Los Angeles is a fine city for eating out, even if New York garners more attention for its culinary prowess. California cuisine tends to be light and fresh, while Latin and Asian influences add color and spice.
Here are our selections for business dining, from the traditional power-lunch restaurants such as the Ivy, to more edgy venues like Animal, where the room’s stripped bare and the focus is on meat that’s rare enough to bite back.
1. Animal: 435 N. Fairfax Avenue. Information: +1-323-782-9225; http://www.animalrestaurant.com/.
What: The meat restaurant of “Two Dudes, One Pan” authors Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. They aim for maximum flavor with minimum fuss. Think pig tails, “Buffalo Style,” celery, ranch.
For all the rock ‘n’ roll style, the tattoos and the attitude, Shook and Dotolo are serious about their food, which can be shockingly good. It’s passion on a plate. Just don’t go to Animal expecting starched tablecloths and subtle lighting.
Where: Mid-City West, between Rosewood and Oakwood.
When: Animal opens at 6 p.m., so don’t try for lunch.
Bar: There are seven seats at the bar for walk-ins.
Private room: It’s not that sort of place.
Sound level: Loud. It’s 80 decibels even early evening.
2. Bazaar: 465 S. La Cienega Boulevard. Information: +1-310-246-5555; http://thebazaar.com/.
What: Bazaar is the restaurant of Jose Andres, an innovative chef who has worked at El Bulli. It’s an ambient venue where your evening starts in the bar, then you sit in one of two rooms for modern or traditional tapas before moving on to the dessert room and patisserie. There’s a trippy shop selling skulls and other odd designer items, including oversized cuddly stuffed bears.
Why: The food is creative and fun. The Los Angeles Times awarded it four stars and it was Esquire’s restaurant of the year. Be warned that this is an unconventional choice and you’re likely to be seated close to other diners, so it’s not a good pick for confidential discussions.
Where: Inside the SLS Hotel, Beverly Hills.
When: Dinner only.
Bar: Yes, with crazy cocktails.
Private room: Yes.
Sound level: Loud, 80 decibels. If you need a quiet table, this might not be the place for you.
3. Belvedere: 9882 S. Santa Monica Boulevard. Information: +1-310-975-2736; http://bit.ly/9wItWq.
What: It’s a well-known and long-established power-dining venue in the Peninsula Hotel, serving modern American cuisine.
Why: It’s beautiful, discreet and the dishes are very good, combining excellent ingredients with skillful preparation. The award-winning wine list is an attraction too.
Where: Beverly Hills.
When: Lunch in the garden is hard to beat.
Bar: The Club Bar is paneled with Californian birch and lives up to its name. It’s hushed and feels exclusive.
Private room: Yes, seating 22.
Sound level: Relaxingly quiet, 70 decibels.
4. Bouchon: 235 N. Canon Drive. Information: +1-310-271-9910; http://www.bouchonbistro.com/.
What: Thomas Keller’s bistro, serving traditional dishes such as steak frites and profiteroles.
Why: Keller is one of the world’s most respected chefs, and if you’re not dining in the French Laundry or Per Se, Bouchon at least shows his commitment to quality. The menu is tempting and it’s a pleasure to dine on the balcony of the colonial-style building that is home to this restaurant.
Where: Beverly Hills, just up the road from Spago.
When: Dine by candlelight.
Bar: Yes, there’s a ground-floor bar serving snacks.
Private room: There are two, seating 16 and 10.
Sound level: Acceptable, 75-80 decibels.
5. Cecconi’s: 8764 Melrose Avenue. Information: +1-310-432-2000; http://www.cecconiswesthollywood.com/.
What: Italian restaurant/bar that is a U.K. import. It’s owned by Soho House Group, and the original is in London.
Why: It’s a beautiful spot filled with beautiful people enjoying great cocktails and each other’s company. Just don’t set your culinary sights too high and beware of up-selling.
Where: Site on the corner of Melrose Avenue and Robertson Boulevard, West Hollywood, that was formerly Morton’s.
When: Cecconi’s is best and particularly atmospheric in the evening when the subtle lighting adds to the elegance.
Private Room: The Butterfly Room, named after a Damien Hirst work, can accommodate as many as 40 guests.
6. CUT: 9500 Wilshire Boulevard: Information: +1-310-276-8500; http://bit.ly/sINGA.
What: Wolfgang Puck’s steak restaurant, with Asian influences. It’s a hit with A-listers. They can afford it.
Why: First, for the food, which is inventive, exciting and delicious. Second, for the scene. This is one of the most fashionable restaurants in Los Angeles, and it looks great. It was designed by architect Richard Meier.
Where: In the Beverly Wilshire.
When: CUT doesn’t open for lunch.
Bar: Yes, there’s a separate lounge.
Private room: Small groups can be accommodated within the restaurant or in the adjacent lounge.
Sound level: Noisy, 80 decibels plus. Puck pumps up the music to draw in a younger crowd than at Spago.
7. Ivy: 113 N. Robertson Boulevard. Information: +1-310-274-8303; http://www.theivyla.com/.
What: One of the biggest celebrity restaurants in Los Angeles. Assuming you can get a reservation, you may sit in the garden or in one of the small rooms indoors.
