dineL.A. in the Valley
Considering dineL.A. lassoed more than 300 restaurants to serve special menus for lunch and dinner July 14 to 28, we’re left with a lot of menus to scour. Fear not. We’ve clicked and clicked and clicked their website to save you the trouble. Learn about the single best dining option in each neighborhood that The Sauce covers, and the dishes I’d order from each menu. Basically you’re getting the best of the best.
Book reservations through the dineL.A. website or just show up to participating restaurants, as long as tables are available.
Saddle Peak Lodge
Adam Horton is once again leading the kitchen at Saddle Peak Lodge, the iconic restaurant in the Santa Monica Mountains. His $49 dineL.A. dinner menu is a great excuse to revisit this former hunting lodge. I’ve had his Vietnamese-style pork belly in the past, and the crispy slab with pickles, nuoc cham, jalapeno, mint and coriander is reason enough to partake. Rib steak slow-cooked for 48 hours also sounds like a hit—plated with bacon-onion jam, blue cheese, arugula and crispy potato. Ice cream sandwich is a fun finish with molasses and brown sugar cookies baked daily in-house and stuffed with vanilla ice cream. 419 Cold Canyon Rd., Calabasas, 818-222-3888
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
The high-class Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain is serving $49 dinner during dineL.A. at The Promenade mall. I’d start with seasonal strawberry almond salad. From there, it’s all about flavor. Petite ribeye with onion bacon jam is the obvious choice over a far leaner petite filet. Choosing a side is a tougher decision, with creamed spinach going head-to-head with corn pudding. In this case I’ll go green. Dessert centers on a single option: chocolate-covered strawberry cheesecake. Supplements include a dipping sauce trio ($6), blue cheese crust ($7), lobster tail ($17), seared ahi tuna ($17) and 50 Acre Ranch chardonnay or cabernet by the bottle ($36) or glass ($9). 6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills, 818-227-9505
Phillip Frankland Lee and wife/pastry chef/partner Margarita Kallas-Lee are going all-in for dineL.A., with all three Encino restaurants participating: Frankland’s Crab & Co., Woodley Proper and Scratch|Bar & Kitchen. Go with Woodley Proper for dinner and score many of the same items as lunch—plus more—for $29 instead of $25. I’d suggest honey fried stuffed olives and farmers market mixed green salad to start. Prime ground Angus burger is tempting but not as intriguing as a choice of any sourdough toast. Go for grilled bone-in salmon with Greek yogurt, pickled cucumber and dill. Brioche donut with bergamot whipped cream is a fitting dessert. 16101 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 818-906-9775
Café Bizou, a classic French restaurant from chef Neil Rogers, is still a great value anytime. Somehow they managed to dial up the affordability quotient during dineL.A.—especially at lunch. A three-course, prix fixe menu costs only $20. I’d order berry fig salad with spiced candied almonds, goat cheese and raspberry wine vinaigrette. Lobster, sea scallop and shrimp pasta pairs black taglialini with tomatoes, mushrooms and lobster sauce. Crème brulee is textbook. 14016 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-788-3536
Laurel Point, the latest eatery from Grill Concepts (Public School 818, Daily Grill, Grill on the Alley) serves their $29 dineL.A. dinner menu starting at 4 p.m. They provide a choice of three starters, three entrees and two desserts. I’d start with ½ dozen oysters with yuzu kosho, horseradish and cocktail sauce—though it’s possibly worth the $10 supplement for a crab & hamachi roll (pictured). For my entrée, I’d order cioppino with mussels, shrimp, crab, fennel and grilled levain, since this San Francisco classic is hard to find in Southern California. For dessert, order strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries, biscuit and whipped cream, since strawberries are in season and it’s a relatively light finish. 12050 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-769-6336
The Federal Bar
A three-course, $29 dinner menu is available at The Federal Bar—a retooled NoHo Arts District bank. Grilled artichoke hearts with garlic aioli are a nice seasonal starter. Clearly dineL.A. calls for their indulgent M.C.O. (Moo-Cluck-Oink) burger with beef patty, cheddar cheese, bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato and roasted garlic aioli on a milk bun with house-made French fries. Dessert should be roasted pineapple butter cake with vanilla ice cream. The Federal Bar is also one of the best places to get craft beer in North Hollywood, and they provide a 12-ounce pour of either Boomtown or Fed Red draft beer. 5303 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-980-2555
The original Malbec outpost from three Argentina natives is participating in dineL.A. for lunch and dinner. Their $39 dinner is a better value. Start with tartar de atun—ahi tuna tartare spiked with spicy “tutto Calabria” chile spread. Argentina has a rich steak tradition. Given that, go with Malbec’s grilled hanger steak—a famously tender cut that’s popular with butchers. In this case, hanger steak comes with Malbec red wine reduction—true to the restaurant’s name—along with mushrooms, caramelized pearl onions, roasted potato and sautéed summer squash. Dulce de leche is ubiquitous in Argentina and appears as a mousse at Malbec, plated with ladyfingers, walnut meringue, berries and chocolate. 10151 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake, 818-762-4860