Saturday, July 14, 2012

dineLA Summer 2012: 1MB Picks!

dineLA is launching its first Summer promotion starting next week, July 16th, through July 27! With the SoCal focus on seasonal farm to table fare, and a giant list of participating restaurants, I'm excited to see how this may differ from dineLAs past.

For those unfamiliar, 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 offer supplement food & drink for a nominal price) starting at just $15 for lunch and $25 for dinner.

The promotion is fantastic for foodies or travellers on a budget - great food at some of the cities' most delectable dining spots at affordable prices.

What each person considers 'a good deal' is often deeply personal, especially with food - but as a rule review dineLA menus carefully: unfortunately some 'bad apples' have already turned off many local food lovers in years past by simply 'packaging' regular menu items at the same price; some that normally offer fascinating fine dining may dole out uninspired '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 - check out my list of ways to stack the deals and bonuses at the bottom of this post.

Menus are still being posted; as they become available I will add to my picks and breakdowns here! (Note: I'm only looking at menus that excite me and/or offer great deals)

Oh and btw, I definitely eat faster than I can write - I Instagram my meals same day, so if you want to see photos of dineLA dishes (and other random food porn) check out my IG here - thanks!


BLT Steak
Dinner $45
8720 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069 Ph: 310.360.1950
Why?: Exciting sounding menu item from Pork Belly Dumplings with endives, fava leaves and soy beurre blanc, to scallops with uni butter, to pork chops with kumquat mostarda.  And I know I'll get the staple fresh out of the oven, beautiful popovers and chicken liver mousse free for the table before the meal.  And I love that they made my job easy by displaying what the items would have cost a la carte, right on the dineLA menu so it's clear how much I'd be saving.  One thing though, I don't actually get steak when I'm here... 
Estimated Savings: $14pp Based on value as displayed on dineLA menu: pork dumplings $15+pork chop$34+Desserts $10=$59 - $45 = $14

Lunch $25 (2-courses) $29 (3-courses)
235 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210 Ph: 310.271.9910
Why?: When else am I going to be able to afford to eat at Bouchon? My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets at first when I saw the word "foie" on the menu - turns out it's not duck or goose, but chicken liver mousse with red wine poached prunes and toast. I do love liver mousse of pretty much any variety - which as a starter is normally $16 on its own on Bouchon's regular menu. And duck leg confit and mussels are entree options!!
Estimated Savings: $21pp Based on items on regular menu: Chicken liver mousse $16+Moules au Safran $28.50+Creme Glacee $5.50=$50 - $29 = $21

Cafe Pinot
Lunch $20 (2-courses)
700 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles, CA 90071 Ph: 213.239.6500
Why?: Those lucky enough to work close to Cafe Pinot - $20 is a great deal for fine dining in the lovely space (their garden tables overlook LA's skyline).  Items sound mouth-watering to me: Smoked Salmon Veloute, Fried Polenta with dry mole, Fluke with lobster glace, candied kumquats and parsley powder. And the starter and entree choices are same as dinner menu for $15 less (though I'm sure it's portioned accordingly and you don't get dessert).
Estimated Savings: $21pp Based on averages and next closest item on regular menu: starters average ~$13+fish entree $28 =$41 - $20 = $21

Dinner $45
10100 Constellation Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90067 Ph: 310.279.4180
Why?: Best dineLA deal in years past.  Always classically great dishes and incredible service. Three starters for the table to share and they include diver sea scallop ceviche with watermelon and basil!!! Entree aren't super exciting sounding this time, but based on past experiences classic dishes are really well executed and will be worth it in quality and taste. Two desserts for the table to share.  (And maybe a take home treat like they did in past years - of housemade granola!) Plus free parking in structure with validation! 
Estimated Savings: ~$22.50pp Based on next closest items or course averages from regular menu Starters (average ~$15)x3/2ppl +Alaskan Salmon $34+Dessert standard price $12 = $68.50 - $45 = $23.50

Dinner $45
300 S. Doheny Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90048 Ph: 310.860.4000
Why?: FOUR courses at the Four Seasons! For $45. Lobster farro risotto. Mussels with shishito peppers and pancetta. Halibut infused with basil and scallops. Bellini granita.  Need I say more? Note: dineLA menu not available on Sunday 7/22
Estimated Savings: ~$25pp Based on next closest items from regular menu salad $13+mussels $14 +halibut $34+dessert standard price $9 = $70 - $45 = $25

Lunch $20 Dinner $35
609 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90017 Ph: 213.488.8020
Why?: Haven't tried this place yet, but...intrigued by 'urban farm cuisine' concept and creative menu items like "escargot panini" and pig ear salad with frisee, pickled strawberries and rhubarb vinaigrette, and mussels in absinthe-spiked bouillabaise??? I'm dying to know what that "faux gras terrine" consists of since it does say fattened duck liver mousse?!!! Might as well try it while there's a deal in place?
Estimated Savings: $10pp Lunch Based on items from regular menu starters $11+ salmon entree $19 = $30-$20 = $10
$6pp Dinner Based on items from regular menu pig ear $14+ entrees $19+ dessert $8= $41-$35 = $6

