The Arts District is full of warehouses, presumably some art, and many, many restaurants. A few of them are neighborhood places, but mostly, Arts District restaurants are big productions. You’re probably already mentally rattling off the places we’re talking about, with interiors you’d see in a magazine, reservations not even your very-connected friend can get without waiting six weeks, and incredible food that’s worth every minute you spent in traffic on the way to dinner.
At the outset, Simone seems like another one of those Arts District restaurants. It has an impressive space, serious drinks, and a food menu full of twists on California classics. But if you come here looking for the kind of meal you plan your year around, you’ll probably walk out disappointed. Instead, use Simone for what it does well - cocktails and small plates at the bar.
Simone’s small plates are seasonal, and generally stronger than the entrees like pork collar and ribeye. One of our favorites is the burrata, which comes with plum or persimmon confit, and manages to make that type of cheese taste interesting again. The same can be said for the broccolini Caesar. At times, the dishes are overcomplicated, but when they keep things simple - as with the pork meatballs in parmesan broth - the food works.
Unlike the majority of restaurants in the Arts District, you won’t find yourself in an enormous warehouse, staring at exposed pipes and shouting across the table. Simone has actual rooms filled with velvet booths and extremely elaborate light fixtures. It’s all objectively attractive, and you can certainly see the money they put into the place, but it’s missing that special X-factor that turns a restaurant into a place you never want to leave.
That said, the bar - where you can order from the same menu as the dining room - is a lot more fun. The cocktail menu doubles as a history lesson of the area, so the people on a first date next to you have at least 20 minutes of conversation about how they used to grow grapes in the Arts District. Sitting here, you’ll realize this place is great for a spontaneous date or a special weeknight meal where you’ll have more cocktails than you planned on, with some small plates in between.
In another part of town (probably on the Westside), Simone would be an easy go-to for an interesting, kind-of-upscale dinner. But it’s in the Arts District, and with so many amazing restaurants nearby, it’s unlikely to be anyone’s first choice. If you’re in the area anyway, maybe looking at some of that mythical Arts District art, and are looking for a place to drop into for drinks and dinner, remember Simone.
The menu at Simone changes frequently, but here are some things we ate on our most recent visit.
If you’re like us, you’re probably bored of burrata, and yet still order it all the time. Served over a persimmon confit with pomegranate and grilled focaccia, this one is at least different than all the other creamy balls of cheese you’ve had before.
You could call this a salad, but it’s not really that. Perfectly soft hunks of sweet potato come on top of tahini, with orange pieces, mustard greens, and a harissa dressing. It’s a heavier option with a lot on the plate, but it all works.
This Thai-ish tartare comes pre-spread on a slice of toast, with radish on top and lots of kaffir lime. The first couple of bites are great, but trying to get through the whole dish, you’ll realize it doesn’t quite come together.
These have been on the menu for all of our visits, and for good reason. The crispy, rich meatballs get a parmesan broth poured over them, and for some reason, that made us quite jealous.
The pastas are constantly changing at Simone, but this one is the best we’ve had. The creamy meyer lemon sauce is somehow light, and it comes with roasted romesco hiding between cavatelli and plenty of arugula on top.
We’ve struggled with the entrees here - a yuzu-heavy sturgeon dish was way too salty, and the short rib was excellently cooked but came with an overly sweet porridge. The lemony pork collar is the best entree on the menu, partly because it comes with crispy roast potatoes, and partly because “poblano aioli” might be the greatest two words in the English language.
Almost every new restaurant in Los Angeles has a big, expensive piece of meat on the menu, but feel free to skip the one at Simone. It’s $180, and for that you get a good (if not great) steak with a bunch of banchan-inspired sides. Tasty enough, but not worth the money.