confit & Garlic Spread on Homemade Whole Wheat Pita | Momed

I’ve been kind of sleeping on this one, because we are already half-way through the first of two weeks of this season‘s restaurant week. But don’t let me be the example, because if there are a couple restaurants in LA you’ve been meaning to check out, now is the time to see if they’re participating in Dine LA. From the Quickfire Challenges that have been held around the city (and culminating last night with Chef Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose winning the dessert challenge finale) to the incentive to dine at least three times with your American Express (but not before registering your card here), there has been a good amount of hoopla surrounding this fall’s Restaurant Week installment. You get a prix fixe 3 courses for varying price points.

So, if you have an American Express and plan on dining out at least three times, be sure to register it because if you spend at least $21 each time, you’ll get a $20 statement credit.

Of course, not all restaurants nor menus are considered equal. I browsed the list and pulled the ones that I’d be most interested in. Keep in mind there are three different price points each for lunch ($16, $22, $28) and dinner ($26, $34, $44) – and not all restaurants serve a Dine LA prix fixe for both. I also highlighted a menu item that particularly piqued my interest.

The Bazaar by Jose Andres ($$$) – Catalan Pork Sausage
Bistro LQ ($$) – Ham Hock
District ($$) – Venison Chile Relleno
Drago Centro ($$$) – Veal Osso Bucco
Eva ($$) – Cod and Caponata
FIG Santa Monica ($$) – Red Beet Risotto
The Foundry on Melrose ($$$) – Miso Honey Glazed Duck
Laxy Ox Canteen ($) – Veal Breast with Pee Wee Potato Salad
Locanda del Lago ($$) – Lobster-Dill-Ricotta Ravioli
Ortega 120 ($) – Petite Sterling Silver, Pasilla Pepper, Queso Oaxaca, Red Chile Potato Hash
Petrossian ($$$) – Crab Risotto
Piccolo ($$$) – Pumpkin pasta w/Black Truffle Filling
RH Restaurant ($$) – Roasted Boothbay Harbor Lobster
Rivera ($$$) – Banana leaf-braised pork shoulder
Urban Noodle ($) – Urban Noodle House Special Noodles

I admit, there is no way I’m going to make it out to half on my list so I’m leaving it up to you. They are all restaurants that I’ve had good experiences at so you can call these educated guesses. So get out there and experiment. You’d be remiss to not take the opportunity to try the restaurants you’ve always been curious about.

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Sunday – Friday

October 3 – 8, 10 15, 2010

Lunch, Dinner (Not all restaurants serve both)

Dine LA List

All over Los Angeles

Dine LA Restaurant Week Launches Sunday

Last week, the food and restauranteur community of Los Angeles gathered at The Hollywood Roosevelt to celebrate the launch of the winter installment of Dine LA – a two-week-long collaborative effort to offer diners three-course lunches and dinners at six specific price points.

$      Deluxe Dining   $16  $26
$$    Deluxe Dining   $22  $34
$$$   Fine Dining       $28  $44

Burger Slider

The red carpet was out and almost 100 chefs – many donning their white jackets straight from the kitchen – were the stars of the night. Oh – plus Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Writers, journalists, bloggers – what have you – were or weren’t donning our white “PRESS” badges. The purpose was clear: To celebrate food’s imminent role in Los Angeles culture – and the accessibility every man has to fine dining. And why don’t we enjoy some fixins from Dakota Chop House and 25 Degrees with cocktails from Matt Biancaniello of Library Bar to wash them down while we’re at it? Pork belly, tacos, quesadillas, salads, burger sliders and even a shiitake mushroom-infused Manhattan were passed around – but the hits of the night were undeniably the spicy burger sliders and Biancaniello’s arugula gimlet.

Arugula Gimlet

If you haven’t already, make your reservations soon; Dine LA runs Jan 24 – 29 and Jan 31 – Feb 5. The bevy of restaurants this round tops 243. Schedule a lunch in there to save a few dollars – it’s a great occasion to take an extended break from work. Eva (lunch or dinner), Palate (dinner), Cube (lunch or dinner) and Petrossian (lunch or dinner) rise to the top of my personal list.

And don’t forget to enter the daily contests Dine LA is holding: Starting 10 AM and running all day, answer a trivia question to be entered to win $100 gift certificates to participating restaurants (today’s is Petrossian, lo and behold). Also follow @dine_la on Twitter for updates.

Bonus: If you’re an American Express card holder, all you have to do is “do” Dine LA three times and you get a $20 credit on your statement. Just spend more than $21 per time.

And if you’re interested in the names behind the scene in Los Angeles food, it might interest you to peep the Dine LA Family Tree to see how they – and we – are all interconnected. Food brings us all together, doesn’t it?