Lunch $25 Dinner $45
11301 Olympic Blvd #102, Los Angeles, CA 90064 Ph: 310.478.7769
Why?: Love Kiriko for quality sushi in the Olympic Collection.  Their omakase sashimi & sushi lunch with "assorted sashimi" and 5pcs sushi normally goes for $46!! With dineLA you get for lunch a trio of carpaccio and 6pcs of sushi. There isn't an exact comparison in terms of count so hard to say savings, but sounds like it would be a filling lunch of creative yet beautiful, clean, high quality rolls - no sauced up abominations with gimmicky names here - and where else are you going to get that for just $25?  As for dinner, that is what I'm super excited about - as one of the starter choices you get Uni ice cream with spicy momotaro tomato gazpacho!!! And I don't think that's normally on the menu!  Book now while there are still reservations to be had.
Estimated Savings: TBD

La Vecchia
Dinner $35
2654 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90405 Ph: 310.399.7979
Why?: Menu looks like good food at a great savings - 3 hefty courses where others are doing 2 savory plus dessert: including baby lamb chops, lobster ravioli, seafood salad
Estimated Savings: $25pp Dinner Based on regular menu items chilled seafood salad $15+ linguini vongole $17+ baby lamb chops $28 = $60-$35 = $25

Lunch $15
3239 Helms Ave., Culver City, CA 90232 Ph: 310.202.6808
Why?: If you work in Culver City, this is a good option for lunch at the normally pricey asian fusion eatery - it's almost half off (that is, if you would order alcohol with your lunch...if not you'd be saving ~$6). And the options are ones that I would be interested in, Dan Dan Noodles, Green Papaya Salad and interesting dessert option of beijing yogurt with asian pear in yuzu with blueberry sorbet, basil seeds, citrus puffs (though desserts are normally free anyway)
Estimated Savings: $14pp Lunch Based on regular menu items dan dan noodles $13+green papaya salad $8+ beer $8 (desserts normally free anyway)= $29-$15 = $14

Dinner $25
13003 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604 Ph: 818.788.6354
Why?: Let me qualify this pick by saying, it's a pick for SFV dwellers only.  Not sure it's worth the drive otherwise. And don't expect any customer service whatsoever - they refused to even give us a printed menu last time we went and recited everything including prices by heart (I'd suggest printing out your own menu before you go).  But it's a fun spot with Moroccan food that I find really tasty FOR THE VALLEY and you're getting FIVE courses for $25 for dinner! I especially LOVE the Bastilla (shredded chicken, eggs, almonds and spices baked in filo dough) and you also get lamb as an entree option - they make it juicy and tender.  Love their fresh moroccan mint tea as well.
Estimated Savings: $5pp Based on items from "Traditional Feast" meal listed on website for $29.95pp

Dinner $45
9575 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035 Ph: 310.277.0133
Why?: Chef Ricardo Zarate serves up some amazing Peruvian dishes at Picca and dineLA's the time to try them - with 10 options for first course (you get to choose two!) and 10 choices for entree (again you choose two per person!) plus dessert, AND these are not the 'slow mover' dishes - you get to be as full on adventurous as you dare with anticucho corazon (signature beef heart) on the dineLA menu as an option as well as exciting preparations of lamb, fish, steak to cuts of offal like tripe.
Estimated Savings: $10pp at least Based on same items from regular menu: ceviche criollo $14+tres leches de tigres shooters $9+bisteck $16+arroz chaufas de mariscos $16+dessert??? (not sure pricing, not posted on site)=$55-$45=$10

Piccolo Venice
Dinner $45
5 Dudley Ave., Venice, CA 90291 Ph: 310.560.3594
Why?: May be the best deal of this dineLA if dishes are served regular menu-sized. FIVE courses and four of them feature options with the magic word 'truffle' in them!! And the menu looks really exciting, even the non-truffle options!! From lamb carpaccio, to scallops with parmesan-truffle fondue, to squid ink spaghettini with lobster emulsion, to berkshire pork chop with porcini-tahitian vanilla bean sauce, to a dessert made with mascarpone cream and ganache - I hope it's all as good as it sounds, as the words on the webpage alone are making me hungry.  (Though, I've never been and a friend said that portions are small here and the location is 'very Venice' in a not so good way.  Will let you know when I go!)
Estimated Savings: $65pp Based on same and similar items from regular menu: lamb carpaccio/scallops $17+beets filled ravioli $23+closest ravioli dish $23 (without truffle shavings)+pork chop $38+desserts standard price $9=$110-$45=$65 Again without having eaten there before, the estimate does not account for differences in portion size etc.

