Sunday, January 20, 2013

dineLA Winter 2013: Kickin' Off This Monday! 1MB Picks

Overspent during the holidays? Need time to recover and catch up on your bills? Missing the reckless abandon with which you indulged in shameless culinary decadence while on vacation?

Welcome to the club.  While I'm trying to stay in as much as possible to prevent myself from spending money I don't have...the food lover in me is itching to get back out there to do what I love best: live to eat, be inspired, and share my finds.

Just in time to save the day is dineLA - with hundreds of restaurants across the city offering prix fixe menus for lunch ($15, $20, $25) and dinners ($25, $35, $45).

Below are my picks of menus and/or deals that I find exciting. Due to time constraints I have not gone through every last menu of the hundreds posted - check out the bottom of the resto picks section for other disclaimers.  To avoid repetition for regular readers (thank you for reading!), I've listed perennial must stops at the bottom of each section.

Tips for deal stacking as usual are at the bottom of the post!


**PRICE TIER: $25**

Menu $25 (3-courses + standard free dessert)
3239 Helms Ave. Culver City, CA 90232 Ph: (310) 202-6808
Why?: If you're in or near Culver City, and (a) have always wanted to check out this place or (b) want to go for a nice night out without blowing a lot of $$$, this may be the time to do it.  Some have described this place as an "Asian tapas" place, and the dineLA dinner does offer up a selection of small plates - you can choose any 3 for $25. Plus, as with every meal at Lukshon, year-round, you get a free dessert.  Where else are you going to get this quality of food in a 'hotspot' place for $25?
Estimated Savings: ~$13pp* depending on what you choose.  Based on same or next closest items from regular menu: Tea Leaf Salad/Pork Ribs $11 + Steamed Cod $15 + Crab Fritters $12 = $38 - $25 = $13

***PRICE TIER: $35***

Rays and Stark Bar
Menu $35 (3-courses)
5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 90036 Ph: (323) 857-6180
Why?: Starter options at this Patina Group (need we say more?) resto (at LACMA!!) include octopus with burrata or pig ear kale salad, and an entree that makes my mouth water just reading: agnolotti (with magic word "truffle" rice filled pasta, hen of the woods mushrooms, porcini sauce, hazelnuts and garden arugula), and award winning pastry Chef Josh Graves' desserts - sounds like a great deal for a gourmet meal in an beautiful (cultured) setting and a nice night out.
Estimated Savings: ~$6pp* - Based on same or next closest items from regular menu: octopus $14 + agnolotti $17 small portion + chocolate dessert $10 = $41 - $35 = $6

Buffalo Club
Menu $35 (4-courses)
Why?: Starter options are amazing, especially house charcuterie plate (with truffled duck pate, chicken foie gras and rabbit persille) and parmesan crusted farm egg with niman bacon. Entrees include cassoulet and scallop options. Mac & Cheese is its own course.  LOVE their garden courtyard at night when it's all lit up.
Estimated Savings: ~$15pp* - Based on same or next closest items from regular menu: appetizers $15 + scallops $15 + mac&cheese $8 + dessert $12 = $50 - $35 = $15

Waterloo & City
Menu $35 (3-courses)
12517 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90066 (310) 391-4222
Why?: One of my fav spots on the Westside for Happy Hour, and reliably tasty food (especially for carnivores). dineLA dinner menu has Salmon Tartare, Chicken Liver Mousse, Sunchoke Soup w/ TRUFFLE and pigs-in-a-blanket, as starter options, and roast prime pork chop for entree choice (with "Cock-a-Leekie" Sausage).
Estimated Savings: ~$12pp* - Based on same or next closest items from regular menu: salmon tartare $12 + pork chop $26 + dessert $9 = $47 - $35 = $12 (if you are willing to eat early and order chicken liver mousse/salmon tartare which are both usually offered at HH for $6 and Sticky Toffee Pudding for $5, then you could say you're just saving $2 overall) 

****PRICE TIER: $45****

Caulfield's Bar and Dining Room
Menu $45 (4-courses)
9360 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 90212 (310) 388-6860
Why?: This place has been buzzing lately, and the regular menu is 'Beverly Hills pricey', so dineLA may be the time to give it a try. You do get 4 courses, and if you choose wisely you can save $31 per person! Delicious sounding options include Smoked Steelhead Trout in a Jar, rabbit terrine w/ tomato jam, mackerel crudo w/ pear, coconut milk, finger lime and ginger, and scallops as entree option served with clams and chorizo.  The frozen chocolate souffle with blood orange also sounds interesting. Plus you can add a glass of Prosecco for $10.
Estimated Savings: $31pp* - Based on same or next closest items from regular menu: trout in jar $12 + Little Angels pasta $24 + skirt steak/scallops $31 + dessert avg $9 = $76 - $45 = $31

