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Where To Eat Now 

Wednesday, Apr 11 2007
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San Fernando Valley El Parron Chilean Grill A Chilean restaurant in Van Nuys, El Parron is a funny kind of place, a compact dining room that somehow converts into a nightclub a few times a week. The waitresses are such cheerleaders for the cuisine that you half expect them to break into a song praising the empanadas or the puffingly huge parrillada combinations. The house pebre, a Chilean relish made with tomatoes, onions and oregano, is suitable for dressing up almost everything at the restaurant but ice cream. El Parron fancies itself a seafood house, but the Chilean seafood available here is pretty limited — a few dishes involving congrio, a delicate fish that is tastier deep fried than grilled or stewed; a salad of the (canned) Chilean abalone locos, and another salad of curly sea snails piled high on a mayonnaise-drenched avocado. In South America, the best-known Chilean dish is probably bistec a lo pobre, a grilled steak topped with onions and a couple of gooey-yolked fried eggs, but this may not be the best dish to get at El Parron — instead go for the stews or the pastel de choclo. The lovely beef cazuela, the vegetable-rich Chilean equivalent of a Mexican cocido, is a perfect light lunch on a chilly afternoon. 6620 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 988-1226. Tues.–Fri. & Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Entertainment on weekends. Beer, wine. Lot parking in rear. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $25–$45. JG $$

La Fondue Bourguignonne La Fondue is the ’70s on a stick, a Three’s Company restaurant set come to living, breathing life: dark wood and gleaming copper; jugs of California “burgundy” siphoned into carafes; tape loops of classical music that repeat so often, you begin to suspect they are recorded on 8-track. If you have ever eaten fondue, you probably know the drill. A waiter brings out a chafing dish filled with bubbling melted Gruyère, and you dunk stale hunks of baguette into the stuff, inhaling sweetly alcoholic fumes from the cherry brandy and white wine that are always incorporated into the mixture, occasionally pausing to munch on a pickle or to take a swig of wine. For dessert? Chocolate fondue, of course. 13359 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 788-8680. Dinner nightly 5:30–10 p.m. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Fondue. JG $$

South Bay/LAX Al-Noor Nehari is more or less the Pakistani national dish, an intense, mahogany concoction of lamb shanks flavored with garlic, chiles, and an immoderate amount of shredded fresh ginger. Nehari can sometimes be as genteel as a country French ragout, but the nehari at Al-Noor — also a respectable venue for Pakistani breads, spicy stews and smoky, tandoor-cooked meats — is simmered down to a steaming, creamy mass with the density of a dwarf star, bubbling and glistening with red-tinted oil, a stew substantial enough to fortify three hungry men after a day of hard labor. 15112 Inglewood Ave., Lawndale, (310) 675-4700. Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Valet parking. D, MC, V. $12–$25. Indian. $

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 Al-Watan A bare, smoky dining room adjacent to a Muslim butcher shop, Al-Watan is the summit of basic Pakistani cooking in Los Angeles, spicy, meaty, and deeply inflected by the flavors of ginger, cardamom and chiles, with some of the most vividly smoky tandoor-cooked meats you will ever taste. First among the stews is haleem, beef braised with shredded wheat until it breaks down into a thick gravy with the flavor of well-browned roast-beef drippings, but as meaty as Al-Watan may be, even vegetarians can be happy here: Navratan korma, a mixture of cauliflower, green beans and carrots stir-fried with chile and plenty of spices, is like a wonderful Muslim ratatouille, the flavors of each vegetable fresh and distinct while contributing to the cumulative effect of the cumin-scented whole. 13611 Inglewood Ave., Hawthorne, (310) 644-6395. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. MC, V. Indian. JG $

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