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Tuesday, Jun 19 2007
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Abode

A theme park of ostentatious sustainability, Abode is a loungey place where the neo-Balinese decorations are wrought from recycled wood, the menu pays at least lip service to farmers-market produce, house-made charcuterie and ecologically correct seafood, and the $300 specialty martini is garnished with a gargantuan, sustainably harvested Tahitian black pearl. You have tasted pea soup, but you have never tasted pea soup like Abode’s, dotted with clots of extra-creamy Italian mascarpone and spiked with unsweetened cocoa nibs, which makes the soup taste like, I don’t know, chocolate-covered peas. This is a brave new wind in local cuisine, but it may not lift every sail. Chef Dominique Crenn, a virtuoso in her way, has worked everywhere from the Jakarta InterContinental to the Manhattan Beach Country Club, and the bill at the end of the evening is as terrifying and exotic as that chocolatey pea soup. 1541 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 394-3463. Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. & 5:30–10 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–2 p.m. & 6–10:30 p.m., Sun. 11 am.–3 p.m. & 6–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. All major CC. Contemporary American. $$$

Alcazar

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Scented with woodsmoke and lubricated with music, Alcazar is a shaded patch of coastal Lebanon, all grilled mullet and exotic salads, and bright coals of apple-flavored tobacco that burn in brass hookahs — a taste of the Beirut that once was and will be again. Enormous kebab plates are rushed to tables — and the shish towook, grilled kebabs of extravagantly marinated chicken breast, is as good as a kebab ever gets. On weekends, ultrathin sajj bread, like lavash, is baked on the patio over a vast heated surface, wrapped around grilled meat or made into the thin, crisp, thyme-scented Arab quesadillas called kl’leg. Lebanon is famous for its red wine, but Alcazar, in the gentle levant of Encino, also serves oceans of arak, an anise-scented Lebanese liquor that turns milky when you stir it with ice and cool water. 17239 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 789-0991. Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. & 5:30–10:30 p.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m.–mid., Sun. noon–9 p.m. Full bar. Hookah and cigar lounge. Takeout. Lot parking in rear. All major CC. Lebanese. $

Angeli Caffe

Before Angeli, Angelenos had no idea how much they loved casual Italian cooking — not four-cheese lasagna or cognac-flamed veal fillets, but spaghetti alla checca, roast chicken and minimally garnished pizza. The clove that dare not speak its name makes a bold and uncensored appearance in the version of spaghetti aglio e olio, a powerful, pungent pasta tossed with caramelized garlic, hot chile flakes and a little parsley, nothing else, and the sticky, powerful garlic essence is so powerful that you probably have to use industrial abrasives to get it off your teeth. In other words, it’s the real thing, compatible with a glass of professional-grade Chianti and rendering the tempering umami of Parmesan cheese almost useless. The restaurant’s heat may be decades behind it, and Kleiman’s repertory of artisanal olive oils, summertime bread salads and goat-cheese pizzas may no longer be novel, but sometimes there is no place you would rather be than behind a table at Angeli, contemplating a glass of Sangiovese and starting in on a plateful of ravioli with melted butter and sage. The Thursday-night dinners, multicourse prix fixe extravaganzas based around a different cuisine each week, are legend. 7274 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 936-9086 or www.angelicaffe.com. Lunch Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner Tues.–Thurs. & Sun. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Rustic regional Italian. $$

Angelini Osteria

The owners of the best osterie in Italy find purpose in repetition of classic dishes, preparing the same few dishes for decades, maintaining the living fabric of civilization. Gino Angelini is basically a creative chef, a guy who likes to put his stamp on dishes rather than preserving traditions. But as his nearby restaurant La Terza came into its own, it has become obvious that the osteria is a release for the chef, a place where he can serve less elaborately garnished versions of his dishes to people who love them, fuel a happy lunch crowd with pasta al limone and tripe, serve oxtails on Thursday nights, dish out respectable versions of Roman trattoria classics like saltimbocca, spaghetti carbonara and pollo alla diavola. Angelini Osteria is not an especially serious restaurant, and a respectable home cook can probably replicate most of its dishes, but sometimes you are in the mood for artistry, and sometimes you just want to have supper. 7313 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 297-0070 or www.­angeliniosteria. Lunch Tues.–Fri. noon–2:30 p.m., dinner Tues.–Sun. 5:30–10:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Valet parking. All major CC. Italian. $$

A.O.C.

If Suzanne Goin’s wine bar weren’t quite so popular, it would be the kind of place you dropped into for a glass of vino and maybe a bit of octopus, then a glass of Sancerre and a few grilled sardines, then a glass of Friulian Tocai and a plate of sliced prosciutto, then a glass of Corbières and the tiniest plate of skewered grilled lamb with mint. Unless you were in the mood for the bacon-wrapped dates with Parmesan on the bar menu, which would go so nicely with one of those big southern Italian reds, or a ripe Crozier blue with a late-bottled port, or whatever creature comes with a bit of Goin’s romesco sauce. You could drink and eat like this all night if you remembered to make a reservation — and if A.O.C. didn’t unreasonably stop serving at 11. 8022 W. Third St., L.A., (323) 653-6359. Mon.–Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5:30–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Wine bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. French-Mediterranean-influenced small plates. $$

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