Woo your date this spring with a bevy of surprising culinary options in Los Angeles. Venture outside the typical dining scene and impress your loved one with a memorable experience.
Set the mood with a pre or post dinner romantic stroll through the blooming camellias at the historic 150-acre garden oasis known as Descanso Gardens, in La Cañada Flintridge. Intoxicate your date with the smell of wisteria or magnolia blossoms before indulging in their restaurant, Maple, only open for brunch on the weekends. The menu menu features maple themed items like Maple Moscow Mules, Chicken and Beignets with Maple Syrup, sinful Maple Bread Pudding, and Maple Pancakes with whiskey maple syrup, brown sugar spiced walnuts, and candied pork belly. Start your affair by splitting the Avocado Toast with flowers, the Soft Scramble Toast with moist eggs and spring peas, or the Fresh Berry Toast with whipped cream cheese. Enhance your brunch experience with the Mimosa Bar by selecting your choice of champagne and preferred juice medley.
For a memorable culinary experience, surprise your date with a train ride to Crossings in South Pasadena, just a short hop from the Gold Line station and only one stop away from Highland Park. One of our favorite meals of last year came from Gargantua, a Santa Monica pop-up. Now one of Gargantua's chefs, Kevin Malone, has made a new home at Crossings. This South Pasadena two-story exposed brick restaurant, in a historic 1908 building, is centrally located on charming Mission Street. The intimate, comfortable space features two bars, a wine loft, and a patio with a 100-year old oak tree. The ambiance sets the mood, but the thoughtful food menu and carefully cultivated wine selection are the real winners. The artistic chef concocted an impressive menu with unique dishes like Uni Carbonara, Hamachi Collar – flame broiled and rubbed in the Yucatan spice Pibil and served with handmade tortillas, Beef Tartar with ginger, Roasted Sunchokes with a habanero orange glaze, Hamachi Verde with snap peas and kaffir lime, Spinach Mushroom Salad with Maitaki and Beech mushrooms, and a Pot De Crème with hints of Ancho Chili and espresso, topped with rice and almond-flavored Horchata foam.
Check out new neighborhood restaurant, The Henry (also located in Phoenix and Dallas), now open on 120 N. Robertson (the former Newsroom) with outdoor seating and a massive indoor space for a cozy booth date or a communal dining experience with new friends. This new dining destination is not only hip and beautiful, drawing LA's pretty people, but the wait staff is welcoming (which they pride themselves on) and the food is exceptional. Not often do you find all three things in one place in LaLaLand.
Begin your night with the gin-based cocktail with rose petals called Wake the Angels and move on to the fig and ginger mule. Share Smoked Norwegian Salmon on a crunchy hash brown with crème fraîche and arugula, Black Truffle Cheese Fondue with warm pretzel bite knobs, and the taste bud-blowing Surf and Surf, because the luscious chunks of crab marinating in warm butter tastes pretty much like lobster and comes with chilled Mexican shrimp and grilled bread bites.
Save room for entrees like the succulent Short Rib with homemade English Pea Ravioli and Seared Ahi Tuna in a bowl of green curry coconut rice with lemongrass broth. End your night with a concoction from their coffee bar like a Flat White, The Butcher (two shots espresso, Colombian drip, splash sweet cream) or The Wildflower (espresso, vanilla, splash of chai, steamed milk). Brunch and lunch are also offered along with a perfect bar for post-work drink meet-ups.
As soon as you arrive, you feel transported to an episode of Boardwalk Empire or perhaps sent back in time to the real Parisian Pigalle. For the first time in 70 years, the Carondelet House is bringing Cabaret back, where French-born proprietor Jean Marceau began in 1928 with his dream of importing Parisian Cabaret to LA. The stunning historic home, now an entertaining space, got its name from the S.S. Carondelet, the ocean liner that brought Marceau to America.
A magician awaits, a sketch artist may draw you as you sip your Absinthe, and dancers mingle throughout the House to get your heart pumping. The night is structured around a master of ceremonies (Marceau) who tells a tale of the Cabaret. After cocktail hour, phones are taken and checked so you can be fully present. In your black tie and vintage flapper garb, enjoy a 5+ course dinner, including lobster claw, Niman Ranch tenderloin, and wine, as live music and scantily clad performers take you on a wild erotic ride – with tap dancing and smoke and windows and candles and wax. Your senses will be blown! $300 per person, but memories for a lifetime!
For a boozy brunch the morning after, keep your date fired up with Spiked Cereal Milk at this fun little Breakfast Bar spot. Cocoa Puffs with Vanilla Vodka, Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch and Bourbon, yes, please! Founded by celebrity chef and restauranteur Jeremy Fall, soak up the strong pours with Chicken and Biscuits or Sweet Potato Pancakes, Candied Bacon, Drunken (brandy-infused) French Toast with Krispies coating the Brioche, Duck Confit Hash, and Benedict Fries with pit-smoked ham, peppers, gruyere, and smoked paprika hollandaise sauce with an egg on top. Open 'til midnight or later. Warning: Do not enter if on a diet, have dietary restrictions, or are a picky eater who wants substitutions.
Inside the opulent five-star Peninsula Hotel, woo your date with a taste of Mediterranean Californian cuisine. Soak up the sunshine and dine on their terrace for a memorable date or sit inside at one of their elegant tables with French country chairs surrounded by impressive modern art. To dine here always seems special.
Personable Executive Chef David Codney keeps dishes simple by using high-quality locally sourced ingredients, wild-caught seafood, and even ingredients harvested on the hotel's rooftop garden. "I don't want the food to be something that took 15 hours to cook. It's meant to be rustic and identifiable- it's not food that's been broken down so much that you don't know what it is," says Chef David Codney.
You can expect world-class service in this warm, inviting atmosphere as numerous servers take care of your every need, from squeegeeing the crumbs off your linen, spacing out your food selections, and making sure your wine glass doesn't run dry. If you can sustain the carbs, ordering the Gnocchi Porcini and Duck Confit Orecchiette (pasta that looks like small ears) with fancy mushrooms and sundried tomatoes is a must! The Dungeness Crab Flatbread loaded with fresh crab plus confit tomatoes, the Mr. Z Mediterranean Market Salad with crunchy pita crisps, or the Charred Caesar with Crispy Brussels sprouts and Kale with a white anchovy peppercorn dressing are good starters to share.
Move over boring old cauliflower. Here comes a Whole-Roasted (head of) Cauliflower complete with garlic aioli, gremolata flavoring, and crunchies on top as a side. End your night with their luscious Bombolini (doughnut holes filled with cream) or the jaw-dropping Fabergé Egg decked in edible paint and gold foil and little holes – perfect for Easter and springtime! Crack the chocolate egg to reveal the contents of chocolate fudge and gelato or one of their rotating flavor combos.