Hot New LA Date Spot: Avant Garden Bistro

dining, Lifestyle, Travel

One of my favorite perks of living in Los Angeles is access to phenomenal restaurants. There’s always a hot new restaurant, sought-after chef, or inventive new dish coming on the LA dining scene, and I love being one of the first to experience it! I was so delighted when I was invited to attend the launch party for Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles, as I knew the restaurant’s original outpost in New York was getting lots of buzz for its creative vegan cuisine and beautiful atmosphere. Avant Garden Bistro is Overthrow Hospitality‘s first foray into the LA dining scene, and the founder Ravi DeRossi, a 2022 James Beard nominee, has received lots of recognition for his mission and reverence for plant-based dining.

Place Setting at Avant Garden Bistro’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Launch Party

The launch party was themed Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I took the opportunity to wear a whimsical summer dress by Banjanan that I purchased at one of my favorite stores in San Marino, Serafina.

Wearing the Bonnie Abstract Print Tiered Cutout Organic Cotton Dress at Midsummer Night’s Dream launch party at Avant Garden Bistro

Before my TV hosting life, I worked in the hospitality industry as a publicist representing some of the most prestigious hotels and restaurants around the world, and I’ve continued to always have an interest in seeking exceptional dining experiences. Giving you that background was my nice way of saying that I’m a bit of a hospitality snob! With that in mind, I want you to know that Avant Garden Bistro nailed everything – the food, ambiance, and service were all top notch!

FOOD

My favorite thing about the vegan cuisine at Avant Garden Bistro was that Chef Sarah Sterns wasn’t trying to mask the plants in her dishes or turn them into something they’re not. Personally, I’ve never been into eating faux hamburgers, so it was refreshing to see gorgeously plated plants and taste Chef’s extraordinary flavor combinations. I genuinely love eating vegetables and enjoy finding new ways to cook and eat them at home, so dining at Avant Garden Bistro was a fun and tasty exploratory experience for me!

Eggplant Toast at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

The vegan tapas menu is divided into three sections: “Toast,” “Cold,” and “Hot.” At the launch party, three of the toasts were passed for us to sample as we arrived and waited to be seated for dinner. We tried the Cremini Toast with walnut puree, red grape and calabrian chili, Eggplant Toast with pickled apricots, miso and parsley, and the English Pea Toast with pickled hon shimeji, tahini, balsamic and basil. My favorite of the three was the Eggplant Toast. The sweet pickled apricots combined with the savory miso provided a rich umami sensation.

Roasted Carrot at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

Once we were seated for dinner, we were served a variety of “Cold” and “Hot” dishes. Standouts on the “Cold” menu were the Shaved Brussels, made with turmeric goddess, dried currant and almonds (perfect if you want something that feels like a light salad), and the Avocado with sushi rice, carrot ginger dressing, blistered shishito, and miso glaze, which is reminiscent of an addicting sushi roll. My favorite of the “Hot” dishes was the Roasted Carrot with pistachio chermula, spring onion soubise and blood sorrel. It was unlike any carrot dish I’ve eaten before with unique flavor combinations and so filling! Another standout was the Smoked Bok Choy with sourdough fritter, succotash, and soy citrus butter. This dish reminded me of my southern roots with the fritter and succotash. This also was a hearty tapas dish that left me very satisfied. Some people believe that they can’t get full at tapas or vegan restaurants, but I promise that you will not leave hungry here!

DRINKS

Avant Garden Bistro specializes in wine-based cocktails and natural wines. The wine-based cocktails are by Master Mixologist Sother Teague from Amor Y Amargo and showcase a variety of unique flavors. My favorite was the floral Green City cocktail, made with dry vermouth, cucumber juice, lime juice, saffron, and dry white sparkling wine, but I also found the Vista Sour, made with carpano antica, lemon, blood orange, cacao nib bitter and vanilla, to be very interesting and worth a try for anyone looking for an adventurous cocktail!

Vista Sour cocktail at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

Curated by Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman, the wine list is comprised of natural, sustainable wines. We sampled a variety of wines, and the 2019 Porta Del Vento ‘Luna Calante’ from Sicily stood out to me the most with its amber color and that tasted deep and fresh at the same time. It worked well with all the plant-based tapas, and I could see myself enjoying sipping this wine in summer and winter.

My favorite wine, 2019 Porta Del Vento ‘Luna Calante’, at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

DECOR

Avant Garden Bistro’s stunning outdoor patio gives guests the feeling of dining in a secret garden. Designed by veteran set designer Andrew Nowling, the space offers guests the opportunity to dine under the stars in an enchanted atmosphere adorned with twinkling chandeliers, mysterious statues and murals, and lush florals. It’s the perfect romantic space for a date night!

