Grace restaurant lives up to it's name; they offer gracious service in beautiful surroundings, with the most delicious inventive food I have eaten in Los Angeles. All that being said, they are also celebrating their fifth year in business and offering a special menu of five courses for $55 until the end of this year. I went with my friend Cindy and made her taste things (which she said she doesn't like) off my plate that she would never have ordered, but without exception, she said, "Oh that's good, I never liked that before." From the simply fried olives, to the exotic boar with spaetzle, there is nothing not to like here, even if the food may seem unusual; an unusual dish is sometimes synonymous with an undiscovered delight. People who know about Grace, know to go for the homemade donuts on Wednesday nights, so if you only want to try this place, go for dessert on a Wednesday.
Michael's in Santa Monica is the Godfather of Californian cuisine and still stands out as a place for perfection in the culinary arts, set in an idyllic garden patio. Nothing beats their braised short ribs, or their 5 or 7 course tasting menus which come with wine pairings. If you like food with tradition and history, but without stuffiness, this is the place. Reservations are always necessary if you want to sit on the patio, which has awnings and heat lamps to protect you from any rain or cold, a rare occurrence in Southern California. I would rather go to another restaurant than sit inside here, so be sure to call ahead to reserve a table on the patio. If you are impressed by awards, they received a James Beard Award for Excellence in 2008. If you are impressed by the humility of simplicity and attentive service, then Michael's will win your accolades.
Whether you choose Grace or Michael's, (or choose both by having lunch at Michael's, then going to Grace for dinner) you are making a wise choice for great food. Bon Appetit!