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RESTAURANTS

Restaurant Week -- get it while it's hot

January 24, 2008|Jessica Gelt

Los ANGELES may never get its own NFL team again, but starting Sunday it will have its own Restaurant Week. Mirroring hugely successful events in big-time culinary cities like New York and San Francisco, dineLA -- a promotional task force formed by the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau -- has enlisted more than 140 restaurants from all corners of L.A. County to offer significantly marked-down three-course lunches and dinners to all comers.

A news conference marking the occasion was held this week at Neal Fraser's Grace restaurant. Fraser -- one of the heavy hitters on the dineLA advisory committee -- said he's been pushing for an event like this for years and that he'd like to see L.A. become a "destination city" for diners.

With reservations rolling in -- Fraser has received more than 1,200 and bookings at Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's Ciudad are up by at least 50% -- it looks like Restaurant Week will be a hit.

The only downside to the hoopla is the fact that, as Fraser lamented, many of the city's high-end restaurants opted out of participating.

"I hope that for the next two weeks they have no customers," he said dryly, adding that "the synergy in the restaurant community is what's going to make this thing strong."

Milliken said that she expected the high-end holdouts to come running as Restaurant Week builds steam over the next few years.

"It's just a matter of getting the momentum going," she said.

Hoity-toity party poopers aside, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- who pranced merrily around Grace, mugging gamely for the cameras (if he were a food, he would be a ham) -- pointed out that a wealth of fantastic restaurants have joined the fray, representing nearly every ethnicity in this wildly diverse metropolis.

"When you sample what this city has to offer -- Harold & Belle's in South L.A., La Serenata in East L.A., Max restaurant in the Valley and Ports O' Call in San Pedro -- you get to see what this city is all about," he said shortly before donning an honorary chef's shirt emblazoned with the words "Chef Villaraigosa" and biting with relish into a proffered dish of tuna tartare.

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For participating restaurants and reservations go to www.dinela.com

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-- Jessica.Gelt@latimes.com

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