Sit-down restaurants at the Grove tend to skew corporate and excessive (Maggiano's, Cheesecake Factory). But the Whisper Lounge, hidden away behind the new Barneys store, is something a little different. I was invited to a press dinner there and was surprised to find a pleasant place with a dedicated husband and wife team behind it.
Design score: For some reason the covered patio and intime restaurant reminded me of a lounge hidden in a back alley of Cannes -- not a bad impression to have when you've just escaped from the dancing fountains of the Grove. There's a full bar and a piano player who might be a touch loud if you're seated nearby.
Now the chow: We had a lovely grilled scallop in a sea of bright green pea puree, a salad with the unusual addition of grilled haloumi cheese, homemade tagliatelle with Kurobuta pork ragu, a lamb duo and a very tasty chocolate-espresso creme brulee. The chef plays it fairly safe, not wanting to scare off the tourist crowd, but uses quality ingredients and sneaks in a few foodie touches to good effect.
What it's good for: Appetizers and a glass of wine, dessert or a full meal if you're catching a movie, catching up on some shopping or showing L.A. to out-of-town friends. The Grove might not be a first choice dining destination, but there's plenty of occasions when it might be handy to know about a civilized spot out of earshot of the clanging trolley. Discounts for CBS and WGA employees at lunch. There's even a kids menu and afternoon tea.
Not so much: Pretty much good for everyone, but not so much for kids later in the evening.