Museum-going can be exhausting. But the Getty Center is designed so that you can easily exit from each building or gallery to stroll the gardens or pick up a jolt of caffeine from one of the espresso carts scattered about the grounds.
Come lunch or dinner time, you’re pretty much stuck on the hillside site. You can grab a sandwich at the Museum Cafe, or queue up to eat in the crowded cafeteria-style Cafe at the Getty. At either, it’s first-come, first-served. But the museum complex also includes the more formal sit-down Restaurant at the Getty. And for that you’ll need to make a reservation at the same time you make your parking reservation.
It’s a spacious, contemporary restaurant dominated by a witty mixed-media exploration of the meaning of taste by collagist and conceptual artist Alexis Smith that extends over several walls. At a recent Friday night dinner there, the service is congenial, but the food is a long time coming from the kitchen. However, unless you’re impatient to delve back into the galleries before the museum closes at 9, it’s glorious sitting here watching the light fade over the billion-dollar view. (Note: The restaurant is only open for dinner two nights a week.)
The a la carte menu created by executive chef Gwen Kvali Gulliken is fresh and appealing. The two soups that night were both delicious: stone-green French lentils laced with baby shrimp and a lovely leek and acorn squash puree infused with fresh dill. A plate of grilled asparagus and prosciutto is perfectly fine. Avoid the gnocchi, though; they have the gummy texture of mochi. Best of all was a bowl of tiny Mahogany clams steamed in herbs and white wine.
When we moved on, after a long pause, to our second courses, I enjoyed the pretty little Colorado lamb chops with potato gratin and asparagus. And I liked the turnip greens with the slow-roasted duck. But the black mussels in “Mexican curry broth” tasted just like standard-issue curry powder--and too much of it. There’s also a roasted free-range chicken and a peppercorn filet of beef, which the couple at the neighboring table were eating with relish. In fact, everyone seemed absolutely famished. I guess museum-going makes you hungry, too.
The Restaurant at the Getty Center, 1300 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood; (310) 440-6810 restaurant; (310) 440-7300 visitor services. Open Thursday and Friday for dinner from 5 to 8:30 p.m.; lunch Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sundays for brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Parking by reservation only. Dinner appetizers $5 to $12; main courses $18 to $26.