THE TOP TEN Romantic Restaurants in Los Angeles Area
Sometimes we all need a little help when it comes time to impress a date. Certain restaurants may please the tongue and fill the belly but don't tug on our emotions. The selections we have gathered here have that certain something—perhaps a light-speckled patio, or a roving musician, or inspirational garden—that can wow a date, and put them in the mood to satisfy other appetites. Presented in alphabetical order, here are the top ten romantic restaurants in Los Angeles.
Sometimes we all need a little help when it comes time to impress a date. Certain restaurants may please the tongue and fill the belly but don't tug on our e... more
617 S. Olive St., Los Angeles, CA 90014 / 213-488-9488
It doesn't get much more glamorous than this in L.A. Located in the historic Oviatt Building, Cicada occupies what was once a haberdashery with a design inspired by an Art Deco oceanliner from the ’20s. The 30-foot ceilings, supported by soaring hand-carved maple columns, are etched in gold leaf, while a mezzanine level is lined with colorful murals. Also upstairs is a swanky bar whose sofas and leather club chairs invite guests to relax with a cocktail before dinner, or linger with a grappa afterwards. The restaurant, loaded with precious Lalique glass, is surely among the most dramatic dining environments in town, making it ideal for romantic occasions. The modern Italian menu offers starters such as ahi napoleon with wasabi caviar sauce, zucchini blossom tempura and a first-rate polenta-crusted scallop. Entrées include Kobe beef ravioli with yellow tomato coulis, grilled lamb chops with date pancake, and Dover sole with herb-lemon sauce. Cicada is a very popular venue for special events, so be sure to check that the restaurant is open for dinner on the date of your desired visit.
1009 El Centro St., South Pasadena, CA 91030 / 626-441-2443
Monique King and husband Paul Rosenbluh, both seasoned chefs, are behind Firefly Bistro, situated in an exclusively outdoor space. While King is now the chef at NINETHIRTY restaurant in Westwood, Rosenbluh is the executive chef here. Rosenbluh has worked at Granita, Campanile and Joe's, as well as Soul Kitchen. The New American cuisine with eclectic touches, served on the festive, tented patio (fully heated in winter), includes dishes like Cuban pork dumplings, smoked tuna croquettes with lime aïoli, pecan-crusted catfish and a very rewarding risotto laced with oxtail and vegetables. Linger over desserts like Key lime pie and apricot cobbler. The restaurant also offers an interesting, affordable wine list.
9018 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 / 310-276-9990
We encourage you to try chef-owner Pasquale Vericella’s fun cuisine. The longtime Beverly Hills hideaway with its charming garden filled with lights has hosted hundreds of weddings. Despite a little street noise, the front patio is choice, although the indoor dining rooms with mirrored walls, fireplace and cherubs painted on the ceiling are romantic as well. There is a quotidian tasting menu based upon the chef's findings and a stable and simple à la carte menu. Salad, homemade scialatielli, risotto, fresh sea bass and colorful desserts---which can be personalized for special occasions---make for a fine meal. The little touches of sauce and seasoning are important components of the experience. Interesting Italian wines dominate the list.
Inn of the Seventh Ray
128 Old Topanga Rd., Topanga, CA 90290 / 310-455-1311
Located in the heart of Topanga Canyon, the restaurant's main building retains much of its history from the 1930s, when it was a private retreat, church, garage, gas station and auto junkyard. Inspired by its one-time holy sanctuary spirit, the owners transformed the place into one of the most romantic restaurants in Los Angeles. It starts with the drive through the canyon, then to the tables spread about the garden under gorgeous trees, and along the winding creek, and ends with the gift store on the way out. The owners initially introduced the restaurant as vegetarian, but have departed from that concept, hiring young and talented chef Cyril Kabaoglu. Born and trained in France, Kabaoglu has perfectly integrated California's culture to create a modern cuisine of his own, using all fresh and organic products. He has free reign to play with the ingredients, and he takes the time to design each plate for the pleasure of your eyes. He has composed à la carte dishes as well as a vegetarian tasting menu, an all-raw foods menu and a traditional menu. We tried a little of each to ensure that his technique works in all. We started with raw velouté, espuma and carrot chips, followed by an heirloom tomato tartare topped with goat cheese and roasted bay beets. The raw scallops were layered on a bed of portobello mushrooms, while the roasted langoustines were served with cuttlefish seasoned with squid ink oil. Foie gras is not on the menu every day (unless you order it in advance), but when it is, it comes on homemade brioche, with amaretto and almond nougatine. Vanilla is used to perfume the parsnip purée gracefully plated under the John Dory. After the roasted duck breast in duck jus vinaigrette, we were convinced that Kabaoglu is a chef on the rise. Artisanal cheeses can also be ordered as an appetizer. The sushi fruit platter was the least interesting of the desserts, so try the apple baked in Calvados on salted caramel (hey, after all, Kabaoglu is from Normandy), sprinkled with almond cookie, with a spoon of a delicate raw cookie dough. We can't forget to mention that the bread is homemade and delicious. The bucolic and soothing setting (we prefer the outside rather than the indoor dining room, still bearing its stained-glass of its past) is a good excuse to linger and peruse the quite substantial wine list, boasting over 400 selections from around the world.
