Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants - Part 2
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.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–mid., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Small plates $8–$22. Seafood. The Ivy A certain breed of well-groomed Angelenos like to look at East Coast media people looking at Angelenos, which is why they flock to the Ivy, a pretty, sun-bleached patio restaurant that looks the way Los Angeles is supposed to if your experience of the town comes from the movies. The food — crab cakes, corn chowder, New Orleans–style barbecued shrimp — is acceptable though expensive, down-home food at uptown prices. But the Ivy may thrive because it caters to the sort of whims legion in this part of town. If South Beach and Atkins were national cuisines, the Ivy would be an ethnic restaurant. 113 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 274-8303. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.; brunch Sun. 10:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $25–$39. American. Jar Any place in town can serve you a grilled T-bone, but Suzanne Tracht’s snazzy steak house is strictly postmodernsville, man, chefly riffs on the strip steak and the porterhouse, the hash brown and the French fry that may or may not incorporate every last pea tendril and star-anise infusion in the Asian-fusion playbook, if that happens to be your desire. Some people we know have never even tried the steak here — the braised pork belly, the glorious pot roast and the various and sundry wonders of Nancy Silverton’s Mozzarella Monday are just too compelling. But the steak is about as good as it gets. The décor is straight off the set of a Cary Grant movie. And there’s banana cream pie for dessert. 8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 655-6566. Dinner daily 5:30–11 p.m., brunch Sun. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $19–$29. California American. JiRaffe JiRaffe is a pleasant space in a bright corner of Santa Monica, all neo-Palladian windows, white tablecloths and the kind of minimal Gallic décor you see in the restored farmhouses they feature in Elle Decor. Raphael Lunetta’s food tends to be elegant, almost ladylike, with the sort of seasonality you might expect from a serious restaurant located a few hundred yards from the best farmers market in Southern California, and careful, restrained presentations. JiRaffe is a real California bistro, the kind of casual yet slightly formal place the Ivy only pretends to be, and with much better food. In restaurants as in architecture, sometimes less is more. 502 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 917-6671. Mon. 6–9 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. $23–$28.50. French. Joe’s Everybody loves an underdog, and at Joe’s, which has been an institution since it was the size of a rent-controlled studio beach apartment, half of Venice has a crush on Joe Miller’s uncomplicated cuisine. You may not have a transcendent experience at Joe’s, and you’ll spend more than you think you should, but there is this to be said for the restaurant: The kitchen never, ever screws up the fish. 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 399-5811. Lunch Tues.–Fri. noon–2:30 p.m., dinner Tues.–Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 6–11 p.m., brunch Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $10–$25, plus $38–$45 prix fixe dinner. California. John o’ Groats The restaurant is named after a town at the northernmost point in Scotland, but give or take an order of fish ’n’ chips or two, the menu is pretty much all-American, with baking-powder biscuits, fluffy omelets, smoked pork chops and stretchy buckwheat pancakes. And although there seem to be no actual groats on the menu — which is kind of a relief — the steel-cut Irish oatmeal with bananas and heavy cream is fine. The best breakfasts on the Westside. 10516 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 204-0692. Breakfast and lunch daily 7 a.m.–3 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. MC, V. Entrées $9–$14. American. Josie Josie LeBalch, who spent her 20s as the chef of an Italian restaurant but cooks with a French accent, is most famous for game dishes but may be as deft with a dish like baby squid and lentils as she is with all-American preparations of duck, wild boar and elk — although her guinea fowl with wild rice is pretty special. She is large. She contains multitudes. And there’s chocolate bread pudding for dessert. 2424 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 581-9888. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6-11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–9 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $18–$32. Progressive American with French and Italian. Kagaya Shabu shabu is pretty basic: a slice of prime meat swished through bubbling broth for a second or two, just until the pink becomes frosted with white. If you’ve done it right — and if the quality of the ingredients is as high as it is at Little Tokyo’s superb (and expensive) Kagaya — the texture is extraordinary, almost liquid, and the concentrated, sourish flavor of really good beef becomes vivid. 418 E. Second St., downtown, (213) 617-1016. Mon.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Wine, beer, sake. Lot parking. DC, MC, V. $38 fixed price. Japanese. Kiriko See “Raw Power: Los Angeles sushi chefs reinvent the modern kitchen.” Koi See “Raw Power: Los Angeles sushi chefs reinvent the modern kitchen.”
