Patti's Picks for Eating Large at Great LA Restaurants

As the roving restaurant critic for Rick Dees morning show on Movin 93.9 FM I search the city for top spots to dine that tantalize the tastebuds and thrill the senses. Here are my latest picks as heard on Dees Fridays and Saturdays between 6 am and 10 am:

CATCH at Casa Del Mar Hotel by the Sea--  this is one mighty fine catch for fish lovers. While everything chef Michael Reardon creates for this California-beach-style-waterfront restaurant is fantastic, fish rules here. We loved the fresh Alaskan halibut, cooked perfectly and simply with celery root puree and lemon. The John Dory done with Nicoise olives, lemon and oregano was equally palate pleasing.  Start out with chilled Mexican prawns with avocado and grapefruit or beef carpaccio prepared about as good as it gets.  Also worth sampling is the Sushi and sashimi offerings, each one a delight.  The menu is fairly extensive but not over powering with something for every taste. Roast chicken breast, Parmesan risotto with black truffles, prime ribeye and of course desserts to go off your diet for, are all amazing. 
I'm
not just whistling accolades, this place rocks for great food at pretty reasonable prices for such a spiffy spot in an upscale hotel that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.  The crisp modern room is brightly decorated, with lots of white accents. The centerpiece of the place is a stylish rectangular bar inlaid with pearl tiles—which rocks with young Santa Monica crowd and out of towners. The wait staff is friendly, knowledgeable and well some of the best in town. And they even match your napkin with the color of your outfit, just in case you get over zealous.

Tips:  Parking’s prettystiff so try tofind a spot on the street. We had no problem fining a nearby space on a Saturday night recently. Dress casually California chic, but please don’t wear shorts our restaurant critic really feels that disses the chef.

Bring a big appetite.

Looking for a great seaside place for a warm summer night, Catch is it. 1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica, 310-581-5533; www.hotelcasadelmar.com.

Fred Segal Mauro Cafe sees stars and eat large at this nifty bistro-like eatery. The food's great and the eye candy sweet with regulars like Naomi Watts, Paris and Nicky, Katie Holmes, Nicole Richie, Patrick Dempsy and other bratpackers filling the indoor/outdoor tables. Everything on the Italian-style menu is yummy, by the way from the paninis to the pastas and beyond. 8112 Melrose Ave., WeHo, 323-653-2874.

The Stinking Rosea wonderfully whimsical, over-the-top restaurant dedicated to the scent, flavor, taste and healthy attributes of GARLIC. Everything about this place reeks of garlic from the highly infused menu to the flamboyant garlic themed art on the walls of it six rooms.  What can we say about a place whose motto is “We season our garlic with food” except it’s   fun, frivolous and a virtual GAS with dishes like Bagna Calda—garlic loves oven-roasted in extra virgin olive oil--garlic steamed clams, Louisiana shrimp in garlic tomato broth, garlic roasted prime rib; Dungeness killer crab roasted in—you guessed it—garlic sauce; Porterhouse pork chop done with sweet garlic relish and garlic mashed potatoes.  And hey, you know how you love to gnaw on the bone of a prime rib, well at the Stinking Rose you can actually order a plate of prime rib bones to satisfy your craving.  Ask for a booth in the Garlywood room—the Rose’s tribute to Tinsel Town or the Piazza, a European style courtyard with canopy tents or the colorful Chianti Room—and prepare to have your taste buds drowned in glorious garlic.  There’s a great wine list by the bottle or glass, draft beer—you’ll need some to wash down the garlic. Perfect for a fun night with reasonable prices and a great wait staff.  And if you don’t get enough cloves, you can buy garlic-laced potato chips, sauces, t-shirts and even garlic condoms (no kidding, you may want to carry some mouth wash for after dinner if you’re planning on after dinner action).   The Stinking Rose, garlic for life, 55 N. La Cienega Blvd., 310-652-7673. www.thestinkingrose.com.

  

The Whisper Lounge

This wildly popular lounge/restaurant is the place to go for appetizers and drinks after shopping til you drop, a movie or anytime you feel like good eats and ambience. Located smack in the middle of the Grove—LA’s shopping mecca, Whisper dishes out awesome food created by executive chef Chris Bocchino from locally grown produce, much it from nearby Farmers Market

 

The mood is definitely electric and romantic, enhanced by vibrant red and yellow half-moon scones glowing off dark walls and live jazz on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 pm to 8 pm. Located in the Grove Shopping Center 189 The Grove Drive, suite F-90B, 323-931-0102; www.whisperlougela.com

Save a few bucks, by going on Tuesday nights when a large selection of exceptional wines are offered at half-price like a ripe Etude Pinot Noir, normally $150, goes for just $75. Or bring your own and they’ll waive the corkage fee. Then share appetizers like grilled Kobe beef sliders (a plate of three for $13), warm Gorgonzola tart with Zinfandel-poached pear ($15), Whisper fries with homemade dipping sauces, pizzas prepared to perfection, an incredible hummus plate with tomato, olive and Feta cheese timbale ($14). If you’re still hungry order a Caesar salad with chicken or shrimp ($15),  the halibut or cedar plank roasted salmon ($27), spinach and ricotta ravioli ($19) or supper club burger on a sesame bun with cheese and a side dish of your choice for only $17. Desserts, by the way, are to die for yummy so forget your diet and splurge.

