99 Things to Eat in L.A. Before You Die 

Fugu to foie gras, pizza to panuchos

Friday, Feb 26 2010

Page 12 of 17

There are those who would complain that Lawry's uses indifferent meat, that the experience is corporatized, and that the dining room is thronged with visitors from the beef-deprived regions of Europe and Asia. I maintain that they are missing the point. Because with careful lighting, appropriate pomp and the silver cart, that slice of beef becomes the single-most glamorous dish in the world, the beef of kings and queens with creamed spinach on the side. If Los Angeles has taught us anything, it is this: Sometimes we don't want to see the man behind the curtain. Lawry's, 100 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 652-2827.

Campanile’s Grilled Prime Rib

Prime rib, it must be said, is mostly a come-on, a loss-leader at butcher counters, a bland expanse of underflavored flesh anchoring hotel buffets. It can also be a fairly precise description of one of the fattiest, tenderest, most delicious parts of a USDA Prime steer, and that's what you find at Campanile: rubbed with salt, passed over the fire by one of the most skillful grill guys in the galaxy, and served with perfect cannelini beans and a mess of sautéed bitter greens. Forget your bourbon-soaked steak houses: If you want to earn your infarction, this is the place to start. Campanile, 624 S. La Brea Ave., L.A. (323) 938-1447.

Mo-Chica’s Seviche

The dish of seafood marinated in lime juice and vinegar is ubiquitous in Los Angeles, a star of trucks and mariscos stands, fusion sushi bars and sticky seafood restaurants. And then there's the Peruvian seviche at Mo-Chica: cubes of sushi-quality tuna in a thick vinegar emulsion sharp with chile, soft and tart and brutally spicy all at once, served with slivered red onion, a half-ear of giant-kerneled corn and a soft chunk of sweet potato. Since Nobu Matsuhisa blew into town 20-odd years ago, high-quality Peruvian seafood has not been hard to find in Los Angeles, but this is earthier, more sensual, more Peruvian, speaking as much of the mountains as of the sea. Mo-Chica, in Mercado La Paloma, 3655 S. Grand Ave., L.A. (213) 747-2141.

Banh Mi from Mr. Baguette
click to flip through (10) PHOTO BY ANNE FISHBEIN

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The famous sandwich is probably the only good thing to have come out of a century of colonialism in Vietnam: a warm, freshly baked baguette stuffed with pickled vegetables, soft liver pâté, and a deli counter's worth of sliced Vietnamese charcuterie. The sandwich adapts well to standardization. The old-line stores have premade sandwiches stacked like firewood behind the counter in anticipation of the lunch break. The new banh mi superstores have bakeries on-premises, drive-through windows, and advanced video-ordering systems — some of them sell 10,000 sandwiches every day. The Mr. Baguette stores may have all the technology of their competitors, but their sandwiches taste as if they were made by humans. Mr. Baguette makes its own high-quality ham and headcheese and steamed pork loaves, its soft, luscious pâté has a mildly gamy tang — and for a quarter extra, the sandwich comes frosted with toasted sesame seeds. Mr. Baguette, several locations, including 400 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park (626-282-9966) and 8702 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead (626-288-9166).

Animal's Foie Gras & Biscuits and Gravy

The conceit of serving foie gras with a mere fruit compote has become a little dusty as of late: all the hot chefs are serving it with eels or in jars, glazed with Coca-Cola or encased in cotton candy. The sweet taste of cruelty may be no longer enough. Animal — which already serves the liver as part of its crazed version of the Big Island drive-in classic Hawaiian concoction, loco moco — a beef patty with white rice, gravy and eggs — steps up the battle by putting its seared foie gras on top of truckstop–standard biscuits with maple-sweetened sausage gravy, and the aesthetic of fat-on-fat-on-fat is successful in ways I can't begin to understand. Animal, 435 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A. (323) 782-9225.

Chichen Itza's Panuchos

Like Los Angeles, Mérida is a sprawling multicultural city, temperate in climate, geographically cut off from the rest of Mexico, whose trade ties to foreign capitals are in some ways stronger than the ones to its own. Its cooking has always resonated here — not least the panuchos: split, bean-stuffed tortillas, panfried crisp, which juxtapose the round meatiness of well-done roast pork against the slight creaminess of pureed black beans, are drizzled with citrus, and are garnished with tart, pickled onions dyed scarlet with beets. Like many cross-cultural phenomena, panuchos are best sluiced with the hottest habanero salsa you can bear. Chichen Itza, in Mercado La Paloma, 3655 S. Grand Ave., L.A. (213) 741-1075.

Krua Thai's Pad Thai

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