An Asian café conveniently located in the middle of Culver Citys new gallery district, Beacon marks the triumphant return to form of Kazuto Matsusaka, who was chef for almost a decade at Wolfgang Pucks Chinois in the 80s. Youd probably never find anything like Matsusakas salad of perfectly ripe avocado dressed with toasted sesame seeds and minced scallions in Tokyo, but the salad follows classical principles, and it is luscious. The hanger steak with wasabi is so successful, the searing tang of the horseradish doing something wonderful to the tart, carbonized flavor of grilled meat, that you might wonder why nobody thought of the combination until now.3280 Helms Ave., Culver City, (310) 838-7500. Lunch Mon.Sat. 11:30 a.m.2 p.m., dinner Tues.Wed. & Sun. 5:308:30 p.m., Thurs.Sat. 5:309:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Lunch for two, food only, $18$35. Dinner for two $30$60. Asian Fusion.
Daikokuya. Sooner or later, all ramen lovers end up at Daikokuya, a loud, steamy noodle shop around the corner from the MOCA annex and just down the hill from REDCAT and the Music Center. Most ramen shops offer an endless list of possibilities; at Daikokuya, the choice is taken out of the equation you will have the thin, curly noodles in pork broth, or you will have them stamina-style, in even stronger pork broth, a formidable liquid, opaque and calcium-intensive, almost as rich as milk. Floating with the noodles are plump slabs of simmered pork, slices of seasoned bamboo shoots and a dusky, soy-simmered egg. When youre in the mood, you can improve on the kitchens excesses by spooning in minced garlic from a tabletop jar. 327 E. First St., downtown, (213) 626-1680. Lunch Mon.Sat. 11 a.m.2:30 p.m., dinner Mon.Sat. 510 p.m., Sun. noon8 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Food for two $13$25. Japanese. JG ¢
Cobras & Matadors. Steven Arroyo is the Bill Graham of tapas in Los Angeles, the impresario who made the concept of Spanish drinks n snacks as popular as sushi platters after dozens of others had tried and failed. And his dark, buzzy tapas parlors, essential stops after openings in Hollywood or Silver Lake, are teeming dens of olive oil and garlic, octopus and cured pig, grilled meats, and pungent concoctions of seafood and paprika and beans rushed to the table still crackling in unglazed crocks. The Los Feliz restaurant has a nicely curated list of Spanish and South American wines; at the L.A. restaurant, you buy your wines from the wine store conveniently located next door. 7615 W. Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 932-6178. 4655 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz, (323) 669-3922. Dinner Sun.Thurs. 611 p.m., Fri.Sat. 6 p.m.mid. BYOB. Valet parking. MC, V. Tapas $3$15. Spanish. JG $
Hals Bar & Grill. Since the primordial days of the Los Angeles art scene, there has always been an artists hangout in Venice, a place where veterans of exotic Kassel and Frankfurt could indulge newfound fondnesses for rare wines and old Calvados, a place where art stars had the clout of the kind that springs out of Hollywood. For a lot of that time, that place has been Hals, a bastion of decent cheeseburgers and blue-chip paintings, caesar salads and canteloupe martinis, bread pudding and pretty women at the bar. Hals may have been more comfortable before they replaced the loungelike sofas in the front with a zillion bar tables, but its still a good place to listen to live jazz on Fridays and Sundays, hang out with a diverse crowd, and sip a mean Bloody Mary or three. 1349 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 396-3105. Lunch and dinner Mon. & Fri. 11 a.m.11 p.m., Tues.Wed. & Thurs. 11 a.m.10:30 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.10:30 p.m. Full bar open daily until 2 a.m. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. American. JG $$
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Hoan Kiem. After gallery openings on nearby Chung King Road, a certain percentage of the art crowd drifts down to this one-dish restaurant, a specialist in pho ga, Vietnamese chicken-noodle soup. When you order, or rather nod, the massive bowl of soup is on your table in about 15 seconds, yellow and chickeny, seasoned with nothing more elaborate than a sprig or two of cilantro and a handful of chopped scallions, with soft rice noodles cooked about a hundred steps past al dente into near gelatinousness, soup that makes the meager offerings of Juniors or Nate n Als seem like so many bouillon cubes dissolved in tepid tap water. 727 N. Broadway, Chinatown, (213) 617-3650. Open for lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol. Validated lot parking. Cash only. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $10. Vietnamese. JG ¢
Petes Café and Bar. Right on the route of the monthly Downtown Art Walks and open practically until the crack of dawn, Petes has completely classic bar-n-grill good looks. Theres also a hint of contemporary clubbiness. The food is a functional, midprice take on New American cooking: mac and cheese, a gilded burger (fontina, tomato aioli), steaks, bread pudding. Highlights include the martini glass heaped with shrimp, yellow and orange baby heirloom tomatoes, and green guacamole, all doused in citrus salsa. And, when available, a fresh tomato soup that seems to sing, optimistically, of summer. 400 S. Main St., downtown, (213) 617-1000. Lunch and dinner Sun.Wed. 11:30 a.m.mid., Thurs.Sat. 11:30 a.m.2 a.m.; breakfast Sat.Sun. from 11:30 a.m. Full bar. Lot parking. Entrées $10$24. AE, D, DC, MC, V. American. MH $
Suehiro. One of the oldest late-night dives in Little Tokyo and still one of the best, Suehiro is a splendid place to drop in after an opening for a teriyaki combination, a bowl of tofu with grated ginger, a plate of Japanese curry rice or an order of yakisoba, fried noodles that are always a little greasy, a little intense, and wholly satisfying, especially if you dose them with a lot of the dried-seaweed condiment. Shelves by the entrance are well-stocked with sauce-spotted copies of Japanese-language manga comics, and expats cant stay away from the mackerel, the donburi or the oily, magnificent salt-grilled whole sanma pike. 337 E. First St., Little Tokyo, (213) 626-9132. Open seven days 11 a.m.1 a.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Japanese. JG $
TV Café. If you were the kind of artist who mounts big shows at Ace or Gagosian, merits retrospectives at MOCA, or knows the meaning of the term catalogue raisonné, you may well sip old Bordeaux among the Grahams and Diebenkorns at Michaels. If you are the other kind of artist, you probably already know the mammoth vegetarian burritos, serviceable hamburgers and bowls of cocido at this 24-hour entrepôt in the industrial district south of downtown. Are you dissuaded by the noisy Pac Man machine and the often-questionable clientele? Welcome to L.A. 1777 E. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 624-1155. Open 24 hours, seven days. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Mexican. JG ¢