Why: Along with Spago, the Ivy is at the center of Hollywood celebrity culture, plus it’s the most charming of restaurants. The surprise may be the food: It’s delicious, with lime-grilled chicken, lobster pizza and a superb Caesar salad among the treats. While it can be difficult to get a table and it’s not cheap, the Ivy is worth it.
Where: Beverly Hills. The Kabbalah Centre is down the road.
When: Lunch in the garden is a particular treat.
Private room: You don’t go to the Ivy for privacy.
Sound level: Not too noisy to hear a paparazzo’s pop, 75 decibels.
8. Michael’s: 1147 Third Street. Information: +1-310-385-0880; http://www.michaelssantamonica.com/.
What: Owner Michael McCarty’s restaurant opened in 1979 serving modern American food in a bright restaurant filled with modern art. (A Manhattan branch opened in 1989.)
Why: The patio has to be one of the loveliest places to eat in Santa Monica and the food is as light and colorful as the decor, with dishes such as Farmers’ Market heirloom tomatoes with Gioia burrata, basil, extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic; or grilled Petaluma Jidori chicken with watercress, pommes frites, tarragon butter.
Where: A short walk from the ocean front in Santa Monica.
When: Any time.
Bar: There’s a separate bar with fine cocktails.
Private room: There are semi-private spaces.
Sound level: A not-intrusive 75 decibels.
9. Pizzeria Mozza: 641 N. Highland Avenue. Information: +1-323-297-0101; http://www.pizzeriamozza.com/LA/home.cfm.
What: Pizza restaurant co-owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich of Babbo, and Nancy Silverton, who worked at Michael’s before going on to open Campanile in Los Angeles.
Why: While Mozza may look like a regular pizza joint, it’s backed by some of the biggest names in the U.S. restaurant world, and the food is first class and inventive. White anchovy, tomato & Fresno chili pizza anyone? Although the prices are low, this establishment is a destination for food lovers.
When: Whenever you can get a table. There’s often a wait.
Bar: You can eat at the bar.
Private room: The Jack Warner room accommodates 23 guests.
Sound level: Loud to very loud. Think 85 decibels.
10. Polo Lounge: 9641 Sunset Boulevard. Information: +1-310-276-2251; http://www.beverlyhillshotel.com/the-polo-lounge.
What: Flagship restaurant at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Why: Historically, this is the ultimate power-dining spot for Hollywood executives and stars. The menu isn’t adventurous: Why mess with success? Favorite dishes include tortilla soup; Caesar salad; and chilled poached salmon.
Where: Beverly Hills, where else?
When: Breakfast on the patio is a real pleasure. The American Breakfast is $30.
Private room: Yes.
Sound level: You can hear a name drop, 75 decibels.
11. Red O: 8155 Melrose Avenue. Information: +1-323-655-5009; http://www.redorestaurant.com/.
What: Mexican restaurant owned by the TV chef Rick Bayless.
Why: It’s a dramatic, fashionable venue, featuring a tequila tunnel and a wall festooned with 400 bells. It’s a scene. If you are cold-calling for a reservation, book early.
Where: West Hollywood.
When: Dinner only, except for Sunday brunch.
Bar: There’s a separate tequila lounge.
Private room: There’s a semi-private room.
Sound level: Can get lively, 80 decibels.
12. Son of a Gun: 8370 W. 3rd Street. Information: +1-323-782-9033; http://sonofagunrestaurant.com/.
What: This is the fish restaurant of the “dudes” behind Animal.
Why: It’s a similar story to Animal: The venue looks casual, yet the food is well thought out. Specialties include alligator schnitzel, palm of heart, orange; lobster roll, celery, lemon aioli. The nautical theme -- carried through with anchors, etc., on the wall -- softens the edges.
Where: Between Orlando and Sweetzer.
When: Evenings only, though lunch service is planned.
Bar: There’s a small bar in the restaurant.
Private room: No.
Sound level: A robust 75 decibels.
13. Spago: 176 N. Canon Drive. Information: +1-310-385-0880; http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/3635.
What: Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant, coming up to its 30th anniversary.
Why: Fresh California produce, simply prepared and served with a great selection of U.S. wines. Oh, and multiple celebrity diners for company.
Where: Beverly Hills.
When: Lunch in the garden is hard to beat.
Private room: Yes, there are two private rooms.
Sound level: Bearably buzzy at 75 decibels.
14. WP24: 900 W. Olympic Boulevard. Information: +1-213-743-8824; http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/57129.
What: Pan-Asian restaurant atop the Ritz-Carlton.
Why: The restaurant, part of Puck’s empire, is dimly lit allowing you to appreciate the views across Los Angeles. Avoid if you need to look at any documents. While Pan-Asian food is popular in Los Angeles, it’s not for everyone.
Where: 24th floor of the hotel.
When: Evenings only.
Bar: Yes, it’s large and can get very noisy.
Private room: Yes.
Sound level: Far from quiet, approaching 80 decibels.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.
This report is the seventh of the 2011 series of Bloomberg Dine & Deal. The articles survey top cities and offer informed tips on good restaurants for business and pleasure. For more Dine & Deal reviews, click here.)