521 N La Cienega Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048
Dining date: 10/3/15
Raku is one of the year’s most exciting restaurant openings for me; I never expected to see this place in Los Angeles. I’ve enjoyed the restaurant a handful of times since it opened in Las Vegas’ Chinatown 2008. In its early stages, it was a fairly unassuming ‘locals spot’ in a Chinatown strip mall. The restaurant steadily gathered a very devoted following and national acclaim, following up with a Raku Sweets concept in 2013 and this second location of Raku that opened just last month.
The menu at this West Hollywood location is virtually identical to the original, with a long list of menu items and a chalkboard of daily specials. We ordered up a couple of daily specials (bluefin tuna sashimi, iberico pork skewers), a few old favorites and some new dishes.
114 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 9/2/15
I’ve been to Redbird a few times; I consider it to be the best ‘new American’ restaurant in the downtown area. It seems to have a little bit of something for everyone and it helps that it’s such close proximity to my home and office. On this occasion, I introduced an out-of-town coworker to the restaurant.
It was a great time to take advantage of the open roof on a warm summer evening. It had a little bit of the al fresco dining feel yet still had the elements of a beautiful, modern dining room.
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
Dining date: 9/8/15
While traveling in New York, a few coworkers and I had one free night to have a dinner together. They left it up to me to choose a restaurant for the four of us. It didn’t take too much deliberation to pick Per Se. This would be my first time dining here and the first Thomas Keller restaurant for the rest of the party.
Generally regarded as one of the best restaurants in the city (America and the world), Per Se holds three Michelin stars, is rated 4 stars by the New York Times, and is ranked #40 in the latest best restaurants in the world list (holding a top 10 spot for an impressive 8-year streak from 2005 to 2012).
New York, NY 10001
Dining date: 9/10/15
While traveling in New York City for business, I took a couple of days off to explore the city. That meant a few open meals to plan in town and a dizzying array of options. After plenty of deliberation, I decided on The NoMad for a solo lunch.
The NoMad, inside the hotel of the same name, is the second restaurant from the Eleven Madison Park team of Daniel Humm and Will Guidara. The food and vibe here is much more casual than its highly-acclaimed sibling, but The NoMad has plenty of accolades in its own right. It currently holds one Michelin star and is ranked #67 on Pellegrino’s world’s best restaurant’s list.
5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 9/14/15
This year, Providence is celebrating its 10th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, the restaurant held a three-part guest chef series. The first one was last month featuring Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn in San Francisco) and Suzanne Goin (Lucques), while this one brought chefs Michael Tusk (Quince in San Francisco) and Marc Vetri (Vetri in Philadelphia) into the restaurant. Rounding out the series will be a dinner next month featuring David Kinch (Manresa in Los Gatos) and Mauro Colagreco (Mirazur in France).
I’ve been to Michelin two-starred Quince once and casual sister restaurant Cotogna a few times. This would be my first time having Vetri’s food, though. Tusk, Vetri and Providence’s Michael Cimarusti and pastry chef Jessi Liu collaborated on the evening’s menu, eight courses, for $225.
1600 Atlas Peak Rd
Napa, CA 94558
Dining date: 8/30/15
When The French Laundry closed this past winter for a remodel, Thomas Keller partnered with Napa’s Silverado Resort to open up a temporary restaurant on the grounds. The primary reason was to keep the TFL team employed while the restaurant was closed, which was only supposed to be about 3-4 months. The French Laundry did reopen in April, but Ad Lib’s run has been extended through October when the resort will host a PGA Tour event.
While I am a huge Thomas Keller fan, I was a little apprehensive about trying Ad Lib. The restaurant had received somewhat mixed reviews and The French Laundry staff had already departed in April back to their home restaurant. Furthermore, one of the most popular dishes from the original run, a short rib beef wellington, was no longer on the menu. However, I figured I might as well give the restaurant a try during its limited run.
Temporarily situated inside the resort’s Royal Oak restaurant, Ad Lib was one of the dimmest restaurants in recent memory. The focus of the decor was primarily on the large windows peering out onto the resort grounds and its golf course. While it was dark by the time of our reservation, we observed a striking moonrise over the mountains.