Our 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants issue came out last week, and we're highlighting a few categories drawing from the list. Today, we're focusing on special occasion restaurants. If you're like us, a special occasion is just as likely to happen at one of the list's taco stands as it is at one of these fine dining restaurants, but for that truly big night -- the anniversary, the birthday, the engagement -- here are five essential L.A. restaurants that scream "special."
In this long, sleek restaurant, which features different menus for different rooms, chef John Sedlar explores Latin culture with exacting, beautiful dishes that touch on his current obsessions. Rivera is a place for grown-up drinks and nibbles in the lounge with one of Julian Cox's fantastic cocktails, or a blow-out special occasion in the hushed room beyond.
There are myriad beautiful things about Hatfield's, Quinn and Karen Hatfield's comfortably large Melrose Avenue restaurant. The enormous, open kitchen that occupies the center like a performance space; the pretty hanging pots; the rows of lowered heat lamps almost like lanterns; the Michel Richard-designed pastry station; the small battalion of toque-wearing chefs working in the kind of unison that would have made Escoffier proud.
The wine list is still one of the best in town, and the service is still old-school in its accommodation of your every whim and its adherence to the grand old ways of fine dining. There are still celebrities and women dripping in diamonds to gawk at; it still feels like the vital, beating heart of Beverly Hills.
There is a particular kind of alchemy that takes place (casually, nightly) at Providence, Michael Cimarusti's Melrose Avenue seafood palace. Because amid the white tablecloths and the relative peace and quiet, the nicely dressed patrons and the faint purr of the German-engineered cheese cart, there is the kind of exquisitely executed food that can make you gasp with astonishment.
If the casual-ification of the restaurant scene has got you down, if you'd still like to swish into a hushed, formal room, if you wish every now and then that a besuited maître d' would refer to you as "M'lady," well, there's still Mélisse. Josiah Citrin's Santa Monica holdout of fine dining is now 14 years old, and benefits from being both that young and that old: It came about when respect for haute cuisine was still a guiding principle for weighty restaurants but not so long ago that its room or food seem outdated.
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