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Let Them Eat Cakes 

Wednesday, Apr 26 2006
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No, not just the sweet, layered, frosted kind; rice cakes, fish cakes and plenty of crab cakes too . . .

Blair’s. This is an adult restaurant for people who don’t really consider themselves to be grown-ups even into their late 40s, a civilized refuge of caesar salads and crab cakes and shrimp cocktails that are served with a side of deviled eggs, a sort of roadhouse where the pepper steak comes with oodles of farmers’-market vegetables, the salmon comes with lentils, and the roster of artisanal beers is nearly as long as the wine list. I would be surprised if anybody’s parents ate this well at Rotary Club meetings.  2903 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 660-1882. Open Sun.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. $16–$32. New American. JG $$bÂ?

Caioti Pizza Café. When the secret history of California pizza is finally written, a greasy volume inscribed in arugula, goat cheese and white truffle oil, former Spago pizza chef Ed LaDou’s name will be known across the land. The barbecue chicken pizza, with slivered red onion, smoked Gouda and barbecue sauce instead of tomato, is definitive nostalgia, a taste of multiculti post-Olympics Los Angeles . . . with a hunk of gooey chocolate cake for dessert. 4346 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 761-3588. Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sun. till 11 p.m.; brunch Sat. 9–11 a.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–2:30 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. MC, V. $10–$15. Contemporary California. JGb

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Edendale Grill. Housed in an old firehouse and named for Los Angeles’ first movie studio, Silver Lake’s Edendale Grill is a bit of set-dressed history. Craftsman-era lighting fixtures with mica shades cast a warm, golden glow in the dining room. The Mixville bar has an original hammered-tin ceiling and firehouse doors. The kitchen serves up its own brand of culinary nostalgia for midcentury Midwestern American cooking: oysters Rockefeller, caesar salads made tableside, Green Goddess salad dressing, sand dabs, steaks and chops, even a beet-red velvet cake from the Waldorf. 2838 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 666-2000. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 5:30–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Full bar. Complimentary valet. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $13.75–$27. American. MH $$b?

The Hungry Cat. The Hungry Cat is the restaurant a lot of us in Los Angeles have been waiting for, a local answer to Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco or New York’s Pearl Oyster Bar, a place to drop in for a dozen oysters or a bowl of shrimp, a boiled crab or a bowl of chowder. The wine list is tiny, but includes a ton of obscure, seafood-friendly wines — Picpoul de Pinet,anyone? — and everything is available by the glass. The crab cake, more crab than cake, is tasty if modestly portioned, made from what the establishment claims is a 100-year-old Baltimore recipe. 1535 N. Vine St., Hollywood, (323) 462-2155, www.thehungrycat.com. Mon.–Fri. 5:30 p.m.–mid., Sat. 3 p.m.–mid., Sun. 5:30–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Small plates $8–$22. Seafood. JG $$Â

The Ivy. A certain breed of well-groomed Angelenos like to look at East Coast media people looking at Angelenos, which is why they flock to the Ivy, a pretty, sun-bleached patio restaurant that looks the way Los Angeles is supposed to if your experience of the town comes from the movies. The food — crab cakes, corn chowder, New Orleans–style barbecued shrimp — is acceptable though expensive, down-home food at uptown prices. But the Ivy may thrive because it caters to the sorts of whims legion in this part of town. If South Beach and Atkins were national cuisines, the Ivy would be an ethnic restaurant. 113 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 274-8303. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.; brunch Sun. 10:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $25–$39. American. JG $$

Kani Mura. Kani Mura comes off as a little obsessive, a restaurant devoted to all things crab, from steamed crab to crab cakes, soft-shell crabs to crabs sautéed in the kind of Continental garlic-butter sauce you may never have experienced outside the context of a red-leather booth. It is pleasant to be confronted with the condition known as Too Much Crab, to pry cylinders of snowy meat from their expertly incised shells with long, narrow spoons, to season them with the rather tart ponzu sauce, to experience the calm of shellfish-fueled satori. 456 E. Second St., Little Tokyo, (213) 617-1008. Open Mon.–Sat. 5:30–10:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking $2.50. AE, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $35–$50. JG $$

Max. Chef Andre Guerrero’s “ahi towers” are nothing like traditional sushi; for example, the perfectly engineered cylinders of fried sticky-rice cake, seaweed, pickled ginger, wasabi-flavored flying-fish roe and raw fish have all the sensations of a great, trashy tuna roll. This is a midlevel restaurant, not a temple of cuisine. But Guerrero’s formidable chicken adobo is a remarkable, remarkable dish. 13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 784-2915. Sun.–Thurs. 5:30–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. All major credit cards. $18–$28. California Asian. JG $$b[?

The Pines. The pancake, the occasional Pines special called a tortilla cake (the batter is enriched with masa, cornmeal and ground hominy), tastes the way you’ve always wanted a tortilla to taste, warm and soft and sweet as corn, fragrant, slightly burned around the edges. Picture it striped with yellow from a three-egg omelet, white from biscuits ’n’ gravy, and sandy brown from a half-pound or so of well-done fried potatoes, a weighty analogue to the nouvelle presentation of a Michael’s or a Le Dome, but no less carefully done. 4343 Pearblossom Hwy., Palmdale, (661) 285-0455. Breakfast and lunch seven days 7 a.m.–2 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Breakfast for two, food only, $8–$15. American. JG ¢b

Shamshiri Grill. Lovers of the Persian dishes tah dig and karafs — a thin, crunchy cake of fried white rice with a delicious green stew on top — will find good versions of both at Shamshiri, a well-mannered restaurant on Westwood’s Iranian restaurant row. 1712 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 474-1410. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. noon–11 p.m., Sun. noon–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. $9.95–$16.95 (lunch $5.95–$7.95). Persian. JG ¢b

Sunshine. Sunshine’s golden fish is an extraordinary dish, slabs of whitefish fried in the manner of Thai fish cakes and served with a salad of shredded mango. The papaya salad, barbecued-beef salad, sweet duck salad may be closer to Thai-Chinese cooking than to the intense Isaan side of the spectrum, but they manage to be pretty good nonetheless, especially the toasted-rice salad tossed with ground pork and slithery, crunchy bits of boiled pig’s-ear cartilage. If you have ever wanted to see how closely that particular appendage could ever approach a silk-purse sort of grace, this is as close as you’re ever going to get. 13212 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, (818) 764-6989. Open Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. D, MC, V. JG $$b?

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