Restaurant Week isn’t just a time to check out new spots or revisit old favorites. It’s a great time to expand your usual geographic boundaries and explore a new neighborhood. Why not let Metro LA take you there? Metro Rail can put you within easy walking distance of dozens of restaurants on the Restaurant Week list. You won’t have to drive around endlessly looking for a parking spot or shell out $10 for valet. You’ll be doing right by the environment. And if you happen to live within easy access of a Metro Rail station, consider the train your designated driver. All aboard, destination lunch, or dinner. Note that some stops are serviced by multiple lines.
In recent years a thriving restaurant scene has emerged in Culver City. Now you can get there on the Metro Expo Line. It’s the turquoise line on the Metro maps, not to be confused with the Blue Line. Sang Yoon’s Lukshon in the Helms Bakery building, about one block east of the elevated Culver City stop, is one of our favorites. For starters, it is gorgeous. The main dining room with its four oversized booths, ideal for large parties, features burnished golden wood panels, some etched with a pretty floral design. But we like to sit on the high stools at the kitchen counter, where we can watch the cooks in action. The Restaurant Week menu highlights small plates. Not to be missed is the Hawaiian butterfish, which very much lives up to its name: half inch slices of melt in your mouth cured fish layered just so and finished with slivers of pretty pink watermelon radish and nahm jim, a coarse nutty Thai sauce.
Photo courtesy of Brunello Trattoria, Facebook
A half mile further east is the Italian charmer, Brunello Trattoria, run by father-son team Bruno and Daniel Morra. Inside Brunello is bright and airy with white tablecloths. The scent of freshly baked bread perfumes the air. Restaurant Week options include the classic prosciutto e melone and vitello alla Marsala as well as a shellfish sauté and grilled lamb chops.
Mo-chica | Photo courtesy of Curt Gibbs, Flickr
On the opposite end of the Expo Line is the new Mo-chica. Although we were a bit melancholy about the restaurant moving from its longtime digs in La Paloma marketplace, the new space is playful and inviting, and just a few blocks east of the 7th Street/Metro station. What we thought was a giant bolillo papier-maché sculpture overhead is actually a cloud. So much for our art criticism skills. The main thing is we like it. Ditto the painted shoes strung overhead, a good luck symbol. The colorful ekeko figurines, decorated by chef friends of chef-owner Ricardo Zarate, and set into alcoves along the wall, are another symbol of good fortune. Then of course there’s the food, the real draw. It’s hard to choose between dishes such as carapulcra (roasted black cod with Peruvian sun dried potato stew, peanuts and chimichurri) and bisteck a la pobre (skirt steak with fried egg and pan fried bananas). Both are featured on the Restaurant Week dinner menu. There’s even a compelling vegetarian option: quinoa risotto with wild mushrooms, Parmesan and parsley infused olive oil.
Photo courtesy of Maison Akira, Facebook
Stop one is Maison Akira, where chef Akira Hirose has been quietly doing his thing, which is modern Japanese French fare, for almost 14 years. His pretty restaurant, with its butter yellow walls, white tablecloths and fresh flowers, is a healthy walk from the Lake Street stop. But you can work off a course or two coming and going. Be sure one of those courses is the tempura soft shell crab served atop wasabi potato mousseline. This, and a dessert of fat, juicy, whole cherries cooked in red wine, and served in their juices with threads of fresh mint, a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and shards of crunchy roast almond, are just a couple of the tempting choices offered during Restaurant Week.
Albacore tacos, Sushi Roku. | Photo courtesy of Sushi Roku, Facebook
A few blocks southwest of the Memorial Park stop is Sushi Roku, in the courtyard of One Colorado. Beyond the stone Buddha is a sexy lounge with plenty of low slung seating and a dimly lit dining room and bar with a low water wall that adds to the seductive ambience. For Restaurant Week, the menus showcase perennial favorites like the albacore tacos: minced spiced albacore tucked into crispy wonton ‘tacos’ topped with creamy guacamole and served with a side of smooth, medium heat salsa. You can also get the filet toban-yaki, which arrives at the table still sizzling in a heated metal vessel.
