Dining

Course Correct

The best tasting menus for birthdays (and other special occasions)
Best Tasting Menus in L.A.
Illustration: Tiffany Choi

There's never a wrong time to fete with a special-occasion dinner, but it just so happens that we tend to think about them most around birthdays and (cough) romantic February holidays. Whatever the occasion, there's a tasting menu in this city that fits the bill, from nouvelle New American to a relaxed Sunday Supper to an uni-and-truffle-filled omakase blowout. Here's your cheat sheet to the top of the tastings.

① Maude, Beverly Hills
In the mood for an intimate dinner à deux? There are only seven tables at Curtis Stone's latest, so book early and prepare for a showstopper of a meal. The set menu changes every month, highlighting a peak-of-the-season ingredient. Right now it's pomegranate nine ways ($110)—dehydrated, powdered, brewed and foamed, among other things—in dishes like pomegranate-cured wild salmon crudo, pan-fried sturgeon in pomegranate tea and more. Upcoming menus include parsnip ($90) and fennel ($100).

Le Comptoir, Koreatown
Gary Menes's dinner-only restaurant inside the revamped Hotel Normandie is a true labor of love. The weekly changing menu ($67) involves six courses composed of ingredients from local farms. There's a meticulously prepared Vegetable and Fruit Plate (one recent meal included fennel, celery, beet, pickled onion, persimmon, carrot and tangerine), handmade tagliolini with black truffle and house-made sourdough doughnut holes with sour cream and Meyer lemon curd. There are two seatings nightly at the cozy 10-person counter and supplemental wine pairings for $40.

Saint Martha, Koreatown
At Nick Erven's fine dining destination, technique and flavor go all-out nouvelle vague. Some call it "modern American," but Erven's style is gloriously globe-trotting at heart, as evidenced in dishes like pork belly with squash, Brussels sprouts, smoked dates and Japanese curry, or lamb tartare with yogurt, quail egg and black lavash. Wine is just as notable: Small-production wine pairings highlight both Old and New World labels on the five or seven-course tasting menu ($65 to $90, wine pairings $36 to $47). Sit à deux or up to six at the chef's counter.

Dining room at Saint Martha | Photo: Courtesy of Saint Martha 

The Gadarene Swine, Studio City
Vegetables are the theme at this newcomer, but make no mistake: This isn't a vegan restaurant. Phillip Frankland Lee serves a 10- to 14-course omakase-style tasting menu ($85) with no animal products—just local and organic vegetables prepared in creative ways. Take, for instance, cauliflower: Four types of the brassica are roasted until blackened, pickled, then plated with white cauliflower, puréed red onion and cauliflower chips. The Strawberry and Champagne course screams romance, with fresh strawberries and figs with toasted pecans, arugula and strawberry-Champagne gazpacho. And here's a pleasant change of pace: The swoon-worthy meal is also available for lunch.

Yamakase, Palms
You're in for a treat at this hush-hush sushi spot, which bills itself as "invitation-only fine dining." The nondescript storefront may not look like much, but inside, a three hour-plus omakase dinner awaits. With only one seating a night, you and seven others get the VIP treatment from chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto. The 20 or so courses might include luxe ingredients like Wagyu beef, uni, black truffles, toro and hairy crab, making dinner here downright indulgent. (And the $200 to $300 price tag proves it.)

Providence, Mid-City
If seafood is what you're after, pay a visit to this Mid-City classic. Opt for any of the tasting menus ($100 to $210), featuring all-sustainable sea creatures like Santa Barbara uni, Nantucket bay scallops and New Zealand abalone. Chef Michael Cimarusti puts a playful spin on his signature dishes, like The Ugly Bunch, which features geoduck, uni and abalone on smoked crème fraîche panna cotta. Couples can fete in the chic dining room, while small parties can reserve one of the few private dining rooms.

Lucques, West Hollywood
A celebratory meal out doesn't have to mean dropping your entire paycheck. The weekly Sunday Supper at Suzanne Goin's Cal-Med stalwart offers a three-course dinner for only $45. The farmers' market inspires the seasonal plates, which might include a Cara Cara orange-date-pistachio salad or Niman Ranch pork cheeks with corn bread pudding, mustard cream and Meyer lemon gremolata. Pair that with a specialty cocktail and you'll see why Sunday Suppers has been an L.A. tradition for years. The former carriage house has plenty of charm, with an exposed brick-and-wood beam dining room, complete with fireplace and tree-dotted patio.

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Papilles, Hollywood
This Hollywood sleeper has everything we love in a neighborhood restaurant: a bi-weekly changing menu of French bistro fare, an intimate yet casual dining room and prices that won't break the bank—a three-course dinner is just $35. The set menu goes something like this: foie gras torchon (hurray for foie!) with cardamom, coriander orange sauce and blood oranges; crispy barramundi with braised purple daikon, watermelon radishes, salsa verde and beurre blanc; and a chocolate-hazelnut crisp. Combine that with the impressive wine list, featuring biodynamic, small-production labels (from wine director/owner Santos Uy, Mignon), and we can't think of a better spot to spend Saturday night.

Trois Mec, Hollywood
Twenty-six diners snag seats here each night via an online ticketed reservation system; those lucky enough to make the cut are in for a meal ($75) that turns dinner into theater. A trio of L.A.'s food luminaries—Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo—turn out five thoughtful (and sometimes unlikely) courses: Barbecued carrots may be plated with yogurt, avocado, blood orange and watercress, and truffle grilled cheese is served with maple syrup buttermilk and sweet clover ice cream.

Mélisse, Santa Monica
One of the city's top special-occasion destinations is still going strong after 15 years. Veteran chef Josiah Citrin wows with dishes like rosemary-scented sunchoke velouté with sunchoke chips and whipped black truffles, followed by dry-aged New York steak with charred eggplant, young leeks and red wine herb jus. Choose between the four- ($135) and 10-course tasting menu ($165), or go for broke with a 15-course feast fit for a king ($275). The stunning dining room and impeccable service from nattily attired waitstaff make dining here absolutely regal.

Maude 212 S. Beverly Dr. Beverly Hills CA 90212 310-859-3418 Le Comptoir 3606 W. Sixth St. Los Angeles CA 90020 562-537-5990 Saint Martha 740 Western Ave. Los Angeles CA 90005 213-387-2300 The Gadarene Swine 1266 Ventura Blvd. Studio City CA 91604 818-508-5500 Yamakase 10422 National Blvd. Culver City CA 90034 Providence 5955 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles CA 90038 323-460-4170 Lucques 8474 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles CA 90069 323-655-6277 Papilles 6221 Franklin Ave. Los Angeles CA 90028 323-871-2026 Trois Mec 716 Highland Ave. Los Angeles CA 90038 Mélisse 1104 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90017 310-395-0881

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