For two weeks every summer and winter, we all have an excuse to visit restaurants we might not otherwise venture into. The discounted prix fixe menus featured during DineLA encourage everyone to go out and live it up. But for many high-end restaurants in town, DineLA poses a serious conundrum. There's no way to properly show off what a restaurant is capable of within the given budget. Even if the most exquisite restaurants wanted to participate, they simply couldn't afford to...until now.
This year, from Jan. 18 through 31, Dine LA is introducing the DineLA Exclusive Series, which has invited select restaurants to create menus with a $95 or above price tag. Does that sound cheap? No. Is it worth the splurge to taste these ambitious menus? Yes.
CUT by Wolfgang Puck
If you decide to go to the lavish steakhouse inside of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, you have already agreed to splurge. And after enjoying a five-course prix fixe that includes Maine diver scallop ceviche, celery root soup, French sea bass, dry-aged New York sirloin with creamed spinach, roasted bone marrow and Armagnac peppercorn emulsion, the $98 price tag will seem like a bargain. 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 276-8500, wolfgangpuck.com.
The Arthur J
At $95 per person, the Arthur J's Exclusive Series menu offers the restaurant's most celebrated dishes and gives diners lots of choices. Four courses of chef David Lefevre's old-school elegant dishes — such as hamachi tartare with avocado, steamed Alaskan king crab and 16 oz. Angus rib-eye steaks topped with seared foie gras — plus a bevy of sides like beef fat fries with malt vinegar and mustard aioli all sound tempting. Choosing will be difficult. 903 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach; (310) 878-9620, thearthurj.com.
There was a time before celebrity chefs when maitre d's were the star of the restaurant show and hospitality was king. To travel back to this bygone era, head to decades-old Valentino in Santa Monica. There, Piero Selvaggio will greet you with a warmth and welcome unmatched elsewhere in the city. For $95 per person, you'll find five courses of delicacies such as foie gras with caramelized onions and old balsamic, Napa quail with speck and venison with chestnut sauce. And experiencing hospitality at its finest? That's included. 3115 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 829-4313, valentinosantamonica.com.
Spago Beverly Hills
Wolfgang Puck's famous Spago is still the place in Beverly Hills to go for a special occasion. During DineLA you'll find an eight-course tasting menu with options such as white sturgeon caviar, slow-roasted lobster tail, handmade agnolotti with black truffles, canard a l'orange, New York steak with braised beef tongue, and dark chocolate crème caramel. At $125 per person, it's a deal for this level of cooking. 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 385-0880, wolfgangpuck.com.
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Santa Monica's beloved French restaurant is serving four courses (plus amuse bouche) for $95 per person, On the menu are Santa Barbara ridgeback prawns, black truffle risotto, flatiron steak with braised beef cheek and Sonoma lamb loin with lamb shank ravioli. Josiah Citrin's luxuriant cooking will have even the most devout Eastsiders making the trek across town. 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 395-0881, melisse.com.