Edited by Lovell Estell III
Written by: Siran Babayan, Greg Brouwer, Nicole Campos, Bryce Coleman, Sara Dunn, Kristin Fiore, Aaron Fontana, John Horton, Millay Hyatt, Chuck Mindenhall IV, Rita Neyter, Matthew Pevic, Deborah Picker, Lou Rutigliano, Lauren Shaftel, Jennifer Smith.
THE GREEK BISTRO
17337 Ventura Blvd., Encino
With its mirrored walls, artwork and fine dishes, this place is a favorite of those who love their food Greek. Try saganaki ($6.95), pan-fried cheese set ablaze right there at the table, and then lay into heavenly lamb tenderloin ($21.75), marinated and charbroiled to perfection. The Greek Bistro Feast, featuring 16 delicious items served in four separate courses ($21.95 per person) is just the thing for a party. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering; valet parking. AE, CB, Disc., MC, DC, V.
GREENS AT THE BEACH
247 Avenida del Norte, Redondo Beach
Owner Maurice Beaudet cares about your health. No preservatives, no sugar, no meat products taint the fare at his all-organic restaurant, so stop in after a Friday night out and dig into a healthy weekend breakfast of hotcakes, omelets, biscuits and eggs. Or how about a healthy, hefty plate of Mexican food? Nothing priced higher than $9.95. Lunch and dinner seven days, breakfast weekends. Beer and wine; takeout; parking. MC, V.
8385 Beverly Blvd., L.A.
Owner-chef Hiroji Obayashi studied culinary arts in Japan and has brought his expertise to this cozy Westside restaurant, where he's been at the helm for over 10 years. House specialties include tofu steak in a mixed-mushroom sauce ($6.50), steamed rock cod with Chinese sauce ($10.75) and sautéed sea bass (daily quote). If you want a real treat for dessert, try the homemade pumpkin pudding. Lunch and dinner Mon.Sat. No alcohol; takeout; valet parking. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
HOLLYWOOD ATHLETIC CLUB
6525 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
Originally an exclusive men's club built by Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. De Mille, this venerable establishment has great food, music seven nights a week, pool tables and five bars. Drop by for dinner (free cover with meal, excluding national acts) and treat yourself to the California bouil-labaisse with clams, mussels, calamari and shrimp ($22) or grilled chicken-breast sandwich, served with shoestring fries ($9). Lunch Mon.Fri., 11:30 a.m.2:30 p.m., dinner Tues.Sun., 711 p.m., late dinner Thurs.Sat., 11 p.m.2 a.m. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations accepted. AE, DC, MC, V.
HOUSE OF BLUES
8430 Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood
With five bars on the restaurant level, live music nightly and a dazzling collection of Southern folk art, House of Blues is a party palace extraordinaire. Its signature dish is a spicy creole jambalaya, made with rice, shellfish, spicy sausage and ham and spiked with potent habanero peppers ($10.95 lunch, $13.95 dinner). From the backyard smokehouse come Southern-style ribs ($12.95 lunch, $14.95 dinner) and smoked half-chicken with Barq's root beer gravy ($14.95, dinner only). Lunch Mon.Sat., dinner seven nights, gospel brunch Sun. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V.
1065 E. Green St.,
At Hugo Molina, a fusion of Caribbean and Latin cuisine is served elegantly and with style, but not without substance. Begin with stuffed poblano chile with huitlacoche sauce ($9.50) to get you going, but save room for elegant entrées like grilled halibut with a delicate shrimp risotto ($21.95) or Chinese crispy duck with blood-orange date sauce ($23.95). Come here to be intimate with your date, not the diners at the next table. Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner seven nights. Dinner for two, food only: $60$65. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; valet parking for dinner; reservations suggested. AE, DC, MC, V.
INDOCHINE LOS ANGELES
8225 Beverly Blvd., L.A.
An intimate little bird of paradise, Indochine serves French-Vietnamese cuisine, characterized by full, steamy flavors. A recommended dinner selection is the ca noung, grilled brook trout stuffed with Asian basil ($14) or the banh cuon, steamed ravioli with shiitake mushrooms and chicken ($8). Dinner seven nights. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.