Further reading:

DineLA Flickr Set

Restaurant Deals Ahead: It’s dineLA, the winter version; plus a “family tree” of L.A. chefs & restaurants – LATimes

DineLA Restaurant Week Kicks Off With Celebri-Chef Party – LAist

Dine LA Restaurant  Week Launch Party – ShopEatSleep

Jan 24 – 29 and Jan 31 – Feb 5, 2010

Dine LA Website
Various locations throughout Los Angeles
Call early for reservations

Lindsay, Dawson and Sabrina

Great Chefs of LA Goes Gargantuan

Scallops on the half-shell with lemon grass sambal, wasaby créme fraîche, shiso dust & micro cilantro

We call this, “November in Southern California.” Sunny and mid-seventies. Of all four, enabling seasons in SoCal – I would pick Fall to have the most misses. Tree leaves wilt to brown with no color in between and … well, who am I kidding? I really don’t think any of that is a big deal – let’s be honest. The weather here is mild in the Fall and we love it. We can be outside and sweating our makeup and deodorant off as the walls of our cavity cave with the weight of braised meats and three-cheese recipes, with a side of yams, beets and potatoes in four different forms (at least when they first went into your mouth). You’re also still going to see that girl walking around wearing a shag fur vest and 5-inch platform suede boots, seasons be damned.

So – barring gargantuan intake – it’s easy to see why the stand singularly serving as the raw oyster bar in the whole of the event won out. Named simply East, the seafood spot is glamorously outposted on that stretch of Hollywood Blvd. – their scene decidedly more Hollywood than seasonal. This actually paid off for them at Great Chefs of LA in terms of standing out on that hot November Sunday.

Of course, those of us with internal clocks triggered by daytime temps “dropping” to the 60s are used to this. We eat the slow-cooked meats and we enjoy it. And the paninis…and the polentas…ahhh, caprese with burrata…relief. California. Bring it on. We can hang.

We hung around Bottega Louie. And we hung around Dakota, Akasha and Saddle Peak Lodge. And there was Bazaar with caipirinhas made with liquid nitrogen, folks – forever reminding us that if it’s theirs then it is très chic. The truck of the moment was Border Grill’s. The libation? Champagne – lest anyone forget the real battle of the day was not to race from outpost to outpost but to prevent passing out. Nothing like cold, refreshing bubbly to the rescue!

See Great Chefs of LA Flickr Set

It was a collaborative showing of some of the best things happening in the L.A. culinary scene right now. One thing’s for sure – I sure wish I were the best friend of the winner of the Neal Fraser-cooked (BLD, Grace) dinner for 10. As much as $10,000 was raised for the Kidney Foundation with George Lopez and Candice Kumai hosting – and Jennie Garth and Chef Marcel Vigneron making their appearances for a delicious cause.

It’s a good food event to look forward to next year – weather be damned!

Further reading:

Great Chefs of LA Food Marathon

Great Chefs of LA – MyLastBite

Food Coma Aftermath: Great Chefs of LA – Diglounge

Great Chefs of LA Contribute to Walking Food Coma – FoodGPS

23rd Annual Great Chefs of LA – Caroline on Crack for LA Weekly Squid Ink

Hot Beef Injection at GCLA – Food, She Thought

So Much Food Under the Sun – ShopEatSleep

Heat, Meat, Sweet & Eat – LAist

CBS Studio Center
4024 Radford Dr.
Studio City, CA 91604
@greatchefsofLA
#gcla

Great Chefs of LA Ticket Giveaway

Ready for another culinary extravaganza?

On Sunday, November 8 the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California will be holding their 23rd annual Great Chefs of L.A. at CBS Studio Center. The theme this year is “Go Green, Go Organic” and Neal Fraser (BLD, Grace), Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (Border Grill, Ciudad) will be the “chefs of honor” for their culinary contributions to the L.A. scene and for their past work with the Kidney Foundation.

Candace Kumai, The Stiletto Chef of TLC’s “Cook Yourself Thin,” will be emcee for this event and will also host the GCLA Webfire Challenge webisode series sponsored by 944 Magazine.

Other “great chefs” at the event include:

  • Adam Horton, Saddlepeak Lodge
  • Benjamin Ford, Ford’s Filling Station
  • Celestino Drago, Drago Restaurant, Enoteca Drago, Il Pastaio, Drago Centro
  • Govind Armstrong, 8 oz.
  • Jason Johnston, Dakota
  • Jorge Chicas, The Bazaar – SLS Hotel
  • Josie Le Balch, Josie Restaurant
  • Roberto Maggioni, Lago
  • Sam Marvin & Christopher Goossen, Bottega Louie Restaurant & Gourmet Market
  • Simon Dolinky, BLVD 16 at Hotel Palomar
  • Steven Fretz, XIV

There will be an eco-conscious lounge serving up eco-conscious cocktails with VeeV Açai Spirit and each guest will receive “SWAG bags” with SWAG worth $250 in value courtesy of 944 Mag and Get Hip Get Green.

