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Sheltering Sky 

Wednesday, Jul 15 1998
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Joe Miller at JOE'S cooks some of the cleanest, clearest Cal-French cuisine in town, and the best place to eat it is on the back patio, which has the dimensions and charm of some family's small suburban back yard: lots of bougainvillea and greenery, and a lot less boomeranging noise than inside Joe's proper. Eat slabs of ripe tomato with foume d'Ambert blue cheese, and crab risotto, and roast lamb - or whatever's showing up on Miller's fresh, seasonal prix fixe menus. 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 399-5811. Prix fixe $30-$40, entrees $15-$20.

ORSO has the most famous power garden in Los Angeles. Stop in for pasta or, better yet, grilled trout with radicchio and tiny, chewy cockles. Stay for arborio rice pudding. 8706 W. Third St.; (310) 274-7144. Main courses $17-$21.

IL MORO offers another great urban refuge. Who knew that, nestled in the crook of some very corporate-looking office buildings in West L.A., there'd be this haunting, lovely patio with a pretty, still pool, thriving palms and plants, all of it effectively cut off from traffic on Olympic (and other urban roars) by a tall, gushing fountain? Good fresh fish, terrific pastas, and the best lemony-tart artichoke-and-arugula salad. 11400 W. Olympic Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 575-3530. Entrees $8.50-$16.95.

Location Info

THE LITTLE DOOR, with its Middle Eastern- and African-inflected French cuisine, has finally made good use of a lovely high-walled patio and dining space which, up until a couple of years ago, flummoxed every restaurant that tried to inhabit it. Who knew sheer hipness was a survival skill? The patio at night - full of candles, and the song of running water, and rosy faces, and fragrant smells from the wood oven - is one of the most romantic spots in town. 8164 W. Third St.; (323) 951-1210. Main courses $16-$28.

RIX, in Santa Monica, is yet another hidden surprise. When you step into the sedate dining room downstairs, there's no clue that there's a packed nightclub with a gorgeous large patio upstairs. Here's the perfect place to spend a summer night sitting and drinking and listening to live music and observing the latest scant hot-weather fashions. Neal Fraser, formerly of Boxer, took over the kitchen some months back, and the food is improving. 1413 Fifth St., Santa Monica; (310) 656-9688. Main courses $18-$30.

Ken Frank and his opulent French cooking are gone, but FENIX at the Argyle Hotel still has its patio with a great city view in the background, the swimming pool and a row of concrete palm trees in the foreground - surely, this is one of the more astute and compact images of Southern California. The new chef is New Orleans-born Brandon Boudet, and he's cooking eclectic American with a Deep South flair - linguine with crayfish; marinated pork loin with basmati dirty rice; flattened poussin baked under a brick; and crab-stuffed monkfish. Argyle Hotel, 8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 848-6677. Entrees $12-$23.

For sheer funk, I have a soft spot for FIDDLER'S BISTRO poolside patio, tables scattered around on a cement-paved pool area, with the blue pool winking - it's straight out of a noir thriller, and all the more amusing because this modest coffee shop has some delicious Mediterranean dishes, including grape leaves, oven roasted chicken and a Greek salad. Plaza Hotel, 6009 W. Third St.; (323) 931-8167. Meals about $11.

I have left out far more patios than I've included. There's Granita, of course, in Malibu, and Sofi on Third Street, and Ca' del Sole in North Hollywood, and Clearwater Cafe, and Twin Palms, and Merida in Pasadena, and . . . and . . . and . . . and many more, clearly, so that, for the next few months, until the inclement weather returns, there will be plenty of patios where the weather is God-given - as warm as summer's meant to be.

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