9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
Fine dining, dancing, live music: at the Key Club, it's all the flash L.A. has to offer in one high-class venue. Surrounding a mega-tech stage are three levels of seating where you can dine on elegant dishes like grilled double-cut pork chop with sweet potato purée and green-chile mole sauce ($17) or ahi tuna, seared Japanese-style ($20). Dinner Wed.-Sun. Full bar; valet parking; reservations recommended. AE, MC,V.
523 Washington St., Marina del Rey
403 N. Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach
4000 Colfax Ave., Studio City
Killer Shrimp is here and ready to turn you into a deliriously happy crustacean junkie. This ain't Red Lobster; it's jumbo Louisiana shrimp the way they were meant to be enjoyed, soaked in a bath of spicy sauce so tasty you'll love sopping it up with your French bread ($11.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; parking. AE, MC, V.
260 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
This stylish Japanese restaurants has it all, from classic favorites like the teriyaki and tempura combo ($12.80), served with salad, miso, rice and fruit, to the ornate Tekkadonna meal, featuring slices of fresh tuna in a lacquered bowl of sticky white rice, garnished with sea urchin, crab, salmon eggs or mentaiko (spicy cold eggs) and served with Japanese pickled vegetables and miso ($14). Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; takeout; parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
738 Rose Ave., Venice
Outside you can enjoy an eye-catching fountain and garden, inside you can watch tortillas being made before your very eyes. Anywhere you sit here, it's like you're on vacation. The fish tacos are a popular staple ($7.75), as are the chile rellenos ($2.95), perfect for munching on while cooling off with one of the -- count 'em -- 18 margarita varieties. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days; brunch Sun.; full bar; takeout; catering; parking; reservations suggested for large parties. MC, V.
LOCANDA DEL LAGO
231 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica
After watching the sun set over the Pacific, stroll a few blocks to this romantic nook for a bite. Locanda's Third Street Promenade site, classy ambiance and café-style patio are perfect for a night out with that special someone. Select a wine from an award-winning list, and enjoy elegant dishes like penne alla grappa ($10.50) or Pizza Principessa ($11.95), then share a flourless chocolate cake and cognac. Who knows where it will lead? Lunch and dinner seven days, brunch weekends. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, MC, V.
7311 Beverly Blvd., L.A.
"It's a serious art gallery that serves exotic eclectic cuisine," says Bret Crain, co-owner of this New World restaurant and art gallery, featuring live music Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights. Downstairs you can feast on a variety of tantalizing dishes like salmon torte, layered with new potatoes, zucchini and basil ($14), but do pick a wine first -- they've got lots of 'em. The upstairs features Eastern European paintings, metallic collages, crazy industrial toys and the works of Moon Zappa. Dinner Mon.Sat. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; valet parking. AE, MC, V.
342 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
10645 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.
264 26th St., Santa Monica
1430 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach
232 N. Larchmont Blvd., L.A.
1008 Montana Ave., Santa Monica
7505 Melrose Ave., L.A.
130 N. Maryland Ave., Glendale
4500 Los Feliz Blvd., L.A.
11645 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood
12050 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
28 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
23630 Valencia Blvd., Valencia
Italy may have gondola rides, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Coliseum, but Southern California has Louise's Trattoria. Enjoy fine Italian-California cuisine featuring chef's specials, seafood, steak and your favorite pizza or pasta. Freshly baked foccacia complements every meal. Don't forget the homemade tiramisù. Prices range from $5.95 $13.95. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; parking. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
10351 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City
Provençal cuisine, a mix of southern ä French and northern Italian traditions, is known for its pungent flavors, and nobody prepares it with more elegance than Lunaria. For lunch or dinner we recommend the braised Chilean sea bass with potato fennel purée, tomato, green onion, black olives, capers and basil ($13.60 lunch, $22.50 dinner). Do linger and enjoy the dazzling display of antique watercolors. Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner Tues. Sat. Full bar; catering; parking; reservations recommended. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
10032 Venice Blvd., Culver City
Bongo beats and simmering salsa rhythms accompany the tropical tastes of the Mambo Café. Enjoy a chilled citrus punch ($2.75) and an appetizer of crab cakes with mango sauce ($6.75) to the sounds of shaking maracas. Dance on to a main course of hot and spicy Jamaican jerk chicken ($8.75), and finish off by swinging your hips and lips over to a delectable dessert such as the guava in light cream ($3.75). Lunch and dinner seven days. BYOB; takeout; catering; parking. AE, Disc., MC, V.