Photo courtesy of Haven Gastropub
Haven Gastropub, which opened last December, is just a few blocks further south, on the other side of Colorado. With forty beers on tap, including a handful of their own, Haven is happiness for beer lovers. But it’s a restaurant first and foremost. Chef Greg Daniel’s deviled eggs, on the Restaurant Week lunch menu, are better than your mom’s. (Sorry mom.) Made with smoked serrano powder so they have a little kick, they are topped with Maldon smoked sea salt and crumbles of house made bacon. For dinner, there’s a flavorful lamb burger finished with onion jam and tzatziki sauce. Daniels suggests the Haven Brewmaster’s Breakfast to go along. Bonus: Haven is open every day from noon to 2 a.m.
Bee pollen dusted Alaskan halibut, Parkway Grill. | Photo courtesy of Parkway Grill
With its high beamed ceiling, dramatic floral displays and paintings by Millard Owen Sheets, Parkway Grill is one of the most handsome restaurants in the city, perfect for a business lunch or celebratory dinner. Located just a two minute jaunt from the Del Mar station, Parkway Grill's Restaurant Week menu offerings include the signature Caesar with Tuscan white anchovies and buttered brioche croutons along with bee pollen dusted Alaskan halibut with sweet peas and couscous. If you happen to come for dinner Monday through Saturday, enjoy live piano music or a jazz duo.
Photo courtesy of Aburiya Toranoko
At the opposite end of the Gold Line is Aburiya Toranoko, located in Little Tokyo about four blocks southwest of the stop on Alameda. It’s a pleasant walk past Japanese Village Plaza. Inside the year and a half old restaurant, it’s a funky mix of grunge and glam with its weathered brick walls, graffiti style mural and black chandeliers overhead. In the back is one of the coolest little sushi bars around with a striking image of a tiger mom and baby. (Toranoko means "baby tiger.") For Restaurant Week, they are highlighting some of the regular favorites such as their bento box at lunchtime and at dinner, a ten-ounce New York steak with garlic soy.
Our Red Line journey begins at the Universal City stop. You can trek up the hill to Universal Studios and CityWalk on foot or join the tourists on the tram, which lets out a couple storefronts from the Wolfgang Puck L.A. Bistro. Oversized photos of the Austrian chef making pizza and drinking wine line the walls of the light, airy bistro. We like people watching on the patio. But the oversized booths along the walls are popular as well. The Restaurant Week dinner menu features house favorites such as rotisserie chicken, roasted for two hours until its skin achieves the perfect crispness and the meat is juicy and tender, and the Chinois chicken salad, a crunchy mélange of green and red cabbage, scallion, crispy wontons, carrots, cashews and bite size pieces of chicken.
Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone Los Angeles, Facebook
Hollywood and Highland is next. Stroll through the center to get to Rolling Stone Los Angeles or head north on Highland and loop up the stairs on the northeast end of the center to get to the few month old modern American restaurant. If you haven’t been to Rolling Stone yet, the first thing to know is this isn’t a theme restaurant. There’s no tchotchke filled boutique on the premises. And if the walls weren’t lined with framed Rolling Stone magazine covers—Lady Gaga here, Elton John there—you wouldn’t make the magazine connection. For this first of what is expected to be several Rolling Stone restaurants, they hired a serious chef, Chris Ennis, who has put in time at Fig & Olive and Vibrato. Ennis celebrates the summer season Restaurant Week with dishes such as heirloom tomato gazpacho, and buttermilk shortcake with local peaches and maple syrup whip cream. Plan your visit for Friday evening and enjoy a live band.
Photo courtesy of Papilles Next stop is Hollywood and Vine. It’s a five minute walk to the northeast from here to Papilles at Argyle and Franklin, in the shadow of the 101 freeway. As any serious or even semi-serious Los Angeles food person knows, some very good restaurants come in strip malls. Here’s another one to add to that list. Tucked between a Pilates studio and a Thai spot, the eight month old Papilles is a cozy jewel box of a restaurant, just a dozen or so tables, low ceiling, snap of red walls and an open kitchen. One wall is lined with an assortment of framed thrift shop paintings. If the crowd weren’t decidedly L.A., we might be fooled into thinking we’re in Paris. For Restaurant Week, choose from dishes such as roast hanger steak with potato gratin and shelling beans, and market fresh fish with red quinoa and roasted corn slaw.
Though there is just one name, Rivera, outside John Sedlar’s gorgeous, modern Latin eatery, which is practically across the street from the Pico stop, it is really two restaurants under one roof: a sexy, cool, grown up streamlined dining room with mustard hued wraparound chairs, and a lighter, brighter room occupied by an L shaped counter known as playa bar. Sedlar’s Restaurant Week menu starts with handmade, crisp corn cones filled with fresh crab salad and finished with a tequila chipotle vinaigrette. Sous vide beef shank with roasted summer vegetables follows and to finish, a play on the classic 50-50 ice cream bar.
