Summertime and the living is easy … that would be the summer prix-fixe market menu. Ease into a chair at a favorite restaurant, and let the chef determine the menu based on summer's bounty. Oh, you might have to make a couple of choices, but that's it. You may not even have to exert yourself to read the menu. Sit back, let the food come, and enjoy.
Josie LeBalch does some of her most delicious, creative thinking for her market menus on Wednesdays at Josie. Three courses cost just $35 and might start with pumpernickel-crusted fried green tomatoes with peppery nasturtium pesto and burrata cheese or Zuckerman asparagus with duck egg gribiche. OK, she's got me right there. For those who want to know more, the main course would be salmon with sugar snap peas and lemon sauce or roast pork shoulder with succotash followed by a cherry brown butter tart with berries and softly whipped cream. Or maybe crème brûlée with mulberries. Need more incentive? Call the restaurant after the Wednesday farmers market to hear the menu.
2424 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 581-9888, http://www.josierestaurant.com. Three-course market menu, Wednesday only, $35.
The stealth Hollywood bistro is all market menu all the time. The funky minuscule restaurant from Santos Uy (Mignon Wine & Cheese Bar) offers two choices for each course. That format enables chef Tim Carey to turn out some astounding French-California food for the price. Menus change weekly, usually three courses for $37. Last week it was potato leek velouté or smoked salmon brandade with heirloom tomatoes followed by a bourride (seafood stew) or duck breast with potato confit and grape tomatoes. To conclude, choose cheese or a sweet, maybe chocolate pôt de crème. It's that simple. The corkage fee is $25; otherwise, let Uy pick from his stash of bottles, mostly in the "natural wine" vein.
6221 Franklin Ave. (between Vista Del Mar and Argyle), Hollywood, (323) 871-2026, papillesla.com. Prix-fixe menu, $37.
At the start of August, Suzanne Goin inaugurated a new market menu called "Prix Fixe 365" at her 3rd Street wine bar. She and partner Caroline Styne are proposing four seasonal dishes for $45, available nightly. You get two choices of starter, meat or fish, vegetable or grain, and (yes!) dessert. Nothing is typical, but starter examples include lettuces with tzatziki and cucumber, or grilled peaches with buttermilk ricotta and pistachios. Then perhaps grilled albacore with green beans and fingerlings or chicken tagine with fennel and chickpeas. Let's cut to dessert, which could be something like bittersweet chocolate torta with crushed honeycomb or her superb olive oil cake with Santa Rosa plums and mascarpone.
8022 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 653-6359, http://www.aocwinebar.com. Available nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. Prix-fixe menu, $45.