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Photograph: Courtesy Jesse HsuPasjoli

The 7 best fine dining restaurants in Los Angeles for splurge-worthy meals

Leave your jeans at home and go big in style at L.A.’s best fine dining restaurants, from a seafood classic to a Downtown gem inside an architectural masterpiece

Written by
Stephanie Breijo
&
Jason Kessler
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When out-of-towners hear the phrase “L.A. fine dining” they might scoff, thinking it’s an oxymoron considering how casual this city is, but the truth is that Los Angeles is home to some of the best tasting menus and fancy restaurants in the country—you just need to know where to look.

When you want to dress up for a romantic dinner or splurge on your birthday, there are some stellar spots; at the best fine dining restaurants in L.A. you might sit down to an elegant kaiseki dinner, a tasting from one of the world’s most famous chefs, or a seafood-centric meal filled with artistic flourish, and you can be sure servers won’t try to slip you their headshots as they present perfectly plated entrées.

Before you dig in, a brief note: All of these restaurants are currently open in some form, though these days are strange days for restaurants and some might only be offering takeout service or limited menus. Call or look online to check menus and availability before stopping by.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Los Angeles

The 7 best fine dining restaurants in L.A.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 4 of 4

L.A.’s seen its fair share of haute Japanese cuisine, but there’s something special happening at the Michelin-starred Hayato. This is fine dining done the Japanese way, or more specifically, done chef-owner Brandon Go’s way: The space is intimate and almost reverent, the ceramics are handcrafted and imported from Japan, and Go’s precision and technique come by way of training under some of Japan’s top chefs, clear in his execution of every course on the dinner-only kaiseki menu. Steamed abalone with an unctuous liver sauce; an owan course of delicate crab meatball soup; and fresh fruit coated in a salted sake jelly might all arrive before you, with Go and his team working ar the counter all the while. For a takeout taste of the restaurant, Hayato offers exquisite bento boxes for lunch, in December, a new and elegant Orizume dinner set.

  • Restaurants
  • Californian
  • Beverly Hills
  • price 4 of 4

Name a more iconic L.A. fine-dining institution—we’ll wait. Fortunately, after nearly 40 years, Spago is both the old standby and the new kid on the block thanks to an ever-changing menu that makes the restaurant seem altogether fresh. Don’t worry, you can still order the smoked salmon pizza, and Spago purists will be pleased to hear the kitchen is refreshingly old-school when it comes to presentation, but modern flourishes are what keep this icon feeling fresh without ditching its hits. If it’s your first visit you must order Spago’s iconic tasting menu for the classics, but if you’re a repeat guest, the most fun you can have is offroading with the fleeting and hyper-seasonal specials, especially when it comes to dessert. Spago’s been serving stellar cuisine since the Reagan era, proving that age ain’t nothing but a number.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Santa Monica
  • price 4 of 4

Josiah Citrin’s Santa Monica stalwart—a long-time high watermark in L.A. tasting menus—underwent a rebrand, and gone is the more formal white-tablecloth experience. That doesn’t mean this is no longer one of the city’s top tasting menus; we’re pleased to report that it feels just as special as the original Mélisse, but with entirely new flavor. There’s also a new setting, a more private vibe and that entirely new menu, giving us a familiar experience with a little freshening up. Now cordoned off in a near-hidden alcove within the greater Citrin space, Mélisse seats only 14 and delivers exquisite and detail-oriented dishes: caviar in chawanamushi with Hokkaido uni; spiny lobster whose sauce has been pressed via antique contraption; delicate wagyu strip loin with anchovy and shallots; a rich chestnut soup with even richer truffle foam.

While the indoor dining room has been closed for much of 2020, Citrin reimagined his gem once again to first bring us a new patio, and then a weekly themed takeout service where the chef pays tribute to his influences and favorite restaurants.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Hollywood
  • price 4 of 4
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For serving a city next to the Pacific, Michael Cimarusti’s Providence somehow still manages to surprise and reinterpret seafood. His mostly-aquatic menu deftly showcases the bounty of the West Coast, as well as the globe: Big Island abalone, Santa Barbara spot prawns and steelhead trout from the Quinault River in Washington are among the varied choices, though the menus change seasonally. Cimarusti may not always earn locavore points, but his knack for finding the best product will make you focus only on the perfect bite hanging from your fork, and nothing else.

When the dining room is open, a limited à la carte menu will walk you through the likes of fresh oysters, salt-roasted spot prawns and uni pastas, but for the truly adventurous—and deep-pocketed—there’s the 10-plus–course Chef’s Tasting Menu ($200, or $305 with wine pairings) where luxury fare including caviar, truffles and A5 wagyu beef are the catch of the day. When the dining room isn’t open, watch Providence’s Tock page for at-home meal kits and house-made pantry items from the Michelin-starred team.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Santa Monica
  • price 4 of 4

David Beran’s Santa Monica darling gives diners haute French cuisine with a scalable menu—which means you might splurge on roast duck served with teacups of its juice pressed right at the table, or you could opt for one of the most mind-numbingly–good grilled cheese sandwiches of your life. All the hallmarks of fine French cooking are there, delicate and artfully displayed in dishes such as the house-baked brioche filled with chicken liver mousse and a shallot-and-truffle jam; butter-poached lobster in puff pastry; and an exquisite scallop with caviar swimming in beurre blanc. You could even pop by for a simple slice of Basque cheesecake and leave fulfilled. Decadent and refined, Pasjoli is always a treat no matter your bank account balance. Find it serving patio dine-in as well as takeout.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Palms
  • price 4 of 4
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You could say that the Netflix documentary Chef’s Table helped shine a spotlight on n/naka, but the Palms restaurant was already on the map, front and center. Chef-owner Niki Nakayama is a former protégé of the legendary Morihiro Onodera, though Nakayama focuses her talent on kaiseki, which dictates a specific progression of textures, temperatures, tastes and seasonal ingredients—and she does it with such style and care. À la carte is not an option, and when every dish is this good, that’s okay by us. The menus change daily and seasonally, but there is always something to delight in: a glass filled with sea urchin and lobster in a bath of chilled dashi, maybe, or a seared diver-harvested scallop cuddled next to a warm okra pod.

In 2020, n/naka has added takeout service, and it’s some of the most competitively sought in the city: Reservations for the restaurant’s gorgeous bento and, more recently, fundraising Ekiben series, go quickly—so watch n/naka’s ordering page like a hawk (pickup orders are released Saturday at 10am).

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Beverly
  • price 4 of 4

This is a seafood splurge unlike any other. In fact, it’s an experience unlike any other. The Michelin-starred Joshua Skenes brought his San Francisco sea-focused stunner to Los Angeles, where it sits nearly hidden at the base of the Beverly Center. The menu changes daily, ensuring the freshest ingredients on your plate: buttery poached marbled flounder; showstopping crab flayed out on the table; caviar spooned over fluffy banana pancakes; fresh spot prawns and bivalves sold per piece; melt-in-your-mouth sea urchin served on the rocks. Sourced meticulously from independent fishermen and local authorities, it’s some of the finest seafood available in all of California—much of which is selected from Angler’s fish tanks and charged by the pound—of course, we wouldn’t blame you if you got distracted by the eye-catching poultry, seasonal vegetables or remarkable venison steak, either.

Need to save money after one of these meals?

  • Restaurants

Rents may be sky-high, but Los Angeles is still a city where you can find great food without breaking the bank—and we’re not just talking about a Double-Double at In-N-Out. Times are especially tough and every dollar counts, so from udon in Glendale to tacos in West L.A., here are a few of the city’s best inexpensive eats, all ringing in at $10 or under.

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