After years of economical eating that has seen the rise of food trucks, extended happy hours and dining deals, Los Angeles appears to be steadily taking it up a notch when it comes to extravagant dining. Case in point: Umami Burger and its $100 “MNO burger,” as in “money’s no object.” Suddenly, a shift away from thrift doesn't seem all that outlandish. Regardless of whether you’d really ever drop a Benjamin on a burger, it’s fun to fantasize.
Not only is Umami Burger named after the Japanese word for the elusive, sought-after “fifth taste,” it has the cachet to offer a hamburger with a triple-digit price tag. Said patty is made of purebred, grass-fed wagyu, which has been dry aged for 21 days. It’s topped with white truffle shavings, onion jam and a port reduction. Says founder Adam Fleischman, “We came up with it trying to create the ultimate burger for a birthday party.” The MNO Burger is only available by request, and only during truffle season.
While Umami may boast the single most expensive burger in town, the Polo Lounge has been known for its grilled Kobe-style burger before gourmet burgers became de rigueur. Restaurant manager Pepe de Anda explains, “[It] was added to our menu 10 years ago by our executive chef at the time, Katsuo “Suki” Sugiura. It has been a lunch and dinner favorite ever since, and we sell about 20 to 30 per day.” Priced at what was once an astonishing $38, it’s comparably affordable. And this being the Beverly Hills Hotel, where old-school service is still an art, it can be custom-built according to preference. In fact, servers say that based on toppings and temperature, rarely are two exactly the same. Suggestions from the menu include farmhouse cheddar, applewood-smoked bacon, grilled onions and a fried egg. Off-menu Swiss with sautéed mushrooms is popular, too. Considering that the beef is top notch, others keep it simple with only lettuce and tomatoes.
Opened in 2006, Wolfgang Puck’s CUT has since enjoyed a reputation for some of the best steaks in the city. One of the most unique moments during any meal here is the presentation of the raw beef platter. Different cuts from various sources are displayed tableside to better educate diners. Though the selection changes from time to time, a constant is the inclusion of very exclusive, 100-percent wagyu beef from the Miyazaki Prefecture in Japan. For those that prefer richer cuts, rib-eye runs $155 for eight ounces, while New York strip is $135 for six.
Served on a Himalayan salt plate, Yamashiro’s American Wagyu Steak gives the restaurant's million-dollar view a run for its money. Priced at $59, it’s a solid entrée for a hearty eater, or easily shared by two people with lighter appetites. Served on a hand-cut salt slab heated to 400 degrees, the meat sears first on its own, absorbing flavor. It’s then removed to avoid overcooking, while the platter is scored and rubbed with garlic cloves. The meat picks up the garlic when it finishes cooking, but it’s actually worth trying both ways.
For many, caviar epitomizes a first-class dining experience. In Los Angeles, there are few names more synonymous with it than Petrossian. Established in Paris in the 1920s, and later adding branches in New York and West Hollywood, Petrossian is part retail shop, part restaurant. A great intro into the delicacy is the blinis appetizer, which offers one taste each of caviar, trout roe and salmon roe. For a more decadent experience, the $60 prix-fixe brunch includes a plastic “egg” filled with 12 grams of Transmontanus caviar; plus a choice of smoked trout with rainbow trout roe, a smoked salmon bagel or the standout slow-cooked, soft-scrambled eggs and caviar. Vanilla panna cotta with espresso “caviar” (actually little beads of coffee) ends the meal.
Very few restaurants nail it every time. Missteps happen. Just not at Mélisse. The décor is appropriately elegant without feeling stuffy. Service is attentive and professional without appearing overly fussy. Traditional French cuisine is filtered through native Angeleno chef/owner Josiah Citrin’s California cuisine roots, and is, as the propaganda suggests, “inspiring.” What better place to take a tasting menu journey? Several are available, including a 10-course omnivore option and an abbreviated version for vegetarians. However, the pièce de résistance here is the “carte blanche” menu, which allows the chef a free hand in selecting approximately 15 courses of the day’s absolute best cuts of meat, freshest fish and farmers’ market finds. The result? Spectacular creations like foamed lobster Bolognese and Scottish wood pigeon with truffled toast. For food only, it’s $250, and an additional $95 for wine pairings from the equally impressive cellar.
While Mélisse is among LA’s ultimate French-style fine dining experiences, Two Rodeo’s Urasawa is a shrine to the Japanese art of omakase, in which there is no menu; the chef simply serves his choice of both sashimi and cooked dishes. A meal here is aspired to by many as a once-in-a-lifetime experience—one that no matter how outstanding is unlikely to be repeated, thanks to the sticker shock. Urasawa is spendy, even by sushi standards. A basic meal here, usually 20-plus courses, will set you back $395—before tax, tip or beverages. The fish is among the best in the ocean, much of it flown in from Japan on a regular basis. Naturally, the menu changes with the season and is based largely on availability, but expect favorites like seared toro, various tofus decorated with 24-karat gold leaves, and lots of live dishes like uni, scallops and sweet shrimp.
For luxury in liquid form, there’s nothing like a $20 Manhattan at the Tasting Kitchen. The price isn’t just amped up based on the hip Abbot Kinney address, but rather quality of the ingredients (Thomas Handy barrel-proof rye, Carpano Antica and Angostura bitters) and the skill of head mixologist Justin Pike. On a slower night, he might even be talked into creating a flight of smaller Manhattans.
The $100 margarita at Red O starts with three extra-anejo tequilas and takes off from there: Gran Patron Burdelos, Partida Elegante, Herradura seleccion suprema; Grand Marnier Cent Cinquintenaire, fresh squeezed lime juice, organic agave syrup, ice cubes made of housemade lime sorbet, topped with a float of Louis XIII cognac and orange “Caviar” made from fresh squeezed orange juice and Prunier D’orange Cognac, served with a stainless steel straw and an edible gold rim. What else would it be called but "The Benjamin." It's available on Fridays and Saturdays only. Plan accordingly.
Located upstairs from Scarpetta in the Montage Beverly Hills, £10 (aka Ten Pound) is the only U.S. outpost of The Macallan. There's a $50 minimum, but with cocktails priced at $28 and up, guests will have no problem reaching that mark. Beverage options range from a $30 glass of The Macallan fine-oak, 15-year-old Scotch to a $64,000 bottle of The Macallan 64-Year.
9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310.276.8500
1104 Wilshire Blvd., 310.395.0881
321 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, 310.271.6300
Red O Restaurant
8155 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, 323.655.5009
£10 at Montage Beverly Hills
225 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, 310.860.5808
The Polo Lounge
9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310.887.2777
The Tasting Kitchen
633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 310.392.6644
4655 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz, 323.669.3922
218 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills, 310.247.8939
1999 N. Sycamore Ave., Hollywood Hills, 323.466.5125