dineLA Winter 2011 Restaurant Week Starts January 23

Events: This might be just its sixth season, but dineLA Restaurant Week has become a Los Angeles institution, and is returning bigger and better than ever. This year, an unprecedented 297 restaurants throughout Los Angeles County are participating, in not one, but two weeks of fine dining at bargain prices.

This time around, it runs Monday-Friday, January 23-28, and then again Monday-Friday, January 31-February 4.

We'll break it down for you like this: there are three categories of restaurant from least expensive to most expensive where a prix-fixe three-course meal including appetizer, entrée and dessert will cost you from $16-$28 for lunch, and $26-44 for dinner. It looks like this:

$ Deluxe Dining: Lunch $16 Dinner $26
$$ Premier Dining: Lunch $22 Dinner $34
$$$ Fine Dining: Lunch $28 Dinner $44

Among the new restaurants and chefs participating in this winter wonderland of gourmet cuisine are Top Chef femme fatale Jamie Lauren, who is the newly installed executive chef at Beechwood in Venice; the Inn of the Seventh Ray in secluded Topanga; and husband-wife team David Lentz and Suzanne Goin's The Hungry Cat in Hollywood.

But it's not all about the newcomers. There are some returning heavyweights (so to speak) as well, including Thomas Keller's Bouchon, the landmark Nobu, and David Myers' French brasserie, Comme Ça.

For our part, we're looking forward to heading back into a few of our old standbys, and some new restaurants we haven't gotten to yet. Some of the outstanding ones on our list include some of our all-time L.A. faves: Akasha, AOC, Craft, Drago Centro, FIG at the Fairmont, Jar, Lucques, RH Restaurant and Bar, and The Bazaar by José Andrés. While in the new category, we're looking forward to trying Cleo at the Redbury Hotel, Mas Malo and Hostaria del Piccolo.

This is our sixth Restaurant Week in L.A., so we've developed a tried and true strategy for taking advantage of the best it has to offer. We go for the top-tier "Fine Dining" category since those tend to be the most interesting restaurants--the ones we've always wanted to try but haven't actually made time to plan ahead and make reservations at since their popularity almost always requires such forethought. Though the special meals there are by no means cheap, they are usually a lot more moderately priced than a normal lunch or dinner goes for, and a good cross-section of the best of the menu.

That said, there are also some fantastic restaurants in the "Premier Dining" category such as Chaya Downtown, District, Fraiche, La Cachette Bistro, One Pico, Palate Food + Wine, Susan Feniger's STREET, Waterloo & City, and Wilshire. In fact, there might be more of our wishlist in this category than any other, and that's just fine by us.

We have one more tip for you, though. Before you make any decisions, be sure to look at the menus available at each restaurant's link on the dineLA web site so you can see what you're in for. That way you won't be wooed by fancy names alone, but can check out what their serving and see if it sounds appetizing to you. If not, go somewhere else!

Above all, Restaurant Week is a great chance to get out and try some of the city's most interesting restaurants. So beyond price, look at different neighborhoods and cuisines, and get out of your culinary comfort zone.

Visitors can make a whole week out of it by taking advantage of the partner hotel packages available as well.

The other added bonus is that American Express Cardmembers will be able to register their eligible Amex card to receive a $20 statement credit when they dine three or more times during dineLA Restaurant Week.

Eric Rosen

Eric Rosen lives in Los Angeles and writes about food, wine, travel and adventure... usually in some combination of the four. He regularly contributes to Los Angeles Confidential Magazine, Condé Nast's HotelChatter and Jaunted, TravelAge West, Palate Press, Frontiers, Edge and Wandermelon. His work has also appeared in the L.A. Times. When he is not exploring the Los Angeles dining scene, Er...(Read More)

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