MAMA D's ITALIAN KITCHEN
1125A Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach
No problem finding this place: Look for the line of people outside waiting to get in. Mama's two boys, the brothers D, will serve you Mama's special ravioli ($7.95), with pasta so tender it melts in your mouth, or a Neapolitan medium-crust pizza dripping with fine Italian mozzarella. The menu's huge and the servers call you by name and treat you like royalty. Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; parking. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
8393 Beverly Blvd., L.A.
Offering not just your average pad Thai or ramen, Menjin specializes in preparing noodle dishes from all over the Far East -- and they're nutritious, delicious and fast! Warm up on shumai dumplings ($4.50) with pork, shrimp and green salad. Then try your hand at the mie goreng ($4.95), Indonesian-style noodles with chicken and shrimp, or the Hong Kong crispy noodles ($7.50) with shrimp, squid, scallop and napa cabbage. Lunch Mon.Sat. Takeout; parking. AE, Disc., MC, V.
1147 Third St., Santa Monica
Renowned for its award-winning wine list and elegant dishes, Michael's is the legendary birthplace of California cuisine. Try the Dutch Valley veal loin with garlic potato purée, sautéed spinach and porcini mushroom jus ($28.50), then treat yourself to a tantalizing Madagascar vanilla bean crème brûlée with fresh berries ($8.50). With three private rooms, this is the place for that special occasion. Lunch Tues.Fri., dinner Tues.Sat. Full bar; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, MC, V.
2000 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A.
Shabu shabu translates as "swish swish," the sound made when a diner sloshes chopsticks in a boiling pot of water filled with thin pieces of beef, chicken or veggies. Sesame and soy sauces and a heaping bowl of steamed rice accompany the main course. The lunch menu offers a choice of beef or chicken shabu shabu ($9.95) or vegetarian shabu shabu ($7.99). This hot concoction is perfect eats for these nippy days. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and sake; parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, MC, V.
NATALEE THAI CUISINE
10036 Venice Blvd., Culver City
998 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills
Need a break from that grueling business meeting or nonstop shopping spree? Relax and recharge over a tangy beef satay ($5.50), or fill up on one of Natalee's shrimp, chicken and pork dishes, richly seasoned with generous additions of chile and fresh mint leaves. Keep a bottle of Singha beer close by for a quick quench. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; free delivery; parking; reservations accepted. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
1621 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
The North Indian Mughlai cuisine served here is rich in exotic flavors and spices. Try a papad roll ($6) for starters, then order the chicken vindaloo ($12), a searing curry cooked with potatoes and vinegar, or karahi gosht ($13), lamb stir-fried with tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. A lunch buffet is available daily ($9 during the week, $12 for weekend champagne brunch). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; valet parking; reservations accepted. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V.
97.1-FM TALK RESTAURANT CONNECTION
(800) 774-FOOD (3663)
Eating in is sounding tastier than ever these days as Southern California's first-ever 1-800 food line brings new meaning to the term "fast food." Restaurant Connection offers you direct connections so you can make reservations, order from restaurants that offer takeout or delivery, arrange for catering and/or look up restaurants offering entertainment. You can also receive a menu or entertainment calendar by fax. By simply pressing the right buttons from your home or office, you can choose from a database of over 500 restaurants. If you have an appetite for convenience, call when your stomach growls. Seven days, 24 hours.
PANE E VINO
8265 Beverly Blvd., L.A.
Whoever named this elegant northern Italian trattoria ("bread and wine") didn't do it justice. Sharing a basket of bread and a merlot in the romantic garden patio is enticing, but the title omits the most impressive offerings: chef Claudio Marcheson's tortino risotto cakes with porcini mushrooms ($9.95) and the tortelli stuffed with lobster ($12.95). Lunch and dinner Mon.Sat., dinner Sun. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, MC, V.
