Downtown Los Angeles/Highland Park
Ciudad. Cuchifritos at happy hour. Fatally strong mojitos. Peruvian-style ceviches and Bolivian-style tamales, Caribbean paella and a classic pescado Veracruzana, Bahia-style moqueqas and a fritanga that would knock them silly in Managua. Ciudad, the Pan-Latin downtown outpost of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, may be all things to all people, but especially to all people whose pleasures include bending an elbow every now and then. Daytime is for office workers; at night, two-thirds of the customers are dressed in black. 445 S. Figueroa St., downtown, (213) 486-5171. Mon.–Tues. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Wed.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Saturday, 5–11 p.m., Sunday 5–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $17–$28. Pan-Latino. JG $$Â
Daikokuya. Sooner or later, all ramen lovers end up at Daikokuya, a loud, steamy noodle shop just a few blocks from the Music Center. Most ramen shops offer an endless list of possibilities; at Daikokuya, the choice is taken out of the equation — you will have the thin, curly noodles in pork broth, or you will have them stamina-style, in even stronger pork broth, a formidable liquid, opaque and calcium-intensive, almost as rich as milk. Floating with the noodles are plump slabs of simmered pork, slices of seasoned bamboo shoots and a dusky, soy-simmered egg. When you’re in the mood, you can improve on the kitchen’s excesses by spooning in minced garlic from a tabletop jar. 327 E. First St., downtown, (213) 626-1680. Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m., dinner Mon.–Sat. 5–10 p.m., Sun. noon–8 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Food for two $13–$25. Japanese.JG ¢[b?
Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park
Blair’s. This is an adult restaurant for people who don’t really consider themselves to be grownups even into their late 40s, a civilized refuge of caesar salads and crab cakes and shrimp cocktails that are served with a side of deviled eggs, a sort of roadhouse where the pepper steak comes with oodles of farmers-market vegetables, the salmon comes with lentils, and the roster of artisanal beers is nearly as long as the wine list. I would be surprised if anybody’s parents ate this well at Rotary Club meetings. 2903 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 660-1882. Open Sun.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. $16–$32. New American. JG $$bÂ?
The Kitchen. Here is the quintessential Silver Lake canteen. Its former subtitle — “Lunch to Late Night” — reflects the circadian rhythms of its neighborhood clientele. The interior is Early East Village — deep colors, battered tables, crumbling cement, loud music. The service tends toward the casual and offhand, which belies the big-hearted, darn good food — try a bowl of quite viable cioppino. 4348 Fountain Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 664-3663. Open Mon.–Thurs. 5 p.m.–mid., Fri. 5 p.m.–1 a.m., Sat. noon–2:30 a.m., Sun. noon–10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $10–$18. American. MH ¢?
Say Cheese. A dual storefront in Silver Lake houses this gourmet store on one side and espresso café on the other. The lunch menu features salads, sandwiches, quiche and the house specialty, tartiflette (baked diced potatoes with onion and bacon topped with melted reblochon cheese and served with a mixed green salad). The gourmet shop tempts with a notable variety of pâtés (including duck foie gras at a dizzy-making $106 a pound), olives and, of course, a handpicked selection of French cheeses. 2800 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 665-0545, fax (323) 665-6465. Open Mon.–Sat. 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m (store open until 6:30), Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m . No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Sandwiches $8–$9.50. MH ¢b
Brasserie Vert. Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant in the Hollywood & Highland complex may not have much in common with a brasserie, is as restrained-looking as a corporate canteen, and isn’t even green. But Vert is a useful restaurant, a Hollywood bastion of reliable French cooking. Drop in for a Green Bellini, a platter of fritto misto and a shot at the best desserts in Hollywood — the apple tart is formidable. 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 411, Hollywood, (323) 491-1300. Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. noon–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $16–$24. French/Italian. JG $$
Chameau. Chameau, which is more midcentury modern than a garden of earthly delights, may describe itself as French-Moroccan, but the food is quite different from both the plain cooking you’ll find at the fashionable couscous slingers in Paris’ Marais and the new-style cuisine you’ll find in restaurants that happen to feature a tagine or two on their menus. Chef Adel Chagar’s flavors may be modern, lightened and fresh, but his techniques, many of them, come from the traditional Moroccan kitchen, whose methods tend to be fairly languid: chicken-stuffed b’stilla made with incredibly time-consuming warka, couscous made by hand, and lamb shoulder tagines cooked until the meat almost dissolves into a lamb-scented cloud. 339 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 951-0039. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 6–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $42–$66. Moroccan.JG $$