Although I’ve only lived in LA for less than a year, I’vealready eaten at Grace three times. Not necessarily because Grace is the best restaurant in town, but because it’s got that great balance of reliably good food, well presented, with enough irreverence and cheekiness to defray some of the haughtiness that comes along with fine dining.
I don’t really remember what I had the first time I ate at Grace, but I recall that the dining room was gorgeous; the service gracious and attentive, but not overbearing; the presentation always lovely; and while trendy, it’s not unbearably so.
Weirdly, I ate at Grace twice last week – once on Wednesday, once on Sunday.On Weds., I was attending a conference at the Rennaissance Hollywood Hotel, and needed to take a business colleague somewhere impressive, but not budget-busting; and also, relatively close-by. (On Sunday, I already had plans to join friends for the “Dine LA” special menu).
On Weds., I tried Grace’s anniversary tasting menu:
-Grilled Local Calamari & Octopus, with pickled watermelon and Persian mint
-Sautéed Day Boat Scallop
-Bacon Wrapped Saddle of Rabbit
-Braised Colorado Lamb Shank
-A Doughnut Retrospective (strawberry, “The Elvis,” butterscotch)
This cost $55, with optional wine pairing for an additional $35 (which I didn’t do, as I’m not a wine person).
I wasn’t unduly impressed by the grilled octopus, although it was just fine. The scallop was really just an amuse bouche, not even an appetizer, but was delicious. The bacon-wrapped saddle of rabbit was rich, flavorful and nicely presented.
The lamb shank was an unexpectedly generous portion – so big that I couldn’t even begin to eat it, and had them wrap it up, uneaten. After all, I wanted to save room for the doughnuts! (After reheating it for lunch later, I found it to be tasty, but a little too rich/fatty for me).
The doughnuts are indeed yummy, but they’re not quite as phenomenal as their reputation would have you expect. It’s really the fillings that are unique and special – butterscotch was lip-smackingly good, the “Elvis” is peanut butter and banana (not a combination I typically favor, but still good), and the fruit one was good, if unmemorable. The doughnut itself tastes pretty much like any other doughnut.
As for Sunday’s meal: Because I’d just had a delicious $55 tasting menu, I didn’t get why the “Dine LA” special menu was a whopping $45 more (I’m used to specials being cheaper than usual, not pricier). So I skipped the intended Wine and Dine tasting, and settled instead for a $20 truffle burger with fries, and a $6 “milkshake,” Spanish latte flavor.
The burger, perfectly good but unmemorable, did not particularly taste of truffles, and I felt that the $20 price tag was fairly hefty. The milkshake was really creamy, yummy and refined, with a delicate flavor of cappuccino. I didn’t mind paying $6 for it.
I ordered a cup of regular coffee at the end of the meal, and to my surprise, I received a stunning polished-silver press-pot caraffe, all to myself. (I later realized that they don’t “do” single cups of coffee at Grace, so they charged me for a whole small pot). It was delicious coffee, and the presentation made me feel like a queen.
Let’s see, what else: I’ve always been able to find parking on the street immediately past the restaurant on the left. It’s a residential neighborhood, so not a huge problem. So I wouldn’t bother with valet parking, unless you’re in a huge hurry or it’s a Saturday night or something.
I’ve never been to Grace on a Friday or Saturday night, and perhaps it’s line-out-the-door stuff. But Grace has always seemed a little empty on the three occasions I’ve been there. Perhaps it’s had its day in the LA sun, as nothing about this restaurant is so original (or affordable) that it would engender all that much repeat business….. yours truly being the somewhat rare exception.