Gorgeous outdoor patio at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

Inside, the restaurant resembles an upscale French bistro with plush red velvet dining booths and ornate lighting, yet still feels like an intimate neighborhood watering hole. This is where you grab a drink and a couple tapas with friends after work. Live music throughout the evening, including a beautiful harpist and bassist, and the restaurant’s friendly staff added to the evening’s magical atmosphere.

Interiors at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles
Fabulous service from staff who fit the whimsical atmosphere at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

RESTAURANT DETAILS

  • Website: www.avantgardenbistro.com
  • Instagram: @avantgardenbistro_la
  • Location: 7469 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046
  • Phone: (323) 433-4141
  • Hours: Tuesday to Thursday: 5:00-11:00 p.m. | Friday and Saturday: 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. | Sunday and Monday: Closed
  • Reservations: Via Seven Rooms here

There was no detail overlooked at Avant Garden Bistro’s Los Angeles launch party, and I can’t wait to come back for a date night! Even if you’re not vegan, anyone will enjoy exploring Avant Garden Bistro’s creative food and drink menu in the restaurant’s spectacular atmosphere.

Would you try this new vegan tapas restaurant? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to connect with you on Instagram and TikTok where you can find more content related to dining, travel and lifestyle!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

Best New LA Restaurants for Date Night (Plus, What to Wear!)

fashion, Lifestyle, Travel

After 18 months of homeschooling, Zoom-ing, and being stuck at home with the kiddos during this crazy pandemic, parents are more than deserving of an adults-only night out!

And, you’re in luck! Quite a few superb restaurants have opened in LA during the pandemic despite the hospitality industry’s struggle to maintain strong business in the rollercoaster of lockdowns and quarantines. These new restaurants on my list are so good that they’re not just surviving during these unsteady times – they’re thriving!! So, in addition to our need to escape repetitive (and exhausting!) parental duties, exploring one of these awesome new hot spots is another great reason for you to get out of the house with your S.O.!

But OMG what do we wear out these days? I don’t know about you, but most of my pandemic time with kiddos has been spent in yoga pants! I absolutely LOVE a good excuse to get dressed up, and as dining establishments continue to reopen, I’ve been so excited shopping for new looks to wear out on date nights on my fave e-retail site REVOLVE! If you’re stumped on what to wear, I’ve included some date night outfit ideas for each restaurant below!

Here are my top six new restaurants in Los Angeles for date night!

  1. Saso, Pasadena
My kind of cocktail: Txolo Squinkles made with tequila, mezcal, poblano liqueur, lime, grapefruit

Located in the historic Pasadena Playhouse, the new Saso serves Basque-inspired coastal cuisine, creating the perfect balance of century-old traditions mixed with farm-fresh fare. Everything at Saso is beautiful, fresh and vibrant — the open-air atmosphere, the flower adorned cocktails, the luscious crab claws and melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu steak. Make sure you start with the croquettes and fried oysters. Not only are they perfectly prepared, but their dipping sauces are addictingly yummy! My only knock on this place is that I thought it was a bit overpriced, but it’s much cheaper than taking a trip to Spain so WORTH IT!

What to Wear to Saso: Saso has a very California casual vibe, so go for something that feels bohemian chic. You’ll feel cool in a puff sleeve black top and high-rise black jeans. Throw a leather jacket over your shoulders if you sit on the patio. Shop this look here.

2. Agnes, Pasadena

Barbecued Pork Collar – honey mustard marinated, apricot mostarda, pink peppercorns

At Old Town Pasadena’s newcomer Agnes, gastronauts will love the open kitchen where they can interact with the chefs creating hearty proteins from the hearth. The best spot for date night, though, is the airy back patio where you can linger over beautiful cheese and meat boards and scratch-made pastas while sipping locally inspired cocktails, like the Descanso (mezcal, Luxardo, green chartreuse, lime, serrano chili) and the Tournament of Roses (aperol, fresh watermelon, Cremant, rosemary). Plan to make your reservations weeks in advance, as a table on the patio at this hot spot has been extremely hard to come by!

What to Wear to Agnes: The restaurant’s open kitchen and airy patio provide a laidback atmosphere. But, you’re on date night, so you gotta look cute! Go for this flowy off-the-shoulder top paired with wide-leg jeans for a look that’s on trend with a dab of hottness! Shop this look here.

