When I like something, I tend to stick with it. Hence, my dining at Echi Sushi approximately three to five times a week.
The weekends are when I branch out though.
I love getting all gussied up and checking out the hottest restaurant in town. I mean, there’s a new one every week here.
Since my “clubbing days” are quickly receding behind me, it’s my way of staying “hip” and “in the know” (except, I probably just blew both those goals by saying that).
While the hottest new restaurants are usually fabulous in the ambiance category, they often leave something to be desired on the actual menu, which is precisely why they come and go so quickly.
Not the case with the Innovative Dining Group’s new elegant Italian restaurant, RivaBella.
The masterminds behind enduring popular LA spots like Boa, Sushi Roku, and Katana opened this gem on the busy Sunset Strip earlier this year and it has quickly become one of the most sought after reservations in town.
How did I get in? With a little charm.
Friday night (after once again failing to make reservations in advance), the BF and I frantically called a few spots we’d been dying to try and begged for a last minute rese.
Connie & Ted’s? “An hour and half wait.”
Cook’s County? “No room till 9:30 p.m.”
RivaBella? BF: “Do you have room for just one delightful, young couple?”
Hostess: “Well, I guess if it’s just two and you can be here in 15 minutes, we’ll get you in.”
Score. He can charm the pants off a nun.
When we arrived, I was immediately awed by the rustic but sleek decor.
The expansive space features a large open-aired patio with actual trees in inside and a warm, cozy glow.
We were greeted by our server with a “Buona Sera,” and as I flashbacked to our recent trip to Italy, I knew I was going to like this place (I’m easily entertained as you can see).
All of my expectations in the hospitality department were immediately met: a friendly, knowledgeable waiter, prompt seating and service, and a buzzy atmosphere. LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold said:
“All the IDG trademarks are here: sleek bar, soft but loungy music and sharp-suited managers who wander the floor, looking after VIPs. The vibe isn’t obtrusive, but to people who care about these things, it is clear that you are not just eating dinner, you are In da Club.”
So what about the food? Perfection.
Maybe if you’re Tom Colicchio you would find something lacking, but I couldn’t have been happier with my meal. The Sauteed Scallops with Heirloom Carrot Puree, Asparagus, and Aged Balsamic were to die for.
With a $36 price tag, I originally scoffed. But when my plate arrived with four ginormous medallions of finely seared excellence, I understood why. This could have served two people. Most restaurants only give you two scallops or three teeny, tiny ones. It was worth every bite.
The carrot puree was fantastic, light and flavorful with no sugary additives. Though the scallops were sauteed, they didn’t taste oily or buttery. And really, how much oil can one scallop really soak up??
The BF got his standard dish: lamb ragu.
RivaBella’s Spinach Pappardelle with lamb ragu and mint was equally impressive portion-wise.
With real spinach pasta and red sauce — dare I say — it’s even a healthy choice?
I wasn’t hungry enough for an app, but had I been, I would have tried the Tuna Tartare with Avocado, Melon, and Pistachio. Sounds amazeballs…amaze-melon-balls that is.
Verdict: A great choice for a fun, fancy evening where you can enjoy Italian but find lighter, diet-friendly options. Since it is on the pricier side though, I’d save a return visit for a special occasion.