Dinner and Drinks Downtown
Ciudad. Cuchifritos at happy hour. Fatally strong mojitos. Peruvian-style ceviches and Bolivian-style tamales, Caribbean paella and a classic pescado Veracruzana, Bahia-style moqueqas and a fritanga that would knock them silly in Managua. Ciudad, the Pan-Latin downtown outpost of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, may be all things to all people, but especially to all people whose pleasures include bending an elbow every now and then. 445 S. Figueroa St., downtown, (213) 486-5171. Mon.–Tues. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Wed.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat., 5–11 p.m., Sun. 5–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $17–$28. Pan-Latino. JG $$ Kokekokko. The ritual at Little Tokyo’s Kokekokko is to order one of the set menus, either five or 10 courses of grilled chicken flesh and innards: loosely packed chicken meatballs, faintly scented with herbs; grilled skin, threaded onto the skewer in accordion pleats; marinated slivers of thigh, separated from each other by slices of onion. Grilled hearts, served with a smear of hot Chinese mustard, are a little tough, but intensely chicken-flavored. 203 S. Central Ave., downtown, (213) 687-0690. Dinner Mon.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m. Beer, wine and sake. Street parking. D, DC, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $30–$50. Japanese. JG $$ 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. The à la carte menu features 12 kinds of potatoes, 12 sauces and at least as many other side dishes. The outside patio — a sunny clearing in a forest of skyscrapers — may be the best urban dining spot in town. 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 $$ Noe. In a bland, ultrahotel setting like Noe’s, you might expect the food to be as blandly generic as the nondescript art on the walls. But Robert Gadsby nurtures this sense of dislocation, playing with the inside of your skull in ways that Gerhard Richter or Thomas Pynchon might recognize. Noe is a strange place for a talent to flower, but in this rocky soil, perhaps Gadsby’s food has found its home. 251 S. Olive St. (inside the Omni Hotel), downtown, (213) 356-4100. Restaurant: Sun.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m. Lounge: Sun.–Thurs. 3:30 p.m.–mid. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $18–$32. Progressive American with Japanese aesthetics. JG $$ Ostioneria Colima. This is a perfect spot to slurp fresh oysters and drink 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. 1465 W. Third St., (213) 482-4152. Open seven days, 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Lunch for two, food only, $6–$20. Lot parking. No alcohol. Cash only. Mexican. JG ¢ Patina. Patina’s dining room in Disney Hall is arguably the most important restaurant space in California, and when Joachim Splichal concentrates, as he has so many times before, he can be among the best chefs in the United States. The restaurant is known for the offhand complexity of its presentations, and a bowl of soup I tasted there may have been among the oddest of all: The raw flesh of a Santa Barbara spot prawn shared space at the bottom of a bowl with fresh coconut, threads of slivered lemongrass and tart, juicy flecks of chopped citrus. It was frosted with flakes of dried bonito — a stunning composition. 141 S. Grand Ave. downtown, (213) 972-3331. Dinner daily 5 p.m.–11 p.m., Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. French contemporary. JG $$$ Pete’s Café and Bar. Pete’s has completely classic bar-’n’-grill good looks. There’s also a hint of contemporary clubbiness. The food is a functional, midpriced take on New American cooking: mac and cheese, a gilded burger (fontina, tomato aioli), steaks, bread pudding. Highlights include the martini glass heaped with shrimp, yellow and orange baby heirloom tomatoes, and green guacamole, all doused in citrus salsa. And when available, a fresh tomato soup that seems to sing, optimistically, of summer. 400 S. Main St., downtown, (213) 617-1000. Lunch and dinner Sun.–Wed. 11:30 a.m.–mid., Thurs.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m., breakfast Sat.–Sun. from 11:30 a.m. Entrées $10–$24. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. American. MH. $$ Water Grill. The Water Grill is a big-city fish restaurant, a redoubt of oysters and fresh scallops, sparkling fish and sea creatures we can’t even pronounce, in one of the busiest commercial corridors of downtown. It was widely assumed that the restaurant would wither into irrelevancy when former chef Michael Cimarusti left to open his own place last year (the brand-new Providence), but it is possible that the kitchen is even sharper under David LeFevre, who has added a certain global-Gallic sensibility to the seafood cuisine — which includes a beautiful peeky toe crab salad and perhaps the only local tuna tartare we would dream of ordering a second time. Extremely expensive and quite formal by Los Angeles standards, but you knew that. 544 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 891-0900. Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Sat. 5–9 p.m., Sun. 4:30–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $25–$50. Progressive American. JG $$$ Zucca. Named for the humble pumpkin, and brought to us by Joachim Splichal (of Patina and the proliferating Pinots), Zucca is the Helen of Los Angeles restaurants — it has the face to launch a thousand SUVs. The dining room has the shape and majesty of a basilica, the sophistication of downtown New York, and antiques plundered from all over Europe. The menu is “Italian country,” with an obvious motif: roasted pumpkin pizza, cream of pumpkin soup, pumpkin gelato. House wine is poured to the top of big, heavy here’s-to-you-buddy goblets (for proper stemware, order a bottle). Try the fritto misto with surprise chunks of preserved lemon gnochetti. 801 S. Figueroa St., downtown, (213) 614-7800. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5–9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5–10 p.m. Sun. 5–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. $13.50–$26. Italian. MH $$
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