Inn of the Seventh Ray
Menu $45 (3-courses)
128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd., Topanga, CA 90290 Ph: (310) 455-1311
Why?: Their samplings at past food shows intrigued me, and it sounds like a destination spot that would involve a fun little 'nature' filled mini getaway to Topanga Canyon. What they're offering for dineLA sounds delicious: I always love a 63 degree egg, and their starter option is topped with (magic word) truffle potato foam and toasted bread crumbs. Another option is Smoked Yellowtail Spread which sounds tasty as well.  Second course option of Short Rib mixes Japanese and Korean flavors with miso and kimchee.  Not sure how that would work but interested to try, given the level of skill exhibited even in samples produced for food shows at mass quantities. Panna Cotta is one of my fav desserts and they are serving it up with a twist: gingerbread and vanilla flavor with burnt cinnamon ice cream, persimmon and popcorn.
Estimated Savings: $13pp* - Based on same or next closest items from regular menu: potato & egg jar $12 + miso braised short rib $36 + dessert mostly standard price $10 = $58 - $45 = $13 

Piccolo Venice
Menu $45 (5-courses)
5 Dudley Ave., Venice, CA 90291 Ph: (310) 560-3594
Why?: One of the best values during dineLA Summer 2012 with 5 courses , featuring decadent ingredients (including SHAVED TRUFFLE!!!) that had even the most jaded of dineLA diners/foodies excited. This time round they have: the fantastic scallops with parmesan-truffle fondue again, or beef tongue to start. 2nd: gnocchi with lobster sugo, spaghettini with oxtail ragu, garganelli with rabbit ragu. 3rd: ravioli with real shaved truffle and parmesan truffle butter sauce. 4th options include monkfish, veal and kobe steak. 5th: six dessert options!
Estimated Savings: $41pp* - Based on same or next closest items from regular menu: scallops $17 + pasta w/ ragu $25 + truffle pasta $25 + australian kobe ny steak $48 + dessert mostly standard price $12 = $127 - $45 = $82 That said, portion sizes are small like a tasting menu so probably not the sizes you would get at full price a la carte - so let's say for estimates' sake it's half portion size: $82/2 = $41.  The next best comparison might be the 4-course tasting menu for $50, but you're saving much more than $5 as you get TRUFFLE and an extra course. And I'm not sure what you would get in the tasting menu so it's hard to know if it really would compare. So your actual savings will fall somewhere in between those two extremes...

Fig & Olive
Menu $45 (3-courses) NOTE: they already extended the deal to run through 2/8 (except not on 1/26)
8490 Melrose Place, Los Angeles, CA 90069 Ph: (310) 360-9100 
Why?: Starter options include TRUFFLE mushroom croquette, Northern Italian Mushroom and TRUFFLE soup, and main options include Seafood Paella and TRUFFLE Risotto.  Need I say more?  Yes, love the interior design here. And, the $ you save on dinner can go towards the Jamon Iberico Bellota order as an add-on (yes, I am suffering from jamon iberico withdrawals...)  
Estimated Savings: $13pp* Based on items from regular menu: salmon ceviche crostone $16/truffle croquette $13 + paella del mar $32 + dessert $10 = $58/$55 - $45 = $13/$10

Stefan's at L.A. Farm
Menu $45 (6-courses)
3000 Olympic Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404 Ph: (310) 449-4000
Why?: SIX courses. Yep.  Plus, any place that has Top Chef klout and puts duck on the dineLA menu is like putting out a 'welcome foodies' sign. The halibut with zatar spice, edamame, chanterelle and shimeji, fingerlings and pancetta sounds fantastic.   
Estimated Savings: $34-$53.50pp* Based on next closest items or course averages from regular menu: cali crudo $15 + ravioli $24 + soup $10 + fish course $27 + duck $28/beef tenderloin $34 + dessert standard price $9 = $113/$119 - $45 = $68/$107 Disclaimer: not sure if portion size would be at all similar to regular menu - assuming half portions due to 6 courses, savings would be $34-$53.50pp

Drago Centro
Menu $45 (3-courses)
525 South Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90071 Ph: (213) 228.8998 
Why?: Starter options include magic words "lobster", "smoked sturgeon", "caviar"; mains include branzino, guanciale (pork cheek) and rabbit fettuccini. Dessert options like lemon panna cotta with citrus and rosemary puff pastry sound tasty too! Plus, 3 hours free valet parking with validation in structure under building.
Estimated Savings: $12pp at least* Based on items from regular menu / menu course averages: "to begin" dishes mostly $13 (though dineLA options contain seafood while regular menu starters don't) + branzino $34 + dessert $10 = $57 - $45 = $12

