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Where to Eat Now 

Tuesday, May 13 2008
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Downtown L.A./Chinatown/Westlake

Ciudad Glistening oysters at happy hour. Fatally strong mojitos. Peruvian-style ceviches and Bolivian-style tamales, Caribbean paella and a classic pescado Veracruzana, Bahia-style moqueqas and a fritanga that would knock them silly in Managua. Ciudad, the Pan-Latin downtown outpost of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, may be all things to all people, but especially to all people whose pleasures include bending an elbow every now and then. Daytime is for office workers; at night, two-thirds of the customers are dressed in black. 445 S. Figueroa St., dwntwn., (213) 486-5171. Mon.–Tues. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Wed.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 5–11 p.m., Sun. 5–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Pan-Latino. JG

Kagaya Shabu shabu joints have proliferated like rabbits in the last couple of years. And to tell the truth, the shabu shabu ritual is pretty basic: a slice of prime meat swished through bubbling broth for a second or two, just until the pink becomes frosted with white. But if you’ve done it right — and if the quality of the ingredients is as high as it is at Little Tokyo’s superb (and expensive) Kagaya — the texture is extraordinary, almost liquid, and the concentrated, sourish flavor of really good beef becomes vivid. 418 E. Second St., dwntwn., (213) 617-1016. Mon.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Wine, beer, sake. Lot parking. DC, MC, V. $38 fixed price. Japanese. JG

Location Info

Langer’s It’s true: the hours are terrible, and somebody may well try to sell you a forged green card on your way back to the car. But the best pastrami sandwiches in America are still, as they have been for 60 years, slapped together at Langer’s, a short subway ride away from practically anywhere in Los Angeles, kitty-corner from MacArthur Park. The superb rye bread, double baked, has a hard, crunchy crust. The meat — dense, hand sliced, nowhere near lean — has the firm, chewy consistency of Parma prosciutto, a gentle flavor of garlic, and a clean edge of smokiness that can remind you of the kinship between pastrami and Texas barbecue. 704 S. Alvarado St., L.A., (213) 483-8050. Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Beer and wine. Curbside service (call ahead). Validated lot parking (on corner of Westlake Ave. and Seventh St.). MC, V. Jewish Deli. JG

Paseo Chapin Paseo Chapin’s pepian is a forceful version of this Mayan stew: ground, spiced squash seeds, fortified with burnt bread and toasted chiles and thinned out with broth, overwhelming the boiled chicken that floats in it, but also giving the rather ordinary bird substance. And once in your life, you should try a real Guatemalan mole de platano, tart slices of fried plantain in a thick, dangerous sauce of the bitterest chocolate, flavored with cinnamon and dusted with seeds, intricate as a Guatemalan weaving. 2220 W. Seventh St., L.A., (213) 385-7420. Open daily 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $12–$19. Beer and wine. Validated lot parking. Cash only. Guatemalan. JG

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.IL

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax

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. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Rustic regional Italian. JG

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