So, it's time to plan New Year's Eve if you haven't already. Avoid the amateur's night problem by putting your 2011 celebration in the hands of restaurant pros who will handle the fine food and drink part. And save you clean-up troubles. Merriment, cheer, reflecting on the past year (which may or may not obviate the aforementioned), and all that other stuff is up to you. Because the main event of this holiday includes counting backwards, we may as well present the following picks in reverse-alpha order.
The 213 group of downtown venues makes things easy. One ticket for $119 entitles celebrants access to all of 213's eight bars with unlimited drinks and a DJ set by Gram Rabbit at Casey's, as well as other DJs and live entertainment at other 213 locations. The main danger here is too much of a good thing, since the cocktail slate includes Manhattan and Bourbon Fix specialties at Seven Grand and Las Perlas' house Margaritas. Try to nab the $99 early bird tickets if they're still around.
The advantages to seeing the city from the vantage point of Wolfgang Puck's WP24 on New Year's Eve are many. Aside from the breathtaking view, Puck and Lee Hefter's spin on haute Chinese cuisine is spectacular. Either from the lounge or the inner sanctum of the dining room, where dim sum and tasting menus will be served, you might be able to spot drunk driving checkpoints across the city. Or do the right thing and stay downtown, though you'll have to find a nearby party since dinner service stops at 11 p.m.
Vü in Marina Del Rey's books are open for dinner between 5 and 10:30 p.m., with a $75 "exploration" multi-course menu by chef Kyle Schutte. The savory journey begins with "Reconstructed" caprese salad, and winds its way to Schutte's chicken-fried watermelon and other dishes before ending with King Cole duck. Then you get your pick of desserts. Beverage pairings are an additional $50 (plus tax and gratuity), yet the waterfront view comes as part of the package. Come back the following morning for Bloody Marys.
$75 isn't exactly dive-bar prices, but the entry fee at Tony's Darts Away isn't for PBR and warmed-over nachos. Instead, from 8 to 10:30 p.m. (later admission is an extra $40) you get all-you-can-drink draft beers, unlimited food with vegan options, a beer glass and raffle prizes.
Just like its namesake Santa Monica neighborhood, New Year's Eve at Rustic Canyon will be mellow and classy. Chef Evan Funke's menu highlights winter specialties and is served family style, with each table ordering eight total dishes of their choosing. Good luck making group decisions when deciding between platters of ricotta gnocchi with duck ragu, grilled octopus with Romesco, pork belly and shrimp spiedino.
Palate in Glendale hits the spot as a quiet local hang, or, under the right circumstances, an instant party. New Year's Eve should be the latter. Chef Octavio Becerra and crew get things started early at 2 p.m. during Palate's seafood raw bar pre-party, which runs until 7 p.m. in the Wine Bar space. Either hold off and wait for the classic cocktails by Josh McIver later, or go for the champagne and wine flight pairings. Dinner seating begins at 5:30 p.m. with a la carte options or a $48 three-course meal. $100 buys a six-course chef's tasting menu with music, champagne toast and a party favors starting at 9 p.m.
New Year's Eve at Mélisse in Santa Monica is likely to be a grown-up affair at either the first seating (5:30 - 9:30 p.m.; $140/person), or the later go-around (8:30 - after midnight; $25/person), which concludes with music and dancing. Josiah Citrin's menu of lobster, foie gras, lamb loin and Monterey red abalone, among other delicacies, sets the bar high for 2011.
Kitsch and themed parties aren't qualities usually associated with Lucques, but Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne may as well use New Year's Eve as an opportunity to subvert expectations by hosting the Lucques Luau. The five-course dinner will feature a "Lucques-style Hawaiian menu" with staff in costume and tropical island-inspired live entertainment. The first seating gets under way at 5:30 and costs $110 per person, and the second seating costs $150 per person (wine pairings with each course for an additional charge). We're already intrigued. Might SPAM make an appearance? And if so, what will Styne pour with it? Meanwhile, sibling restaurant Tavern in Brentwood looks to the Orient Express for New Year's inspiration, with dishes such as Turkish mille-feuille with pistachio ice cream, cardamom and orange zest. First and second seatings for the four-course dinner cost $75 and $95 per person, respectively.
