Gingergrass. Gingergrass, a sleek Vietnamese bistro in Silver Lake, is the polar opposite of a place like Golden Deli, citified where the San Gabriel noodle shop is rustic, timid where the food at the other roars with flavor. There is pho, but it’s not really the point here. And the spicy fish steamed in banana leaves, the shrimp in fishy Vietnamese caramel sauce, and the lemongrass chicken tend to be sluiced down with basil-spiked limeade instead of, say, salty lemonade or tepid tea. But the chef, Mako Antonishek, tends to cook in a way not unfriendly to wine (the restaurant has a symbiotic relationship with Silverlake Wine Merchants across the street), and her multicourse Mako Monday blowout dinners are legendary in the neighborhood. 2396 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 644-1600. Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10:30 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. $6–$18. Vietnamese. JG $b[
Golden Deli. Golden Deli’s spring rolls are crusty golden things, 4 inches long and as thick as a fat man’s thumb, five to an order, crudely rolled in a manner suggesting rustic abundance rather than clumsiness, and perfectly, profoundly crisp. You wrap them with leaves of romaine lettuce into bursting green “tacos,” along with fistfuls of mint, cilantro and basil, also a few shreds of marinated carrot and turnip, a slice of cucumber, a squirt of hot chile paste. Golden Deli has a long and complicated menu of delicious and ultra-specialized noodle combinations, but it is difficult to contemplate a meal without an order of these spring rolls. 815 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel, (818) 308-0803. Mon.–Tues. & Thurs. 9:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri. 9:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Closed August. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Entrées $4.95–$6.95. Vietnamese/Thai. JG ¢b[
Juliano’s Raw. At Raw there is no cooking — at least no cooking with heat. There is slicing, chopping, grinding, mashing, juicing, soaking, dehydrating, rehydrating, fermenting, sprouting, extruding, wrapping and saucing. The dining room features a poster of the chef, Juliano, an impossibly long-waisted, shirtless, surfer-tanned human spectacle. I have sampled raw-food preparations and was anticipating a different realm of textures and food combinations. What I did not expect, and was thrilled by, was Juliano’s level of flavor. By the end of each meal, however, I found myself wearied by the excessive remaking of everything. Juliano, with all his talent, may be trying too hard. A few islands of simplicity might have gone a long way to relieve the unabashed fussiness of his non-cooking. 609 Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 587-1552. Lunch and dinner daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $9.95–$12.95. No alcohol. Street parking.California. MH $b[
Lemon Moon. A glamorous restaurant in a sleekly modern media office complex on the Westside, Lemon Moon is a stab at the ultimate office-building cafeteria. It has streamlined service, relatively healthful food, plenty of takeout options, and a simplified menu wide enough to cater to every imaginable diet, ethnic whim or religious persuasion. Try the crisp flatbread topped with herbed cheese or thin-sliced potatoes. The cheeseburgers, made with profoundly aged prime beef, are among the best in L.A. 12200 W. Olympic Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 442-9191. Breakfast and lunch Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Food for two: $11–$24. Contemporary American. JG $b
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Mandaloun. It is hard not to be a little awestruck by the Lebanese restaurant Mandaloun. Because while the local Middle Eastern restaurant scene is no stranger to grandeur, there has never been anything like this place, a gilded gastrodome of massive kebabs, pita made to order and outdoor terraces devoted to the smoking of apple-flavored tobacco. And it’s all tucked away on the second floor of a complex that from the outside looks better suited to a parking structure. 141 S. Maryland Ave., Glendale, (818) 507-1900. Lunch & dinner Tues.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m., Sun. noon–9 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Street parking; valet and lot parking on weekends. All major credit cards. Entrées $12.95–$22. Lebanese. JG $b[
M Café de Chaya. So we hope you will humor us when we admit that we really like the macrobiotic food at M Café de Chaya — a bright, cheerful diner in a Melrose mini-mall that probably feeds more actresses per square inch than anywhere this side of a craft-services truck — partly because almost anything tastes great when it is made with vegetables bought at a decent growers market, but also because the kitchen lets flavor come first. Roasted tomato soup is flavored with red miso not just because the colors are similar, but because the umami-rich tang of the miso works as well with the tomato as Parmesan cheese might. As grisly as a macrobiotic club sandwich may sound, the triple-decker itself is pretty good — blackened strips of tempeh “bacon,” as crunchy and salty as well-done rashers of the real thing; lettuce and tomato, rather tart; and the sweetish goosh of soy mayonnaise is exactly right. M Café de Chaya, 7119 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 525-0588. www.mcafedechaya.com. Open daily, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. AE, MC, V. Beer and wine. Limited lot parking. Takeout and delivery. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $18–$25. JG $b
Orean the Health Express. Anchoringa strip of drive-through restaurants more extensive than even the fabled business district of Baker, Orean is a bastion of veganism in the midst of rainforest despoilers, battling the corporate fast-food hordes with its vast agglomerations of textured vegetable protein, sprouted clover and soy cheese that concede nothing to a double chili-cheeseburger in sheer, trashy, sloppy bulk — the so-called African burrito is as big as a tahini-dripping Sunday Times. And if you don’t want to be seen eating anything so vulgar as a vegan pastrami dip in public, you can wash it down with a ginseng slush or a no-dairy root beer float without leaving the safety and comfort of your Hummer. 817 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena, (626) 794-0861. Open seven days, 9:30 a.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. $7–$9. Vegan. JG ¢b[
Sanuki No Sato. Udon noodles come in all the standard flavors: topped with crisp buttons of tempura batter in a plain soy-enriched broth, or with chewy bits of rice cake, or with exquisitely slimy Japanese mountain yams. Yukinabe udon — served in a rustic-looking iron kettle and buried beneath half an inch of grated daikon, a sprinkling of grated wasabi and a ferociously spiced cod-egg sac — is refreshing in spite of its bulk. 18206 S. Western Ave., Gardena, (310) 324-9184. Open seven days, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. & 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $13–$36. Japanese. JG $ b[