Subject: Restaurant Suggestions - Los Angeles Area
Dear Gary,

Congratulations on your son's engagement. I live in L A and there are soo many fine restaurants. I am sending you a list of some I have personally exerienced including romantic ones. Perhaps by their explanations you can determine which one he might enjoy most. Sandy

Spago/Beverly Hills, 176 No. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, (310)385-0880. The new Spago, which is probably the best restaurant in Los Angeles at the moment, screams Serious Restaurant, from the ancient olive trees in the courtyard to the puree of corn with truffles that is so fragrant it threatens to levitate from the table. The foie gras with rhubarb, the crawfish with roasted beets and pastry chef Sherry Yard's Austrian crepes with sauteed Chino Ranch strawberries are good enough to make you forget those pizzas he no longer serves. Very expensive.

Jozu, 8360 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (213)655-5600. A Zen-simple space, with soft music, sake by the carafe and perhaps the best small wine list in the state, Jozu is a restaurant for grown-ups, the first solo effort by Suzanne Tracht, who worked at Campanile for several years. Tracht's cooking is a balanced approach to new-American cooking from someone who just happens to include Asian flavors on her palette. Ipswich clams, fried in a typical New England cornmeal batter and served with cocktail sauce tricked out with vast amounts of ginger instead of horseradish, bring the Pacific straight to Cape Cod; braised lamb shanks have the sharp, fermented edge of black beans, a flavor you'd never find in Provence; crusty-edged roasted sea bass bathes in half an inch of citrusy ponzu. Wonderful and expensive.

Chez Gilles, 267 So. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, (310)216-1558. Gilles Epie was not long ago one of the youngest Michelin-starred chefs in Paris, at the Provencal-flavored Miraville. Now in his own Beverly Hills place--an informal patio-centered restaurant-Epie reveals himself as the king of all things fishy: fluffy seared John Dory perfumed with bay leaves; crisp-skinned spiced sea bass nestled on top of a Moroccan-style vegetable tahine; his signature dish of vinegared potato salad with cool slabs of cured salmon, a play on the dish of herring and potato salad that is a mainstay of Parisian brasseries. Except for a couple of luxury dishes carried over from L'Orangerie-scrambled eggs with caviar, a tennis ball-size doughnut stuffed with foie gras and glazed with port--Epie's exquisite cooking comes at a reasonable price. And following the lead of Paris's three-star Arpege, Chez Gilles has what must be the only tomato dessert in the United States, a sweetly exotic love-apple tart. Moderate to expensive.

Mimosa, 8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213)655-8895. Mimosa is that rare and wonderful thing: a rigorously unambitious restaurant. French chef Jean-Pierre Bosc once manned the stoves at Fennel, and Silvio DeMori used to own more hip Tuscan restaurants than God. Together, they decided to open a basic restaurant and the result is spectacular: an ordinary Westside bistro with truly fine cooking. The most popular dish may be the $14 plate of steak frites. There is a garlicky fish soup that would pack the docks at Marseilles, an exemplary Alsatian tart flambe and a pesto-smeared tomato tatin that should become a classic of neoclassic French cuisine. Moderate to expensive.

Best Romantic Restaurant: Il Cielo, 9018 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, 310-276-9990. Very Expensive. (in a survey from Los Angeles magazine)

Yamashiro, 1999 No. Sycamore, Hollywood (in the hills above Franklin Ave.); (213)466-5125. In Japanese, the name means mountain palace, and that it is, with a fabulous view over Los Angeles serving delicious Japanese cuisine. Unsurpassed romantic ambience and serene gardens. Lunch and dinner daily. Moderately priced to expensive.

Palm, 9001 Santa Monica Blvd. (310)550-8811. One of LA's most colorful and lively restaurants. Serves giant steaks and lobsters in a New-York style restaurant with celebrities' pictures adorning the walls. Expensive. Special off the menu treat: Chicken bruno, a kind of upscale, pan-sauteed McNuggets, with bones attached, $17.50.

Dar Maghreb, 7651 Sunset Blvd; (213)876-7651. A stunning Moroccan setting, sitting on soft cushions eating mostly with your hands. A re-creation of a 12th century Moroccan palace. A wonderful North African experience and delicious food. A 6-course meal. About $30 per person. (wonderful Moroccan experience.)

Four Oaks Restaurant, 2181 No. Beverly Glen Blvd.; (310)470-2265. The ambience is one of feeling the relaxed pleasures of country dining, for it is set in what looks like a mini forest in Beverly Glen Canyon. A very romantic setting. The food is excellent, the service pleasant and attentive, but a little slow, as the kitchen and bar are downstairs. Lunch is $50-$80 for two, Sunday brunch, $55 for two and the prix-fixe dinner, $40-$55 per person.

Bel-Air Hotel, 701 Stone Canyon Rd; (310)472-1211. Beautiful, romantic ambience for cozy, intimate dining. Breakfast for two: $35-$45.

Cafe Del Rey, 4451 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey; (310)823-6395. A popular, trendy place with modern-decor serving excellent international cuisine. Fish especially good. Moderately priced to expensive.

Hornblower Dining Yachts. Fisherman's Village, 13755 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey; (310)301-9900 ext 7. Offer two hour weekend champagne brunch cruises Saturday and Sunday (11-1) at $30-$35 per person, and weekday luncheon cruises from 12 to 1:30 at $25 per person. (Also located at Catalina landing, 100 Golden Shore, Long Beach, 213-519-9400 ext. 7 and Mariner's Mile, Marine Center, 2431 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach, 714-631-2469 ext. 7.) Reservations taken on a space available basis, must be reserved and paid for ahead of time. Cancellations prior to 48 hours are transferable to another time, but not refundable. (for a little different dining experience. Have not personally done this.)

Inn of the Seventh Ray, 128 Old Topanga Canyon Road, Topanga, Malibu (818)455-1311. A very romantic setting with most of the dining done outdoors along a mountain stream with soft candlelight and classical music played softly in the background. The food is mediocre, but the setting is so great that it is worth the experience. Stick with the fish, which is better than their meat dishes. Moderately priced to expensive.