625 Montana Ave., Santa Monica
281 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
According to Pizza Today magazine, Patty's is among the elite of pizza makers in the U.S., famous for its original gourmet, unbaked pizza. Sample the Asian delight, brimming with chicken in hoisin sauce, green onions, red bell pepper, carrots, bean sprouts and sesame seeds, and you'll never think of pizza in the same way. The health-conscious should try the Nature's Feast pizza (topped with fresh garden vegetables), which will delight the pickiest of vegetarians. Prices on pizzas range from $4.95$14.95. Call ahead to ensure promptness. Lunch and dinner seven days. No alcohol; takeout; validated parking (Beverly Drive). MC, V.
QUALITY FOOD AND BEVERAGE
8030 W. Third St., L.A.
Just when you've axed all the bad foods from your diet and replaced them with mounds of flavorless grains and sprouts, here comes American homestyle cooking that's hearty, tasty and -- get this -- healthy. Breakfast is served all day at Quality, which means you can cure those midafternoon munchies with challah French toast and fruit ($5.95), or get the house specialty, eggs Benedict ($8.50). Private parties welcome. Breakfast and lunch seven days. BYOB; takeout; catering. AE, MC, V.
REAL FOOD DAILY
514 Santa Monica Blvd.,
414 N. La Cienega Blvd.,
This all-organic restaurant is a favorite of the health-conscious, but there's lots here for the middle-of-the-roaders. Try the walnut pâté with tofu sour cream and sesame crackers ($6.25) and then move on to the Salisbury seitan steak with Southern-style gravy, mashed potatoes and caesar salad ($10.25). House specials, which include sweet and sour tempeh, spinach lasagna and tamale pie, are big among the regulars. Open seven days. Organic beer and wine (West Hollywood); takeout; delivery catering; parking. AE, MC, V.
8782 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
Located in the heart of the Sunset Strip, Red Rock is a place with, well, attitude. On any given night, it's packed with habitués feasting on selections from the late-night menu. But more likely, they'll be bending elbows around the two well-appointed bars. For those more accustomed to tame, daytime activities, brunch is served every weekend from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch and dinner, seven days. Full bar; takeout; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
ROCKY COLA CAFÉ
1025 Pacific Coast Hwy., Hermosa Beach
With its vibe of '50s nostalgia and good ä eats, this joint covers all the bases. Work up an appetite and chow down on the buffalo burger ($6.65), or chicken-fried steak ($6.95), guaranteed to loosen that belt a few notches. The flip side is the fitness menu, with 100-plus items to choose from. The table-top jukeboxes and 3 a.m. closing time (Fri. Sat.) make it friendly for the club set. Open seven days. Takeout; parking. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
7070 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Fantastic Peruvian cuisine from an eclectic club that features hip-hop, gothic and rave music. Have lomo saltado (beef, fries, onion, tomatoes and rice, $5.75) for lunch on a deck with a view of Hollywood Boulevard. For dinner, try a seafood or chicken meal before dancing the night away (free club admission with dinner). Lunch and dinner until 10 p.m., Wed.Sun. Full bar; takeout; parking. AE, MC, V.
RUSTY'S SURF RANCH
256 Santa Monica Pier
Ride the tide in and gaze at the waves from your booth, admire the pros on TV and savor mondo grub. Rusty's dishes up surfy, turfy standbys like grilled ahi tuna with Hawaiian salsa ($12.95) and a mega New York steak ($13.95) blasted by a wild mushroom sauce. There's live music every night, and when you finally notice the XXL-vintage surfboard collection overhead you might just hear yourself say, "Whoa . . . cowabunga." Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner nightly, weekend brunch. Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering; reservations accepted. AE, MC, V.
