Where to Eat Now 

Monday, Oct 15 2007

Downtown L.A./Chinatown/Westlake

E3rd Steakhouse Someday, when each of us is forced by redevelopment-agency storm troopers to eat supper in atmospheric Coldplay-soaked downtown fusion restaurants at 1 a.m., we may grow a little nostalgic for the days when late-night dining downtown meant the Pantry or nothing, when the party after a show at Al’s Bar or the Smell inevitably migrated to Suehiro, the TV Café or Canter’s. But at the moment, it is still almost novel to stumble through a maze of massive construction sites into a place like E3rd Steakhouse, which looks exactly like what Midwestern teenagers must imagine Los Angeles restaurants look like before they migrate to one of the local art schools, and whose great specialty is a few grams of grilled albacore held captive inside the core of a sliced and reassembled avocado. An Alba-Cado! Just imagine! E3rd, which looks as if it were assembled by Michael Mann’s art director, is nominally a steak house, a designy, halogen-intensive joint from the guys who run the loungy Korean-cum-Japanese Zip Fusion Sushi restaurants, but their signature beef and pork cuts are marinated to a candylike density, the mashed potatoes are enriched with spicy kimchi, and the jalapeño peppers come stuffed with tuna and glopped with sticky eel sauce — it’s a modern izakaya with training wheels, a user-friendly cocktail lounge with sleek cross-cultural eats. 734 E. Third St., dwntwn., (213) 680-3003. Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner Sun.-Wed. 5 p.m.-mid., Thurs.-Sat. 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. All major CC. Asian Steak House. JG INK

Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park

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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?

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax

Celadon Tuna tartare? Yep. Sweet braised short ribs? You bet. Hamachi carpaccio? Of course, with ponzu gelée and citrus dust. On paper, as well as in the sleek fire-and-water motif of its design, its extreme feng shui and its Thai-basil mojitos, Celadon, which occupies the fusion-happy space once colonized by Tahiti and Yi Cuisine, is just the latest in a long line of Los Angeles small-plates restaurants — albeit one where half the dishes seem to be impaled on bamboo skewers: tuna-crunchy rice “lollipops,” Japanese tonkatsu rolled around mozzarella, hamachi wrapped around avocado. Throw in the individual ceramic spoons filled with crab and smoked salmon, and you’ve got an amusing restaurant built around a solid sake list and a full line of passed hors d’oeuvres. But the chef, Danny Elmaleh, is a solid classical-French cook grounded in both Japanese and Middle Eastern cultures — he helped reinvent the office-building canteen at Lemon Moon — and his dishes are more likely to ring changes on an Asian standard than to play in the key of sweet-hot-crunchy snicky-snacky-sticky that characterizes so much rote fusion cuisine. Celadon isn’t Matsuhisa or Chinois — it is, in fact, a cocktail lounge with decent food — but you can see the heights from here. 7910 W. Third St., L.A., (323) 658-8028. Sun., Tues.-Thurs. 6-10 p.m., Fri. 6:30-11 p.m., Sat. 5:30-11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. All major CC. Euro-Asian. JG IN

ADC?Hatfield’s In restaurants as in actresses, quirkiness can be an unforgivable flaw. But Hatfield’s, a comfortable, modern bistro near Hollywood, can’t help itself any more than Parker Posey can. Instead of merlot and Chianti, there is a weirdly wonderful list of old Loire whites, stern reds from Austria and the Italian Alps, and German “champagne.” The croque madame sandwich is made with yellowtail and prosciutto instead of Gruyère cheese and pale ham, and tentacles of Japanese octopus just happen to curl around pillars of vanilla-braised hearts of palm. Even the steak and potatoes are quirky — the rare onglet is predictable enough, and the garnish of horseradish-crusted short ribs is nothing we haven’t seen before, but the smokiness of the dish comes not from the meat but from the mashed potatoes. From most chefs, this style might come across as affected, but from Quinn and Karen Hatfield, whose cooking at small-plates restaurant Cortez in San Francisco sometimes seemed like Mediterranean cuisine reflected in a fun-house mirror, one would expect nothing less. 7458 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 935-2977. Mon.–Sat. 6–10 p.m. Full bar. AE, MC, V. California French. JG IM

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