dineL.A. returns from January 11 – 25, featuring over 400 high-value, prix fixe options for lunch and dinner. American Express once again sponsors an Exclusive Series of restaurants serving deluxe menus that start at $99. Read my recommendations for 10 lunches and 10 dinners, not including Hall of Fame choices like Craft, Fogo de Chao and Lawry’s The Prime Rib, which 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. 189 by Dominique Ansel ($15)
At The Grove, pastry chef Dominique Ansel shows flair with savory courses as well. The famed Frenchman takes recognizable dishes for spins, including hen of the woods mushrooms (instead of pasta) with cacio e pepe sauce, and a lobster roll with lemon confit aioli, Old Bay espelette, and chives on a house-baked potato bun.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Hen of the Woods Mushrooms • Lobster Roll • Berry Pavlova
The high-value dineL.A. lunch menu at this colorful retro restaurant inside The Standard in DTLA caught my attention. Only $15 for yellowtail crudo with blood orange, fennel, and pistachio AND steak frites with 7 ounces of Prime New York steak, shoestring fries, and herb butter?! Pretty convincing.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Yellowtail Crudo • Steak Frites
3. Dal Rae ($25)
This family-run Pico Rivera steakhouse dates to 1958 and serves rarely seen, highly nostalgic dishes from another era. For instance, Petrale sole gartel with lump crab and Hollandaise is so retro (or so original) that the dish doesn’t even show up in Google searches. Pepper steak is a hall of fame dish in the (562) sporting a blanket of onion, bacon and peppercorn sauce. Dinner brings a version with filet mignon, and lunch stars luscious fresh ground sirloin.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Petrale Sole Gartel • Poor Man’s Pepper Steak
4. Hip Hot ($20)
Chef Tiantian Qiu’s fantastic Sichuan restaurant in Monterey Park is bringing the (numbing) heat for dineL.A. Each meal comes with two hearty courses and also includes rice, Canto-style soup and Beijing-style plum juice.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Summer Noodle • Boiled Fish & Beef
5. Kali ($25)
Chef Kevin Meehan and wine-fueled front of house partner Drew Langley serve seasonal, original food at Kali near Larchmont Village. Their black barley risotto with black garlic and singed local cheese cranks up the umami. House-made semolina spaghetti with sea urchin and whey emulsion also stands out. Finish with ethereal meringue gelato grated with sugar-cured egg yolks.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Black Barley Risotto • Semolina Spaghetti • Meringue Gelato
6. Night + Market Sahm ($20)
Kris Yenbamroong is showcasing lunch offerings at the latest Thai restaurant he runs with wife Sarah. His three-course, $20 lunch menu is a terrific value in Venice on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and includes some exclusive dishes. Shrimp toast comes slathered with pork & shrimp mousse and packs some heat. Yenbamroong riffs on a Panda Express classic with orange chicken “Night + Market style” that he tosses with orange zest, fish sauce, green onions and roasted chiles. For dessert, they dress mango and coconut rice with salted coconut cream, crunchy toasted mung beans, and mint.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Shrimp Toast • Orange Chicken Night + Market • Mango and Coconut Rice
7. Smoke House ($20)
Smoke House has been a Burbank institution since 1946, drawing celebrities who work across the street at Warner Bros. and nearby studios. They’ve packed a three-course dineL.A. lunch. with strong value. New England clam chowder is available with a “touch of sherry on request.” Steak Sinatra honors their most famous customer named Frank and features filet mignon sautéed with bell peppers, shallots, mushrooms, tomatoes and red wine, served over linguine.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): New England Clam Chowder • Steak Sinatra • Cheesecake
8. Viale Dei Romani ($35)
Chef Casey Lane offers a terrific Italian value for dineL.A. lunch, serving a whopping four courses that could be a challenge to complete. Start with grilled squid with salsa picante and cecci. House-made pasta is the way to go for Course 2, especially rigatoni all’Amatriciana. Flat iron steak makes for a great Course 3, plated with sunchokes, maitake mushrooms, and horseradish.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Grilled Calamaro • Rigatoni all’Amatriciana • Flat Iron Steak • Panna Cotta
9. Wilshire ($20)
Brendan Collins took over the kitchen at this Santa Monica favorite last year. For dineL.A., he’s put together an impressive menu. Choose one entree and either an appetizer or dessert. I suggest going completely savory. Baby kale Caesar is a hearty take on the Tijuana classic. The British native has proved his skill with savory pies over the years. For dineL.A., he loads chicken pot pie with braised chicken, Yukon gold potatoes, and English peas.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Baby Kale Caesar • Chicken Pot Pie
10. Yoshiharu Ramen ($15)
I haven’t heard much either way about Yoshiharu Ramen, a concept that also operates in Orange and Lynwood’s Plaza Mexico, but at $15, their two-course dineL.A. lunch menu is a pretty safe bet. I prefer sushi over saucy rolls or sashimi, but those are also options, in addition to ramen.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Tonkotsu Spicy Miso Ramen • 5 Pieces Sushi (Chef’s Choice)