Assume spouse is taking me out for birthday dinner and is not planning surprise party. Where new should I want to go? I'm not angling for pricey, fancy, fun or free-because-it's-my-birthday, but all of those are options too.
Here's what I like and representative places I've found good, so you have an idea of what I like already - basically interesting flavors and skillful preparation. We're on the west side but don't have to stay there.
Where I've been and like:
Tasty sort-of fusion: Jiraffe in Santa Monica
Asian fusion: Monsoon in Santa Monica (though meh lately, not ideal)
Indian: Akbar in Marina del Rey
French: Bistro de l'Hermitage in Culver City
Moroccan: Dar Maghreb in Hollywood
Persian: Tajrish in Venice
Greek: Taverna Tony in Malibu
Game: Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas
Upscale Mex: Ciudad downtown
Thai: Natalee Thai for beef panang curry in Venice
I particularly like the way Akbar flame-cooks food - they and Jiraffe have spot-on preparation. For instance at Jiraffe, what's supposed to be crispy is, flavors are perfectly melded, sauces are intricate and revealing.
great black pepper