8684 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood
The sushi, tempura and teriyaki at the singular Sakura will definitely float your boat. Choose from over 50 varieties of sushi ($2.60$4.20) as they drift by in miniboats on an indoor river. See a plate you like? Just reach in and pick it up as it glides by your table. The plate color indicates the price. Sound too fishy? Go for some beef or chicken teriyaki ($6.75), veggie tempura ($6.95 lunch) or kitsune udon (deep-fried noodles with tofu, $5.95). Lunch Mon.Sat., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; valet parking. AE, Disc., MC, V.
68 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach
Just a stone's throw from the pier is where the Spanish Mediterranean meets the Baja peninsula. The heated outdoor patio is an ideal place to chat with friends, while sipping the house sangria and savoring the camarón picante (blackened shrimp in orange-tequila sauce, $7.50). For a main course, try the carne cabrales (broiled New York steak in a merlot mushroom sauce, $14), or one of three daily seafood specials. On Tuesday nights there's a live flamenco show. Dinner Tues.Sun.; lunch weekends. Full bar; takeout; catering; parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
SCHATZI ON MAIN
3110 Main St., Santa Monica
Arnold Schwarznegger's elegant restaurant dishes up contemporary international cuisine along with lots of Mr. A's Austrian favorites. Some of executive chef Helmut Elmann's creations include prawns scampi Bristol ($19.95), orange chicken filet ($15.95) and the original Wiener schnitzel ($20.95), which is not a hot dog but two breaded veal slices lightly fried, along with mashed or fried potatoes, garnished with lingonberry compote. Come to "Cigar Night" the first Monday of every month, which is usually attended by celebrities and emceed by the Terminator himself. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering, parking. AE, MC, V.
17th STREET CAFÉ
1610 Montana Ave., Santa Monica
This establishment has quite a reputation with the locals, and if you dine here you'll know why. Owner Jack Srebnik offers delicious entrées like balsamic-grilled salmon with mashed potatoes, smothered in corn, spinach, shiitake mushrooms and tomato ($16.75) or blue-cheese-and-toasted-walnut salad with balsamic vinaigrette ($9.75, $5.50 for a half order). Don't leave without trying the chocolate-chip-cookie pie or apple walnut cobbler, courtesy of Srebnik's wife, Jane. Banquet room available. Breakfast, lunch and dinner weekdays; brunch and dinner weekends. Beer and wine; delivery; takeout; catering; parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
11680 Olympic Blvd., West L.A.
When you're in the mood for great Japanese cuisine at a good price, take out your favorite chopsticks and stop here. Not to be missed are the nabe (one pot) dishes, such as chanko, famous as a meal for sumo wrestlers, or ishikari, filled with delicious shrimp and salmon (both $16.95). It's also the only restaurant in L.A. that serves miso nikomi (noodles in a clay pot) with prime beef, chicken, vegetables, or shrimp tempura. Open for lunch and dinner Tues.Sun. Beer and wine; takeout; reservations accepted; parking. MC, V.
SOFI GREEK RESTAURANT
8030þ W. Third St., L.A.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will take you to a Greek island -- without the aid of plane or boat. Make your way through a narrow passageway, where your contact will hand you a serving of Sofi's dolmades -- grape leaves stuffed with rice and ground beef in egg-lemon sauce (lunch $7.95, dinner $9.50). Should you miss her -- or him -- rendezvous for dinner on the patio under a starry sky and order moussaka ($7.95, $15.50) or the house special, rack of lamb ($22). Lunch Mon.Sat., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; delivery; valet parking; AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach
Based upon the coastal bistros of the Mediterranean, Soleil beams culinary culture with an ever-changing menu of seasonal fish and fine country wines. It's rural Europe in beachy Manhattan: hearty fresh fish, chicken and chorizo paella ($15), sautéed foie gras with braised endive ($15), and steamed mussels in white wine with garlic and herbs ($8). Lunch and dinner Tues.Sun., brunch Sat. Sun. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
8491 W. Third St., L.A.
13455 Maxella St., Marina del Rey
11911 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood
If eating out was like going to an amusement park, then Souplantation would be Disneyland. For one price per person (lunch from $6.19 and dinner from $7.79), it's an all-you-care-to-eat outing for the whole family. Won ton chicken and caesar headline a hearty salad bar that also offers 60 original ingredients to create a healthy feast. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; parking. MC, V.
