Downtown Los Angeles?Highland Park
LA99 Kagaya. Shabu shabu is pretty basic: a slice of prime meat swished through bubbling broth for a second or two, just until the pink becomes frosted with white. If you’ve done it right — and if the quality of the ingredients is as high as it is at Little Tokyo’s superb (and expensive) Kagaya — the texture is extraordinary, almost liquid, and the concentrated, sourish flavor of really good beef becomes vivid. 418 E. Second St., downtown, (213) 617-1016. Mon.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Wine, beer, sake. Lot parking. DC, MC, V. Japanese. JG $$
El Parian. El Parian’s sweet, mild goat meat has crispy parts and stewy parts, just like carnitas. It clings to the tiny goat ribs, which you suck, then spit back into the bowl. The broth, basically amplified pan drippings, is rich essence of goat and the single best Mexican dish I’ve eaten in Los Angeles — it is the soul of Guadalajara. There’s a thicket of cilantro to flavor the broth, a heap of chopped onion, limes to squeeze and a fat radish to sweeten your breath. The thick tortillas are warm and smell of fresh corn. The beer is very cold. Birria is supposed to be somewhat aphrodisiac — and a palliative for hangovers too, which is a special bonus on a Sunday morning. 1528 W. Pico Blvd., downtown, (213) 386-7361. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Beer. Cash only. Mexican. JG ¢b
Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park
LA99 Gingergrass. Gingergrass, a sleek Vietnamese bistro in Silver Lake, is probably the polar opposite of a place like Golden Deli, citified where the San Gabriel noodle shop is rustic, timid where the food at the other roars with flavor. There is pho, but it’s not really the point here. And the spicy fish steamed in banana leaves, the shrimp in fishy Vietnamese caramel sauce and the lemongrass chicken tend to be sluiced down with basil-spiked limeade instead of, say, salty lemonade or tepid tea. But the chef, Mako Antonishek, tends to cook in a way not unfriendly to wine (the restaurant has a symbiotic relationship with Silverlake Wine Merchants across the street), and her multicourse Mako Monday blowout dinners are already legendary in the neighborhood. 2396 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 644-1600. Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10:30 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Vietnamese. JG $b[
Rambutan Thai. Rambutan is hip enough for designers and artists, romantic enough for dates, and authentic and passionate enough in its cooking for ethnic-food lovers. Many Thai restaurants cater to timid American palates, playing down the chile heat, eschewing the fish sauce, and sweetening dishes. But the Rambutan kitchen refreshingly and correctly assumes that its hip Silver Lake clientele has the sophistication and ability to appreciate the full Thai flavors. But more timid eaters will find plenty of accessible, Americanized crossover hits on the menu’s “from the grill” section. And there’s a lengthy list of “Thai tapas” that should not be ignored. 2835 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (213) 273-8424. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., dinner Sat. 5p.m.–mid., Sun. 5–11 p.m. Beer, wine and sake. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Thai. MH $ [?
Lickety Split. This frozen-custard parlor in the courtyard of the old Egyptian Theater is the perfect place to stop by after a showing at the Cinematheque. The product, scooped up and plopped onto a cone rather than squirted out of a machine, has the smooth, effortlessly melting texture of the frozen custard from the famous stands in Wisconsin and Missouri, although it also has a persistent, salty kick that starts as a back note, tempering the sweetness, but becomes perhaps too dominant by the bottom half of a serving. 6708 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-5425. Mon.–Thurs. 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.–mid., Sun. 10 a.m–9 p.m. Meter parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG ¢b
Ulysses Voyage. Mama Voula, who commands a kitchen as if she were commanding a nuclear submarine, is an overwhelming presence in two family-owned Greek restaurants, Mama Voula’s and Ulysses Voyage (which is considerably fancier). The two have a strong, symbiotic relationship, with the sharp funk of garlic and charring meat, the flowing streams of cold Santorini wine, menus almost exactly alike give or take a few seafood specials, and a killer gyro that combines the virtues of extreme lambiness with a delicate, carbonized crunchiness. 6333 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 939-9728. Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Validated parking in Farmers Market lot. AE, MC, V. Greek. JG $/$$b[
Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown?Central Los Angeles
Chosun Galbi. For decades, Woo Lae Oak on Western was the favorite Korean restaurant of people who didn’t like Korean food all that much, a fancy place where they could convince themselves that galbi wasn’t too different from an ordinary steak dinner. Now that the Koreatown Woo Lae Oak is on hiatus, the conservative Koreatown choice is probably Chosun Galbi, a pleasant restaurant with the patio-side glamour of a Beverly Hills garden party: granite tables, gorgeous waitresses, and expensive, well-marbled meat that glows as pinkly as a Tintoretto cherub. Don’t miss the chewy cold buckwheat noodles with marinated stingray. And make sure to throw some shrimp on the barbie, too — the pricey little beasties crisp up like a dream. 3330 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 734-3330. Open seven days for lunch and dinner 11:30 a.m–10:30 p.m. Full bar. MC, V, AE. Valet parking. JG $Â?