Dear Mr. Gold:

I have a new child and haven't been out with the wife in more than a year! Where to go?

—Paul, L.A.

Dear Paul:

If what you're asking is “Where should we go on our first night of freedom?,'' you should probably make a reservation at whatever your favorite place was shortly before the blessed event — Canele? Joe's? Pizzeria Mozza? I have no way of knowing. If you're asking about a place that's pleasant and has food amusing enough to distract you from the 14 calls you will inevitably make back home, I'd recommend some place like Wa Sushi, Gjelena or Palate Food + Wine, none of which will leave you regretting either the expense of the babysitter or the moral obligations to your in-laws. But if what you are admitting is that you've been in self-imposed exile for a year, and that your once-exquisite knowledge of the L.A. restaurant scene has been replaced by an uncomfortable intimacy with the CW's weekend lineup, then you probably want to go to one of the modernist places in town. There's Chego, or Lazy Ox, or the rigorous bistro cooking at Bouchon. At the Langham, Michael Voltaggio is rocking all the gelling agents and liquid nitrogen you could wish. And Providence is still a place where the wisp of lemon zest on a chunk of seared sea bass has the resonance of a flatted-ninth chord in a Schubert adagio. If you are inclined to spend three hours (and $300) in a restaurant, Providence is the one you have in mind.

PROVIDENCE: 5955 Melrose Ave., L.A. (323) 460-4170, providencela.com.

LA Weekly