Last night we had such a great time at Dolce on Melrose Avenue that it prompted me to do a round up of my five favourite places to eat out in L.A., so far anyway.
Having now dined at around forty-something eateries in the eight months we've lived here, it's not as easy as you'd imagine to narrow it down to my favourite five restaurants.
5 FAVOURITE PLACES TO EAT IN L.A.
Dolce - 8284 Melrose Avenue
Dolce Entoteca e Ristorante is a great place to have a fun night out.
Once you get beyond the rather aloof maitre d' at the door and the personality deficient greeters who escort you to your table, it's a much more inviting environment.
Make sure that if you book in advance online or by phone you ask to be in the main dark and dramatic dining area to get the full ambience of the place with the flaming fire behind the bar, as the room off to the side is fine for larger groups but can be a little soulless and less buzzy for smaller parties.
I'm not really selling this place yet am I? These are just minor irritations of what is a fantastic dining experience. The contemporary Italian inspired cuisine is delicious, the cute and flirty waiters are pleasing on the eye, and the eclectic music selection all help create a fun atmosphere.
The music may seem a tad loud at times, but when they are playing such gems as 'Cool Rider' sung by Michelle Pfeiffer from Grease 2, classics from Tiffany, INXS, New Order and hits straight out of Studio 54, there's something to please everyone's sensibilities and you know you'll have an enjoyable time.
Anyway, back to the food. I had the spinach and pear salad to start (mainly persuaded by the gorgonzola topping), followed by a fantastic (and plentiful) yellow fin tuna which had the most amazing artichoke hearts and wild mushrooms. Of course we just had to sample the desserts and so between us tried three different options, including tiramisu, a chocolate banana cake creation and a very easy to eat chocolate crunch cake.
Aroma Cafe - 4360 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City
Next up is another favourite place, this time for a relaxed breakfast or brunch, the lovely Aroma Cafe in Studio City, which we enjoyed again today.
There's no table service to order your food, so when you get there you jump in the queue (it's a popular place at the weekend) and grab a couple of menus to peruse. They have a great breakfast selection (although maybe not if you don't like eggs), but they also have some tasty salads too.
At the counter you order your food and drinks. You can collect your drinks and pastries yourself, but you are given a number for your table and your main order is brought to you and cleared away.
There's great outside dining space on the sidewalk and the back and side courtyard areas of the cafe. There's shelter from the sunshine if you need it and outdoor heaters when it turns chilly. It's a lovely space to catch up with friends and grab a bite to eat or a coffee, or read the weekend papers. Plus Aroma is very dog-friendly too (for that eventual visit with Cooper when he's less bouncy).
Not only is the is place great for breakfast, but it also has the most amazing cake and cookie selection. When my folks were over recently for a visit, we picked a selection of different cakes to take away and enjoy. They were yummy and generous portions.
Cafe La Boheme - 8400 Santa Monica Blvd
Cafe La Boheme is a wonderful restaurant in West Hollywood, which is not too far from where we live and offers a slightly smarter dining experience compared to some of the more casual dining found in L.A.
It's like a hidden gem, as driving or walking past you, you could easily ignore the entrance which is slightly set back from the sidewalk. If you were to peer inside the windows you'd see the dramatic high ceiling interior adorned with crystal chandeliers and wood burning fireplaces, but you wouldn't also see the lovely little patio to the side which is great for dining outdoors in the daytime or evening.
The last time we dined there we sat upstairs on the balcony in one of the booths which gave us a great view of the main dining area downstairs.
The restaurant has an eclectic menu of mouthwatering delights and I always find it hard to decide what I want, especially when they offer up a tempting special too.
The cocktails on offer are also fantastic and there's an extensive wine selection to enjoy.
It's not as pricey as you'd think (unless you opt for an expensive bottle of wine) and makes for a great romantic setting or for a special meal with good friends.
Taste - 8454 Melrose Avenue
I really love Taste on Melrose Avenue, which is not far from La Cienega Blvd. It's popular (so make sure you book in the evenings), which is always a good sign and can be really buzzy at times (which can make it hard to hear your dining partners), but the food is consistently yummy and now that they have a full liquor licence you can enjoy great cocktails with your meal as well as a fabulous wine selection.
I really like the decor of the interior of this restaurant, even though it's much smaller than the covered space at the front and we always seem to have really nice serving staff (which truly makes a difference for a nice meal).
They have lovely mini-pizza starters, rich risottos, tasty fish, meat and pasta dishes, plus appealing specials (which always make you reconsider what you think you're going to order - although some people may tell you that I'm not the most decisive person when it comes to choosing from a menu).
Buddha's Belly - 7475 Beverly Blvd
Offering a fine fusion of Pan-Asian cuisine, I always like to go to Buddha's Belly when I fancy a change from the sometimes tame L.A. food and I need something a little spicier or with a bit more of an Asian influence.
I'm a sucker for their Thai Green Curry or their Spicy Peanut Noodles. Both are plentiful and so tasty - my mouth's watering just thinking about it.
They serve a great Cosmo, which is always a plus, but also have a potent sake sangria cocktail which goes down far too easily.
There's indoor and outside dining, plus it won't break the bank to eat there.
And there you have it. Currently my preferred places to eat in L.A. My next five favourites would then have to be Spark on Ventura Blvd in Studio City, Mark's Restaurant on La Cienega Blvd, Asia de Cuba at the Mondrian hotel on Sunset Blvd and finally the O-Bar and Basix close by on Santa Monica Blvd in our West Hollywood neighbourhood.
But who knows what the future will hold and how my taste will change (I can be so fickle at times).
I'd better just keep exploring and eating my way around L.A...