The following are excerpts from reviews by Jonathan Gold that have appeared in L.A. Weekly and have been recently added to our online dining guide. To read about Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants for 2007 (and the Google map of the 99) or more than 400 other restaurants — searchable by neighborhood and type of cuisine — check out our online dining guide.
Orochon Ramen A Japanese noodle shop in the pleasantly decaying Weller Court restaurant mall attached to the New Otani hotel downtown, Orochon Ramen is perhaps the most calculated spicy-food shrine in the Los Angeles area. The important dish at the restaurant, and the one ordered by nine out of 10 visitors, is the ramen, available in broth flavored with soy, miso or salt, garnished with whatever you decide to pay a buck or so extra for, and served in any of nine levels of spiciness, starting with Non-Spicy and Osae, then through Impact, Hyper and Extreme, and up to the hottest, Special 2: an elemental, dusty-red concoction bearing the disclaimer "Eat at Your Own Risk." If you manage to consume an entire bowl of Special 2 within 30 minutes — weird vegetables, sliced hot chiles and all — Orochon will snap a picture and post it on both its Wall of Bravery and its Web site, your small feat of conspicuous consumption chiseled into Google cache for eternity. 123 S. Onizuka St., No. 303 (Weller Court), Little Tokyo, (213) 617-1766 or www.orochonramen.com. Open daily 11:30 a.m.-10:15 p.m. Beer and sake. MC, V (minimum $20). Japanese.
Pitfire Pizza Company From the nearby municipal parking lot, Pitfire smells like a barbecue pit, a Girl Scout campsite, a hamburger stand — anything but what it is, which is a franchise-ready pizzeria. But the pies, given a slow, two-day rise and fired on the floor of a ceramic oven, are superb examples of the breed, puffy in the Neapolitan manner and tinged with smoke, fresh mozzarella browned at its top like a toasted marshmallow, fennel sausage and roast pumpkin and other high-quality ingredients blackened and sizzling and crisp. You have had better pizza than this — Casa Bianca comes to mind — and the guy who came up with the recipes probably didn't apprentice in Naples. I have heard that the crust was racier in the beginning, when it was grilled in the manner of Rhode Island's Il Forno instead of baked. Still, this is the kind of neighborhood pizzeria we should all have in our neighborhoods, a testament to the goodness of flame. 108 W. Second St., dwntwn., (213) 808-1200. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. noon-10 p.m. Beer, wine and sangria. Street parking and paid lot. AE, MC, V. Also at 5211 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd., (818) 980-2949, and 2018 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 481-9860. Pizzeria.
Riordan's Steakhouse Former Mayor Richard Riordan may be famous for his custodianship of the Original Pantry, the gritty 24-hour chophouse that has been feeding Los Angeles since the Depression, but you are more likely to run into His Honor at a place like Valentino or Michael's, where the wine lists are longer than paperback thrillers and the amuse-gueules more likely to involve caviar and créme fraîche than hunks of sourdough and plops of coleslaw. Riordan's Tavern, the newest of the many, many steak houses to open near Staples Center, this time in the space formerly occupied by the Pantry bakery, would seem to be an attempt to split the difference between the two styles of restaurant — it's a sports bar that just happens to serve $43 rib chops, a genuinely old dining room tricked out to look like the old-timey backroom at Applebee's, a place to sluice down crab cakes and flabby shrimp cocktails with Tanqueray martinis. Are the steaks worth the 300 percent premium over the similar steaks next door at the Pantry? It depends on how much you want to watch the Dodgers on a big flat-screen TV. 875 S. Figueroa St., dwntwn., (213) 627-6879. Open daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Steak house.
Takami The first thing you should know about Takami, a Japanese-ish restaurant on top of the 811 Wilshire building downtown, is that it offers a splendid view of the rooftop pool at the Standard, which means, if you are so inclined, that you can spy on attractive people in extremely small bathing suits while you enjoy sashimi tacos, indifferent robata-seared meats and $125 bottles of Ken sake. The second thing you should know is that Takami is the kind of place where almost everything is garnished with piped rosettes of "caviar" mashed potatoes, a process which dyes the spuds Barbie-box pink with fish roe but has little discernible impact on the flavor, and gives diners the fetching idea that they may be supping on cupcakes instead of the deep-fried California rolls Takami calls Pop Art Crab or the vaguely alarming Tropical Avocado Bowl, which involves mango, diced sashimi and onion tucked into a hollowed-out avocado half. The sensei behind Takami, who comes from the Katsu-ya empire, may be a grandmaster of classic Edo-mae sushi, and the raw materials seem fresh enough, but you would be hard-put to figure that out in this restaurant perched among the stars. 811 Wilshire Blvd., dwntwn., (213) 236-9600. Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Sun.-Thurs. 5-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-mid. Also, happy-hour menu 4:30-6:30 p.m. with food items half off, and nightclub hours at Elevate Lounge, Wed.-Sat. 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Major CC. Japanese.