Liquid Love

Attari Sandwich Shop. On Fridays at Attari, ab-goosht, also called dizi, is the closest thing there is in the restaurant world to an automatic order, an intricate stew of lamb and vegetables and grain cooked for many hours and then mashed into a thick, homogeneous paste with the texture of refried beans, and an expressed liquid, the soul of the dish, that is served separately as soup. 1388 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 441-5488. Open Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Lunch for two, food only, $9–$18. No alcohol. Street parking only. Cash only. JG $

Empress Pavilion. We can’t think of a better way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday than meeting friends here for dim sum. A favorite is a boiled “water dog,” a bird’s-nest-soup dumpling the size of a small bowl; break into it with your spoon, and you’ll find a broth so concentrated it tastes as if 10 chickens have been boiled down to get one cupful of soup. Bamboo Plaza, 988 N. Hill St., Chinatown, (213) 617-9898. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Validated parking. AE, DC, MC, V. $1.85–$4.80 per plate, $12–$15 per person. Chinese. JG $$

Malo. Okay, right off the bat: Malo is not malo. It’s a decent, stylish Mexican restaurant that inhabits the former Cobalt Cantina in Silver Lake, and the menu is a taut, well-devised little list of small, shareable items by executive chef Robert Luna. The food has the hearty heft and flavor of good, home-cooked Mexican food. Soups tend to be meals unto themselves. 4326 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 664-1011. Dinner Fri.–Sat. 6 p.m.–mid., Sun.–Mon. 6–10 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 6–11 p.m. Full bar open until 2 a.m. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées, à la carte, $7–$14. Mexican. MH $$

Marouch. If you wanted to imagine you were in Beirut, you could stop by this place a few times a day, easy — midmornings for a piece of baklava and a thimbleful of Turkish coffee, lunch for a kebab and a bottle of Lebanese beer, late afternoons for a bowl of dense lentil soup. Year after year, Marouch becomes nothing but better. 4905 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 662-9325. Open Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Lunch entrées $8.50–$11.50, dinner entrées $10–$16. Middle Eastern/Lebanese/Armenian. JG $

Mon Land Hot Pot City. Mon Land is yet another of the Northern-style hot-pot restaurants that have been proliferating in the San Gabriel Valley — waterfalls and paintings of yurts; bifurcated stainless-steel kettles of both mild and spicy broth bubbling in the center of circular tables; big extended families up late, rinsing bits of meat in soup, drinking cold beer, wolfing down lamb dumplings and crisp onion pancakes and pan-fried dumplings stuffed with leeks. You are brought a hot pot and a sheet listing everything you might want to put into it. You check off the ingredients you would like, and a minute or so later the broths are bubbling in the middle of the table, you are bathed in spicy steam, and platters appear piled high with delicate curls of lamb, beef or squid, armadas of shrimp balls and slabs of chunked bean curd, slender shrimp dumplings, profusions of herbs, transparent rice noodles, mushrooms of every description and fresh Chinese greens. Swishing the meat through the broth, fishing out bits of tofu or boiled mushrooms, gulping cold Tsingtao, gossiping — there may be no more pleasant way to pass an evening. 251 W. Bencamp St. (accessed from Abbot Street), San Gabriel, (626) 289-4889. Open daily 11 a.m.–mid. Beer and wine. Lot parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $18-$25. Also at 18902 E. Gale Ave., Rowland Heights. JG $

Morels First Floor Bistro. Morels, the Grove’s French-themed restaurant, is brought to you by the Market City Caffe folks. Cleverly set-dressed with the requisite wall of paintings, zinc bar, dark wood, wrought-iron work and sidewalk seating, it’s a good-natured cartoon of Frenchness. The food is Americanized, with the more palatable and charming French elements magnified and the earthier, ruder aspects of French cuisine downplayed or eliminated. Try the Mediterranean fish soup. Morels’ version, sublimely pasteurized, smooth and silken as baby food, very mild — what Campbell’s would make of fish soup — has nevertheless captured an essence of the soup without exposing us to its fishiness. 189 The Grove Drive, Suite H10, Los Angeles, (323) 965-9595. Sun. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–mid. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $7.95-$16.75. Franco-American. MH $$

Pattaya. This modest Thai restaurant, in a mini-mall on Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz, has a number of things going for it. First, it has a parking lot, a true boon in this bustling, ever-hippifying neighborhood. Second, it opens daily at 11 a.m. for lunch, and stays open nightly until 4 a.m., which means that you can get an excellent curative hot pot of chicken soup before you call it quits on a long evening out. Finally, it has a kitchen full of good Thai cooks, so that whenever you come, you have a solid chance of getting something delicious to eat. 1727 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 666-0880. Open seven days 11 a.m.–4 a.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $10 & up. Thai. MH $

Pete’s Café & Bar. Pete’s has completely classic bar-’n’-grill good looks. There’s also a hint of contemporary clubbiness. The food is a functional, mid-priced 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 Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–mid., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m., Sat. 11 a.m.- 2 a.m. Sun. 11 a.m. - mid. Entrées $10–$24. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. American. MH $$

Pho Café. Though the pho is better at other well-known Vietnamese restaurants, Pho Café is far more stylish, and the food is fresh enough, the ingredients good quality. The menu is pared down and easily mastered. Try the banh xeo appetizer, a crunchy, chewy crepe with shrimp, beef, mushrooms and bean sprouts in a turmeric-yellow flour batter and wrapped with lettuce and herbs in just-moistened rice paper. And remember the soup here the next time you have a cold; it’s bound to be curative. 2841 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 413-0888. Lunch and dinner. Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.- 2 a.m. Sun. 11 a.m.-mid. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. Entrées $5.95–$6.75. Cash only. Vietnamese. MH $

Pho 79. The beef soup at Pho 79 is light, tasty and just exotic enough, inexpensive and filled with vitamins And in an area — Chinatown — thick with Vietnamese noodle shops, Pho 79 serves the best noodles. Of course, the place does have a few drawbacks: On weekend mornings, you may have to wait for as long as five minutes. Plus, it hasn’t changed its one Vietnamese easy-listening tape since it opened a few years ago, and if you go every week, you get to know the songs pretty well — maybe too well. 727 N. Broadway, Suite 120, Chinatown, (213) 625-7026. Open seven days 8:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $7–$10. Beer and wine. Validated parking. Cash only. JG $$

Stevie’s on the Strip. On Fridays, if you arrive before they run out, Stevie’s has an extremely good gumbo, dark and rich, salty and blisteringly pepper-hot, with shreds of smoked chicken, plump shrimp, a couple different kinds of sausage, and crab legs cut so that you can get at the meat without spattering your shirt with the viscous black goo. The flavor is equally earthy and marine, heightened by the murky herbal complexity that only filé can lend, full of garlic from the sausage, smoke from the chicken. In contrast to the vast majority of gumbos (including most of the best ones in New Orleans), in which the shellfish is cooked to tough strings, here the seafood comes nicely poached in the broth. 3403 Crenshaw Blvd., (323) 734-6975. Open seven days 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Lunch for two, food only, $7; dinner for two, food only, $18-$20. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. JG $


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