Patina Restaurant, Los Angeles

Pricey. Pompous. Petite portions. These are all words that could be associated with Patina Restaurant, located right at the foot of the breathtaking Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. However, after a wonderful experience at Ray’s, which is one of the restaurants belonging to the Patina Restaurant Group, I was excited to try the famous LA establishment that is the namesake of the internationally renowned restaurant empire. The aforementioned adjectives can be used to critique fine dining in broad strokes, but Patina Restaurant allows you savor not only each delicious morsel of food, but also each careful pause in the warm, enthusiastic service from the waitstaff, and every word in the dinner conversation as a result of a relaxing, quiet restaurant environment.

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Ray’s at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

In my opinion, Ray’s at LACMA is the most impressive museum restaurant in the city; so good that it actually doesn’t need to be qualified as a “museum restaurant” and can stand on its own with some of LA’s more acclaimed establishments. My boyfriend and I really enjoyed our relaxing weekend lunch together at Ray’s and our touring of some current exhibitions. The combination of fresh, well-prepared food and interesting artwork were central to a memorable and fun day. Ray’s is absolutely not the mediocre and depressing museum café with club sandwiches and canned soup. Though the prices are high, we left feeling like our splurge was money well-spent.

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The Restaurant at the J. Paul Getty Museum

There are a lot of reasons the Getty is so popular in L.A. Beautiful architecture framing gorgeous views of the city, interesting art exhibitions, and relaxing gardens, all for free (or $15 if you drive there and park) makes a museum-going experience that is fun and enjoyable for casual museum-goers and families.

Currently, there is a great exhibition called L.A. Style on the late Herb Ritts’ black and white photography. The exhibition is quite large, one could easily spend a good hour at least looking at some truly iconic shots of famous celebrities and oiled athletes. After I spent a few hours wandering around the galleries and examining the Ritts show, I headed over to The Restaurant for lunch and tried their three course tasting menu inspired by Los Angeles and the Getty’s recent, L.A. focused programming.

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Golden Deli, San Gabriel

After almost four years of living in Los Angeles, one gets used to planning forty-minute drives to the other side of town for awesome pizza or some crazy food truck. This time, our destination was a family-style, couldn’t-find-it-unless-you-were-looking-for-it establishment that served incredible Vietnamese cuisine. Back home in San Diego, I had a standard rotation of my favorite Vietnamese places, but in L.A., a decent Pho Citi partially addressed, but did not fully satiate a periodic hunger for delicious Vietnamese food.

Golden Deli Restaurant is in the San Gabriel Valley, which necessitates braving I-10, plenty of traffic lights on long stretches of local roads, and crowds of hungry, mostly patient SGV insiders that know all the neighborhood gems. Once you’re about to be seated however, the wafting aromas of steaming soup and barbecued meat dissipates any transport-related frustrations, succumbing to a suddenly very apparent craving in your core that simply wants something, anything, from their menu.

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Bouchon, Beverly Hills

The original Bouchon in beautiful Yountville, CA is a sort of pilgrimage site. When I was there, I had the most wonderful almond croissant, fruity macaroons, and chocolate éclair. As a part of a more balanced meal, however, my parents insisted that we also get sandwiches, which thankfully consist of more than just fat and carbs. Though the sweets at Bouchon usually get all the attention, the sandwiches are also wonderful. Thomas Keller updates the classics with carefully selected ingredients that are just a little different, ultimately creating a flavors that are memorable and completely craveable.

This particular craving compelled me to seek out Bouchon’s Beverly Hills location. I went in the middle of the week before my homework started piling up and before my extra-curricular obligations began to have time commitments more substantial than my classes. It was very sunny and and just humid enough to make dining en plein air a bit uncomfortable. But once the food started coming, the troubles disappeared as quickly as my appetizer, my sandwich, and my dessert.

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Spago, Beverly Hills

Anthony Bourdain, somewhere in his book The Nasty Bits, talks about how when he and other chefs play the last meal on death row game, 15 million course full gustation menus don’t come up in the conversation. Instead, chefs reminisce about something their mothers made, the simplest, most comforting pastas, or prime cuts of sashimi. For our third anniversary (back in August) Stephen took me to Spago to try their tasting menu. While I think Bourdain’s point about how complexity of cuisine does not necessarily translate to the food people crave or seek out for comfort, my meal at Spago exemplifies complexity done well so that each morsel is so interesting, delicious, and well-composed, that each bite truly feels like it could be “the last bite.” And when the whole dish is well, one bite, you instinctively let the flavors mingle and meld in your mouth.

Seeing that I ate here over a month ago and did not have the foresight to write down everything our wonderful waiter said about each course, there will be less detail about each flavor profile. However, I hope you get a sense of how wonderful, fun, and enjoyable our anniversary dinner was.

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Umami Burger, Santa Monica

When In ‘N Out opened in Texas, people flocked as though burgers were being doled out for free. In ‘N Out makes my favorite fast food burger; this belief has remained steadfast since I first tried it in high school. Favorite restaurant burger? Umami Burger is definitely up there.

As their burger sales continue to surge, there are plans to expand to more locations, and even open a sandwich shop, Umamicatessen. (No comment on how well that rolls off the tongue…) With burgers as juicy and unique as the ones found at their five locations around Los Angeles, I think it’s only a matter of time until people start lining up outside their usually energetic and packed locations around the country.

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