On New Year's Eve, restaurants celebrate with live bands, festive décor, theme dinners, exceptional ingredients, multi-course meals, tasting menus and endless glasses of bubbly. How to choose the best spot? We've selected 11 restaurants that opened in 2011 to represent a sampling of those that will be offering special menus for the holiday. Reservations are recommended for all locations, listed below in alphabetical order.
What's special: "Bäco" sandwiches from chef Josef Centeno of the Lazy Ox Canteen in a casual-chic setting. New Year's Eve menu: The $80 meal for two features suckling pig slow-roasted for 18 hours. Added kick: The event flyer says "pigs symbolize progress" in countries including Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Austria. It's either because the animals "never move backwards" or because they "push their snouts forward" when foraging. Info: 408 S. Main St. Downtown, (213) 687-8808.
What's special: Modernist cuisine from a Top Chef winner
with his own Williams Sonoma line who has a partnership with Williams Sonoma and more than 12 130 thousand Twitter followers - Michael Voltaggio. New Year's Eve menu: For $125, Ink. will offer five courses, champagne, and a "special gift from the chef." A selection of drinks ($75) is optional. Walk-ins are welcome at the bar. Added kick: Experience the culinary benefits of modern technology at Voltaggio's hands - liquid nitrogen, hydrocolloids, sous vide, dehydration, high-heat roasting... Info: 8360 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 651-5866.
What's special: Chef Gary Menes offers a different five-course menu every night at the counter ("le comptoir") of quirky-cute Tiara Café. New Year's Eve menu: Menes says he'll feature extravagant ingredients - foie gras, and possibly black truffles and caviar. Seatings at 6, 8, and 10 p.m. are $46. Add courses for no extra cost at 10 p.m. Added kick: It's a pop-up! Le Comptoir's residency at Tiara Cafe isn't likely to last until next New Year's. Info: 127 E. Ninth St., dwntwn, (424) 571-3536.
What's special: A contemporary take on Middle Eastern dishes with California ingredients. New Year's Eve menu: Choose among flatbreads, small plates, vegetables, main plates (hen, lamb, Alaskan grouper, or steak), and desserts to form a three-course meal for $65. From 11-2 a.m., enjoy an open bar and live music for $35. Added kick: The small plates are meant for sharing - or "mezze" in Arabic. Info: 401 N. La Cienega Blvd., W. Hollywood, (310) 657-4103.
What's special: This art deco-styled rooftop restaurant and bar offers a French-inspired menu. New Year's Eve menu: Pear salad, lobster bisque, oysters, Tournedos Rossini (beef tenderloin), squash lasagna, John Dory fish, beignets, and apple and fig tart. Dinner costs $75 (6-6:30 p.m.), $100 (8-8:30 p.m.), or $125 (10-10:30 p.m.). Pay $60 for just the champagne toast and live music. Added kick: The breathtaking view of downtown L.A. from the 15th floor of the historic Pershing Square Building. Info: 448 S. Hill St., Downtown, (213) 802-1770.
What's special: Peruvian izakaya from chef Ricardo Zarate of Mo-Chica, the acclaimed lunch counter in a warehouse marketplace south of downtown. New Year's Eve menu: Six-courses, family style for two seatings - 6-7 p.m. ($95) and 9:30-10:30 p.m. ($145). Items include shrimp chowder, sea bass escabeche, octopus tiradito, fried morcilla, grilled black tiger prawns and estofado de carne (beef stew). Added kick: Celebrate with a salsa band, party favors and raffle prizes. Info: 9575 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A., (310) 277-0133.
What's special: Latin-fusion maestro John Sedlar's small plates and food artistry. New Year's Eve menu: Playa will keep it simple with the regular menu, but... Added kick: Special drink options include a $100 sampler of three tequilas and $25 collection of three mezcales. Reservations after 9 p.m. are treated to cava. Info: 7360 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 933-5300.
What's special: Ray's, in a glass-walled Renzo Piano building at LACMA, serves a seasonal menu. Stark Bar offers a dizzying array of cocktails, spirits, wines and beers at the bar and patio on the museum's courtyard. New Year's Eve menu: The $75 four-course meal includes chestnut and lobster veloute, truffled rice agnolotti, salsify confit, plus gingerbread and quince mousse. Added kick: The glorious street-lamp installation by Chris Burden within view of your table. Info: LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-City. (323) 857-6180.
What's special: Innovative takes on traditional Vietnamese food. New Year's Eve menu: Reservations 6-7:15 p.m. are served six courses for $70, with $30 for drinks. From 9-11 p.m., pay $90 for nine courses and $40 for drinks. Add an extra course for $20 - foie gras with pickled lychee, pistachios, crispy chicken skin, and hoisin sauce. Added kick: When it photographed, and kicked out the L.A. Times restaurant critic, Red Medicine single-handedly sparked a debate about reviewer anonymity. Info: 8400 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 651-5500.
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What's special: This restaurant downstairs from Picca offers southern Italian fare from chefs our critic called "abattoir jocks." New Year's Eve menu: Fluke crudo, cardoon leek soup, black bass crostone, pasta with veal ragu, lamb neck, prime rib and Pastiera Napoletana desert are offered for $75 at 6 p.m. and $95 at 9 p.m. Walk-ins can eat at the bar. Added kick: The 15,000-pound, yellow-tiled pizza oven was imported from Naples and is ballasted with Vesuvian dirt. The open kitchen lets you see the action, but pizza isn't on the New Year's menu. Info: 9575 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A. (310) 277-0210.
What's special: The menu at this storied luxury hotel is modern Californian. Then there's that chef...what's his name again? New Year's Eve menu: A four course meal for $175 at 6 p.m. or $475 at 9 p.m. The second seating includes a champagne toast and live entertainment. Reservations are already booked; ask about the waitlist. Added kick: Hotel Bel-Air just completed an extensive two-year renovation. And yes, the beloved swans still float by the entrance. Info: 701 Stone Canyon Road, Bel Air. (310) 909 1644.