13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 / 818-784-2915
Andre Guerrero just loves to cook. He started at the age of ten with his father. Born in the Philippines, he arrived in the U.S. in the early '60s, and has traveled to Asia many times since then. No wonder his cuisine is Californian with Asian accents. The restaurant---named after one of his sons---is decorated in warm earth tones, with backlit mirrors, candlelight and linen-clad tables, including a few tucked into an intimate dining alcove and others spilling out onto the sidewalk, making for an elegant evening. Guerrero (formerly at Café Le Monde, Duet and Linq) has fine tuned his cuisine for the pleasure of our taste buds. We like his lumpia, shrimp and pork spring rolls, an old family recipe; his hamachi carpaccio; or crispy calamari salad for appetizers. The miso-marinated sea bass is a must for fish-lovers. The hoisin demi-glace cabbage stuffed with braised beef short rib is a perfect combination with the crispy sweetbreads and the leek risotto. Seems very classic, but the sautéed filet mignon with Belgian (and not French) fries is a winner. The only Asian influence found in the desserts is with the banana-coconut custard. Other options are a Granny Smith apple galette or a flourless chocolate cake. Small but interesting wine list. Guerrero's other son is also happy, since Guerrero's second restaurant, Señor Fred, a few blocks away on the boulevard and serving Mexican cuisine, is named after him.
1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401 / 310-395-0881
When it comes to gourmet dining on the Westside (of the Mississippi), Mélisse is now a household name. The expert and talented chef-owner, Josiah Citrin, has created a restaurant with the notion of emphasizing traditional French cuisine with Cal-Italian twists. There is an obsession with fresh produce and herbs, and you’ll see Citrin at the farmers market each Wednesday morning. He and chef de cuisine John Pettit will concoct your tasty courses. We love to dine here when time and price are no object. After a couple of surprise amuse-bouches---a half of a miniature heirloom tomato coated in goat cheese and dusted with pistachio crumbs, for example---start with a lobster bolognese with fresh cappellini, summer truffles and basil or a superb trio of ravioli, agnolotti and tortelloni with lobster and baby mushrooms then a perfect poached (sous-vide) duck breast with black Mission figs, turnips and savory couscous in sweet-and-sour jus. Or perhaps steamed Alaskan halibut with eggplant compote, heirloom tomato broth and aromatic oil. Let one of the best cheese carts in town tantalize you for at least a couple of slivers and proceed to Citrin’s sweet excursions of sticky toffee pudding with mocha malt ice cream and coffee-orange consommé or his “chocolate, chocolate, chocolate,” a flight of milk, dark and white chocolate desserts including a chocolate soufflé, a chocolate mascarpone parfait, white chocolate lollipop with milk chocolate ice cream and a peanut butter-chocolate torte. Serious foodies should consider one of the pricy but satisfying multi-course tasting menus. With its generously spaced tables topped with fine linen or booth seating, Limoges china and Riedel stemware, Mélisse is suitably elegant for special occasions, romantic and other important dinner meetings. Choose from a couple of separate rooms for private affairs. They do wine right and serve very professionally most of the time.
8338 W. Third St., West Hollywood, CA 90048 / 323-653-3300
Chef-owner Christophe Emé, and partner Jeri Ryan, acquired the space formerly occupied by Linq and after an extensive redesign opened Ortolan (in French, a tiny, rare game bird). Where do we start: the bar and lounge, the vault with its 24-foot-long communal table, or the main dining room? The bar and lounge, actually two different rooms, welcome you for an apéritif or a last drink. At the bar, sit next to shelves filled with herbs Emé uses in the kitchen; or linger in the intimate dark blue lounge on a sofa by the fireplace. The main dining room commands elegance with luxurious drapes and high-back leather booths and classic crystal chandeliers, a comfortable setting to experience the solid preparations of chef Emé. He hails from France, his French repertoire played out in a short and well-balanced menu. You'll find classic dishes like foie gras, roasted scallops and sweetbreads along with more innovative compositions like seared escargots, crayfish with rabbit meatballs and, one of our favorites, the lamb pastilla. Be sure to visit in November and December when the white truffle menu makes its annual appearance. Emé makes a strong and modern statement in the presentations of his dishes, with colors, shapes and arrangements. Staff sometimes present the fish dishes on hot stones, ensuring food stays toasty warm. To finish, Emé awakens cheesecake with his lighter-than-air interpretation made with puff pastry, and panna cotta with passion fruit arouses taste buds. Don't neglect the few tables outside where you'll experience yet another dining venue.