3. Cinque Terre WEST and Enoteca 5, Pacific Palisades 

I took this photo of the beautiful Burrata at Enoteca 5 during our media preview dinner

Pacific Palisades’ Lingurian restaurant Cinque Terre WEST opened right before the pandemic hit, and the restaurant’s exceptional food and warm hospitality was such a hit that it stayed open with the support of the community. Locals love the restaurant’s farmers’ market driven menu and outstanding wine list so much that the owners just opened an intimate wine bar next door called Enoteca 5. I was lucky enough to be invited to a private media preview of the new space, and I cannot wait to bring my husband back for date night! The menu changes seasonally, but standouts on the menu I tried included the cheese and charcuterie board (get the Lardo di Colonnata AKA cured pork belly – its like butter in your mouth!!), the Burrata (stone fruit, pea tendrils, sourdough toast, saba), Black Truffle Pizza (mozzarella, goat cheese, black truffle), Papparadelle alla Bolognese, and Risotto del Giorno. The sommelier will steer you toward the best Italian and Californian wine pairings for your meal. Executive Chef Gianba Vinzoni and his wife Marlo are so warm and kind, making every guest feel like family here! Simple, romantic, and authentic, this venue transports couples to a date night in Italy!

What to Wear to Cinque Terre WEST and Enoteca 5: The vibe is dressy casual. The restaurant is tucked into a strip mall, but the amazing Italian food and wine are upscale. The crowd is beachy but wealthy. Look effortless, but look stylish and smart. That’s where this House of Harlow ribbed dress comes in. The soft ribbed fabric says, I’m comfortable, but the dress quality and feminine cut says, I care… but not too much. Shop this look here.

4. Lucky’s, Malibu

A feast for the eyes! Photo credit: Blue Ladybug Studio

The popular Montecito steakhouse has landed in Malibu and provides a fabulous option for an upscale date night! Lucky’s is worth the drive up the PCH to rub elbows with the beautiful beachy “it” crowd and indulge in steakhouse specialties. My Texan heritage requires me to order steak for my entree, and Lucky’s chars them just right served with sinful sauces like cognac peppercorn cream and red wine horseradish. The chopped salad with prosciutto and shrimp is divine, the sides are top-notch (hashed browns with gruyere cheese!!), and the cocktails are strong. Start with a martini and live your best life with your bae in the ‘Bu.

What to Wear to Lucky’s Malibu: This is a classic upscale steakhouse, but you’re in Malibu, so they typical LBD won’t do. Choose a polished yet youthful dress that’s not too stuffy, like this pretty dress made with champagne chiffon fabric. This dress is formal but fun – perfect to match Lucky’s atmosphere! Shop this look here.

5. Gigi’s, Hollywood

The intimate dining room and bar at Gigi’s | Photo Credit: Shade Degges Photography

I’m a sucker for a great adults-only night out in Hollywood to make me feel young and free of diaper duty again, and Gigi’s checks all the boxes: beautiful atmosphere, excellent service, perfect people watching, Insta-worthy strong cocktails and delectable food. Gigi’s serves French bistro fare, so you still feel fancy when your husband orders the cheeseburger with caramelized onions, pickles and frites, but I’m more of a whole roasted branzino girl myself. You’ll have to plan your date night several weeks in advance, because reservations at this celebrity favored restaurant are HOT!

What to Wear to Gigi’s: This restaurant is the pre-party that you never want to end – and it might not if you can snag a spot at the bar after dinner! With Gigi’s lively atmosphere and sophisticated aesthetic, you want a dress that’s both sexy and refined. This is not an appropriate place to wear your barely-there bodycon dress from your last trip to Vegas pre-kids circa 2016 (But, if you do decide to go in that direction, we don’t blame you for trying to relive the glory days!). May I suggest this ribbed bodycon dress instead? I love its midi length with a super sexy high slit and cut out back! Yes, go for it! Shop here.

6. Merois, West Hollywood

These views!!

Merois is everything you want from a date night dinner spot in Los Angeles: outstanding Eurasian cuisine from renowned Chef Wolfgang Puck, upscale atmosphere, jaw-dropping rooftop views of Los Angeles, impeccable service and a beautiful crowd. It’s definitely a see-and-be-seen place at West Hollywood’s hottest new hotel, The Pendry, so expect to see some familiar faces. In between bites of Hamachi Tartare and Shanghai Lobster, you’ll probably say something like, “Don’t look now, but isn’t that the one guy from Stranger Things?” From my last decade spent working in the hospitality industry, these are the types of hotel restaurants that get me giddy. Everything at Merois comes together just right for an impressive and memorable dining experience with your forever dinner date.

What to Wear to Merois: Pick an outfit that’s stylish yet timeless. You may finally get discovered by some big shot agent at this restaurant, so you should look like the leading lady. Hey, you never know! I love the classic silhouette on this Majorelle dress, and the ruffles and terracotta color are on trend. Shop this look here.

The cutest yet sexiest dress from Revolve

Where should we go on date night next? Which outfit is your favorite? Give me your best LA restaurant recommendations and tell me your favorite looks in the comments below or connect with me on Instagram at @maggiehjackson! You can shop all my date night looks by clicking the image below and following me on @shop.ltk!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love.