The emails come in with the question: Can you recommend a quiet restaurant? Other readers write in to rant, saying they've given up going to restaurants because it's impossible to have a conversation anymore. I can't offer much solace. Even fine dining hotel restaurants, with their thick carpets and heavy draperies, double tablecloths and hushed atmosphere, are starting to give all that up in favor of pounding soundtracks and bars that spill into the dining room.
Of course, there's always the option of dining very early or very late, when dining rooms are more likely to be half full and therefore quieter. Outdoor patios tend to be less noisy too. But what if you want to sit inside and dine at a normal hour?
After nearly a decade, Providence closed for a couple of weeks in May and reopened with a new look. Dark blue carpeting and midnight blue velvet upholstered chairs help dampen sounds, tempting diners to linger longer at the brilliant seafood restaurant. Michael Cimarusti designs his tasting menus around whatever the sea has brought him that day. Actually, with three options (signature dishes, market menu or chef's menu), guests are more intent on the food than the conversation. And here, that's a very good thing, especially if you're having spot prawns with corn and squash blossom or wild striped bass in shellfish nage. Or maybe his pristine sashimi with Calabrian chiles, lemon and mint.
5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 460-4170, www.providencela.com. Tasting menus, $80 to $210; à la carte entrees, $38 to $40.
Jar was once one of the noisiest restaurants in town, but after a remodel a few years ago, this modern American chophouse got the balance just right: lively but not deafening, quiet enough for conversation. The best seats are the tables at the back. The crowd is mostly young Hollywood, enjoying cocktails and Suzanne Tracht's understated classic American cooking. She doesn't change the menu much. It would probably cause a customer revolt if she let her deviled eggs or Little Gem Caesar go. Not to mention the fried Ipswich clams and Maine lobster cocktail. Her pot roast, lemongrass chicken and char siu Berkshire pork chop are just as sacrosanct.
8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 655-6566, www.thejar.com. Dinner entrees, $21 to $130 (for a 35-ounce Porterhouse for two).
The restaurant in the Sunset Tower hotel on the Sunset Strip is a throwback for sure, with its black-and-white photos of hopeful starlets of yesteryear, piano bar and solicitous maitre d'. Everything is strictly old school. That means a retro-styled dining room with carpet, tablecloths, upholstered chairs and cozy little nooks. No cellphones. No photographs. The menu is mainly updated comfort food, not too challenging, just pleasantly soothing: clams casino, oysters Rockefeller, shrimp cocktail, sliders (is that trend ever going away?) and, for big spenders, oysters and caviar service. Main courses are just as predictable: steaks, roasted chicken, poached salmon, the Tower burger. See? No surprises.
8358 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 848-6677, www.sunsettowerhotel.com. Dinner entrees, $25 to $49.