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What the experts recommend: Special-occasion dining
WP24 in Los Angeles; The French Room in Dallas; Salt of the Earth in Pittsburgh
 
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P24
Los Angeles
While Los Angeles is “known for its Chinese restaurants,” the city lately lacked the kind of special-occasion place that “no visiting Chinese could afford to miss,” said Jonathan Gold in LA Weekly. Celebrated chef Wolfgang Puck has now filled that void with a “Chinese restaurant unabashedly retailing luxury” on the 24th floor of the city’s Ritz-Carlton. Along with breathtaking views, WP24 boasts “solicitous service, superprofessional cooking, and a wine list heavy on Bordeaux.” This is Chinese food on a “different level”—crispy triangles of the “best shrimp toast you have ever had,” steamed buns stuffed with tiny chunks of seared foie gras. But dishes that veer from the Chinese concept may be even better. A whole sea bass, “roasted in a spiced salt crust,” arrives “moist, firm and fragrant, faintly salty, refined.” Though committing to the $70 prix fixe menu is mandatory, on an evening when fireworks suddenly erupt from nearby Dodger Stadium, the experience feels like a bargain. Ritz-Carlton, 900 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 743-8824

The French Room
Dallas
The French Room has long been one of “Dallas’ great treasures,” said Leslie Brenner in The Dallas Morning News. “With soaring, muraled ceilings and the look of an 18th-century French château,” it’s a place where jackets are de rigueur and the kitchen can be counted on for its “solid command of French technique”—a “beautiful piece of beef tenderloin” is sure to arrive topped with a “well-executed bordelais.” But while there are some creative touches among the starters, it would be nice if the new chef showed more vision. Given its magnificent space and the exquisite service, the French Room should be aiming for something more “gastronomically engaging.” The Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce St., (214) 742-8200

Salt of the Earth
Pittsburgh
This bold new spot has “permanently altered the expectations for what a restaurant, and a singular chef, can accomplish in Pittsburgh,” said China Millman in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kevin Sousa, who made his name creating “experimental” fare for a very small dining room at a downtown hotel, has fully lived up to the grand expectations that grew as he readied his modern and airy new space. There are several styles of seating available, but you’ll want to sit at the high stools along the counter overlooking the kitchen: They give you the “best possible view” of the inventive ways that Sousa and his staff combine “cutting-edge and classical techniques.” Octopus tendrils are slow-cooked and then browned, resulting in textures that are “fluffy and creamy, with crisp, almost caramelized edges.” Sweetbreads with crisp edges are perfect for “mopping up” a fenugreek gravy, which calls to mind a finely spiced Indian curry. Combine all this with the top-notch service, and Sousa and his team have created a dining experience that was well worth waiting for. Salt of the Earth is “both daring and comforting,” both “challenging and welcoming.” 5523 Penn Ave., (412) 441-7258

 

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