Monday, January 9, 2012

dineLA 2012 - Are You Ready?! / 1MB Picks

dineLA, now in its 5th year, is ON for January 22-27 and January 29-February 3, 2012! With a giant list of over 300 participating restaurants. This is fantastic for foodies on a budget - especially several weeks post holiday binge spending - so that we can enjoy great food at some of the cities' most delectable dining spots at affordable prices.

For those who have been living under a rock - dineLA is a citywide event that has great restaurants - at top tier, the caliber of Tavern, AOC, Craft and more - offering 3-course prix fixe meals (some even offering additional entrees or wine pairings for a nominal price) starting at just $16 for lunch and $26 for dinner.

Everyone has their own criteria for 'a good deal' - but as a rule review menus carefully before making your selections: some places offer items from their regular menu, sometimes at the same cost if you break it down; some places that normally offer fascinating fine dining dole out snooze-worthy 'chicken or beef' entrees to meet lower price points.

Luckily a lot offer fantastic dishes at a great price. And being the budget foodie, I always look for ways to double or triple dip to get even mileage for my money.

Below are a few easy ways, most free to sign up (see websites for full details):
  • OpenTable - register and make reservations through their site. When you check in at the restaurant, you will earn points towards a gift certificate redeemable at any participating OpenTable restaurant!
  • Use a credit card with a rewards program:
    • American Express
      • + Foursquare / Facebook: Sync your Amex with Foursquare or Facebook here, check in using your registered social networking site at a participating dineLA restaurant and pay with the Amex to get $5 statement credit (spend $21 per person minimum, one credit per restaurant per person).
      • Register with Amex iDine, then use that card to get up to 15% off your bill at participating restaurants year-round (STACKS on top of the $5 credit!).
    • Use any credit card attached to an airline or hotel, like Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa, or Starwood Amex, to earn miles/points for every $ spent during dineLA and year round.
  • College students / folks with college loans: register a credit card with their dining program. Cross check their database with your chosen dineLA restaurants (e.g. Valentino, Lexington Social House, Osaka, Enoteca Drago, Tagine), then dine and pay with that card to automatically get up to 8% of your bill back towards student loans!
  • United Mileage Plus: register a credit card with their dining program, get up to 5 miles per dollar spent on meals year round!
  • Mall Rewards - leverage year-round programs during dineLA to stack your rewards:
    • Westfield Century City Dining Rewards: Bring receipts from eateries at this mall, including Obika Mozzarella Bar and RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen and dining terrace ones, to the concierge within 7 days for registration. Accumulate $500 in spending on food, get $25 gift card.
    • Americana at Brand / The Grove Loyalty Rewards Program: Spend $500 in a single month at restaurants here and get $25 gift card (take receipts to mall concierge by 2/7 for January dines, 3/7 for Feb dines).
  • Dine on the Sundays, when street parking is free in most neighborhoods to save on valet.
Got any other tips? Do share!

Bon appetit!

P.S. - So many dineLA restaurants, so little time? Check to see if your favs are offering dineLA outside official dates! Craft for example is extending their dineLA menus to Saturdays 1/28 and 2/3!

Menus are still being posted, but as they become available I will add to my picks and deal breakdowns here! (Note, these are somewhat based on my personal preferences - I'm only looking at menus that excite me and/or offer great deals)


BLT Steak
Dinner $44
Why?: Steak Tartare and Shaved Torchon of Foie Gras are choices for starters! Pan Roasted Dorade as an entree choice! All items offered are not on regular menu.
Estimated Savings: $14* *Based on next closest item on regular menu: Tuna Tartare $18+Branzini $30+Desserts standard price $10=$58 - $44 = $14

Lunch $28
Why?: When else am I going to be able to afford to eat at Bouchon? I do like mussels, and their mussels dish - albeit offered at lunch portion - is normally $28.50 on its own on their regular menu
Estimated Savings: $20* *Based on next closest item on regular menu: Salad Maraichere $10.50+Mussels $28.50+Creme Caramel / Pot de Creme $9=$48 - $28 = $20

Cafe del Rey
Lunch $22
Why?: Wagyu Beef Tartar as starter choice. All three entree choices (and even the sides they come with)sound good to me involving seafood, 'shrooms or veal - especially the Agnolotti of Wild Mushrooms and TRUFFLE!! All three dessert choices sound good too!
Estimated Savings: $23* *Based on closest items on regular menu: wagyu beef tartare $16 + closest entree veal piccata $19 + chocolate tower $10 = $45 - 22 = $23

