Having a little trouble planning a summer getaway? Unable to get out of the office for more than an evening? The restaurants on this list each feel like they’re a million miles away from LA – but your trip will only last as long as dinner. Before the night is over, you’ll be sated, serene, and – at the end of it – sleeping in your own bed.
Café Del Rey
4451 Admiralty WayMarina del Rey, CA 90292
Forget everything you’ve heard about this Marina Del Rey landmark. The entire restaurant – from the interior to the menu to the bar program – was entirely redone in 2011. The result is a destination that seems shiny and new, perched elegantly on the Marina, and a lovely place to lose yourself in the sights outside the back wall of windows. Chef Daniel Roberts’ dishes, like the house cured Scottish salmon, the truffle pizza and the Maine diver scallops are straight-forward and tasty. The cocktail program is based on fresh, seasonally available fruits and vegetables. And if ordering the Dover sole doesn’t make you feel like you’re in England, or the Moroccan lamb burger doesn’t transport you to North Africa, one look at all of those beautiful boats, bobbing serenely in the blue Pacific, and you will definitely feel like you’re you’re on Cloud 9.
7651 West Sunset BoulevardLos Angeles, CA 90046
In your regular, day-to-day life, how often do you get to lounge on pillows and drink tea, while watching beautiful women belly dance right in front of you? If you responded with anything other than “every day,” it’s time to take an international trip without a passport to this Sunset Boulevard mainstay. Tables choose from several fixed price menus, featuring dishes like brochette of marinated quails, duck with honey and raisin sauce, and salmon with fresh coriander. Appetizers include salad, Harira (a traditional lentil soup), as well as B’stilla, a dish invented by the Moors while they were exiled in Spain, and brought back to Morocco centuries ago. See? Dar Maghreb isn’t just an escape from the ordinary; dinner comes with a history lesson or two as part of the package.
Inn of the Seventh Ray
28 Old Topanga Canyon RoadTopanga, CA 90290
Topanga Canyon, located just 30 miles outside of LA, is as different from the cosmopolitan slick, glitzy, frenzied and frenetic controlled chaos as water is to oil. And it’s one of the best places to escape when the city’s insanity gets to be a little too intense. And, while in Topanga Canyon, the best way to quickly refresh and renew…and repast…is to spend a few hours at Inn of the Seventh Ray. Originally built in the 1930’s, a lot has changed since its beginnings as a private residence, but today the restaurant is still widely considered to be one of the area’s best places to eat…or to get engaged, or even to realign your energy flow – with a little help from their New Age bookstore, The Spiral Staircase, which is appropriately located by the main entrance. Although most of the menu items are locally grown, brunch items like the Belgian waffles, lunch dishes such as St. Germain’s soup, mole braised prime short rib and even their cinnamon sugar banana beignets, are the perfect starting point for anyone looking to follow their bliss.
Montage Laguna Beach
30801 Coast Hwy.Laguna Beach, CA 92651
If Orange County doesn’t feel far enough from LA to suit your style, take a trip to the Montage Laguna Beach. This resort offers several different dining choices, from Studio’s French fare, to in-room options, or a complete cheese experience – so you can sit and stare at the ocean in your bathrobe while indulging in such dishes as organic Irish oatmeal, curried ratatouille (with Israeli couscous salad and green curry), barbecue chicken flatbread pizza (with Winchester Gouda and cilantro puree), sushi, or – of course – just a simple slice of German chocolate cake.
Saddle Peak Lodge
419 Cold Canyon RoadCalabasas, CA 91302
A short drive up the 405 or the PCH leads you out of town, away from traffic, past rolling hills and horse farms, and – finally – to Cold Canyon Road, your turnoff to Calabasas’ well-known “hunting lodge,” where game is served amid the soft glances of what might be long-deceased dinners. This is a setting of upscale, rustic comfort that is only about an hour from LA but could very well be on the other side of the country – or even across the ocean. Chef Christopher Kufek says, “the ambiance in the restaurant makes you feel like you’re in a hunting lodge in the forest and I think the menu supports the feel good comfort food that people eat in front of a fireplace on a cold fall or winter night.” And what are the dishes they might eat? Maybe some seasonal oysters on the half shell. Or rabbit roulade with a wild mushroom stuffing with apples cooked in sage and huckleberries. Or the truly adventurous might even spring for the New Zealand elk tenderloin or an order of the grilled Texas Nilgai antelope “Rossini.” Right outside LA, but completely out of the ordinary.
You know you’re in Hollywood, because you can see the lights of the city, stretched out and twinkling underneath your cocktail glass as you take another sip…except this doesn’t feel like Hollywood at all. It doesn’t exactly feel like Japan, either, although the country clearly serves as a starting point for Brock Klewno’s fusion dishes, like Kurobuta pork carnitas, truffle hamachi, snow crab and spicy tuna Napolean and the Himalayan Salt Plate – “American Wagyu steak seared and served on a Himalayan salt plate.” Not feeling very adventurous? Go for Steve Wastell’s signature drinks or a classic Moscow Mule…or even a piece of New York cheesecake.
Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee
3960 Wilshire Blvd # 100Los Angeles, CA 90010
Although this tea shop is located right on Wilshire Boulevard, right at the beginning of bustling Koreatown, once you step inside, you’ll feel as if you’re a million miles outside of LA. Serving (mostly) medicinal teas and small bites to go with them, diners can choose between table or floor seating, while they sit amongst brightly colored curtains that hang from the ceiling to give each table a little privacy. Whether you stop in for an afternoon snack; an herbal solution for anything from acne, digestive disorders or more carnal conundrums; or some quiet conversation, Hwa Sun Ji is certain to provide a little bit of calm and quiet.
Arianna Armstrong is a freelance food and wine writer who eats, drinks and sleeps in Los Angeles. You can read more about her delicious escapades at GrapeSmart.net, FoodTruckTimes.com and MutineerMagazine.com. Check her posts on CBSLA.com