Izayoi Izayoi’s mastermind is chef Junichi Shiode, the whiz who used to run Sushi Ryo, one of those rare secret addresses beloved by chefs seeking a cuisine that many customers didn’t even know it served: classic Japanese izakaya dishes. Izakaya menus are typically long and hard to follow, with a host of different sections unfamiliar to anyone not versed in the style, and a list of daily specials often as long as the menu proper. Here is the secret: Order lots of stuff: gooey octopus sashimi, ramekins of roughly chopped Spanish mackerel, bowls of room-temperature egg custard topped with sea-urchin gonads, house-made tofu slicked with sweet miso paste, yakiniku skewers of grilled tongue, dried and grilled skate fins cut into little salty curls — and a bowl of ochazuke, brothy rice, at the end. Shiode has a particular deftness with sardines — the infamous “sardine burger” is as close to a mandatory order as you will ever find on a hundred-item menu. 132 S. Central Ave., dwntwn., (213) 613-9554. Mon.-Sat. 5:30-10:15 p.m. Beer, sake and wine. Parking in Office Depot lot on Second St. at Central Ave. AE, MC, V. Japanese. JG I
Mandarin Shanghai Restaurant This restaurant has a minor specialization in earthen-pot entrées, soupy things served in great clay vessels as big around as satellite dishes, and first among these is the fish-head earthen pot, the front half of a gigantic carp stewed in an aromatic stock, laced with sharply spicy chiles and mellowed with bean paste, the thing to get here if you don’t mind your dinner looking back at you. 970 N. Broadway, Suite 114, Chinatown, (213) 625-1195. Lunch and dinner. Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $19–$25. AE, D, MC, V. Mandarin. JG H?LM
AD?Royale A swank parlor of the oughts fitted into a swank art deco supper club of 80 years ago, Royale is an oddly formal restaurant for its MacArthur Park neighborhood, a citadel of Ginger Rogers–era civilization translated into beefsteak and halibut. Eric Ernest, late of Citrine, is a playful chef, flavoring a bit of big-eye tuna with an oil flavored to resemble the Punjabi lamb stew rogan josh, hitting the sautéed foie gras with preserved blood orange wedges and a blast of licorice, gilding the burger with braised shortribs and truffled cheese. For dessert, there are chocolate platters and bowls of blue cotton candy that resemble the hairdo of The Simpsons’ Sideshow Mel. And as you might expect, the dining room is lubricated with all the laid-back house music you can stand. 2619 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (213) 388-8488 or www.royaleonwilshire.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner Open daily 5:30–10:30 p.m. (lounge open till 2 a.m.). Full bar. Valet parking. All major CC. European. JGJLMNK
Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park
Agra Balti, in theory at least, is a kind of Kashmiri curry with roots in the Islamic cuisine of northern Pakistan, cooked and served in handled metal pots that resemble miniature woks. In practice, the word balti has come to mean almost any fiercely hot curry served to the overwhelmingly English clientele of the baltihouses of Birmingham — food tailored, as a friend says, to the alcohol-deadened palates of drunken football hooligans. Like a Tommyburger, a balti worthy of the name can still be tasted when one is in the clutches of the next morning’s hangover. Agra, an Indian restaurant in Silver Lake, certainly serves cuisine more subtle than that, but there is a considerable list of baltis on the menu, and they are overwhelmingly, punishingly hot, with all the refinement of last week’s 50 Cent remix played at earth-thumping volume from the back of a Scion. “Do you want that American hot or English hot?” sneers the waiter. “I will be warning you: American hot is a little milder than what the English are calling medium.” 4325 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 665-7818. Open daily for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.–11 p.m. No alcohol. Parking lot. AE, DC, MC, V. JG $b?
Tiger Lily Is it a restaurant? Is it a lounge? Is it a place to pose by the bar in a pair of artfully ripped Rogans, nursing a glass of Viognier and a skewer of vegetable shashlik while you wait for prime time at the clubs? Will you ever find the actual squid for all the fried batter in the Mangalore calamari? Tiger Lily is the latest in a long, long series of Hollywood small-plates restaurants whose dramatic design perhaps outweighs the cuisine. In this case, a dramatic cavern, lit like a seraglio scene at the L.A. Opera, where it is possible to dine on the amusing snack foods of all Asian nations, from Indian samosas to Sri Lankan vegetarian curry plates, fermented-bean-flavored osso buco to tempura soft-shell crab, spring rolls to tandoori skewers, goat-cheese wontons to sweet sausage sandwiches supposedly inspired by Macao. The owner, Sumant Parda, has been at East India Grill for half of forever, and his chef, Edward Brik, has a long résum?é that includes Spago; the sleek, approachable, oversweet dishes are what Californians have grown to expect from pan-Asian cuisine. 1739 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 661-5900. Open daily 5 p.m.–2 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. All major CC. Asian. JG IMNK