dineL.A. continues to celebrate their 10th anniversary from July 13 – 27, featuring over 400 options for lunch and dinner. American Express once again sponsors an Exclusive Series of restaurants starring deluxe menus starting at $95. Read my recommendations for 8 lunches and all 15 dinners, not including Hall of Fame choices like Craft, Fogo de Chao and Lawry’s The Prime Rib that still warrant consideration. You’ve only got 30 possible meals. Make your calendar count.
Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
1. Bäco Mercat ($39)
Chef Josef Centeno is also participating in dineL.A. at neighboring Bar Ama, Orsa & Winston, and P.Y.T., but his dinner menu at Bäco Mercat really compels me. Grilled skirt steak comes with beet hummus and horseradish-mint cream. Caramelized cauliflower co-stars pine nuts, mint, garlic, sumac lebni, and chile. For dessert, pineapple upside down cake incorporates almond, caramel, and gelato. My entrée and vegetable dish of choice would normally cost $41, and diners also receive a powerhouse dessert.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Grilled Skirt Steak • Caramelized Cauliflower • Pineapple Upside Down Cake
2. Bettolino Kitchen ($39)
Vince Giuliano, sister Andreanna Giuliano Liguore and her husband Sean Liguore are serving progressive Italian food at Bettolino Kitchen near Redondo Beach’s Riviera Village. One of the South Bay’s best Italian restaurants construced an especially nice dineL.A. dinner menu. Instead of serving dessert, Bettolino Kitchen provides three savory offerings. I’d start with sautéed shrimp, cannellini beans, basil, cherry tomatoes, and lemon garlic sauce. Carbonara treats house-made spaghetti to pancetta, egg yolk, and Parmesan cream sauce. Pistachio-crusted halibut incorporates lemon pesto, mascarpone mashed potatoes, and sautéed spinach.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Cannellini con Gamberetti • Carbonara • Pesce al Pistachio
3. Bone Kettle ($29)
Chef Erwin Tjahyadi and brother Eric founded Komodo and showcase the flavors of their native Indonesia at Bone Kettle in Old Pasadena. Crab lumpia with Maryland blue lump crab, cabbage, carrots, fennel, and sweet chile sauce. Both broth is their primary focus, and it comes with two different options for the main dineL.A. course. Braised oxtails clearly outdraws ginger seared chicken. Finish with pandan crème brûlée for more Southeast Asian flair.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Crab Lumpia • Braised Oxtails w/Bone Broth & Noodles • Pandan Crème Brulee
4. Castaway ($49)
Chef Perry Pollaci’s arrival at this Burbank hillside classic ensures that Castaway will no longer just be known for the view. For dineL.A., Prime (or Wagyu) beef leads the way. Start with Prime steak tartare draped with carpaccio and a dollop of caviar crème fraiche. Steak frites are a great choice thanks to Snake River Farms American Wagyu hanger steak, garlic fries, and salsa verde. Finish with sweet and spicy passionfruit jalapeño cheesecake with house-made Graham cracker and pineapple cream.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Prime Duo • Steak Frites • Passionfruit Jalapeño Cheesecake
5. Chang’an Restaurant ($29)
Minda Zhang and her husband Nick both hail from Beijing, traveled the globe, and settled in L.A. In 2016, they opened Chang’an, a modern Chinese restaurant and bar with brick, grey, and wood color scheme on the third floor of San Gabriel’s Hilton Plaza. Their dineL.A. dinner menu features a choice of dishes in five categories, plus brown or white rice.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Garlic Chicken Wings • Lamb Shoulder Skewer • Dan-Hua-Tang • Sweet & Sour Shrimp • Osmanthus Rice Balls
6. Charcoal ($49)
Melisse is still going strong after nearly two decades. Chef-owner Josiah Citrin embraced a new challenge with Charcoal, a more casual restaurant where many dishes benefit from wood smoke. Charcoal packages a variety of flavors for dineL.A. and teams on dessert with another master: McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Cabbage Baked in the Embers, Yogurt, Sumac and Lemon Zest • Smoky Grilled Chicken Wings, Oregano, Chile, and Vinegar • Halibut Ceviche • Little Gems, “Flavors of Wedge” • Charcoal Grilled Prime Sirloin “Salsa Verde” • Coal Roasted Carrots, Sheep’s Milk Ricotta, Herbs, Honey and Black Pepper • Peach and Blueberry Tart, McConnell’s Vanilla Ice Cream
7. Gesso ($39)
