By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
GOLD: In the strictest sense, the one put forth by philosopher Peter Singer, the answer would have to be no. For the several hundred dollars dinner for two at Ginza Sushiko will cost, you could make a donation to Oxfam or something that would feed an entire African village for a week. But aesthetically, it's a tougher call. If you would enjoy having the creativity and resources of a Michelin three-star-level restaurant focused on the needs of just eight diners, if you take pleasure in exquisite seasonality fixed with a level of detail that Wordsworth or Fragonard could only dream of, Sushiko might be your thing. Nowhere else will you taste such fugu, such kohada, such hamo, such fragrant Japanese herbs. Nowhere else does white miso take on such piquancy, or shabu shabu of foie gras such depth. Beauty sometimes costs. And in this case, it costs a lot. 218 Via Rodeo, N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 247-8939.
MY FRIEND FROM PARIS INSISTS ON EATING SOMEPLACE CLOSE TO HER HOTEL -- ON ZEE STRIP, OF COURSE. IS THERE ANYPLACE GOOD AT SUNSET PLAZA? (BUT, OF COURSE, SHE WANTS TO SHOP AFTERWARD.)
GOLD: Conventional wisdom has it that, of Sunset Plaza's half-dozen sidewalk cafés, Café Medhas the best food, Chin Chinis the cheapest, and Le Petit Fouris the chicest. Still, the most Euro-glam crowd is at Clafoutis -- cell phones glued to its collective ear, hunkered over endless glasses of Mumm's and barely touched green salads. At Clafoutis, one glass of Orangina easily stretches into an hour or two of hedonistic people-watching. Men tend to have complicated hair; women, elaborately constructed garments that display cleavage in ways not technically feasible without some pretty heavy engineering. Café Med, 8615 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood: (310) 652-0455; Chin Chin, 8618 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 652-1818. Clafoutis & Le Petit Four, 8630 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 659-5233.Le Petit Four, 8654 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 652-3863.
HUNEVEN: Having to walk up to one of the plaza's many outdoor cafés to be ogled and gawked at by all the Eurotourists eating and smoking and wasting their lives over paté seems like some futile, gratuitous form of hazing to me. Still, when I'm inclined to waste a few hours of my own life ogling passersby, I like to eat lunch at Clafoutis, the only restaurant in town named for a pudding; the omelets are quite passable, and the apricot tarts as juicy and delicious as they look. It's Le Petit Four for dinner, where the Cal-French food is surprisingly, reliably good considering that they could probably serve gruel and people would still go there for the streetside scenery. Clafoutis & Le Petit Four, see above.
38. WHERE DO I GO AFTER THE MUSIC CENTER?
GOLD: If you are interested in hanging with the conductor, the soloist and just possibly Alan Rich, you'll probably want to head toward the Pacific Dining Car, which serves profoundly aged steaks at prices that some of the rest of us associate more with used cars than with bloody remnants of steer. The cognoscenti among us try to wait until 11 p.m., when the reasonably priced breakfast menu goes into effect -- I'm a sucker for the gravy-drenched roast-beef hash -- but unless you've just sat through all five hours of Götterdmmerung, that may not be an option.
Otherwise, there's always Chinatown. Hidden away in an alley behind Phoenix Bakery is Happy Valley, which harbors everything from king crabs to frogs in its live tanks, and fries up a mean sautéed flounder with crispy skeleton. Impress your friends by ordering the delicious oyster-roast pork hot pot, which is listed only on an untranslated page of the menu. Pacific Dining Car, 1310 W. Sixth St.; (213) 483-6000. Happy Valley, 407 Bamboo Lane; (213) 617-3662.
39. WHERE CAN I TAKE GRANDMA TO SUNDAY BRUNCH BY THE SEA?
HUNEVEN:I personally avoid brunches -- all that food and alcohol so early in the day, who needs it? I especially despise buffet brunches, which are food troughs with the thinnest veneer of civilization to them. But if Granny wants brunch, she should have it. Humor her at One Pico, in the tastefully luxurious Shutters by the Sea, where you gaze out to sea over a plate of lemon ricotta pancakes (served with berries and apple-smoked bacon) or turkey hash with wilted spinach and poached (or fried) eggs. The favorite bruncheon -- yes, that's what they call it -- item is a warm lobster and mango salad in a radicchio cup with tarragon vinaigrette. Café del Rey in Marina del Rey has good views of parked sailboats and the Pacific, and a popular riff on eggs Benedict called eggs Chesapeake -- poached eggs in hollandaise over crab cakes. Or, try the lobster omelet, or steak and eggs with the restaurant's mushroom sauce. For a funkier, less corporate (and less seaside) experience, take her to James Beach for Coast Toast -- unabashedly rich French toast soaked in eggs, Gran Marnier, cream and butter -- the French toast they eat up in heaven, as my sister says. Also, try the huevos rancheros and the chile relleno. You don't have an ocean view, but you can walk off your Absolut pepper bloody marys afterward on the Venice Boardwalk. One Pico in Shutters on the Beach Hotel, 1 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 587-1717. Café del Rey, 4451 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey; (310) 823-6395. James Beach, 60 N. Venice Blvd., Venice; (310) 823-5396.