dineL.A. Restaurant Week returns for the second time in 2016 from July 18 – 31, featuring over 300 options for lunch and dinner. American Express is also sponsoring an Exclusive Series of restaurants featuring special menus that start at $95. You’ve only got 28 meals to work with. Here are my recommendations for every slot. Make your calendar count.
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.
1. Alexander’s Steakhouse ($115)
This luxurious Silicon Valley brand opened a branch in the shadow of Pasadena’s city hall in 2015 and carries a wide variety of Japanese Wagyu beef. Considering the restaurant normally serves three-ounces of Kagoshima Japanese A5 Wagyu for $98, the fact that you get so much other food during dineL.A. Restaurant Week for only $17 more is pretty remarkable.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Passmore Ranch Sturgeon • Tartar of Beef • Little Gem & Romaine • Brentwood Corn Chawanmushi • Kagoshima Japanese A5 Wagyu • Sweet Corn Brulee
2. Alimento ($39)
Chef-owner Zach Pollack already had a good thing going in Silver Lake with Alimento, his freewheeling northern Italian restaurant. Now he’s gearing up to open Cosa Buona in Echo Park, and he’s previewing dishes from that concept during dineL.A. Restaurant Week.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Garlic Bread • Boiled Egg Tonnato • Sott’oli • Soft-Shell Shrimp Scampi • Red Saucy Meatballs
3. The Bellwether ($39)
Chef Ted Hopson and Ann-Marie Verdi have turned their new Sherman Oaks restaurant into a seasonal dining destination. This is California comfort food that isn’t just good for the Valley.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Chilled White Shrimp • Tempura Cauliflower • Bone-In New York Steak
4. Charcoal Venice ($49)
Melisse is still going strong after 17 years, and chef-owner Josiah Citrin now has a new challenge with Charcoal Venice, a more casual restaurant where many dishes benefit from wood smoke. Charcoal delivers a wide variety of dishes to diners during dineL.A. Restaurant Week and leaves dessert to another master: McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Cabbage Baked in the Embers • Smoky Grilled Chicken Wings • Arugula and Radicchio • Prime Hanger Steak • Yukon Potato Baked in the Coals • McConnell’s Ice Cream Trio
5. Craft Los Angeles ($49)
Chef Drew Gavalla started with Craft as a line cook and is now Tom Colicchio’s chef de cuisine in L.A. The Century City outpost still has pastry chef Shannon Swindle and always delivers a consummate dining experience during dineL.A. Restaurant Week.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): California Avocado Salad • Arugula and Radicchio • Fried Quail • Profiteroles • Olive Oil Cake
6. Gusto ($39)
This intimate Mid-City Italian restaurant from chef Vic Casanova and wife Jessa features exposed wood rafters and red and white walls lined with mirrors. Casanova and a Puglian chef make all the pastas in-house, but don’t sleep on the meat and seafood dishes, which feature impeccably sourced ingredients and layers of flavor.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Polpette • Pollo Arrosto • Chocolate Budino
Kazunori Nozawa and his business partners already had their hands full with SUGARFISH by sushi nozawa, a streamlined sushi concept that’s a hit wherever they open. Now KazuNori is gaining similar traction. Westwood is the latest locale to find “the original hand roll bar.”
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Salmon Sashimi • Toro Hand Roll • Scallop Hand Roll • Shrimp Hand Roll • Yamaimo Hand Roll • Crab Hand Roll • Lobster Hand Roll
8. L’Assiette Steak Frites ($29)
Jacques Fiorentino started L’Assiette on Melrose, committing to a clear focus: steak frites to finish and sorrel herb soup to start. Now he’s expanded the restaurant’s repertoire. Cassoulet takes 24 hours to prepare, but based on the menu description, seems worth the wait. That they finish with a fudge brownie just reinforces the reasons to eat here.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Sorrel Herb Soup • 24-Hour Cassoulet • L’Assiette Fudge Brownie
9. Ledlow ($39)
Josef Centeno is a master with vegetables, but really, there isn’t an aspect of the seasonal American pantheon that he has trouble nailing. This airy outpost, his latest Old Bank District venture, is regularly evolving and always worth a visit.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Not-So-“Crudités”- Crudités • English Pea Ravioli • Strawberry Shortcake
10. M.B. Post ($39)
David LeFevre and the Simms brothers started their culinary march through Manhattan Beach at this former post office, which recently celebrated five years in business, but remains mighty relevant. Share-friendly plates (and glasses) tend to pile up on tables thanks to consistent creativity and global influences.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Wood Fire Grilled California Avocado • Crispy Softshell Crab • White Oak Grilled Skirt Steak • General Tso’s Sweetbreads
11. Providence ($95)
Chef Michael Cimarusti and front of house partner Donato Poto started working together at downtown’s Water Grill and now run a burgeoning food empire in L.A., with Providence as the crown jewel. This aspirational restaurant rarely gets more approachable than during dineL.A. Restaurant Week, when the price dips, but they don’t sacrifice any quality. Sourcing is impeccable, as always, and now extends to a rooftop garden.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Mojito Bubble • Scallop Tacos • Fish Fumet with Brentwood Corn • Smoked Salmon Cracker • Fluke Sashimi • Hokkaido Sea Scallop • British Columbia Troll Caught King Salmon • Kawa-ishi • Petit Fours
12. Sotto ($39)
Steve Samson is holding down the kitchen at the southern Italian restaurant he co-founded with Zach Pollack. Sotto remains a subterranean Beverlywood destination thanks to the hearty cooking and welcoming vibe. He sources impeccable product and has a deluxe wood-burning oven at his disposal, which doesn’t just come in handy for pizza.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Marinated Olives and Perline Mozzarella • Crispy Lamb Belly • Pizza Calabrese • Cannolo Siciliano
13. Spago ($98)
Wolfgang Puck and longtime culinary lieutenant Lee Hefter break out serious culinary firepower at the restaurant group’s flagship restaurant in Beverly Hills. For dineL.A. Restaurant Week, their Exclusive Series tasting menu takes a global view.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Spicy Tuna Tartare, Sesame Miso Tuille Cone • Caviar & Smoked Monkfish Liver • Wild & Domestic Edible Flowers, Maine Lobster, Geoduck • Santa Barbara Spot Prawn, Squid Ink Xiao Long Bao • Shaved Summer Truffle Agnolotti • Slow Roasted Liberty Duck Breast • Grilled “Wagyu” New York Steak (Snake River Farms) • Farmers Market White Peach Sorbet • Chocolate Inspiration “Frank Gehry”
14. Upstairs 2 ($39)
Maiki Le now cooks at this modern small plates spot, which has thrived for over a decade above The Wine House. They don’t explicitly have suggested wine pairings on the dineL.A. Restaurant Week menu, but considering the provenance, you know they’ll have bottles handy.
Must Order Dishes (aka what I’d order): Tagliolini Verdi • NY Strip Steak • Yogurt Panna Cotta