Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (London, UK)

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
66 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7LA
United Kingdom
Dining date: 10/16/14

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Heston Blumenthal is one of the most notable chefs in the world; his flagship The Fat Duck was once named the best restaurant in the world and has consistently garnered three Michelin stars. He has a number of restaurants in Bray (about an hour outside of London), but Dinner was his first restaurant in London proper. Opened in 2011, it’s achieved much praise of its own, currently holding two Michelin stars and standing at #5 on the 2014 S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants List. Having dined at The Fat Duck a couple of years ago, I was eager to try Dinner while in London.

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Melisse (Santa Monica, CA)

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

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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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Providence (Los Angeles, CA)

Providence
5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 1/16/14

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I’ve generally considered Providence one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles since it opened in 2005. I first had chef Michael Cimarusti’s food at downtown’s Water Grill in college and followed him here. This was my fifth visit overall, but my first in about 3.5 years. I’m not totally sure what took me so long to return, but part of it was the fact that my last two visits didn’t live up to the high expectations created by the first two. Providence is consistently in the conversation of top special occasion fine dining restaurants in the city, so it’s a place I like to stop in every so often.

Cimarusti has been a busy man since my last visit and has presumably spent progressively less time in this kitchen, especially with the opening of Connie & Ted’s last year.

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A number of menu options are available. A three course a la carte is $95, while 5-course and 9-course market tasting menus are $105 and $140, respectively. At the highest end, a chef’s tasting menu is available at $195 per person. We stuck to middle ground, ordering the 9 course market menu.

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Keiko à Nob Hill (San Francisco, CA)

Keiko à Nob Hill
1250 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94109
Dining date: 12/1/13

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My dad’s mentioned Keiko à Nob Hill a number of times in the past as a potential restaurant, but we didn’t try it until this most recent trip to celebrate some November birthdays. Chef Keiko Takahashi and partner Seigo Takei opened the restaurant at the end of 2011; while there hasn’t been a ton of buzz surrounding the place, it has garnered a Michelin star in the last couple of guides.

Located in the ritzy Nob Hill neighborhood and in the old location of the venerable Charles Nob Hill restaurant, it looks and feels very expensive. Especially with their tasting-menu only and fusion French/Japanese fine dining. However, its 6-7 course menu is priced at a not-unreasonable $95 a head and comes with some of the best service I’ve had in any restaurant recently.

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Patina (Los Angeles, CA)

Patina
141 South Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 10/10/13

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Patina’s been a fixture in the Los Angeles fine dining scene for decades, celebrating its 10-year anniversary at the Walt Disney Concert Hall this month. To celebrate, the restaurant offered a special menu of 10 courses for $10 each on October 10th.

I first dined at Patina relatively “early-on” in 2006; this would be my third visit. While I’ve found many of the Patina Group restaurants to be a little boring and overpriced for what they are, I’ve felt that the flagship Patina bucked that trend with its strong execution grounded in classical French and modern American cuisine. It’s been just over a year since my last visit; new Executive Chef Charles Olalia had just taken over the kitchen from the exiting Tony Esnault. At the time, the menu still had much of Esnault’s touches – this would be my first meal with Olalia fully at the helm crafting the menu.

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Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles, CA)

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 10/5/13

I haven’t been to Osteria Mozza in three years and it’s still one of LA’s most popular Italian restaurants. Since opening in 2006-7, the Mozza restaurants have been consistently popular. I’m amazed at what they’ve been able to do with the property at the corner of Melrose and Highland. Starting with Pizzeria Mozza then Osteria Mozza, it expanded to include the Scuola di Pizza and Mozza 2 Go. The Scuola has now turned into Chi Spacca, creating quite the power corner for the Bastianich/Batali/Silverton trio. Rounding out the options within a block of this hot corner are Hatfield’s, Susan Feniger’s Street, and Trois Mec.

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Even though it’s been open for a while, scoring a prime table on a weekend evening still seems kind of tricky. I stumbled upon a cancellation on OpenTable and snatched up a 2-top this past Saturday night.

The menu consists of a variety of appetizer-like options from the small plates and mozzarella section, pasta, main dishes, and sides. A pasta tasting menu is available, but we opted to choose our own dishes this evening.

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