Lunch $20 Dinner $45
11616 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604 Ph: 818.505.3337
Why?: Two starters!! And menu more massive than most other dineLA ones with 11 choices of starters and 12 (twelve!!!) choices of entrees, and 5 choices of dessert. Entrees include bay scallops with uni english pea and black garlic! And 48 hour rib steak! And an asian inspired preparation of snapper! In a gorgeously designed space that's one of the rare fine dining rooms on that stretch of Ventura in Studio City. And big savings for lunch - almost half off!
Estimated Savings: $18pp Lunch Based on same items from regular menu: kale/apple salad $12+almost all burgers/linguini $13+sides standard price $4+desserts standard price $9=$38-$20=$18
$10pp Dinner Based on same items from regular menu: beef tartare $13+northern thai noodles $14+48 hour rib steak $19+desserts standard price $9=$55-$45=$10

Ray's & Stark Bar
Dinner $35
5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036 Ph: 323.857.6180
Why?: Octopus as starter option and squid ink pasta with bottarga as entree option (though both are 'firsts' courses on regular menu). A dessert by chef Josh Graves is always a pleasure. And it's in a lovely chic space on the plaza at LACMA!
Estimated Savings: $14pp Based on items from regular menu octopus $14+ squid ink pasta w/ bottarga $25+$10 dessert = $49-$35 = $14

Dinner $45
1050 S. FLOWER ST #102 LOS ANGELES CA, 90015 Ph: 213.749.1460
Why?: Menu items like Snails with Iberico Ham, Herbs and Agave-roasted Duck with Tequila, Chicos sound exciting!!! Savings aren't huge and you can find some items on regular menu, but you do save a few bucks so might be the time to try for those like me who haven't been!
Estimated Savings: $8pp Based on same or similar items also on regular menu: sevilla-style salad $13+ribeye steak $32+desserts standard price $8=$53 - $45 = $8

Dinner $45
225 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210 Ph: 310.860.7970
Why?: When else are you going to walk out of Scarpetta after a full meal at less than $50 a head? The location is fantastic - an open park that is even more beautiful at night, sandwiched between two wings of the Montage Beverly Hills. LOVE the creamy polenta with truffled mushrooms and budino from last dineLA and nice to see the trusty choices on the menu again. Also like the sound of Halibut Crudo as starter option, Branzino and Spiced Duck Breast as entree options as well as the tropical sounding coconut panna cotta with guava soup and caramelized pineapple for dessert.
Estimated Savings: $20pp Based on items also on regular menu: polenta $20+branzino $34+ desserts standarad price $11= $65-$45 = $20 

Sunny Spot
Dinner $35
822 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292 Ph: 310.448.8884
Why?: Because I still somehow haven't made it to this place and the dineLA menu looks pretty mouth-watering: double-coated, double-fried jerk wings? pan roasted SKATE (love!!!) with coconut? jamaican oxtail stew? COUNT ME IN, MAN.  Plus, they were the only ones I've seen so far who took the time to have a polished, totally designed dineLA menu for their post - like the attention to detail there, thinking they're not going to do things half-assed here.
Estimated Savings: $19pp Based on same or similar items on regular menu: jerk wings $12+whole roasted fish $35+tart/sundae ~$7 = $54 - $35 = $19

The Capital Grille
Dinner $35
8614 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048 Ph: 310.358.0650
Why?: Don't normally like / crave steak, but their steak is pretty fantastic. A good friend 'Lindyhopper' - a steak lover - loves this place and sees it as the best deal - the Bone-in Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin with Shallot Butter alone is $45 on the regular menu.  Don't know about any difference in portion size from regular menu, but the last dineLA steak was so huge I had half and had to call time out and bag the rest. And you can add a lobster tail for just $10 (though we heard it was small - we didn't have enough room after steak to try ourselves last time!)
Estimated Savings: $39!!!! Based on similar items from full menu back in Feb 2012, 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


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!

Below are some easy ways to stack your deals, most free to sign up (see websites for details):
  • OpenTable - register and make reservations through their site. When you check in at the restaurant, earn points towards a gift certificate redeemable at any OpenTable restaurant!
  • Use a credit card with a rewards program:
    • American Express
      • Register your Amex card here, BEFORE you visit a dineLA restaurant, then spend $21 or more and pay with that Amex to get $5 statement credit ($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 to earn miles/points for every $ spent during dineLA and year round.
  • College students / folks with college loans: register credit card with their dining program. Cross check their database with your chosen dineLA restaurants, then dine and pay with that card to automatically get up to 8% of your bill back towards student loans!
  • United Mileage Plus: register credit card with their dining program, get up to 5 miles per $ spent on meals year round!
  • Mall Rewards - leverage year-round programs during dineLA to stack rewards:
  • Dine on Sunday 7/22 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!

Where will you go for dineLA?


dineLA (Summer 2012)
July 16-27, 2012
Lunch: $15,$20 or $25
Dinner: $25, $35 or $45


  1. Bouchon's dinner is (unfortunately) not only $29/pp. It's $45/pp.

  2. Also, Kiriko's sashimi and sushi lunch omakase is now $50, and the uni ice cream, while not a regular menu item, has been on the specials menu for over a month.

  3. Disregard my comment about Bouchon. I thought you were comparing the lunch and dinner, not the lunch with and without dessert.



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