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Beverly Hills 

Thursday, Apr 21 2005
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Enoteca Drago. In New York City, Italian wine bars are multiplying like the ebola virus, spreading house-cured head cheese and wines like Romitorio and Cannonau through neighborhoods that had barely seen a jug of Gallo just a year or two before. In Los Angeles, the first serious Italian wine bar is probably the posh Enoteca Drago, the latest outpost of Celestino -Drago’s pasta-driven empire, where you can chase a plate of prosciutto, a mess of baby octopi, or even the elusive lardo — cured pig fat in the style of northwestern Tuscany, melted onto a slab of fried bread — with a glass of crisp Verdicchio from the Marches. Some of the wines are served in flights — sets of small pours of vintages arranged by grape or by region. Almost incidentally, Enoteca Drago does function as a full restaurant, although it is occasionally hard to remember, when you’re floating in the middle of a Brunello reverie, that you will also find great pasta with pesto and one of the few proper versions of spaghetti carbonara in town. 410 N. Cañon Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 786-8236. Open daily 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $16–$33. Italian. JG $$

The Ivy. The patio here is a New Yorker’s perfect dream of Los Angeles, splashed with sunlight, decorated with amusing American kitsch, populated with lunching actresses, agents, and New York magazine editors in town to take the pulse of the city. The food is acceptable though expensive, down-home food at uptown prices. 113 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 274-8303. Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–11:30 p.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $25–$39. American. JG $$

Maple Drive. The customers come for the jazz, some come for the renowned tuna tartare. And one by one, regulars are seduced by Eric Klein’s foie gras with kumquat chutney and his seared loup de mer with caramelized cauliflower, raisins and pine nuts, even if they did come from the playbook of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, as well as the brasserie standards of Spanish mackerel with potato salad (although it tends to be a little dry) and Alsatian tarte flambée, which is how the devil himself would make pizza if he suddenly came into a lot of cream. 345 N. Maple Dr., Beverly Hills. (310) 274-9800. Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:45 p.m.; some bar food available between dinner and lunch. Mon.–Sat. 6 p.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Dinner entrées $28–$38. American Californian. JG

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Mastro’s. One of a small chain of Scottsdale-based steakhouses, Mastro’s has the look — volcanic rock work, blackout curtains, black-leather banquettes — of desert resorts, supper clubs, casinos and other booze-filled refuges where the dreaded sun don’t shine. Eat downstairs for more intimate dining, or upstairs if you’re up to walking the gauntlet of a long bar to get to your seat. The excellent service staff is adept, adaptable and good-natured, even when their customers — Beverly Hills carnivores — are not. Meat dominates the menu; steak to be exact. Order the Kansas City bone-in, the porterhouse or the bone-in rib-eye (the latter, ordered charred rare, is a glorious, rich, big, big-flavored piece of meat with a crusty char oozing juice). Here, rare means rare, i.e., cold inside — yes. 246 N. Cañon Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 888-8782. Open for dinner nightly 5 p.m.–mid. Entrées $20–$47. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. American. MH $$$

Matsuhisa. Nobu Matsuhisa was the first sushi master to introduce Americans to yellowtail sashimi with sliced jalapeños. Playing with tradition has made him an international star. Locally, you can try his food at the modest Ubon noodle house at the Beverly Center and the high-end Nobu in Malibu, but his original, stunningly uncharming location on La Cienega is still, to our mind, the best bet — especially if you sit at the sushi bar and give your chef free rein. To this day, despite many attempts, nobody has improved on his innovations. Reserva-tions are a must and, at times, a pain. 129 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 659-9639. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:45 a.m.–2:15 p.m. Dinner nightly 5:45–10:15 p.m. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $15–$50. Japanese. MH $$$

Le Pain Quotidien. This chain bakery and café, which originated in Belgium, has since spread to France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, New York and, most recently, Beverly Hills. Owner-creator Alain Coumont’s rigorous, winning aesthetic consists of a refined, even streamlined rusticity; he seems intent on promulgating precisely the small, daily pleasures that make Continental life so beguiling. Each establishment has a bakery, featuring huge disks of artisanal breads, crusty baguettes and straightforward pastries. Antique pine shelving holds Le Pain Quotidien products — olive oil, olive paste, sun-dried tomatoes, sea salt, capers and so on, an almost complete Mediterranean palette. 9630 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 859-1100. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 7:30 a.m.–7 p.m, Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–7 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $6.50–$18, pastries $3–$6. French. MH ¢

Il Pastaio. This was Celestino Drago’s first café spinoff, and its original concept — carpaccio, salad, pasta and risotto (no meat-centered entrées) — remains sound. The window-walled room on the corner of Cañon and Brighton fills with sun and Beverly Hills types; don’t expect a lot of elbow room or romance, but the food is reliably delicious. 400 N. Cañon Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 205-5444. Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 5–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $16.50–$24.50. Italian. MH

Spago. The flagship restaurant of the Wolfgang Puck empire, Spago in Beverly Hills replaced the original Hollywood Spago — and then some. A large courtyard patio is the place to sit, at least until the cigar smokers light up. The kitchen is a small village unto itself with its own butchers, bakers, cooks and candy makers. Puck himself, ever cheerful and outgoing, is often on the premises. Stars, moguls, tourists, lunching matrons and serious suits fill the tables. The service is a well-tempered hybrid of warmth, humor and strict professionalism. Some complain that regular customers get better treatment than the rest of us, but then, sometimes life is like that. 176 N. Cañon Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 385-0880. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:15 p.m., Sat. noon–2:15 p.m. Dinner seven days, from 5:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $19–$36. California. MH. $$$

Talesai. The owners of Talesai on Sunset Boulevard brought all their experience and many of their best dishes to this chic, glassed-in fishbowl of a café situated at one end of a Beverly Hills mini-mall. Friendly service and beautiful Asian statuary mitigate the industrial spareness of the room, but nothing tempers the boomeranging noise during dinner. Through it all, the refined Thai cooking sings with freshness, quality and flavor. 9198 Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9345. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner seven days 5–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $7.95–$12.95. Thai. MH $

Tamarin. Is Tamarin the second coming of Indian cooking in Los Angeles? Is the Western-tinged cuisine of its chef, Uma Singh, on a par with that of Floyd Cardoz from the accomplished Franco-Indian restaurant Tabla in Manhattan or even that of the Bombay Café’s estimable Neela Paniz? Probably not. But if you’re hungry for vindaloo or chicken tikka and you happen to be in Beverly Hills, you could do a lot worse. 9162 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 777-0360. Lunch Tues.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Dinner entrées $12–$18. Indian. JG $$

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