Dan writes to ask:
Dear Ms. Rodell,
I urge you to publish a list of fine restaurants where you don't have to shout and you can concentrate on and savor your meal without incessant blaring in your ear. This will be a short list, as best I can tell. Best would be no soundtrack at all! The new generation of chefs chooses to pummel and punish their guests.
Maybe you saw the cartoon in The New Yorker? Waiter to guests: "Can I get you anymore deafening loudness?"
Thank you from a frustrated diner,
Dan's frustration is not uncommon, nor is it undocumented. According to Zagat, noise is the second most common complaint of restaurant-goers, second only to bad service. Just recently, New York Magazine's critic Adam Platt wrote a piece about why restaurants are louder than ever. Some critics carry decibel meters with them when reviewing restaurants. Last year, the L.A. Times did a story where they measured the noise in some of L.A.'s most popular -- and yes, loud -- eateries.
OK, so restaurants are loud, some of them outrageously so, we've established that. But what of Dan's question: Are there any quiet restaurants in L.A.?
Certainly there are the obvious contenders, places like Mélisse and Providence, where fine dining still means a hushed room. Hatfield's, while not quite as hushed, is certainly a much quieter experience than most L.A. restaurants.
Here's another thing to consider, beyond standard fine dining: many Japanese restaurants offer tranquil dining experiences. While it's possible to have an almost silent and very expensive meal at Urasawa, there are many others where you could go and dine quietly without the Mélisse-sized bill. Places like Kiyokawa, where a lunch of sashimi can feel truly intimate, and where dinner manages to be relaxed but also easy on the ears.
While most hot new restaurants appear to be having a competition to see who can cause the loudest din (over the last 18 months I'd say Bestia and Hart and the Hunter probably deserve the deafening award), not everyone is going that route. In fact, the indoor space at Bucato was designed specifically to reduce noise. It works. In fact, I found the space a little austere and odd, but it certainly was not loud.
Where do you go for a quiet meal? If you have a suggestion for Dan, please leave it in the comments.
And for restaurant owners, if you'd like to see your restaurant's name in the above list of quiet restaurants, the National Restaurant Association has some advice on how to reduce noise in your establishment. Dan, and many others, would be grateful if you'd consider heeding that advice.
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