Dinner $44
Why?: Always classically great dishes and incredible service. All three starters for the table to share and they include laughing bird shrimp and chicken liver mousse!!! SKATE WING (rare to see on menus), Ocean Trout and Short Rib Ravioli are the choices for main course. Plus free parking in structure with validation!
Estimated Savings: ~$22.50pp* *Based on items from regular menu Starters (average ~$15)x3/2 +Ocean Trout $32+Dessert standard menu price $12 = $66.50 - $44 = $22.50 (2 starters are not on menu and should be more expensive than Winter Greens dish, so savings should be even greater by unknown amount). And last time we got a complimentary bag of fresh made granola to take home!

Eva Restaurant(Updated 1/31/12: Eva Restaurant removed due to 'bait and switch' - dineLA online menu ended up having 2 out of 3 entrees being 'add $10' - no notation is online, you only find out when you get there and they did not express any concern over discrepancy nor intent to make the correction online.  Very sad, as I loved Eva and started bringing friends there to eat outside of dineLA - and it was always stellar food, service and ambience-wise.  But I can't stand false advertising! Eating the items I drove out to Eva for cost $49 instead of the advertised $34.)

Ray's & Stark Bar
Dinner $34
Why?: Truffle agnolotti to start the meal, big total savings and it's in LACMA!
Estimated Savings: $20* *Based on closest items from regular menu truffle agnolotti $16+ fish halibut $29+$9 dessert = $54-$34 = $20

Lexington Social House
Dinner $34
Why?: Their fried chicken was fantastic at The Taste Picnic in the Hills event in September! And it's offered as a 2nd course option! Sonoma Pork Belly sounds like a good starter. Dessert options include Monkey Bread. Though, big disclaimer: all these items are on the regular menu, so whether to take up a dineLA slot for this depends on how much these items appeal to you and how you view the savings.
Estimated Savings: $14* *Based on pork belly $15+fried chicken $24+desserts $9=$14

Dinner $44
Why? Because you can have three courses that go something like this: foie/caviar-sea urchin & salmon roe-foie. Foie gras ice cream particularly stands out as something I need to try! Petrossian used to be one of my fav places to visit during dineLA back when Chef Ben Bailly was at the helm - they had one of the most generous menus during Restaurant Week. Looks like the decadence continues.
Estimated Savings: TBD (can't find regular menu online)

Ombra Ristorante
Lunch $22
Why?: Salt cod, veal, bottarga, wild boar, black truffle all on the menu - same menu for lunch or dinner. Need I say more? No, but I will because I love this place - very authentic Italian according to a staffer born & raised in Italy. Really good food and friendly service in a relaxed by sophisticated chic setting.
Estimated Savings: $17* *Based on sliced veal $14+wild boar $18+$7 dessert=$39 - $22 = $17

Lunch $28
Why?: Love the location - Montage Beverly Hills with the beautiful park in between two wings of hotel. Tried the spaghetti last time, not worth the $24 in my opinion. But LOVED the creamy polenta with truffled mushrooms and budino and would go back for them - maybe just get the salmon as the main course instead.
Estimated Savings: $19* *Based on items also on regular menu: polenta $13+salmon $23+budino/cake ~$11

The Bazaar by Jose Andres
Dinner $44
Why?: One of the most unique dining venues in LA, and relatively large savings depending on what you order. If you haven't been yet, dineLA's a good time to sample their offerings, though some of the best aren't on the dineLA menu, like the sea urchin bao or the duck liver quince sliders or Ibérico ham. For those who've already been though (twice during previous dineLAs, for me) the menu selections are pretty much the same as the last few dineLAs (and the items are on the regular menu).
Estimated Savings: $25* *Based on pricing of items of regular menu: Japanese Taco+Jamon Serrano Fermin+Sauteed Shrimp+Scallops+any of the desserts

