Admit it. You read up on all the new restaurant openings around Los Angeles, you make a list, and months later you still haven’t tried any of them. That’s when DineLA comes in handy. Prix fixe lunch menus are priced at $15, $20 or $25, and dinner menus for $29, $39 or $49, which means you won’t feel cheated if it wasn’t to your liking (even the new $95 special menus are legit, considering the restaurants offering them).
When done right, a great restaurant will put its best food forward during restaurant week because it’s the best time to capture new customers. If they phone it in, there’s little to no chance of repeat business. Here are our picks for the best-looking menus and deals at 10 top newcomers that won’t disappoint.
Birch: If you haven’t tried Brendan Collins’ neighborhood spot, which is some of the best food along the Cahuenga Corridor, the dinner menu features just enough signature dishes that you can sample everything in three courses. Start with the chicken liver foie gras mousse; try the sunchoke curry or the palm sugar-glzed pork chops (a condensed version of the most excellent pork shank on the regular menu); chow down on sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Cost: $39 per person.
Cliff’s Edge: While the restaurant isn’t new, there is a new chef in place at the Silver Lake gem, and he’s got a really good cauliflower dish that could get even the most die-hard carnivores attention at the table. The dinner menu features Gavin Humes’s creations like steak tartare with crème fraiche, sea beans and watercress; anticucho grilled cauliflower; diver scallops with carrot jus and brown butter powder; and a chocolate tart with clementine tangerines and marshmallow brulee. It sounds much fancier than it’s $39 price tag. Should you want some foie gras for an appetizer, a DineLA exclusive dish, add $10.
Hanjip BBQ: Chris Oh’s new Culver City Korean bbq spot has a great deal for both lunch and dinner. For daytime, pick a rice bowl, maybe bibimbap with beef, katsu with fried chicken, or a tofu bowl. Add something like prime bulgogi, marinated short rib or Kurobuta pork belly, and it’s only $15. It comes with a slew of banchan that practically makes a meal. For dinner, it’s almost the same with a choice of meat, pork and a side dish, like the bone marrow corn cheese, for $29.
Mare: With a new retractable roof over Eric Greenspan’s hidden “coastal European” hot spot on Melrose, there is no reason to stay away, even on the wettest of winter nights. The dinner deal the chef has going on is pretty stellar too, with a choice of things like vegetable crudité, fried smelt or salt-roasted potatoes; the steak with sea urchin butter, whole branzino with pomegranate glaze, or the fun shellfish bowls that come with a bowl of pasta and soft-boiled eggs; and dessert for only $29 per person.
Maru: Chef Jason Park’s new iteration of his Santa Monica restaurant is a bright and airy spot that’s particularly lovely during the day. For the best deal to try his seasonally inspired, French-Japanese fare, check out the lunch menu, which includes a choice of Hamachi sashimi or roasted beet salad with Lolla Rosa lettuce and Idyllwild goat cheese for a starter, and either a five-piece omakase nigiri with a spicy tuna cut roll, pan-roasted seabass with cauliflower puree and rapini, or chashu pork in puff pastry for an entrée. Two courses almost equal four, all for $25.
Pok Pok LA: This is the best time to see what Andy Ricker’s Chinatown restaurant is all about. There is a great two-course lunch deal, but dinner is where it’s at. Choose from signature dishes like Issan-style jerky, pork laap or fried-to-order spicy cashews; coconut curry with ground fish and krachai over rice vermicelli, catfish marinated in turmeric with vermicelli, or chicken or vegetarian curry noodle soup; and then green papaya salad, crispy fried egg salad, or stir-fried Brussels sprouts. Three-courses for $29.
Sambar: We have a feeling if you went for the $15 lunch at Akasha Richmond’s new Culver City Indian restaurant — mulligatawny soup, sevpur chaat or black chickpea salad AND saag, daal, and squash kofta, a vindaloo beef burger or a tandoori chicken bowl — you’d probably go back again for the three-course $29 dinner (you really want that coffee ice cream pie, too).
The Bellwether: The Studio City newcomer has some great options for the three-course dinner menu, including roasted beets with soubise, charred leek and pistachio pistou; insanely good French fries with house hot sauce and chive crème fraiche (you want to use both); meatballs with ricotta and pecorino; and a New York steak with butter confit, braised lamb shoulder with preserved lemon, or seared swordfish for dinner. Good stuff for $29.
Viviane: Sitting around the pool at the newly redesigned Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills sounds just right for lunch. Chef Michael Hung’s menu is equally enticing, with a pear and chicory salad to start with, and then that prime rib eye sandwich, butter-poached hen with sautéed spinach, or winter squash with creamy grits for a second course. Cookies for dessert, of course. Only $25 per person. The dinner menu is a winner, too.
The Arthur J: This is one of those $95 menus, but it’s still a steal for what you get at David LeFevre’s mod steakhouse in Manhattan Beach. You can choose from some menu greatest hits for dinner, like shrimp cocktail with cucumber and dill; beef sirloin tartare; Swedish meatballs; chilled Alaskan king crab; the pork porterhouse or 16-ounce rib eye; toppings like shaved black truffles or seared foie gras; and sides including creamed spinach, roasted carrots with harissa yogurt, or the dreamy sharp cheddar mac and cheese. Go with a few people, everyone order different things, and you’ve tasted the menu in one fell swoop.