Since moving from Silverlake and the comfort of a double income, Michael and I have significantly scaled back our evenings out. Often, we'll do something local, just getting a glass of wine or a martini at one of two places that we frequent. While we do occasionally splurge, we've also tried to be more economical and mindful of what we are spending, and we have discovered that we can go out to a nice place but it doesn't have to be expensive. The past month or so has felt downright indulgent, then, with a birthday celebration for me, several dinners out with my parents, out-of-town visitors and pizza and Mexican food, and then getting together with friends last weekend on the West Side. What a whirlwind!
However, it has been a while since we've just had a random "date night" - nothing special to celebrate, except the fact that we still enjoy our company and have a great time together.
Last night was a wonderful reminder of that!
A friend gave us coupons to go to a swanky, cool restaurant, so we went ALL out last night!
There are actually 3 different "Chaya" restaurants in the LA area, and we chose Downtown Chaya, the latest incarnation of the restaurant. We hadn't eaten at any of these, since we seem to gravitate to the usual suspects, but the reviews were favorable in Zagats, even though people frequently used the adjective "trendy" to describe the restaurant. Being a non-trendsetter myself, I feel somewhat ambivalent about cool, trendy places.
At any rate, I'd had a pretty brutal week - lots of meetings, one of which was a two-hour "Sexual Harassment Training", then a work gathering at my house on Friday which was fun but still kind of stressful. It seemed like a chore to shower, look nice, go out, deal with traffic, find parking, whatever. However, we rallied, I got dressed up (black skirt and crisp white shirt) and we ended up having one of the BEST times out!
Downtown LA is such a strange combination of hotels, parking lots and sleek buildings that run into abandoned corners, graffiti and Skid Row. Despite the fact that we go to Downtown a few times a year, I never feel confident that I "know" it like other neighborhoods. Still, it's striving for its own Renaissance, and after last night, I'll definitely try out new and different places.
Chaya is in a bank building, which seemed random. It felt a little bit like a discoteca inside to me and there were several tables of large groups of cool people. My initial skepticism quickly diminished, however, when I took a sip of my drink (some amazing concoction with Hendricks gin and cucumber - not sweet but not too strong) and after we started our dinner with a taste of sushi and sashimi - flying fish and cuttlefish from Japan. While we like sushi, we generally stick to the tried and true (yellowtail, albacore, sometimes throwing in a yellowjack or mackerel into the mix...), but we decided to be adventurous. It was so good that we ended up getting the Omakase platter - the chef's choice of sushi for the night. I can't even remember all the sushi that we had, but it was all superb.
From there, we switched to the French side of the menu. I was a bit unsure how to transition from sushi to French, but I decided that since the restaurant touted itself as "French-Asian fusion", we should experience the fusion. I'm not sure that it was a perfect blend, but it was a fun one! And our entrees were great - we each ordered something but then ate off both plates, sharing miso marinated sea bass and pappardelle with mushrooms and a bolognese sauce. They were both different but SO SO good.
We finished off the night sipping on a lovely glass of "Mia's Playground" Zinfandel. So sublime.
That evening definitely made an ordinary weekend quite special, and Chaya has definitely become a new favorite for us! I would hate to expect the "same" experience, but I also can't wait to return one of these days.