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West L.A. and Culver City 

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El Abajeno. The cornerstone of the menu at El Abajeno is its specialty burrito, a monstrous construction the size and shape of a shoebox: two huge tortillas wrapped around truly heroic portions of lettuce, rice, beans and meat. An El Abajeno burrito, the Westside’s answer to the mammoth beasts served at El Tepeyac in East L.A., could probably feed a family of six with leftovers for lunch the next day, though I have never seen one attacked by more than one hungry guy. 4515 Inglewood Blvd., Culver City, (310) 390-0755. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.–Thurs. 8 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Fri. 8 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Beer. Lot parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $11–$18. AE, MC, V. Mexican. JG ¢

Ambala Dhaba. On a stretch of Westwood Boulevard thick with student coffeehouses and Iranian hair salons, Ambala Dhaba is an outpost of the Punjab, a branch of a restaurant noted on Artesia’s Little India strip for its fiery goat curries and the boiled-milk ice cream called kulfi. It’s probably the only thing resembling traditional Indian food on the Westside. Ambala Dhaba exemplifies the time-honored side of meaty northern Indian cooking: basic, direct food almost Islamic in attitude, Pakistani in intensity of flavor, but wholly Indian in its attention to fresh vegetables, crunchy snacks, and breads. 1781 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 966-1772. Open daily noon–10:30 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Takeout. Food for two, $12–$20. MC, V. Indian. JG $

Beacon Cafe. Beacon marks the trium-phant return to form of Kazuto Matsusaka, who was chef for almost a decade at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois in the ’80s. His current versions of miso--marinated cod, vegetable nabemono and grilled -shisito peppers are all fine. Grilled-chicken skewers are powerfully flavored with the herb shiso and the tiny Japanese apricot called ume. You’d probably never find anything like Matsusaka’s salad of perfectly ripe avocado dressed with toasted sesame seeds and minced scallions in Tokyo, but the salad follows classical principles, and it is luscious. The hangar steak with wasabi is so successful, the searing tang of the horse-radish doing something wonderful to the tart, carbonized flavor of grilled meat, that you might wonder why nobody thought of the combination until now. 3280 Helms Ave., Culver City, (310) 838-7500. Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2:15 p.m. Dinner Tues.–Wed.&Sun. 5:30–9:15 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 5:30–10:15 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. D, MC, V. Lunch for two, food only, $18–$35. Dinner for two, food only, $26–$46. Japanese. JG $

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Cafe Brasil. Mostly, you’ll find grilled animals at Cafe Brasil: pork chops, lamb chops, steak, shrimp and fish, all profoundly salty and resonant with garlic, charred at the edges, fragrant with citrus and a little overcooked. With all this protein come truckloads of rice glistening with oil, sweet fried plantains and spicy black beans. Cafe Brasil also serves wonderful feijoada on weekends, less offal-intensive than some versions but meat-fragrant in the best possible way. 10831 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 837-8957. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. BYOB. Lot parking. MC, V. Entrées $7–$16. Brazilian. JG ¢

Canary. Canary is an Iranian sandwich shop on Westwood’s Iranian strip, a house of kebabs in the most kebab-intensive neighborhood in California. Also notable are Iranian-style sandwiches made with a split-and-grilled Hebrew National frank, a hollowed-out length of toasted French bread and condiments similar to those you might expect to find on a Chicago-style hot dog, only inflected with more garlic. 1942 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 470-1312. Open daily 11 a.m.–12 a.m. Lunch for two, food only, $12–$14. No alcohol. Takeout. Parking lot. MC, V. Iranian. JG ¢

Clementine. Annie Miler, a food-historian-turned-chef, makes delicious versions of great American regional favorites at her sunny breakfast, lunch and takeout café across from the Century City Shopping Mall. Rediscover the Southern ham biscuit and the all-American grilled cheese sandwich, in this case a crusty, buttery version made with marinated onions in an Italian sandwich press. Miler’s best invention yet may be a peanut-butter cookie with a layer of peanut butter piped inside. 1751 Ensley Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 552-1080. No alcohol. Open Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–7:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Parking in rear lot. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $7–$10. California. MH

Il Moro. Nestled in a hidden crook of corporate office buildings, this spinoff of the esteemed Locanda Veneta has good fresh fish, pastas in unusual shapes (try "the pope’s hat") and an artichoke-and-arugula salad bright with lemon juice. The patio creates an unexpected urban refuge; it’s filled with palms, has its own small lake, and a tall gushing waterfall of a fountain literally drowns out the roar of traffic on Olympic. 11400 W. Olympic Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 575-3530. Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Sun. 4:30–9:30 p.m. Wine and beer. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $10–$20. Italian. MH $

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