I know this topic seems redundant (my apologies), but please read on. My parents asked me to pick a restaurant for my 30th birthday (it's a big one, so I'm going big). There are a million places I've always wanted to try, but I've narrowed it down to Jar, Grace, Lucques and Campanile (it's close to our home and we've never been). I have searched reviews for all of these restaurants on the board but would like further feedback given some qualifiers. I'm basically trying to please all parties, who have different tastes, interests, nueroses ;). However, just to let you know, based on reviews and a review of their menus posted online, I'm most intrigued by Grace (their menu seems pretty creative on first glance) and Campanile seems like a dark horse (some positive, but a lot of critical reviews on here).
Okay, here are some specific things I'm looking for.
1) Must have good service (which might eliminate Campanile?). If my parents are shelling out hundreds of dollars on a meal, I don't want them to be treated poorly. I'm looking for a more Colonel Pickering v.s. Henry Higgins experience (i.e., LIZA:...[Col. Pickering] treats a flower girl as if she was a duchess. / HIGGINS: And I treat a duchess as if she was a flower girl.).
2) Must have interesting food with some more "safe" choices on the menu. My husband and I enjoy new food experiences (we like being a bit daring), but my parents tend to be a little more conservative. For example, my mom does not like most seafood or "game-y" meats (or things a little strange to her, i.e., cheeks, tongue, etc.) and my dad is mostly a meat eater. However, he can be encouraged to experiment.
Over all, we tend to like lighter fare (i.e., think California cuisine or light French fare) but can groove on unexpectedly well-prepared (heavier) comfort food.
3) Substance not hype. I think people tend to jump on the bandwagon and "enjoy" places because it's the hot new spot or everyone seems to like it. I'm looking for good food, not just another culinary notch on my belt. For example, when I was living in NYC, everyone RAVED about Babbo. I tried it twice and was disappointed (I thought MB's Lupa was much better). Bottom line: Dazzle me with the food, not the name. My parents also don't live in LA, so they don't care about going to an LA-area "name" restaurant.
4) Consistancy. It's great if you had an amazing experience at (blank) restaurant once, but I'm not eating there on the same day that you did. Have you gone to said restaurant several times and never (or rarely) been disappointed? I'm also looking for opinions of people who have eaten at these places recently versus a couple years back (or even a year back; sometimes restaurants can go downhill very fast).
Two last things--one question and one request.
1) Are the menus posted on all these restaurants' sites sample menus, seasonal menus, or pretty much their standard menu? Does anyone know? I'm particularly concerned since it's now just the start of spring, so restaurants with seasonal menus will probably be revamping their menus soon (if they haven't already).
2) If you post a restaurant recommendation, I would love some feedback on food recs from that restaurant.
Thanks so much, and I hope no one gets mad about this seemingly redundant topic, since these restaurants are all well reviewed and commonly commented on. I just want to know how they stack up next to each other (and yes, I did read the post "grace or lucques," which I did find very helpful: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33887...). When you go out so rarely to spendy places, you quake at choosing poorly.