Former Esters chef de cuisine Chris Ono reinvigorated Gesso, American Gonzo Food Corporation’s seasonal all-day restaurant in West Hollywood. Fresh-shucked oysters join each dineL.A. dinner and come with red wine vinaigrette, Calabrian chile hot sauce, and lemon. Santa Barbara rock cod crudo is similarly punchy, dressed with salsa giardiniera, Fresno chiles, and Meyer lemon. Marubini, ravioli’s ruffled, round cousin, comes stuffed with spring lamb and dressed with English peas, pea tendrils, and lamb jus. Finish with ice box pie made with lemon custard, cheesecake, and grapefruit.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Fresh Shucked Oysters • Santa Barbara Rock Cod Crudo • Spring Lamb Marubini • Ice Box Pie
8. M.B. Post ($39)
David LeFevre and the Simms brothers started their culinary march through Manhattan Beach at this former post office. Share-friendly plates (and glasses) tend to pile up on tables thanks to consistent creativity and global influences. For dineL.A., choose four dishes from two columns, amounting to a massive meal.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Creole Spiced & Buttered Peel And Eat Shrimp • Char Siu Lamb Belly • White Oak Grilled Skirt Steak • Seasonal Soft Serve
9. Maccheroni Republic ($29)
Pasta is the specialty at Maccheroni Republic, a charming trattoria from longtime Los Angeles restaurateurs Antonio Tommasi and Jean-Louis de Mori across from Grand Central Market. For dineL.A. dinner, I’d suggest garlic-braised fresh baby artichokes; black and white vermicelli tossed with shrimp, mushrooms, roasted pancetta, and creamy bisque; and chocolate flan.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Carciofini e Aglio • Bianchi & Neri • Chocolate Flan
10. Michael’s on Naples ($49)
Chef Eric Samaniego last cooked at Little Sparrow in Santa Ana and can now be found in Long Beach’s Belmont Shore at the longest running restaurant from Michael Dene. Samaniego put together another nice dineL.A. dinner menu. I’d recommend starting with saba glazed pork belly with grilled apricots and green lentils. House-made rye flour chitarra pasta hosts beech mushrooms and cured duck egg yolk. Finish with semi-frozen sweet corn mousse with salted caramel gelato.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Maiale • Chitarra • Semifreddo
11. Odys + Penelope ($39)
Chefs Karen Hatfield and Quinn Hatfield use three different grills and a smoker to achieve dazzling effects at their industrial chic Mid-City restaurant. For their seasonal dineL.A. dinner menu, Caesar salad incorporates sugar snap peas, roasted almonds, and garlic Parmesan vinaigrette. Oak grilled salmon co-stars English pea puree, grilled corn, and balsamic tomatoes. Karen, one of L.A.’s best pastry chefs, ensures that each meal finishes strong. In this case, her fluffy cornmeal ricotta doughnuts join blueberry marmalade and lemon gelato.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Sugar Snap Pea Caesar Salad • Oak Grilled Salmon • Cornmeal Ricotta Doughnuts
12. The Pikey ($29)
Jared Meisler and Sean MacPherson recently installed Jaison Burke as executive chef, and he carries on The Pikey’s British dining traditions in Hollywood. Their burger is a sleeper hit, and the rest of the menu is recognizable and reliable.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Chop Salad • Burger • Choco Pot
13. Rossoblu ($49)
Sister restaurant Sotto is also participating in dineL.A., but this time, I prefer the menu for Rossoblu, the Fashion District restaurant from Steve Samson and wife Dina. Their Bologna-inspired menu sources impeccable seasonal ingredients and utilizes a wood-burning hearth to masterful effect.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Grilled Swordfish Belly Spiedini • Grilled Lamb Chop • Pistachio Semifreddo
14. Tsubaki ($39)
Chef Charles Namba and Courtney Kaplan are serving four courses for dineL.A. at their market-driven Echo Park izakaya, a restaurant that’s already among the neighborhood’s vanguard. They even include a choice of beer or sake. I’d suggest Bushido Ginjo Genshu Sake from Kyoto on tap.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Salmon Tartare • Soriresu (Charcoal-Grilled Chicken Oysters) • Kamo Soba (Chilled Buckwheat Noodles, Warm Duck Broth) • Hoji-cha Soft Serve (Roasted Green Tea Soft Serve)
15. Woodley Proper ($29)
Considering how demanding that Phillip Frankland Lee and pastry chef/wife Margarita Kallas Lee have made their dineL.A. menus at Scratch Bar & Kitchen and Sushi|Bar, it makes sense that they kept one menu simple for the event in their Encino multiplex. Woodley Proper’s three-course dinner menu offers no choices, which works for me, since every dish sounds so satisfying.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Grilled Corn Salad • Roasted Bone-in Pork Chop • Brioche Donut