Oliverio at the Avalon Beverly Hills
Menu $45
9400 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212 Ph: (310) 407-7791
Why?: Options sound mouthwatering, from wild mushroom souffle with parmesan fondue, to burrata with caviar and bottarga to start, to spaghetti with langoustine and roasted tomatoes as entree, to a lemon polenta pudding cake w/ lemon sabayon for dessert!
Estimated Savings: Unknown if you get the items listed above (the burrata w/ caviar and bottarga is not on regular menu). $12pp* if you choose the filet mignon - Based on next closest items or course averages from regular menu: cauliflower parmesan truffle fondue $10 + steak (rib eye from regular menu, so not sure how this compares to filet mignon) $38 + dessert standard price $9 = $57 - $45 = $12 

Menu $45 (3-courses)
11301 West Olympic Boulevard #102, Los Angeles, CA 90064 Ph: (310) 478-7769
Why?: Their omakase sashimi is normally $46 on its own even at lunch, and the dineLA menu offers sashimi with WHITE TRUFFLE as a starter (another option is 'chef's choice of 3 delicacies' which sounds exciting, knowing anything the chefs here choose will be fantastic), then entree options that include omakase sashimi or halibut tempura and grilled 'iberico' pork! The only thing that I'm going to stay away from is the Blue Fin Tuna starter, even though I love it and there's truffle involved, as their numbers are getting dangerously low.
Estimated Savings: Unknown since prices are not published online, but given that lunch portion omakase is already $46 normally and did NOT involve truffles, not to mention white truffle which is more expensive...I'm listing this one as a deal. If I go will post on Instagram so you can see what you're getting!

dineLA best deal, every time dinners:
  • Craft - THREE appetizers for the table to share AND a take home treat in addition to 3-courses of fabulous, reliably delicious food and first class service.  All for $45. Estimated savings: $22.50pp.  See my recaps from 2012 and 2011
  • The Capital Grille - The giant Bone-in Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin alone is $45 on the regular menu, so it's like getting 2 other courses and sides for free. Estimated savings: $39pp. See my recap from 2012


**PRICE TIER: $20**

One Pico at Shutters on the Beach
Menu $20 (2-courses)
One Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405 (310) 587-1717
Why?: 3 courses for $20 involving flatbread with prosciutto burrata and padron peppers, seared tuna nicoise with quail egg and mascarpone cheesecake with huckleberries and meyer lemon. AND a ocean view.  What more can you ask for?
Estimated Savings: $28pp* -Based on next closest items from regular menu: flatbread $15 + tuna nicoise $25 + dessert not posted, estimating $8  = $48 - $20 = $28
Menu $20 (3-courses)
2025 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067 (310) 551-3334
Why?: Calamari Po Boy, choice of any dessert on their menu, big savings and eat in fancy Hyatt hotel fine dining setting for $20? In.
Estimated Savings: $20pp* - Based on same items from regular menu: chicken al pastor $16 + calamari po boy $18 + dessert standard $6 = $40 - $20 = $20

Bar | Kitchen
Menu $20 (2-courses)
819 S Flower St., Los Angeles, CA 90017 (213) 784-3048
Why?: Shrimp & Grits as one of the entree choices!!!
Estimated Savings: $8pp* -Based on same items from regular menu: butternut squash salad $10 + shrimp & grits $18 = $28 - $20 = $8

**PRICE TIER: $25**

Caulfield's Bar and Dining Room
Menu $25 (3-courses)
9360 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 90212 (310) 388-6860
Why?: Have seen a lot of buzz around this place lately, and the regular menu can be pricey, so dineLA may be the time to give it a try for those who live/work close by enough to pop in for lunch. You do get 3 courses for $25 at lunch in Beverly Hills, almost half off regular menu pricing*, which is borderline insane. And a lot ofthe same items from the dineLA dinner menu make an appearance on the lunch one, so it's an even less expensive way to check this place out: Smoked Steelhead Trout in a Jar, rabbit terrine, trout. skirt steak with anticucho sauce, and same desserts as dinner. If you like to live like Mad Men once in a while and go for the drinking lunch: you have an option here to add a glass of Prosecco for $10 as well.
Estimated Savings: $21pp* - Based on same or next closest items from regular menu: trout in jar $12 + skirt steak $25 + dessert avg $9 = $46 - $25 = $21

Fig & Olive
Menu $25 (3-courses) NOTE: deal extended through 2/8 (except not served on 1/26)
8490 Melrose Place, Los Angeles, CA 90069 Ph: (310) 360-9100
Why?: Some of the same items from dineLA dinner menu are offered for lunch! Starter options include TRUFFLE mushroom croquette, Northern Italian Mushroom and TRUFFLE soup, and main options include Seafood Paella. So you can have the same stuff but much cheaper (obviously at lunch portions though)  
Estimated Savings: $33pp* Based on items from regular menu: salmon ceviche crostone $16/truffle croquette $13 + paella del mar $32 + dessert $10 = $58/$55 - $25 = $33/$30

