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Ammo. The little storefront café is almost harshly minimal, white and noisy; the service is intermittent at best, and the clientele is often predominantly stunning models of every gender. But Ammo’s food tastes as if it’s been made to order by a fabulous home cook with her own organic garden (or at least one with access to a farmers’ market) — and for that, we’ll brave anything, even sitting in a room with multiple examples of physical perfection. Try the French lentil salad and the ice cream sandwich. 1155 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 871-2666. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Mon.–Sat., weekend brunch. Beer and wine. AE, MC, V. California. MH $$b
LA99 Cobras & Matadors. Steven Arroyo is the Bill Graham of tapas in Los Angeles, the impresario who made the concept of Spanish drinks ’n’ snacks as popular as sushi platters after dozens of others had tried and failed. And his dark, buzzy tapas parlors are teeming dens of olive oil and garlic, octopus and cured pig, grilled meats and pungent concoctions of seafood and paprika and beans rushed to the table still crackling in unglazed crocks. The Los Feliz restaurant has a nicely curated list of Spanish and South American wines; at the Hollywood restaurant, you buy your wines from the wine store conveniently located next door. When you bring your prize back to the table, don’t be surprised if the counter guy is standing right there, corkscrew in hand. 7615 W. Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 932-6178. 4655 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz, (323) 669-3922. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 6–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6 p.m.–mid. Beer, wine, sangria. Valet parking. MC, V. Spanish. JG $Â
LA99 Jar. Any place in town can serve you a grilled T-bone, but Suzanne Tracht’s snazzy steak house is strictly postmodernsville, man — chefly riffs on the strip steak and the porterhouse, the hash brown and the French fry that may or may not incorporate every last pea tendril and star-anise infusion in the Asian-fusion playbook, if that happens to be your desire. Some people we know have never even tried the steak here — the braised pork belly, the glorious pot roast and the various and sundry wonders of Nancy Silverton’s Mozzarella Monday are just too compelling. But the steak is about as good as it gets. The décor is straight off the set of a Cary Grant movie. And there’s banana cream pie for dessert. 8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 655-6566. Dinner daily 5:30–11 p.m., brunch Sun. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. California American. JG $$Â?
Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown?Central Los Angeles
LA99 Guelaguetza. Oaxacan cooking is among the most exciting cuisines in Los Angeles at the moment, and at Guelaguetza, the best of them by far, you’ll find the sort of Oaxacan dishes you’ve only read about in cookbooks or glossy magazines. At the original Koreatown location of Guelaguetza, not far from the biggest concentration of Oaxacan restaurants and bakeries this side of Oaxaca itself, you’ll find chile-fried grasshoppers, tlayudas the size of manhole covers and delicious, mole-drenched tamales. The black mole, based on ingredients the restaurant brings up from Oaxaca, is rich with chopped chocolate and burnt grain, toasted chile, and wave upon wave of textured spice — it’s as simple yet as nuanced as a great, old Côte Rôtie. 3337½ W. Eighth St., Los Angeles, (213) 427-0779. Open daily 8 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Oaxacan. JG ¢b
Soot Bull Jeep. Soot Bull Jeep may be the best of L.A.’s 100-odd Korean barbecues, noisy, smoky, with all the bustle you’d expect in the heart of a great city, a place to cook your own marinated short ribs and baby octopus, pork loin and tripe, above a tabletop heap of glowing hardwood coals. If you are new to this sort of thing, a waitress will return periodically to make sure that your ignorance of cooking times injures the meat no more than absolutely necessary. 3136 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles, (213) 387-3865. Open daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. MC, V. Korean. JG ¢