As the Dining Diva and Diva on the Go, I am often asked what restaurants or places I like best. So I decided to start making a list.
Here are a few of my top 10 places to dine in Los Angeles. I have quite a few more but I’ll divulge them another time:
Cecconi’s– When Morton’s stood here years ago, it was the tinsel town spot to go, work the room and be scene (sic). There’s no difference since it became Cecconi’s, except in the décor and menu, of course. The place roars with the young, good looking, and restless crowd. Celebs, industry folk and wanna be’s still work the rooms—there’s a coveted terrace and indoor seating. The food is more reasonably-priced than Mortons was, but just as good. The chic marble, wood and chandeliered Italian eatery caters to a celebrity crowd from lunch through dinner. But just about everybody steps through the front door looking like a fashion plate. It’s loud and lively with great food like wood-oven baked meatballs ($10), ahi tuna tartare, Alaska salmon carpaccio ( $14), eggplant parmigiana ($19), pappardelle with homemade sausage and wild mushrooms ($20), sides of spinach ($6) and Broccolini ($6) and a chocolate cake for $9. The food is moderately high-priced but adult beverages can break the bank. Even a glass of milk costs $6! Man that’s milking the cow. Open daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, brunch on Sunday. 8764 Melrose Avenue, 310-276-5205). 310-432-2000
Mr. Chow — What can we say about this wildly popular Hollywood hangout that hasn’t been said in the last 30 years. In case you haven’t heard. It’s simply one of the best Chinese restaurants in country where classic dishes are served in a clubby, lively setting by an impossibly efficient wait staff. A favorite haunt of tinsel town’s old timers and young, up and comers, Mr. Chow’s panache is equally divided between the superb food and it’s room working clientele. Sometimes there’s so much table-hopping going one wonders when these people eat. From won ton soup to noodles, fried rice and Peking duck, everything’s delicious here, go with a large group and order lots of dishes. Dinner daily, lunch is served Monday through Friday. (344 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, 310-278-9911. www.mrchow.com/beverlyhills.
Spago– Celebrity uberchef Wolfgang Puck’s penultimate power spot caters to a coterie of regulars straight from the pages of Hollywood’s elite A-list who go as much to enjoy the fantastic food as to be seen and “work the room”. Be sure to order Puck’s famous designer pizza starters and then prepare to feast on some of the finest crafted California cuisine in the State. Celebs pretty much get first dibs to primo patio seating and 8 o’clock reservations. Every morsel of Spago’s ever-changing menu is a culinary delight. Dinner daily, lunch Monday-Saturday. (176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, 310-385-0880. www.Wolfgangpuck.com).
Mastro’s– Steaks prepared to perfection take top billing at this chic restaurant (as do many of its famous people who frequent it). Stained glass, rich woods and deep colors provide a provocative atmosphere where carnivores can enjoy 40-ounce porterhouse, 18-ounce Kansas City strips, veal porterhouse or other cuts of tender beef. Side dishes are equally yummy, especially the Gorgonzola macaroni, sautéed mushrooms or French fries. There’s relaxing upstairs bar/lounge where you can enjoy generous sized drinks while before or after dinner. Dinner served daily, no lunch. (246 N Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, 310-888-8782, www.mastrossteakhouse.com
Matsuhisa– Sushi gone wild should be Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s motto with the dozens of delicious offerings on his vast menu. Not only will this prove the best Japanese food you’ve ever eaten, this side of Asia anyway, it most likely will prove the most expensive. It’s not easy getting a reservation at this tiny spot; so do check with our concierges. (129 N. La Cienega Blvd., 310-659-9639, http://www.nobumatsuhisa.com). Koi Asian fusion gone exotically, exceptionally wild could be the theme of this outstanding, hip and happening, celebrity packed dining emporium. The feng shui-styled dining area adorned with Buddha’s, bamboo and Zen-like ornaments provides the perfect showcase for each glorious dish. The crispy salmon salad or tangy tuna tuna tartare are the star starters and the Kobe filet mignon or Toban Yaki black cod lead the entrees. Dinner daily. (730 N. La Cienega Blvd., 310-659-9449).
Wilshire Restaurant– An over-the-top interior designed by Thomas Schoos combined with young eye candy fashionistas and brat pack celebrities makes this a great place to see and be seen. And the food’s pretty good, too. The décor creates a seductive tableau defined by dark woods balanced by canvas-covered ceilings, exaggerates images reflected from antique mirrors and sheer curtains billowing in breezes of the open-air patio. Recessed nooks and crannies provide intimate seating for romantic occasions enhanced by torch lit flower boxes, blazing candles perched on walls, sideboards and tables and intricate latticework. There’s even a posh cigar lounge to enjoy an after dinner smoke or cognac. The seasonally changing farm fresh cuisine is consistently good with choices from veal short ribs to black bass and Maine lobster. (2454 Wilshire Blvd., 310-586-1707, Open Monday through Saturday for dinner Monday through Friday for lunch. www.wilshirerestaurant.com).
Crustacean — Shellfish lovers will literally eat this place up. As its name implies, crustaceans are the name of the game here, served in an aquarium-like atmosphere—the fish tank is actually built into the floor and functions as a walkway from the entrance of the room to the tables. Bring a crowd so you can sample everything on the menu. It’s all good. Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. (9646 Santa Monica Blvd. South, Beverly Hills, 310-205-8990).
Vicente — Now that’s Italian! Authentic old country cooking with California flair is served at this charming, outrageously popular Brentwood restaurant. It’s the food that contents, from pizzas and pastas to artfully prepared vegetables, and the service that satisfies. Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. (11930 San Vicente Blvd., 310-207-0127, www.vincentiristorante.com).
Melisse– The perfect spot for special occasions, Melisse is all about food and ambiance. We always catch a few young couples obviously celebrating their engagement, or even getting engaged. Dinners are leisurely. Plan on spending two or three hours savoring super chef Josiah Citrin’s California/Mediterranean cuisine, which he says is “based on classical French techniques” and all natural ingredients, which he buys from local farmers. . This is the restaurant that foodies and food critics rave about and rightly so. Citrin’s food is fantastic. There are tasting menus (Highly Recommended) or a la carte choices that range from sweet pea soup with Greek Yogurt mint mousse; risotto done with asparagus and morel mushrooms in a red wine reduction; ricotta gnocchi; amazing white asparagus, wild king salmon that’s to die for, a trio of veal loin, veal spare rib and braised shank that makes your mouth sing with every bite. Carnivores will love the various Wagyu Kobe beef selections done with truffles or shiitake mushrooms. And everybody will dig desserts like sticky toffee pudding with mocha malt ice ream, coffee Tia Maria and orange consommé; raspberry-apricot tart with pistachio bavarois and raspberry sorbet that was awesome; or the lemon gratin with sugar crisps, mandarin crepes and vanilla caramel shake. Bring a big appetite folks you’re in for a treat. There’s a great wine list, but if you go for the tasting menu, it’s wise to defer to your waiter for pairings. Although somewhat pricey, the $95 three course-tasting menu is actually a bargain when you consider the quality of the food and presentation. Not exactly for the budget conscious, Melisse is designed for lovers of fine food. Not to worry if you’re new to the gourmet game, the wait staff is great and will patiently walk you through the menu. 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-395-0881, www.melisse.com.