Wanted: a restaurant perfect for dinner for two. It could be a first date, blind even. Or a night out without the kids. Or an evening spent taking a friendship or love affair to another level over a marquee chef's tasting menu. We've all been in that tight spot, casting about for the right restaurant to suit the anticipated evening.
Acabar (the former Dar Maghreb) could be the most romantic restaurant in L.A., a sleek fantasy of Morocco complete with intricately carved bar and lounge. Chef Octavio Becerra pulls in influences from French Africa, the Levant and Southeast Asia for his wildly exotic menu. Most dishes are small, meant to be shared: a rustic loaf with house-churned butter, radishes and sea salt, a crouton topped with sheep's milk ricotta, persimmons and chestnut honey, or maybe skewered spicy prawns with harissa, dates and yogurt. A few dishes are meant just for two: whole crispy sea bass, whole roasted chicken and prime côte de boeuf.
1510 N. Stanley Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 876-1400, acabar-la.com. Dishes, $6 to $17. Dishes for two, $46 to $110.
The patio at the wine bar Barbrix in Silver Lake is perfect for a first date — casual yet cozy, with tables set far enough apart that you can talk. Service is easy and friendly, the wines well priced and terrific, and you can mix and match any of the dishes from chef Don Dickman's eclectic menu. A good way to start is with a plate of dreamy jamon ibérico and maybe saffron arancini stuffed with smoked mozzarella, or the grilled pork belly bao. It's fun slurping the Pernod broth from the steamed mussels or nibbling on Moroccan-spiced lamb chops. Dickman is a whiz with pasta too: Linguine with octopus, taggiasca olives and marjoram, anyone?
2442 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 662-2442, barbrix.com. Dishes, $4 to $24.
Orsa & Winston
Josef Centeno's new fine-dining restaurant next door to his Bar Amá is lively and fun, especially if you just put yourself in the hands of the chef and order the nine-course tasting menu. It's a stunner. Each small course will be a surprise, with layered and intricate flavors. You'll have the dishes to talk about but also time in between to get to know each other better. And when the conversation lags, you can watch Centeno in the open kitchen, a marvel of calm, even on busy nights. If no one has ordered the super omakase reserved for the four-seat chef's counter, ask to sit there, where you can watch each dish come together.
122 W. 4th St., downtown Los Angeles, (213) 687-0300, orsaandwinston.com. Five-course tasting menu, $60 per person (add $40 for wine pairing), nine-course omakase, $95 per person (add $65 for wine pairing), super omakase (by reservation only, chef's counter only), $195 per person (add $100 for wine pairing).