The Little Door wishes its customers Soyez Chanceux on the 31st with live DJs, magic demonstrations, craps table, prizes and such. It doesn't really matter what happens there, since the Little Door has one of the most pleasant social spaces in Los Angeles. The first seating from 6 to 7:30 costs $95 and includes a class of Cremant de Bourgogne; the second gathering begins at 7:45 p.m. and continues through 2 a.m. ($135 per). Both feature set dinner menus.
The always convivial Hungry Cat is throwing a New Year's Eve bash with a three-course $55 dinner. Choices include kabocha squash soup with local squid, peanuts and cilantro; wild striped bass with manila clams, chorizo fideo and saffron; braised short rib with spiny lobster, potato gratin and porcini mushrooms; and chocolate "bomb" parfait. Many an oyster will be shucked, as the raw bar menu will be available, and the restaurant also opens its doors on New Year's Day.
Any New Year's plans that include Berkshire pork loin and lamb crusted with dates and mint is something we want to be a part of. Reserve dinner on the 31st at Hatfield's, where early reservations are taken between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. ($95 per person), followed by the second seating for a five-course tasting menu ($145 per). The restaurant is also open for dinner on New Year's Day from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m..
Fraîche has already gotten a jump on starting anew since Chef Benjamin Bailly recently took over the kitchen at the original Culver City restaurant. Both that location and the Santa Monica outpost are hosting New Year's Eve celebrations with four-course prix fixe dinners ($90 per person) -- but with different menus. Bailly's meal includes Maine lobster, buckwheat spaghetti with black truffle and wild mushrooms, and roasted quail.
The party at Corkbar downtown starts at either 6:30 or 9:30 for the $55/person four-course meal. Supplemental microbrew ($10), California wine ($18), and sparkling wine ($25) pairings are available or pick from the standing list. Executive Chef Albert Aviles' dishes include a seared foie with microgreens and raisin-brandy compote on brioche and a coriander-crusted tuna.
Also in the downtown wine bar genre, BottleRock Downtown is open for NYE with a five-course tasting menu $60, or $75 with glass of Taittinger, and wine pairings for $25 extra.
And BottleRock Culver City welcomes folks to come in that night while it keeps things looser, eschewing any sort of pricey bottle service or cover charge.
Three Chaya restaurants. Three themes. Chaya Venice hosts the French-inspired "La Fête," while Beverly Hills-adjacent Chaya Brasserie (with its new chef Harutaka Kishi) looks to the Roaring 20s. Meanwhile, Chaya Downtown will be decorated to evoke Shanghai Nights. Each venue offers live music and party specials, but contact your Chaya of choice for menu, price and seating details.
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It's easy to have a relaxed and unpretentious experience at Biergarten in Koreatown any night of the year, so New Year's Eve is as good as any to enjoy their beer selection and eclectic Korean pub food.
The Bazaar by José Andrés is always dressed up for a party. Any balloon displays or confetti drops hardly stand a chance of getting noticed on New Year's Eve, during which The Bazaar has several options. A limited a la carte menu is available early for the 6 to 7:00 p.m. seating, while the 8:30 to 9:30 seating is a $150 prix fixe. And there's always that perk of crashing in the SLS Hotel if you don't want to mess with getting home.
No fixed price meals are required at the low-key and congenial barbrix in Silver Lake, where its seasonal small-plates menu will be served all night in the restaurant and bar areas. Chef Don Dickman will make a few special dishes, adding surf n' turf crostini, Moroccan spiced ahi tuna carpaccio, and pappardelle with Dungeness crab to the feasting.
Akasha transforms itself from eco-chic to Singapore Supper Club with special cocktails, street food samosas, Tandori lamb satay, Australian sea bass in banana leaves, cardamom rice pudding, and other treats presented during the three-course menu. First seating costs $65 starting at 5:30 p.m., second one goes from 9-11 p.m. and costs $95 (exclusive of drinks, tax and gratuity).