Dear Mr. Gold:
I'm getting married and in dire need of a legit rehearsal-dinner spot. My fiancée and I would gladly eat anywhere you recommend, but our families' tastes are a bit more conservative than bossam or pig ear. Any ideas for a spot (ideally Westside-convenient) that would feed and please a pretty large crowd?
--Andy K., Los Angeles
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Dear Mr. K.:
You might as well sort out the in-laws while you have a chance. When you see how they react to the live octopus tentacles at Masan or the pig ear chicharrones at Lazy Ox Canteen, you may have a better idea of how they might handle the idea of babysitting triplets or a sudden move to Iceland. If they embrace in the spirit of kinship what you assure them is a perfectly good plate of braised sea cucumber with shrimp roe, you can be sure that they'll have your back for life.
But I have been around long enough to know that rehearsal dinners are rarely the occasions for such bonding, and I realize that they tend to be held in safe dining rooms like Houston's or the Napa Valley Grille. I further know that your budgets are likely to have been walloped by the wedding itself -- it would be easy to suggest Michael's, which, in fact, may be the perfect location for a rehearsal party, but less easy to recommend its expense.
Jar is a bit small, but its Kennedy-era vibe and advanced yet easy-to-love steak-house cooking would probably be about right, pleasing both you and your uncle Manny from Little Rock. (Taylor's, the cheaper, more authentic, yet less accomplished steak house, might also work -- as would the Dal Rae, if it weren't all the way out in Pico Rivera. Mmmm, pepper steak.) Dominick's, or its Los Feliz sister restaurant Little Dom's, are both raffish and old-fashioned, and it would be hard to find anybody who doesn't like spaghetti and meatballs. But at the moment, I'm leaning toward Tavern, Suzanne Goin's restaurant in Brentwood, which is elegant but not too much so, has farm-oriented cooking based on American classics your great-aunts will remember fondly, and is just the right size for your party to neither dominate nor be dominated by the buzz. And if things get to be too much, you can get giant, nicely mixed cocktails too. Oh -- and congratulations!