738 E Burnside St
Portland, OR 97214
Dining date: 3/11/17
Gabriel Rucker’s Le Pigeon has been one of Portland’s most highly-regarded restaurants since 2006. Rucker was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2007 and has won two James Beard awards – Rising Star Chef of the Year (2011) and Best Chef, Northwest (2013). The food here is French, modeled after an upscale bistro. Five and seven course tasting menus are available but we went a la carte for this meal after dedicating some stomach space to an earlier happy hour.
The restaurant is small; a handful of seats are available at the bar (for walk-ins only), while table seating is all communal.
The Restaurant At Meadowood
900 Meadowood Ln
St. Helena, CA 94574
Dining date: 1/14/17
I’ve been to the Restaurant at Meadowood once, seven years ago, and had a great meal. Since then, the restaurant has garned a third Michelin star (it had two at the time) and undergone a renovation, although Executive Chef Christopher Kostow is still at the helm. I’ve been wanting to return for some time and finally had a chance over the MLK Day holiday weekend.
Whereas an a la carte menu was available the last time I was here, the dining room menu is now tasting menu-only. $275 (before 20% service and tax) pays for about a dozen courses.
2901 W MacArthur Blvd
Santa Ana, CA 92704
Dining date: 2/18/17
I really enjoy the Orange County sushi scene, especially when comparing the price point to comparable sushi in Los Angeles. I haven’t tried too many places in the area (I really enjoy Ohshima in Orange), but a friend recommending trying this spot in Santa Ana. Sushi Murasaki has been one of the highly regarded sushi spots in the area for the past decade.
We took a seat at the omakase-only counter for a procession of sushi.
8265 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 2/25/17
The Ponte marks Scott Conant’s return to the Los Angeles dining scene after Scarpetta’s closure last year. Partnering up with LA restaurateur Stephane Bombet, The Ponte is a different concept from Scarpetta although there are a lot of familiar dishes. The famous spaghetti is here, as well as a take on the Scarpetta truffled mushroom polenta and tuna/yellowtail tartare. Ex-Scarpetta and Georgie chef Freddy Vargas has returned here to lead the kitchen.
111 N Los Robles Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
Dining date: 1/27/17
I’ve been to Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco and Pasadena a few times and have had a few good meals here. This latest visit was prompted by DineLA restaurant week, in which the restaurant was offering six courses for $115. One of those courses, the steak course, offered an option of an 18oz dry aged New York strip or 3oz of Kagoshima wagyu. This tasting menu provided quite a bit of value (compared to regular pricing) and an opportunity to try a little bit more of the menu here.
Shunji Japanese Cuisine
12244 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dining date: 1/21/17
Shunji Nakao’s eponymous restaurant has been a sushi staple on the west side since opening in 2012. Nakao has been at the forefront of sushi in Los Angeles for decades since being one of the opening chefs of Matsuhisa. After Matsuhisa, Nakao has also been chef at notable restaurants Asanebo and The Hump.
I’ve been to Shunji once, for lunch, and had an enjoyable meal (it was a great value too). I was excited to come in for dinner and try a little more. We went with a sushi omakase, adding a few cooked dishes to begin with.