Oliverio at the Avalon Beverly Hills
Menu $25
9400 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, 90212 Ph: (310) 407-7791
Why?: Four courses for lunch that involve octopus, ricotta beef ragu ravioli and branzino before you even get o dessert? For $25?  Wish I worked closer.
Estimated Savings: ~$24pp Based on next closest items or course averages from regular menu: pasta first course $12 + fish second course (salmon) $28+Dessert standard price $9 = $49 - $25 = $24 (They also offer a business lunch normally for $30 3-courses - so if compared to that, you'd save $5 on dineLA)

Menu watch: Some restaurants do not have menu prices posted online so I have to double check before assessing whether it's a deal: like Livello at the L'Ermitage BH, Aburiya Toranoko, and Obika Mozzarella Bar.

Honorable mentions: Some restaurants have attractive menus and/or great deals, but were not listed here as they already have regular prix fixe menus you can access outside of dineLA, like FarmShop (3-course dinners averaging $45-$48 nightly), Papilles (whose entire restaurant concept is a single prix fixe dinner menu for $35-$37 every night they're open) and Mo-Chica with lunch special for $15 (main +2 sides and dessert).

Dishonorable mention: The BLVD at Beverly Wilshire Hotel lunch for $25 is only 2 courses, and at first it looks like a great deal to be able to add the caviar pasta for only $10 more (the dish normally runs you $26 on regular menu) - BUT beware if you're going to drink anything besides water (and even then I would double check the price) - I ordered an Arnold Palmer without thinking that I would need to confirm pricing for such a basic drink, and was charged $8.  I did a double take just to make sure maybe it wasn't refillable and they charged me for 2?  Nope, it was $8 for one Arnold Palmer. And don't think you can get free Wi-Fi here for your tablet, just because it's in the lobby level of the hotel - they'll hand you a card with a passcode, but they won't tell you first that there's a $5 charge - the first time you'll become aware of it is when you see it added to your bill. Also, valet parking here even with restaurant validation is $12 - but it is good for all day use, so if you plan to spend the day walking around Rodeo / Beverly and leaving your car there then you may get good use out of that fee.


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. Total estimated savings will vary depending on items ordered.

*****I will continue to update this as more menus post. Let me know if you find any good ones I've missed. Follow me on Instagram @onemorebiteblog to check out my latest dineLA meals!*****

Contest alert: Dine. Snap. Win. Instagram Enter for a chance to win a 1-night stay at the Thompson Beverly Hills hotel + dinner for 2 at Caulfield's Bar and Dining Room + weekend use of a 2013 Cadillac ATS. Just capture a picture of your fav Restaurant Week dish and post with the hashtag #dineLA for a chance to win (awesome as this was something I was going to do anyways!). Multiple entries allowed. At the end of dineLA, the 25 most popular eateries with dishes featured on Instagram will win Diner’s Choice. Ends 2/1/13. See official rules here.

Deal alert: Below are some easy ways to stack your deals, most free to sign up (see websites for details):
  • OpenTable - register and make reservations online. When you check in at the restaurant, earn points towards a gift certificate redeemable at any OpenTable restaurant!
  • Use credit card with a rewards program:
    • American Express
      • This time, there is no $5 statement credit offer with $21 minim spend.  But you can still register with Amex iDine, then use it to pay for your dineLA meal to get up to 15% statement credit (% differs by restaurant; % back available year round.  See site for details)
    • Use airline/hotel credit cards to earn miles/points for every $ spent during dineLA and year round.
  • College students / those saddled with college loans: register credit card with their dining program. Cross check database with your chosen dineLA restaurants, dine, and pay with that card to automatically get up to 8% of your bill towards repayment of student loans!
  • United Mileage Plus: register credit card with dining program, get up to 5 miles per $ spent on meals year round including tax and tip
  • Mall Rewards - leverage year-round programs during dineLA to stack rewards (bring receipts to mall concierge for registration):
  • Dine on Sunday 1/27 when street parking is free in most neighborhoods to save on valet.
Got other tips to share? Please post in comments section below!

Bon appetit!

P.S. - In years past some restaurants offered dineLA deals outside official dates, or extended them past official dates.  Check with your favs to see what they're offering!

Where will you be going for dineLA?


dineLA (Winter 2013)
January 21-February 1, 2013
Lunch: $15,$20 or $25
Dinner: $25, $35 or $45

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