The Restaurant at Hotel Bel-Air
Hotel Bel-Air, 701 Stone Canyon Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90077 / 310-472-5234
It is always a delight to cross the entrance bridge at Hotel Bel-Air that leads you to the most romantic hotel grounds in the City of Angels. After all, that is surely the reason why it has been called hotel heaven. It is so beautiful that we never know if we should go for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner. Every part of the day has a different charm, helped by the beautiful terrace (heated from the ground in winter). Friendly chef Bruno Lopez, with his French culinary talent and expertise in the kitchen, enhances the experience. Try his seared tuna, and the truffle-cauliflower cream soup. We like the sea scallop fondue where scallops are dipped in a tasty sauce au beurre blanc. For the main course, he has created a California interpretation of the Marseilles bouillabaisse while the daurade has kept its Mediterranean preparation. The squab is house-smoked and you can really tell the difference when tasting the meat. The veal is elegantly presented under a gratin de pommes de terre. The trio of soufflés is a light way to end your meal. Sommelier Emmanuel Faure's experience contributes to the impressive wine list, starting at $38 for an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, going all the way up to $3,200 for a 1961 Lafite Rothschild. Be prepared to encounter prestigious guests; former First Lady Nancy Reagan has even given her name to her favorite Cobb salad. Wherever you sit, inside or on the terrace, The Restaurant is one of our favorite hideaways in town, and the time you spend there is always a true and unique romance.
401 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90048 / 310-659-7708
The easiest way to find Sona on La Cienega Boulevard is to spot the distinctive green foliage at the entrance of a simple white one-story building; don’t look for the small sign that is not illuminated. Young chef David Myers (he was 28 when he opened the restaurant in 2002) also wanted the interior to be straightforward and chic. So stepping into this Los Angeles establishment offering a true gastronomical experience reveals a modern white-and-gray interior, where cloth-covered tables are padded underneath for the comfort of your knees, and probably your ears. Before opening his own restaurant, Myers obtained solid training next to Charlie Trotter, Gérard Boyer, Daniel Boulud and Joachim Splichal. The short menu, printed daily on simple gray paper, reflects Myers’s passion for mixing ingredients that only a chef of a certain caliber would dare attempt and with success. Try the rice-crusted sweetbreads with a poached quail egg in apple butter or the shell bean and shrimp salad with chorizo and bitter orange marmalade to start. The grilled opah served with a yam cardamom purée, pineapple chutney and coconut emulsion; the potato-crusted Alaskan halibut with edamame, rhubarb compote and fennel; and the salt-crusted lamb with green tomato jam, spätzle and goat cheese are perfect illustrations of Myers’s technique. Pastry chef Ramon Perez continues in the same vein with the chocolate mousse in a hazelnut vinaigrette with menthol air and sesame tuile or the financier with a caramel-dipped apple, burnt milk ice cream and vanilla salt. Sommelier Mark Mendoza is at the helm of a beautiful wine cellar featuring more than 2,000 selections from all over the world ranging in price from as little as $20 to a Domaine de la Romanée Conti at $14,000.
Trattoria Tre Venezie
119 W. Green St., Pasadena, CA 91105 / 626-795-4455
The quaint location, slightly off the beaten path, was originally a livery stable, later a popular Mexican restaurant. Now, its charming interior---an intimate mustard-walled dining room filled with art, posters, cookbook-filled bookshelves, and cozy linen-clad tables---is where you'll find some of the area's most interesting Italian food. Featuring the culinary traditions of a small area in northern Italy, from which the restaurant's name is derived---a region known for pasta, seafood, hearty, rustic flavors and Austro-Hungarian influences---Tre Venezie's menu is refreshingly different from any other Italian restaurant in L.A. Examples of the intriguing starters and pastas include honey- and balsamic vinegar-marinated venison, thinly sliced, on a bed of greens with sweet-and-sour pears; foie gras with green tomato compote; cuttlefish; black ink ravioli filled with saffron-inflected halibut and topped with red beet sauce; and chestnut tagliatelle with lobster and mushrooms in a duck reduction sauce. Among entrées, you'll find pan-roasted smoked pork chop with a delicate Gorgonzola sauce, and seared ahi tuna with a green peppercorn-orange sauce. For dessert, try the crema del gondoliere, Venetian-style cooked cream flavored with caramelized sugar and toasted ground almonds. The wine list features a large selection of both Italian and California labels.
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