Barrel & Ashes (Los Angeles, CA)

Barrel & Ashes
11801 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604
Dining date: 11/22/14

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One of the hottest restaurants in LA right now has to be this place, Barrel & Ashes. It’s the latest from prolific restaurateur Bill Chait, teaming up this time with two Thomas Keller vets Tim Hollingsworth (The French Laundry) and Rory Herrmann (Bouchon). Add barman Julian Cox and I’d say this is one of the highest-powered restaurant teams LA’s seen in some time. While the Hollingsworth/Herrmann pedigree comes from some of the fanciest of foods, Barrel & Ashes focuses in on a rather ‘simple’ food – BBQ. They’ve done extensive travel and eating and bring a mix of regional Southern specialties to Studio City.

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The menu hones in on meat sold by the weight and ribs by the rack or half-rack. A handful of small plates and sides round out the savory part of the menu. On this evening, we tried a couple of the small plates and tried as many of the meats we could in one sitting.

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Maude (Beverly Hills, CA)

Maude
212 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Dining date: 4/12/14

Maude Opened in February, Curtis Stone’s Maude was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year. It’s still one of the most popular restaurants in the city, packing tables for its seasonal, monthly tasting menus. The concept is rather unique; each month, the restaurant chooses one ingredient/theme to showcase throughout its entire 9+ course tasting menu (there is no a la carte option). This April dinner was centered around peas ($80).

Reservations are available at 10am on the 1st of the month for the following month (e.g. April reservations were available on March 1). On March 1, we placed hundreds of calls to get a busy signal…and finally secured a table in the early afternoon. Definitely one of the more difficult reservations to obtain in a while.

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Faith & Flower (Los Angeles, CA)

Faith & Flower
705 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 4/3/14

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Faith & Flower is one of the bigger downtown restaurant openings lately, brought to us by a powerful partnership between Coastal Luxury Management (Pebble Beach Food & Wine, Los Angeles Food & Wine) and Stephane Bombet (Picca). It’s the first LA restaurant opening for the high-profile CLM team and Bombet’s first since his partnership with Ricardo Zarate.

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The restaurant space, formerly Towne Food & Drink, is large and quite nice. Located near LA Live, it has a luxurious-feeling interior, though still feels comfortable for someone having a casual meal out. The restaurant partners brought in chef Michael Hung to execute the menu, who comes with a San Francisco-based fine dining pedigree (Jardinere, La Folie). The food is more approachable than his background may suggest; it could be classified as modern American and I found a lot of Asian flair throughout his food. Between our party of three, we sampled our way through a good portion of the menu, picking out a number of vegetarian-friendly items for our vegetarian friend.

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Studio (Laguna Beach, CA)

Studio
30801 Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Dining date: 3/29/14

studio laguna beach

I’ve known about Studio for a while and always figured it to be a good option if I was ever in need of a nicer restaurant in the southern part of Orange County. Just recently I found myself on a weekend trip to OC and decided it was time to try it. The restaurant is located on the Montage Laguna Beach property (which is beautiful, I might add), right on the edge of the resort by the water. I’d recommend a pre- or post-dinner walk to take it all in, including the garden where the restaurant grows much of its own produce and herbs.

studio laguna beach

studio garden

The chef here is Craig Strong, who came to Studio four years ago after helming the kitchen of the Ritz-Carlton/Langham Pasadena (and was replaced by one Michael Voltaggio). Strong’s modern Californian/French cooking is available in a six-course tasting menu ($125), but we elected to do a la carte on this evening.

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Fifty Seven (Los Angeles, CA)

Fifty Seven
712 S Santa Fe Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Dining date: 3/28/14

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Located in between popular daytime options Bread Lounge and Stumptown Coffee and just around the corner from always-popular Bestia, Fifty Seven is the latest restaurant opening in the red hot Arts District. The restaurant, which opened this past week, is to me one of the more intriguing recent concepts. The format has been compared to the old Test Kitchen and its revolving door of chefs creating their own menus. Whereas Test Kitchen stints typically lasted just a few days, Fifty Seven will welcome a new chef every few months to come in and create an entirely new menu. To me, the success of Fifty Seven will ultimately be dependent upon the quality and excitement of the chefs they are able to bring in.

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David Nayfield is the chef in residence and the first chef to craft their own menu. Nayfield has a strong pedigree, most recently coming from the highly acclaimed Eleven Madison Park. He brings his progressive American cuisine in the form of a $48 three-course menu with a handful of additional a la carte snacks available. Three different options were available for each course; between the two of us, we were able to sample two-thirds of the options and added on two snacks for good measure.

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Melisse (Santa Monica, CA)

Melisse
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 1/24/14

Melisse

Melisse, like the restaurant of my last post Providence, is oft-considered one of the best restaurants in the city for its French-Californian cuisine. It’s truly one of the few refined fine dining destinations that has survived through all the food trends Los Angeles has seen since it’s opening in 1999. Like Providence, Melisse garnered 2 Michelin stars in the last guide; while I have been familiar with Providence ever since it opened, my first visit to Melisse didn’t come until a relatively late 2010. I’ve now had a few meals here (including a very memorable Farewell to Foie last year) and have thoroughly enjoyed them.

The impetus for this dinner was the restaurant’s participation in dineLA’s new $85 price level, an opportune time for 4 friends’ first visit. As with many dineLA options I wondered – what type of meal would Melisse provide at this lower price point? Would it still reflect a ‘regular’ Melisse experience? I was pleasantly surprised on both counts.

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