So you want me to tell you how to enter to win a pair of tickets valued at $300, already? All right:

  1. Make sure you’re following @greatchefsofla on Twitter or are a fan of them on Facebook
  2. Leave a comment below – level of eloquence and thought completely up to you
  3. Retweet me if you’re on Twitter: “Just entered to win 2 tix to @greatchefsofla by @estarla http://estar.la/e/13”

That’s it! Good luck!

Edit: Oops! Forgot to mention that this at-random contest will be closed at noon on Friday, November 6th. I’ll notify the winner that afternoon by email.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

12 – 3:30 PM

$150 per person

CBS Studio Center
4024 Radford Dr.
Studio City, CA 91604

Halftime Hilarity at Henry’s Hat

DagburgerHenrysHat

Photo credit to MetroMix

Henry’s Hat, the new gastropub in Studio City brought to you by the same folks behind the all-favorite and consistent Luna Park are featuring comedy and food “highlights” specials celebrating Monday Night Football – starting tonight.

Five- and six-minute sets during halftime (tonight at 7:15 PM, future Mondays at 5:30 PM) will be performed by notable comics from The Improv, The Comedy Store, Comedy Central and led by Henry’s Hat bartender and doubling stand-up comic Minnie Goode. These performances will occur in the “Den” – a separate room from the screens showing the game.

Specials will rotate weekly, but you can expect to see things on the “hightlights” menu from Executive Chef Nick Cobarruvius following the game such as:

Aggies’ Chili Con Queso with Molten Cheese and Salsa – $4.25

North Carolina-Style Pulled Pork Sandwich with Coleslaw and Chipotle BBQ – $4.50

Banana Split with Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry Ice Cream and housemade Fudge and Strawberry Sauce – $3.50

Pitchers of select draft beers will be also be half-price following the game – or Henry’s Hat isn’t a gastropub.

You’ll have no shortage of laughs or screens as there’s a projector screen as well as fourteen 40″ and 50″ flat screens around the pub. I’ll see you tonight!

Monday Night Football

(Check your local, PST listings for kickoff)

Henry’s Hat
3413 Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90068
323.512.2500
@henryhatla

Cabbin’ it in LA: It’s Text-a-Taxi

417091600_d2e5ce54c1

Photo credit to elakerfan on Flickr

I’m going to New York next week. Though I’m very much a subway girl while there, there will be a lot of taxis – and at that, ones you can hail. I doubt any of us ever instructed anybody to “hail a cab” as a means of getting around Los Angeles. Despite our best efforts, that is. But let’s get serious here. Outside the airport or hotel complete with taxi lanes, we’re most accustomed to calling one if we had planned to use a cab, at all. I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced many a frustration with operators on the other line while trying to call one.

This Labor Day weekend might be prime time to try a new experiment. I know you’re on your phone texting your dogsitter, anyway!!

I may end up loving where I live even more (the key phrase for that would be, “central to everything”) because I just found out about a new service that makes cab service even more conducive for my friends and I to take around town. You can now text the address of your location to “777222” and GoFastCab will dispatch a cab directly to you, wherever you are in L.A. – even South Bay and Long Beach! Sweet!

After texting your address, you get a confirmation text back to you so you know they received it (and that your text didn’t get lost in outer space). If you change your mind, you can also text “CANCEL” to the same number and that will cancel your cab. If you’re wondering where your cab is before he gets to you, you can text “STATUS” for a status message back.

I think the best part about this, though, is when you’re out at the bar and not exactly sure when to cash out because you want to secure the cab you called – for fear of someone else snatching your cab from you. The service calls you when they’re outside!

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Velvet Interactive Playground: Because Standing Around In the Club Ain’t Cuttin It No More

Photo Credit to L.A. Weekly

If you’re looking for a different kind of nightlife, it looks like there are now more options out there. Come out on May 14th and get interactive in Studio City.

The launch will happen at Aura Nightclub. Interactive art installations by Eric Gradman, inventor and artist, of Mindshare Labs will be the feature of the night. Prog house, breaks and trance will set up the groove. The stage and dance floors will turn psychedelic for the night. Interactive video projection displays digitally enhance the space in which visitors explore “the expanding boundaries of physical computing.” Hell if I know what that means but I’m gonna be there to find out! Past Mindshare appearances include at Hangar 1018 (covered by L.A. Weekly) and the TED Talks recently at USC. VIP plans to make this a monthly.

What’s even better – my readers will get an extra $10 off the ticket price! Hurry to take advantage of this offer by buying your ticket through this link with discount code “estarla.” The Early Bird deadline is May 1st so buy before then to get the best possible ticket price!

I will see you there!

9pm – 2am
Saturday, May 14th 2009
Velvet Interactive Playground at:
12215 Ventura Blvd., Suite 209
Studio City, CA 91604