The Capital Grille
Dinner $34
Why?: Don't normally like / crave steak, but their steak is fantastic (based on steak sandwiches from an event held at the place). A good friend 'Lindyhopper' loves this place and sees it as the best deal - and she was right - the Bone-in Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin with Shallot Butter alone is $45 on the regular menu. I dont know about variance in portion size, but the dineLA steak was so huge I had half and had to call time out and bag the rest (with enough for a full lunch tomorrow). And you can add a lobster tail for just $15 (though we heard it was small - we didn't have enough room after steak to try ourselves!)
Estimated Savings: 39*!!!! *Based on pricing from full menu, which may have variance in portion size - clam chowder $10+Kona crusted sirloin $45+creamed spinach $10+dessert assuming at least $8=$73-$34=$39 FYI Filet Mignon is $41 on regular menu but 10 oz serving - dineLA dinner entree is 8 oz

The Tar Pit
Dinner $34
Why?: Chef Fullilove, formerly of The Curious Palate, has created a menu that has some exciting sounding items: from terrine of veggies with caramelized kumquats and plaintains, to scallop with lobster veloute, tobiko and puffed rice, to charred octopus with smoked paprika, white cheddar grits and herb olive oil, to "Opakapaka" pink snapper with crab ravioli and stinging nettle nage - to the classic apple pie with a twist: Apple Tart Tatin with white cheddar ice cream and cracked pepper ice cream. Savings may not be huge, but some of the items are not on the regular menu.
Estimated Savings: $5 *Based on items from regular menu: octopus $13+closest fish dish (trout) $17+$9 dessert =$39-$34 = $5

Upstairs 2
Dinner $34
Why?:  All 3 starters sound good: Porcini Mushroom & Chestnut Soup Truffle Crème Fraiche
Pheasant & Quail Ravioli and Heirloom Beet Salad, entree choices include roast duck (with hawaiian sea salt) and chilean salmon (with caviar beurre blanc!) and of course for wine-lovers, you have their whole cellar to choose from for wine-pairings!  Items you can't get on regular menu!
Estimated Savings: Unknown - there aren't comparable dishes on the regular menu, but the items sound delicious and I've always wanted to check this place out.  So, up to you if you want to use a dineLA night on this...

Waterloo & City
Dinner $34
Why?: Two words: Calves' Liver.  An entree option which comes pan-seared with pommes puree and bacon-fried onions. Plus chicken liver & foie gras parfait as a starter (love this one!!!) - yes you can get this at happy hour for half price, but if you can't make it during those hours and you want to try the Calves' Liver which isn't on the regular menu, dineLA's the time.
Estimated Savings: $11 *Based on available items from regular menu: liver & foie parfait $12+pork chop & belly $26+$7? dessert = $45 - $34 = $11.  Not sure how much Calves Liver would cost normally.


Note: I have not dined at all of the places above - picks are based on menu descriptions and pricing info listed. Estimated savings are best guess only based on available info. Does not account for variance in portion sizes etc.

I will continue to update this as more menus post. Let me know if there are any good ones I've totally missed!

Where will you go for dineLA?


dineLA Restaurant Week (Winter 2012)
January 22-27, and January 29-February 3, 2012

Lunch: $16,$22 or $28
Dinner: $26, $34 or $44


  1. We can always count on you for the dineLA breakdowns. I'm gonna refer everyone to your post.

    To add some "$" options, since your DineLA list is still ballah for me:

    Obika's "$" lunch is really freaking fantastic, as you're basically getting a lb of Italian burrata/mozza.

    Little Next Door's "$" dinner is a $12 saving, and you basically end up with an all French meal of: escargot, moules frites (big portions), finished off with an eclair. Super solid.

    Short Order "$" lunch means means you're getting a "free" $5 GC towards Short Cake. It's the only time where a meal here is affordable.

    BoHo's "$" lunch is a $10 saving and the zeppolis + onion soup have always been rather enjoyable.

  2. Thanks TC!! And appreciate the catches on the $ deals :)

  3. Oh my gosh... let's go!!! Ombra looks so good.. and I am going to Bazaar with a group like you did :) Does everyone necessarily need to get a $44 menu or can say, a group of 6 people order four $44 menus? You know what I'm saying? haha

  4. Yes we need to do a dineLA meal together! Ombra's really close to my office so already going for a weekday lunch. The Bazaar is great with a group so you can try more things. I like your line of thinking on the 4x$44 for 6, but not sure they would allow 'family style' ...I think when doing dineLA everyone at the table has to get their own...but lemme know if you're able to work your usual magic! ;)

  5. Good rundown, and good job of breaking down the savings by dollars.

  6. Thanks so much Josh! Love your picks for dineLA as well!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...