Raise your fork in victory: dineLA Restaurant Week is back for seconds. In its sophomore year, the number of participating restaurants has grown from 143 to 172 and counting. The growth can be attributed to last year's success and the inclusion of a third (more expensive) price tier that enables high- end restaurants to participate.
The restaurants involved will offer significant price reductions on three-course lunches and dinners for two weeks, beginning Sunday (and excluding Jan. 31). The three price tiers are deluxe ($16 lunches, $26 dinners), premiere ($22 lunches, $34 dinners) and the newcomer, fine dining ($28 lunches, $44 dinners).
The importance of bringing some of L.A.'s most lavish restaurants to the table was on display last week at a dineLA news conference at the SLS Hotel's vaunted new restaurant, the Bazaar by Jose Andres. The event was attended by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who took Restaurant Week's "first bite" when Andres presented him with a symbolic Bazaar Philly cheese steak.
Evan Kleiman of Angeli Caffe was one of the many chefs in attendance, and she recalled being touched by Andres' opening statement. "He said that when he was young he used to save his pennies to go to high-end restaurants just to see what the chefs were up to," says Kleiman, displaying the kind of professional respect for her peers that seems to define most Restaurant Week participants.
The group presented a united front with a we're-all-in-this-together attitude -- especially in light of the sour economy. For many, Restaurant Week couldn't have come at a better time. "We're all just hanging from a thread right now," Kleiman says. "So this should give us a boost."
Kleiman's restaurant falls in the deluxe group, but representatives of the fine dining faction, like chef Craig Strong of the Dining Room at the Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa, also have felt the pinch.
"We want to use this price as an opportunity for people to come in and see that everyone's welcome," Strong says. "Because people still need to go out and indulge every once in a while. They need to continue to have a life."
If 2008 is any indication, people will come out for a bargain. Chef Neal Fraser of Grace says that last year's event marked two of the most profitable weeks his restaurant had all year. "It's about being together, collectively, as a whole," he says. "We all want to make L.A. a great dining destination."
Many restaurants participating for the first time, including Comme Ca, Gordon Ramsay and Akasha, have reported a healthy up-tick in reservations (in the case of Gordon Ramsay, many nights are already fully booked).
"For the first night of Restaurant Week, we've booked 128 reservations, and we're still 10 nights out," says Akasha Richmond of her Culver City restaurant. "When you own a restaurant, all your friends own restaurants, and for the most part everyone just wants to see everyone else do well."
Find the complete list of participating restaurants at www.dinela.com.