STAR OF INDIA
7212 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood
Travel to India without leaving L.A. at this beautiful eatery, where you can dine on traditional moguli with rice and soup ($8.95) amidst art and music. Also offered are a variety of tandoori, curry, seafood and vegetarian dishes. Everyone loves the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet during the week ($5.95) as well as the lavish champagne brunch on Sundays ($7.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; delivery; takeout; catering; valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
12013 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.
This restaurant has been around for over 15 years, treating its patrons to such un-sushi-house practices as a reggae soundtrack in the background. Be sure to try the crispy, flavorful tempura ($10) or the sizzlingly sweet chicken teriyaki ($8.50). A variety of different rolls are available too, including avocado, eel and cucumber (six for $12). Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; parking. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
SUSHI OF NAPLES
735 E. Green St., Pasadena
Don't let the name fool you. They don't top the inari sushi (bean-curd wrapper stuffed with rice, $2.50) with marinara sauce or mix Italian sauces with the sashimi, tempura or teriyaki dishes. Bring four friends for a sushi extravaganza where less than $100 buys you California rolls, spicy tuna rolls, shrimp, salmon, halibut and much more, or splurge on any of the various party trays ($50$100, must be ordered in advance). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer, wine and sake; takeout; catering; parking; weekend reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.
8545 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood
This little coffeehouse is a great place to ä relax and enjoy healthy food. Sit amidst magnolia trees on the outdoor patio or enjoy the European-style salon while you nibble on an egg-and-cheese croissant ($4). Heartier appetites will find the homemade breakfast burrito a great way to start the day. Also on the menu are a good selection of fresh salads, soups and sandwiches. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. No alcohol; takeout; parking. AE, MC, V.
1345 Second St., Santa Monica
Is eating out supposed to be this much fun? Enjoy music and a dazzling laser show while savoring albacore tataki, lightly seared with sesame-flavored tataki sauce ($9.50). As a main course, try a spider roll, deep-fried soft-shell crab, rice and assorted vegetables ($12.50), or the seafood tempura with shrimp, sea eel, scallops and squid in a crisp batter ($16). Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, Disc., DC, MC, V.
13352 Washington Blvd., L.A.
(888) T-TAMALE or
Tamara's isn't just a restaurant, but an institution where the delicate art of cooking tamales has been perfected. The menu lists over 33 varieties of tamales, so making the choice isn't easy. Very popular is the Greek tamale stuffed with goat cheese, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and roasted pine nuts ($3). Breakfast, lunch and dinner Tues.Sat.; lunch and dinner Sun. Beer and wine; takeout, catering; parking. AE, MC, V.
8165 Santa Monica Blvd.,
For seven years, Tandoori Nights has satisfied the curry cravings of its loyal WeHo patrons. House favorites include tender chicken tikka masala, mouth-wateringly replete with almonds, coconut and ginger ($9.95), and lamb with fresh spinach, enhanced with a generous medley of spices ($9.95). All entrées can be spiced to order -- mild, medium or fire-breathing hot. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, MC, V.
7513 Sunset Blvd., L.A.
Don't let the name fool you. This little gem also dishes up fantastic Thai cuisine. With daily lunch specials that include pad Thai chicken and pad woon-sen ($3.95) and devastating curries such as pa-nang ($4.75), the end result is always satisfaction. The pla rad prik -- deep-fried pompono fish topped with spicy curry sauce ($8.95) -- is a culinary masterpiece. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; delivery; parking. MC, V.
6290 Sunset Blvd., L.A.
You get a spectacular view of Los Angeles when you dine at 360°. The menu features hearty American classics like delectable filet mignon ($26) and free-range fried chicken ($16). For the health-conscious, there is the vegetable Napoleon that offers various grilled vegetables inside of a puff pastry topped with marinara sauce. Dinner seven days. Two full bars; catering; valet parking; reservations essential. AE, MC, V.
