Dinner at Terroni, Downtown LA

Several of our favorite dinner experiences in LA have been at the Terroni in the Fairfax district, near West Hollywood. It is well designed, has an intimate atmosphere, the service is always great, and I’ve never eaten anything there I didn’t love. Admittedly those favorite dinners also included some of our favorite people, but we always had a blast and felt inclined to stay for an extended dinner and plenty of great wine. So when we heard they were opening a location in Downtown LA (closer to where we live now), we kept an eye on its progress. We finally went there this weekend to check it out, and I was particularly excited to see the interior design after seeing some teaser photos during construction.
DSCN3526 The downtown Terroni is located at 8th and Spring, in the old National City Bank building. Above the restaurant are some loft apartments, part of the gentrification that we’ve been seeing downtown over the past six years or so.DSCN3525 DSCN3524 When we first walked in, straight ahead was this awesome bar. Comfortable seats, slick, moody overhead pendant lamps, and highly designed wood set the tone. Especially striking was the under counter lighting that highlighted the texture of the wood on the bar.DSCN3522 Around the bar were plenty of bar-style place settings. It felt like an updated version of the Terroni we have grown so familiar with, and I could just imagine this space packed with people eating, drinking, and laughing the night away. But it was right about then that I realized it was 7:30 and the place was nowhere near to becoming packed. I know that’s early for dinner for some folks, but usually we find that’s prime dining time at most of our favorite places, so we always make a reservation to eat at that time of night.  I was surprised not to see more people there.DSCN3523 I loved this striking modern chandelier, set over a large table right by the window (presumably so it can also be seen from outside).DSCN3521 The hostess walked us around to the other side of the bar, where the larger dining room was located. Immediately I was loving all the original architectural details that they not only kept, but accentuated.DSCN3519 My favorite bit of history was the ornamentation on the ceiling, just the kind of thing you would see on an LA Conservancy tour. And I loved that they were still able to include the modern sculptural design and red accents that play into Terroni’s Italian theme.DSCN3513The space was equipped with huge arched windows, another original architectural detail they embraced in designing this space. I loved the way the space looked. But after we were seated, I noticed that something didn’t quite feel right. I think a big part of it was that when we first arrived, the sun was still making its way down, so there was a significant amount of natural light spilling into the huge windows. The space was so open that, combined with the daylight and the booth-style seating throughout most of the dining area, there was something reminiscent of a food court or franchise restaurant. Also, all the walls were painted white. My personal opinion is that they need to do something to darken the space during daylight to make it feel more intimate. Plus, the service was good but way fast. We went there for a leisurely date night, but instead they had us in and out in 45 minutes. Not exactly the leisurely night out we were hoping for. (We went elsewhere for drinks afterward, because we weren’t ready to end the evening yet!)DSCN3517 The still included their signature projected old black and white Italian movies.DSCN3515 And we were enjoying trying to figure out this map, which was on the wall behind me in the booth. We think it’s some sort of recipe map.DSCN3516 And my husband the foodie is always a fan of an open kitchen, so he can watch the bustle behind the scenes. I was loving that they had continued the awesome wood pattern and under counter lighting here from the front bar.DSCN3514 As we were leaving, feeling a bit rushed out to be honest, we happened by this back room. Now, this is the environment we were hoping for. Intimate but modern, and the kind of place you could really take your time chatting over a glass (or three) of wine. Unfortunately this room is reserved for large parties only, but I really wanted to have dinner there. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a birthday party there or something sometime. (Although admittedly for a smaller, intimate dinner with my husband or just a couple friends, I probably won’t go back here. I will stay loyal to my Terroni on Beverly and Fairfax.) To me, this is a fantastic restaurant environment, which I would have loved to see continued throughout the whole space.DSCN3520

What makes a successful dining environment for you?

Dining and Design in the UAE

For our entire vacation in the Middle East, it struck me how well we were eating. We never had bad food, not even once. It also struck me that the service at restaurants in the UAE was always top notch. Really impeccable. We certainly felt spoiled! Here is a highlight of our favorite dining experiences from the UAE.

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One night, the friends we were visiting took us to their all time favorite restaurant in Abu Dhabi, called 18 Degrees (named because if the building it resides in, which is built at an 18 degree angle). It was an opportunity to meet their friends (mostly expats from the US and the UK) and for them to share with us one of their favorite places.

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The interior embraces the building’s lean, and seems to use the steel reinforcement as an important element of the decor, rather than trying to disguise it.

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The kitchen is open to the dining room, and we were lucky enough to be sitting right next to the kitchen so we were able to watch the magicians at work.

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When we got to our table, the restaurant manager had left this note for each of us, addressed to each individual person. This was not prearranged by our friends, just something that they did to make us feel welcome and well taken care of.

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All of the food was incredible. They had started us off with a variety of appetizers, already divided into a sample plate of sorts for each of us, to ensure we could all try each one. Then our main courses arrived. I ordered their duck leg (which was our friend’s favorite dish there… which such a shining recommendation, I couldn’t resist) and it did not disappoint! Definitely the best duck I have ever had. And we even had a chance to tell the Michelin rated chef as much. He came out to our table a couple times to see how we were doing and to chat with us a bit.

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They treated us all to complimentary champagne, and then of course we drank lots of wonderful wine. And after our meals were done their cheese specialist came downstairs with these unexpected and quite decadent variety of cheeses, some as old as 15 years and all unpasteurized. The staff described each cheese in detail, just as they had done with each appetizer, meal, dessert, and cocktail (each by their own specialist). If you know me well, you know I love cheese… a lot! So I was in heaven!

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AbuDhabi610Just the next night, to cap off a day in Dubai, we had reservations for another incredible place. Rather than pay an entry fee to ride an elevator to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, we opted to have a luxurious evening of cocktails at the bar and lounge on the 124th floor, called Atmosphere.

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Yes, the cocktails were unique and delicious. And yes, the service was once again amazing. But I was in interior design heaven, surrounded by what looked to be glossy bent mahogany, like something you might see on a very expensive yacht. The warmth of the wood exaggerated the warmth of the sunset coming in through the windows.

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And yes, we were 124 stories up for sunset. This photo will not do the view justice… it’s hard to describe just how far you are able to see while looking out a window at that height. It doesn’t seem real!

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On our final night in Abu Dhabi, before the four of us jumped on a plane to Istanbul, we took my hubby to Emirates Palace for dinner at Hakkasan, an awesome Asian fusion restaurant (which I understand has locations in several cities around the world).

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I loved the decor! Once again, we felt surrounded by beautiful wood, but this time in a form much more open.

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There were a couple different seating set-ups, but all were both modern and comfortable with great use of materials like wood and leather.

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Outside, there was what seemed like a bridge or boardwalk leading to beautiful, almost tropical looking, outdoor lounge areas.AbuDhabi706 AbuDhabi708

Once again, the food was to die for. It started with some delicious, tender, perfectly flavored dim sum.

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Then we shared a few main courses, family style if you will. My favorite one was the sea bass cooked in wine (I’m sure the menu described it much more eloquently!) But the lotus root dish was pretty amazing too, I’d never had anything quite like it before.

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And when they learned that it was his birthday, they brought this dessert out so we could sing to him embarrassingly. Because what would a birthday be without that.

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One thing I feel certain about is that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are doing it right when it comes to hospitality and dining. No expense seems spared in the design, and the service could make any average joe feel like a millionaire!

What do you think? Do you like the design of these restaurants? Does the food look intriguing?