Beacon: An Asian Cafe. Beacon marks the triumphant return to form of Kazuto Matsusaka, who was chef for almost a decade at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois in the ’80s. His current versions of miso-marinated cod, vegetable nabemono and grilled shisito peppers are all fine. Grilled-chicken skewers are powerfully flavored with the herb shiso and the tiny Japanese plum called ume. You’d probably never find anything like Matsusaka’s salad of perfectly ripe avocado dressed with toasted sesame seeds and minced scallions in Tokyo, but the salad follows classical principles, and it is luscious. Where one of Matsusaka’s signatures at Chinois was a take on the traditional Chinese dish of minced squab spooned into a sort of lettuce-leaf taco, the version at Beacon involves kushikatsu-style fried oysters and a rémoulade fragrant with yuzu peel. There are allusions to at least three cultures in that oyster dish, but it comes across as its own thing, food that is unmistakably Matsusaka. 3280 Helms Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 838-7500. Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.; dinner Tues.–Wed. and Sun. 5:30–8:30 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 5:30–9:30 p.m. Lunch for two, food only, $18–$35; dinner for two $30–$60. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Asian Fusion. JG $ 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 York’s 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 crab cake, more crab than cake, is tasty if modestly portioned, made from what the establishment claims is a 100-year-old Baltimore recipe. 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 Cape Porpoise, the $22 it costs 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, www.thehungrycat.com. Mon.–Fri. 5:30 p.m.–mid., Sat. 3 p.m.–mid., Sun. 5:30–11 p.m. Small plates $8–$22. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Seafood. JG $$ Kobawoo. One of the first great Koreatown cafés, Kobawoo has mellowed into an institution, a polished, respectable destination restaurant with some of the best food in the neighborhood at prices almost unbelievably low. Kobawoo has a decent chicken soup with ginseng. And it is a great place to try the Korean standard called bossam, a sort of combo plate of raw oysters, sliced pork belly and ultraspicy house-made kimchi. The funky communal pot of bean-paste chigae, or stew, which follows the entrée at a lot of restaurants, is spicy and delicious. But it’s still the home-style pindaeduk, mung-bean pancakes, that keep drawing the crowds back to Kobawoo — the pancakes are ethereal beneath their thin veneer of crunch, melting away almost instantly in the mouth like a sort of intriguingly flavored polenta. 698 S. Vermont Ave., Koreatown, (213) 389-7300. Mon.–Sun. 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Korean. JG $ Matsuhisa. Twenty years ago, without anybody quite noticing, Nobu Matsuhisa snuck some dishes onto the menu of his neighborhood sushi bar that were influenced by his time in Lima. Innovation in sushi is nothing new in Los Angeles — the ubiquitous California roll was invented in Little Tokyo — but Matsuhisa’s takes on Peruvian ceviche and the lightly marinated tiradito, along with his own ideas about seafood salad and “new-style” sashimi drizzled with warmed olive oil, took hold. Within a few years, Matsuhisa re-defined the modern restaurant kitchen as a place with a sushi chef instead of a hot line at its core, built an empire of restaurants and extended his influence all the way back to Japan. Sparkling Kumamoto oysters with Mexican salsa? Who are we to say no? 129 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 659-9639. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:45 a.m.–2:15 p.m. Dinner nightly 5:45–10:15 p.m. Entrées $15–$50. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Japanese. JG $$$ 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. 1465 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (213) 482-4152. Open seven days 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Lunch for two, food only, $6–$20. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Mexican. JG ¢ Ruen Pair Thai. The Hollywood standard-bearer of Thai-Chinese cooking, and the best place in town to eat fried-egg salad after midnight. You can always order the conventional pad Thai and cashew chicken, but more interesting choices include the glistening-black preserved-egg salad and pork fried with Chinese olives. At 2 a.m., everybody is eating more or less the same thing: flat, crisp Thai oyster omelets and morning-glory stems sautéed with an immoderate amount of garlic. 5257 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-0153. 11 a.m.–4 a.m. daily. Entrées $4.95–$7.95. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Thai. JG ¢ Stevie’s on the Strip. Sure, there’s the gumbo, the best in town. But Stevie’s is also known for what the restaurant straightforwardly calls Smoky Fried Chicken, crisp, peppery stuff that is run through a smoker before it is battered and fried. And when you are in the mood, there may be nothing like a New Orleans–style fried-oyster po’ boy, dressed simply with lettuce and pickles, ready to be lubricated with as much hot sauce as you can stand. 3403 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 734-6975. Lunch and dinner daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Lunch for two, food only, $7; dinner for two, food only, $18–$20. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Creole. JG $ Water Grill. The Water Grill is a big-city fish restaurant, a redoubt of oysters and fresh scallops, 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 Providence last year, 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. Entrées $25–$50. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Progressive American. JG $$$
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