Page 9 of 29
Like a devotee of a Melanesian cargo cult, scanning the horizon for magical warplanes with payloads of rifles and Spam, I sometimes look through the Asian Wall Street Journal for signs of minor unrest in Hong Kong — nothing big, just enough to persuade a few chefs to move out to Monterey Park. L.A. has no shortage of Chinese restaurants, but we may be a little short of superbly trained Cantonese banquet chefs at the moment, the ones whose way with conpoy and sun-dried abalone can leave you weak in the knees. Until that day, we have Elite, a semi-experimental Hong Kong-style restaurant that serves such oddities as suckling pig with foie gras, prawns with fried oatmeal flakes, and papaya salad with goose webs. The roast squab has skin as delicately crunchy as the Beijing duck at the specialist Duck House across the street; the Shunde-style soup of seafood with minced ham and bits of bitter melon is tautly balanced. And the morning dim sum breakfasts, ordered from menus instead of carts, are worth the inevitable 45-minute wait. 700 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park. (626) 282-9998, elitechineserestaurant.com. Dim sum Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner nightly 5-10 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Location map here.
Euro Pane Bakery
Sumi Chang's Euro Pane Bakery is the center of civilized life in Pasadena. It's a place to buy excellent-to-superb scones and baguettes and pains au chocolat, of course, but also the heart of a certain sort of society: the Caltech professors, theology students and writers who worship at the twin altars of caffeine and conversation, a place where you are likely to bump into a revered judge, an expert on toxoplasmosis or the star of the play you saw last night. The cinammon rolls are gooey yet crisp-edged; the croissants magnificent; the natural-starter sourdough is divine. Toss in the homemade granola, the epochal bread pudding, the puff pastry tarts with pears and frangipane, and the gooiest egg-salad sandwich in town, and it's no wonder that Euro Pane's regulars treat the bakery more as a permanent residence than as a café. A second Euro Pane down the street sells pretty much the same things, only made with whole-wheat flour instead of white. Think of it as an alternate universe made of bran. 950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 577-1828. Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sun. till 3 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. MC, V for orders over $10 only. Also at 345 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 844-8804. Location map here.
Occupying what until recently housed Hatfield's, Eva is the creation of Mark Gold (no relation), a veteran of Joachim Splichal's haute-cuisine armies of the night: an intimate bistro friendly to kids and regulars, neither too loud nor too brightly lit, with a gently priced wine list and a market-driven seasonal menu at popular prices. Nobody is going to tell you, unless you ask, that the meats had been cooked under vacuum for many hours to relax the proteins, that somebody schlepped to the farmers market at 7 a.m. to pick out the baby carrots, or that the intricately carved fingerlings come from Weiser, the local god of potatoes, but if you've spent much time in better Los Angeles restaurants, you just know: Gold pays attention to the details. If the idea of linguine with clams reinterpreted as stretchy Japanese soba noodles tossed with sliced garlic, littlenecks and a generous handful of chunky bacon sounds good — and it should — you're probably in the right place. Sundays see epic family dinners, multicourse feasts that may include a Caesar salad, a plate of chicken piccata, a few ears of roasted corn, braised short ribs and a selection of doughnuts, imported from Bob's Donuts around the corner, for dessert. 7458 Beverly Blvd., L.A. (323) 634-0700, evarestaurant.com. Lunch, Tues.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner, Tues.-Thurs., 5:30-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 5:30-11 p.m.; Sunday family dinner 3-9:30 p.m. AE, D, MC, V. Full bar. Valet parking. Location map here.
When Sang Yoon, a former Michael's chef, took over the Santa Monica beer bar Father's Office a decade ago, people (including me, I admit) were horrified by his formula of small plates, extreme beers, fights for tables that resembled rugby scrums, a refusal to admit children, and a flat insistence that the food be served without emendations or alterations, even if you would rather eat fried yak kidney than a burger frosted with blue cheese. I joked about strapping a bottle of Heinz ketchup to my thigh. But that cheeseburger ended up being the most imitated dish in Los Angeles: dry-aged beef on a French roll, dressed with onion jam, Gruyère and Maytag blue cheeses, smoky bacon, arugula and a tomato compote. And the most interesting restaurants opening this year have at least a bit of Father's Office in their DNA; F.O. was nothing if not the original L.A. gastropub, right down to the tapas. At both the Montana original and the larger bar in the Helms complex, dining is very much a full-contact sport. 1018 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 393-BEER, fathersoffice.com. Food served Mon.-Wed. 5-10 p.m., Thurs. 5-11 p.m., Fri. 4-11 p.m., Sat. 3-11 p.m., Sun. 3-10 p.m. 21 and over only. Beer and wine. Takeout. Difficult street parking. AE, M, V. Also at 3229 Helms Ave., Culver City. (310) 815-9820. Kitchen open Mon.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat., noon-mid.; Sunday, noon-10 p.m. Amex, MC, V. Full bar. Lot parking. Patio. Nobody under 21 admitted. Location maps here: Santa Monica and Culver City.