Photo courtesy of Corkbar, Facebook
Just a couple blocks further east is Corkbar, one of L.A.’s best looking wine bars. All blonde wood with a soaring ceiling, glossy organic wood tables and small touches like wine corks between wall panels, it’s a fab place to hook up with friends before a game or concert or unwind after work. There are three dozen, count ‘em, reds by the glass and nearly as many whites. Attempt your own pairings or ask for help with chef Thomas Lamont’s Restaurant Week menu. Highlights include house made corned beef brisket sandwich with pickled cabbage and steamed mussels with linguini.
Long Beach is at the southern most end of the Blue Line. And just around the corner from the 1st street stop, on the 13th floor of the historic former Breakers Hotel, is The Sky Room. Good food and a good view often seem mutually exclusive. The Sky Room is an exception to that rule. No wonder this art deco looker is popular for special celebrations and seductions. Our picks on the Restaurant Week menu are the blue lump crab cake with lemon beurre blanc and the bison short rib with house made gnocchi. But there are plenty more tempting choices from chef Juan Carlos. One final note: enjoy live piano music Friday evenings. A changing slate of bands play Saturday nights.
Water Grill is practically around the corner from the Pershing Square stop. And if you have not eaten at the seafood specialist in a while, it’s time for a reunion. It’s looking sharp post facelift with chocolate leather booths and a wall of antique fishing rods. The iced shellfish display is something to behold. It typically features half a dozen oyster varieties along with crab and sea urchin. Restaurant Week menu offerings include pan seared wild California sea bass with fragrant grilled peaches and roasted quinoa, the grain of 2012. Chef Damon Gordon, who came on board earlier this year, is also doing pan sautéed wild Morro Bay King Salmon with asparagus chutney and raw asparagus salad. There’s even chicken under a brick for landlubbers.
Chile Relleno Burger, Border Grill Downtown LA. | Photo by Peter Barrett
With its sunny orange umbrellas outside and whimsical wall paintings and bright splashes of color within, not to mention some mean margaritas, Border Grill Downtown LA always feels like a party. It’s just a short walk from the 7th Street/Metro Center stop to delicious heirloom tomato and melon gazpacho with mint and avocado, the perfect antidote to the heat. Also on the Restaurant Week lunch menu is (surprise) a burger. It was chef-owner Mary Sue Milliken’s idea to top it with a chile relleno. Coming directly from the "more is more" school (which we enthusiastically endorse), a substantial hand formed patty is grilled and paired with a textbook crisp chile relleno on a toasty brioche bun. Completing the plate is a tangle of brilliant pink pickled onions and a mountain of cumin parsley fries.
Traxx | Photo by Ryan Stavely via Flickr
About a mile to the east is Union Station, the stunning 1939 train station where several lines converge, that is home to Traxx, Tara Thomas’ modern American restaurant that turns fifteen this December. On a warm summer’s eve, there are few spots more enchanted than the patio at Traxx, with its pretty Spanish tile fountain and canopy of mature jacaranda trees. Though we also like the sleek dining room, especially the intimate table for two tucked into its own little niche, ideal for a romantic evening. Thomas’ Restaurant Week dinner menu features chilled corn chowder with Dungeness crab as well as her signature pan roasted double cut pork loin chop stuffed with rosemary and pancetta and finished in a Jack Daniels peppercorn sauce. This might just be the best pork chop in the city.
3239 Helms Ave., Culver City, 310.202.6808
6001 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 310.280.3856
42 S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena, 626.768.9555
514 W. 7th St., Downtown L.A., 213.622.3744
510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena, 626.795.1001
Rolling Stone / Los Angeles
6801 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 259, Hollywood, 323.464.4000
6221 Franklin Ave., Hollywood, 323.871.2026
1050 S. Flower St., Downtown, 213.749.1460
403 W. 12th St., Downtown, 213.746.0050
The Sky Room
40 S. Locust Ave., Long Beach, 562.983.2703
544 S. Grand Ave., Downtown, 213.891.0900
Border Grill Downtown
445 S. Figueroa St., Downtown, 213.486.5171
800 N. Alameda St., Downtown, 213.625.1999