TOI ON SUNSET
7505Þ Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
TOI ON WILSHIRE
1120 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
Where else can you recline on leopard-print cushions surrounded by psychedelic-rock posters and enjoy Thai curry at 3 a.m.? Toi must have raided Elvis' living room and Angelyne's boudoir for its eye-catching décor. Dishes like Thai spaghetti (spicy egg noodles loaded with chicken and shrimp) or eggplant pumpkin tofu (both $7.95) are tasty favorites. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer, wine, champagne and sake; takeout; delivery; lot parking at Wilshire location; reservations suggested. AE, Disc., MC, V.
101 W. Green St., Pasadena
Though about 20 miles from the sand, Twin Palms is the ultimate in California coast cuisine. On its rustic patio, you can dine under the stars and the ancient palms that gave the place its name five years ago. Pop in after a Rose Bowl game or a stop at the Norton Simon Museum for filet mignon ($28.95) or roasted double chicken breast ($12.50). Lunch Mon.Sat., dinner seven nights, brunch Sun. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
1414 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica
You'll be hard pressed to find a better pierogi than those dished out at this Polish eatery. Several varieties of the ravioli-like dumpling are served here, stuffed with everything from wild mushrooms and cabbage to potato purée and caramelized onions ($12-$13). There's also roast duckling with apples ($14). Seafood lovers try the rainbow trout simmered with leeks and tomatoes, infused with rosemary and dill ($14). Dinner Tues.Sun. Full bar; takeout; catering; parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V.
2820 Main St., Santa Monica
With its indoor/outdoor jungle patio complete with a gushing fountain, World Café is a haven for frayed nerves amidst the bustle of Santa Monica's trendy Main Street. A dazzling interior and six Internet kiosks for customer use (free access 6 11 p.m. every night), provide welcome diversion. For lunch or dinner, you can't beat the wood-fired pizzas ($9$12), or the wildly popular spicy bow-tie chicken pasta ($9). There's a happening bar and outdoor lounge, perfect for relaxing and sharing a drink with friends. Lunch and dinner Tues.Fri., brunch and dinner on weekends. Full bar; takeout; reservations suggested. AE, Disc., MC, V.
69 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
Can't decide between French, Latin, Cuban or Asian? With Xiomara's cross-cultural menu, you can try them all. Where else do ginger codfish pot stickers with sweet pepper-mango sauce ($6) or smoked duck with tea leaves and tamarind sauce on green plantain mash ($18) taste so good? Don't fret about getting mango on your suit -- casual attire is fine. Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner seven nights. Full bar; catering; valet parking. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V.
521 N. La Cienega Blvd., W. Hollywood
What a treat! Dine on traditional Japanese food in a traditional setting with an open kitchen, heated outdoor patio and enclosed bamboo garden. Try one of many soba (fresh buckwheat noodles naturally low in calories) meals including the ten zaru ($12), made with shrimp and vegetable tempura. Take your choice of wine, beer or sake to complement your meal. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer, wine and sake; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V.
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1333 Third St., Santa Monica
Having a hard time deciding between Thai, Chinese or sushi? No problem -- right in the heart of Santa Monica's bustling Third Street Promenade you can savor all three. Make a post-mall pit stop and try the chow fun, a noodle dish featuring your choice of meat and veggies smothered in a velvety brown sauce ($8) or kung pao chicken ($8). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
1410 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica
Attention, sports fans! Ditch your homemade nachos and 13-inch Sony and head for this Third Street hangout, where appetizers like buffalo shrimp ($8.25), piping-hot pizzas ($7.95$8.95), pastas, sandwiches and crisp salads ($5.25, $7.95) all vie to be the MVP -- most valuable plate. Enjoy a frosty beer or hard cider while you watch the game in style. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; reservations not required. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
809 N. Palm Ave., West Hollywood
Everything about this cozy restaurant brings to mind images of a romantic evening in Little Italy. A handful of candlelit tables. String music in the air. People gorging on any one of the many varieties of homemade ravioli -- chicken, veal, spinach, ricotta (each $7.95) or a dish of jumbo shrimp bathed in clam sauce ($12.95), with fresh garlic rolls on the side. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering. AE, Disc., MC, V.