Downtown L.A.

Ciudad. The design of Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s downtown restaurant is bold — those yellow chairs, those retro drinking glasses, those seed-encrusted, vertical-standing crackers! The menu is a Pan-American pastiche, complete with Old World footnotes. Days see lunching office workers; at night, it’s conventioneers and an arty Silver Lake/Echo Park crowd. 445 S. Figueroa St., downtown, (213) 486-5171. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Dinner Sun.–Tues. 5–8:45 p.m., Wed.–Thurs. 5–9:45 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $17–$28. Pan-Latino. MH $$ Daikokuya. The hub of the ramen cult is Daikokuya, a center of steam, noise and garlic at the heart of Little Tokyo’s noodle-shop district. Most ramen shops offer an endless list of possibilities; at Daikokuya, the choice is taken out of the equation — you will have the house style of ramen, thin, curly noodles in pork broth, or you will have no ramen at all. But the pork broth is a formidable liquid, opaque and calcium-intensive, almost as rich as milk. 327 E. First St., downtown, (213) 626-1680. Lunch, Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner, Mon.–Sat., 5 p.m.–mid. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Food for two, $13–$25. Japanese. JG ¢ Kani Mura. Kani Mura comes off as a little obsessive, a restaurant devoted to all things crab, from steamed crab to crab cakes, soft-shell crabs to crabs sautéed in the kind of Continental garlic-butter sauce you may never have experienced outside the context of a red-leather booth. It is pleasant to be confronted with the condition known as Too Much Crab, to pry cylinders of snowy meat from their expertly incised shells with long, narrow spoons, to season them with the tart ponzu sauce, to experience the calm of shellfish-fueled satori. 456 E. Second St., Little Tokyo, (213) 617-1008. Open Mon.–Sat. 5:30–10:30 p.m. AE, MC, V. Beer and wine. Lot parking $2.50. Dinner for two, food only, $35–$50. JG $$ Nick & Stef’s. Joachim Splichal’s downtown steak house pushes the genre’s envelope. The décor is sedate enough — banquettes wear banker’s gray — but annexed to the dining room is a climate-controlled glass case filled with slabs of darkening, crusting, dry-aging beef — a library of meat. 330 S. Hope St. (Wells Fargo Center), downtown, (213) 680-0330. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5:30–9:30 p.m., Fri. 5:30–10:30 p.m., Sat. 5–10:30 p.m., Sun. 4:30–8:30 p.m. Full bar. Parking in Wells Fargo Center. Entrées $19–$37. American steak house. MH $$ Pete’s Café and Bar. Pete’s has completely classic bar-’n’-grill good looks. There’s also a hint of contemporary clubbiness. The food is a functional, midpriced take on New American cooking: mac and cheese, a gilded burger (fontina, tomato aioli), steaks, bread pudding. Highlights include the martini glass heaped with shrimp, yellow and orange baby heirloom tomatoes, and green guacamole, all doused in citrus salsa. And when available, a fresh tomato soup that seems to sing, optimistically, of summer. 400 S. Main St., downtown, (213) 617-1000. Lunch and dinner Sun.–Wed. 11:30 a.m.–mid., Thurs.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m., breakfast Sat.–Sun. from 11:30 a.m. Entrées $10–$24. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. American. MH. $$ Water Grill. This big, big-city, downtown restaurant, a vast dining-hall-bar-lounge with fat faux pillars and seaside murals, has a slick, corporate gloss — which clearly appeals to the corporate suits who fill the booths. Desserts are erratic. Impersonal professional servers get the job done. Lunch is far less impressive and almost as expensive as dinner. Still, slurping down a dozen shucked Kumamotos at the bar may be as close to New York’s Grand Central Station Oyster Bar as any Angeleno can hope to get. 544 S. Grand Ave., downtown, (213) 891-0900. Mon.–Tues. 11:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Wed.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Sat. 5–9:30 p.m., Sun. 4:30–8:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. $25–$50. American. MH $$$ Zucca. Named for the humble pumpkin, and brought to us by Joachim Splichal (of Patina and the proliferating Pinots), Zucca is the Helen of Los Angeles restaurants — it has the face to launch a thousand SUVs. The dining room has the shape and majesty of a basilica, the sophistication of downtown New York, and antiques plundered from all over Europe. The staff is smooth and impeccable. The menu is “Italian country,” with an obvious motif: roasted pumpkin pizza, pumpkin-filled tortelloni, pumpkin gelato. The food tends to richness and portions to hugeness. 801 S. Figueroa St., downtown, (213) 614-7800. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5–9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5–10 p.m. Sun. 5–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. $13.50–$26. Italian. MH $$

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