Icrease your wine IQ by stopping by on the first Monday of the month fort special tastings that cost $25 with tax, tip and hors d’oeuvres; and if you stay for dinner they take 10 percent off the tab! And get this, in this day and age of astronomical parking fees, Whisper offers two hours free validated parking.

 Whisper’s perfect before or after a movie or shopping spree at the Grove, or just about any time you want to enjoy good food and ambiance with some special friends.

  

Melisse --The Spot for that special occasion Melisse is all about food and ambiance.  On a recent visit we spotted well-dressed young couples obviously celebrating their engagement, or perhaps getting engaged.Plan on spending two or three hours savoring super chef Josiah Citrin’s California/Mediterranean cuisine, which he says is “based on classical French techniques” and all natural ingredients, which he buys from local farmers. This is the restaurant that foodies and food critics rave about and rightly so. Citrin’s food is fantastic.  There are tasting menus (Highly Recommended) or a la carte choices that range from sweet pea soup with Greek Yogurt mint mousse; risotto done with asparagus and morel mushrooms in a red wine reduction; ricotta gnocchi; amazing white asparagus, wild king salmon that’s to die for, a trio of veal loin, veal spare rib and braised shank that makes your mouth sing with every bite.

Carnivores will love the various Wagyu Kobe beef selections done with truffles or shiitake mushrooms. And everybody will love the desserts like sticky toffee pudding with mocha malt ice ream, coffee Tia Maria and orange consommé; raspberry-apricot tart with pistachio bavarois and raspberry sorbet that was awesome; or the lemon gratin with sugar crisps, mandarin crepes and vanilla caramel shake.

Bring a big appetite folks you’re in for a treat.

Great wine list to accompany the meal, but if you go for the tasting menu, it’s wise to let the waiterpair the wines for each course, as he knows best what goes with what dish.

Although somewhat pricey, the $95 three course-tasting menu is actually a bargain when you consider the quality of the food and presentation. Not exactly for the budget conscious, Melisse is designed for lovers of fine food.Not to worry if you’re new to the gourmet game, the wait staff is great and will patiently walk you through the menu.

Save a few bucks and burn some calories and park on Wilshire or one of the side streets. There us a parking lot but it will cost you about $8 with the tip.  310-395-0881, www.melisse.com

just $7 a big pour.

Wine lovers should head to Port O Call Restaurant in San Pedro on Monday or Tuesday nights when a bottle is 1/2 price with any entree. It's a really good deal.  Had a Cakebread Chard for a mere $22 and there are even cheaper choices. What's more the food's good, large portions, small prices, great service.

Speaking a good deal, how about stopping for a drink at the Champagne Bar at the Hotel Bel-Air after a day of Christmas shopping in Beverly Hills. You can enjoy flights of wine, bubbly, booze and a super bar menu that's affordably priced. And it's such a cozy, romantic spot with a fireplace, pianist and big comfy chairs.

 

ROMANOV Cool, hip and happening, the Valley's newest spot HOTTEST RESTAURANT GIVES NEW MEANING TO A STEAKHOUSE, THIS ONE IN RUSSIAN. Okay it may be pricey,but worth the splurge, if only to experience the fit for a Czar, palace-style room. I’m talking Russian trimmings got wild with an outrageously eccentric chandelier imported piece-by-piece from Russia, Faberge egg lamps, and gold plated walls. To really get you in the mood, there’s a bodacious selection of vodkas, one comes in Faberge egg and sells for $2,800 (if you can’t afford to buy it, they’ll be happy to show it to you.

If that’s not enough gypsy dancers take the stage nightly.

 

Fare: food fit for royalty with assorted Russian appetizers (potato blini with smoked salmon and crème fraiche and caviar ($16); pozharsky stuffed with ground beef and pork ($14) that lead the way to Borscht, a salads (I recommend the Czar salad, a good twist on Caesar), and fish and meats. Best bets are the prime dry age T-bone steak ($38), Colorado lamb chop and czar and czarina cuts of prime rib ($41 and $34).

 

Prices too stiff for your budget sip a  vodka (or other libation) at the bar, around 8 o’clock and enjoy the show and to get a look at the exquisite chandelier that is so unique Vegas’ Steve Wynn has begged to buy it.

Romanov Restaurant & Lounge, 12229 Ventura Blvd., Studio City

818-760-3177, www.romanovia.com

1 comment