The Pilgrims, if historians are to be believed, ate lobster only when they had run out of eels. Dali took his lobster for walks. Marie-Therese Louise de Savoie-Carignan, Princess de Lamballe, fainted dead away when she saw her first lobster, not long before a Revolutionary mob paraded her severed head through a Parisian square. We, fortunate us, have the option of ordering lobster for a reasonable price at any number of local restaurants, and we are all the better for it.Arnie Mortons of Chicago. You may have heard about Mortons menu: a wooden cart bearing about 100 pounds of raw animal flesh and sea creatures. We could have sworn that the 5-pound lobster waved at us, but he was probably just trying to escape the malevolent gaze of a veal chop. Arnie Mortons is a Robb Report sort of place catering to people who probably have a little too much money on their hands and not enough time to spend it all. The wine list is stuffed with the kind of mainstream reds that get high scores in the Wine Spectator, and the humidor bursts with Cohibas. Martinis come in glasses as large as seagoing yachts. The 48-ounce porterhouse is the price of a sports car, but it may be the dullest piece of prime beef that ever saw fire and smoke correct in every way, but with none of the dimensions of texture or flavor that make steak a more compelling entrée than, say, sautéed chicken breast. 435 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 246-1501. Dinner only. Dinner: Mon.Sat. 5:30 p.m.10:30 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m.10 p.m. Lounge: 4:4511 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. American. JG $$$ Mariposa. Not to be confused with the bar on the fourth floor of Neiman-Marcus or the tiny crowded café next to the ladies ready-to-wear, Mariposa is an actual sit-down restaurant in the basement, tucked in a cove offHousewares, filled with grand dames and queens of every gender. The showstopper at this pricey cave is the glorious popover, nearly the size of a cabbage, crunchy and buttery on the outside, moist, eggy, even custardy within. Only slightly upstaged, the $24 lobster cobb salad turns in a fine performance, the lobster sweet, tender and heaped on in profusion. 9700 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 550-5900. Closed Sunday. Mon.Sat. 11 a.m.4:30 p.m. Extended lunch menu ends at 3 p.m. AE, MC, V. JG $$ Newport Seafood. Lobster is almost always on special at this tiny Chiu Chow seafood house in the San Gabriel strip-mall that houses Golden Deli: steamed lobster, lobster cooked with garlic and scallions, lobster in supreme stock, fried lobster with spicy salt. (There is also a small selection of Vietnamese specialties, which you dont want, and crab dishes, which you do.) But the lobster you want is the Newport Special Lobster, sautéed with onions and basil and chiles and enough various other things to impart a love buzz that will last all afternoon. 835 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel, (626) 289-5998. Mon.Fri. 11:30 a.m.9:30 p.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m.10 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.9:30 p.m. Cash only. JG $$ Ostioneria Colima. This is a perfect spot to kill a hot Saturday afternoon, slurping fresh oysters and drinking cold cans of Tecate from the supermarket next door. Chase your beer with tostadas de ceviche, thick, fried corn tortillas spread with a chopped salad of marinated raw fish, onion and shredded carrot, sharp with the tang of vinegar, mellow with toasted corn, sweetly fishy in an extremely pleasant way, dusted with fresh cilantro it goes with Tecate the way Roquefort goes with Sauternes. Then try the lobster, overcooked in the authentic tradition of Puerto Nuevo, but still sweet and briny, and served with a little cup of something that resembles what gets squirted on your popcorn at second-run movie houses. Tasty, if you dont think about it too much. 1465 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 482-1452. Open seven days, 11:30 a.m.9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. JG $$ San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant. Steamed live Dungeness crabs served with mallets. Deep-fried carp. Beer sold from an ice-filled bin. And shrimp fajitas fried hard with garlic, peppers and onions, which you eat while you watch big freighters ease their way into the harbor. What more could you want? Berth 78, 1190 Nagoya Way, San Pedro, (310) 832-4251. Mon.Fri. 10 a.m.8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.9:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V JG $$ Rocca. In the late 80s, during the boom time of L.A. restaurants, Don Dickman was the chef de cuisine at Trumps, the groundbreaking West Hollywood restaurant started by chef Michael Roberts. Dickman slipped off to work in Palos Verdes for a few years at the Ocean Trails Golf Club and then moved into corporate chefdom (he opened Daily Grills) before finally opening his dream restaurant, Rocca in Santa Monica, with the look of a neighborhood New York bistro (aioli-yellow walls, dark wood booths) and a decidedly rustic Italian menu. Dickman himself does the lions share of cooking all the stewing and braising but he also has brought in an ace pasta maker, Maria Gomez. Try the millionaires pasta, thin, ribbony tagliatelle thats a joy to chew, tossed with butter, and maybe a drop of cream and white wine, plus lobster chunks and nubs of black truffles. 1432-A Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 395-6765. Open for dinner Sun.Thur. 5:3010 p.m., Fri.Sat. 5:3011 p.m. Beer and wine. Valet parking across the street at Border Grill. Entrées, $11$17. AE, DC, MC, V. Italian. MH The Hungry Cat. The Hungry Cat is the restaurant a lot of us in Los Angeles have been waiting for, a local answer to Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco or New Yorks Pearl Oyster Bar, a place to drop into for a dozen oysters or a bowl of shrimp, a boiled crab or a bowl of chowder. The wine list is tiny, but includes a ton of obscure seafood-friendly wines Picpoul de Pinet, anyone? and everything is available by the glass. The primary object of desire here is the lobster roll, an abstracted rendition of the New England beach-shack standard transformed into a split, crisp, rectangular object about the size of a Twinkie. In Kennebunkport or Cape Porpoise, this roll would be condemned for its size, density and cost: $22. In Cape Porpoise, $22 would buy you a lobster the size of a small pony. But we are in Hollywood, where the next acceptable lobster roll may be 2,800 miles away. 1535 N. Vine St., Hollywood, (323) 462-2155 or www.thehungrycat.com. Open Mon.Sat. 5:30 p.m.mid., Sun. 5:3010 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Small plates $8$22. Seafood. JG $$ Wabi Sabi. In a neighborhood where artists once rented studios for pittances, a sleek new commercial district of antique stores, design offices and high-end restaurants has evolved including Wabi Sabi, a skinny storefront refashioned into a Matsuhisa-derived sushi bar/Pacific Rim dinner house. Drop in for a big bowl of Cal-Asian style bouillabaisse, or linger through a multicourse meal of small plates (including standbys like miso-marinated bass or eggplant). But sushi, here, is the real stunner, which, given the prices, it should be. Dont miss the lobster roll. 1635 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 314-2229. Open Mon.Thurs. 5:3010:30 p.m., Fri.Sat. 5:3011 p.m., Sun. 5:3010 p.m. Full bar. Street parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $12.50-$18. California Japanese/Pacific. JG $$ White Lotus. The White Lotus is yet another Asian-themed scene restaurant like Sushi Roku and Koi that is lavishly designed and outfitted with art, sculpture and architectural detail from the East. Here again, we find bamboo, stone lions, lacquer and liquor. Here again, we have the requisite, profit-generating patio where young immortals can drink and smoke and schmooze to their hearts content and they do. But we cant forget the Thai coconut bouillabaisse its a striking bounty of seafood: big scallops, lots of shrimp, half a whole lobster set at a rakish angle. As the evening deepens and the throng thickens, the noise level rises, the martinis flow, guests drift from their seats, and one has to wonder: What would Buddha do? 1743 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 463-0060. Dinner: Tues.Sat. 6 p.m.12:30 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $14.50$32. AE, D, MC, V. Asian fusion. MH
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