Krua Thai Like any respectable Thai joint in this part of Los Angeles, Krua Thai features a sign outside boasting of the Best Noodles in Town, but unlike the rest of them, Krua Thai has a pretty fair title to the claim. In a city where great Thai noodle shops are all that keep some of us going some days, when the anguish of a sick cat or a Laker collapse can be eased, at least a little, by the knowledge of a great bowl of boat noodles, Krua Thai’s pad Thai and pad kee mao and rad na and pad see ew may be the very best of all. In its way, Krua Thai could be the Thai equivalent of a delicatessen like Canter’s: cheerful, fast, popular across ethnic lines, and open very, very late. 13130 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, (818) 759-7998. Open daily 11 a.m.–3:30 a.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. All major credit cards accepted. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $12–$24. Also at 935 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina, (626) 480-0116. Thai. La Luz del Dia The last place you’d expect to find a real Mexican joint is among the maraca vendors and befuddled German tourists of Olvera Street, but there it is (and has been for decades), La Luz del Dia, serving cactus salad to the hordes. La Luz is a simple place, and most of what it serves are basic permutations of the two or three things it does best. So whatever you think you ordered — soft tacos, tostadas, whatever — you’ll probably get at least one helping of carnitas or picadillo, the chunky Mexican beef stew that, with its carrots and potatoes, looks like a stew somebody’s mother might have made . . . provided that somebody’s mother has an industrial-size garlic press and a Thai tolerance for chile heat. 1 W. Olvera St., downtown, (213) 628-7495. Open Mon. 10 a.m.–3 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 8:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer only. Lot parking. Cash only. $10–$15. Mexican. Langer’s The best pizza in America may be in New Haven, the best hot dogs in Chicago, the best espresso off Pioneer Square in Seattle. But the best pastrami sandwich is right here in Los Angeles, slapped together by the truckload at Langer’s Delicatessen. The rye bread, double-baked, has a hard, crunchy crust. The meat, dense, hand-sliced, nowhere near lean, has the firm, chewy consistency of Parma prosciutto, a gentle flavor of garlic, and a clean edge of smokiness that can remind you of the kinship between pastrami and Texas barbecue. 704 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles, (213) 483-8050. Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated lot parking (on corner of Westlake Ave. and Seventh St.). Curbside service (call ahead). MC, V. Entrées $8.95–$12.95. Jewish Deli. Tuscan-a-gogo: La Terza’s Gino Angelini. La Terza There is an entire school of cooking sometimes called Cal-Italian, but this isn’t that — although dishes like cool, sliced veal tongue slicked with puréed herbs, thick, smoky grilled rib steaks served with Umbrian rice beans, and farro salad with pecorino cheese may well qualify as such. What chef Gino Angelini is attempting at La Terza may be no less than re-imagining California food through the prism of his advanced Italian technique, re-imagining California as an Italian province that happens to have a few agricultural virtues of its own. La Terza is a modern Italian restaurant, perfumed by a wood-fired rotisserie, powered by Angelini’s earthy sauces thickened with vegetable purées, and lubricated by a sharp wine list put together by former Campanile executive Claudio Blotta. 8384 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 782-8384. Open daily for breakfast 7–11 a.m., for lunch 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m., for dinner 5:30–11 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. $18–$29. Italian. Lawry’s the Prime Rib Like the Tudor castles springing up in Bel Air and the half-timbered manors of Hancock Park, Lawry’s exists as an homage to a British institution its owner had never seen: the London restaurant Simpson’s in the Strand. And like those mansions, fitted out as they are with central heating, screening rooms and black-bottomed swimming pools, Lawry’s is actually better than the original: vast barons of good American beef cut to order tableside on enormous silver carts, and served with horseradish and Yorkshire pudding. Relocated across the street and restored to what it must have looked like in the ’30s, Lawry’s is that perfect Los Angeles thing, a simulacrum of a simulacrum of a simulacrum. 100 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 652-2827. Mon.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri. 5–11 p.m., Sat. 4:30–11 p.m., Sun. 4–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet and street parking. All major credit cards. $26–$40. American. Lucques The California-Mediterranean cooking of Suzanne Goin, which is feminine in all the best ways, is profoundly beautiful in its simplicity, and there is satori to be found in every bite of grilled fish, every herb salad. When she’s on, Goin teases out the flavor from a tomato with the precision of a sushi master, makes textural contrasts dance, plays with bursts of acidity, deep, fleshy resonance and the resinous flavors of fresh herbs. Lucques, which is named for a vivid-green variety of French olive, is located in Harold Lloyd’s old carriage house, boasts an ultrasleek Barbara Barry design and is home to one of the nicest patios in West Hollywood; but on loud weekend nights, the restaurant can sometimes seem as if it is about 90 percent bar. 8474 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 655-6277. Sunday nights feature three-course prix fixe dinners. Lunch Tues.–Sat. noon–2:30 p.m., dinner Tues.-Sat. 6–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Limited bar menu available 10 p.m.–mid. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $21–$30. French. Luna Park “Serious” restaurants highlight Jidori chicken on their menus, have somebody in the kitchen who knows how to work the mulberry lady at the Santa Monica Farmers Market and feature at least two different preparations of foie gras. Luna Park, the La Brea Avenue spinoff of a popular San Francisco café, is more of a place to drop by for a salad with Green Goddess dressing, a glass of Shiraz and a pretty good piece of salmon with mashed potatoes — which is to say, it occupies a spot on the food chain halfway between L’Orangerie and the local branch of the Cheesecake Factory. The 20-somethings who throng the restaurant for goat-cheese fondue, garlicky moules frites and grilled artichokes with aioli presumably couldn’t care less. 672 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 934-2110. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5:30–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11:30 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m.; brunch Sat.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. AE, MC, V. $9.50–$16.50. American Comfort Food. Mama’s Hot Tamales Café On weekends, a line of elegant wooden tamale carts runs along the eastern edge of MacArthur Park, each run by a vendor from a different part of Latin America, each selling its own particular kind of tamales: banana-leaf-wrapped Oaxacan tamales oozing black mole sauce, wet chicken tamales from Honduras, green-chile tamales from Acapulco, densely sweet little torpedos from El Salvador and grainy tamales from Michoacán. The driving force behind the vending district is Mama’s Hot Tamales Café, a sprawling, brightly painted complex across the street from the park that provides the kind of curatorial services and logistical support to the district’s tamale masters that in a better world MOCA would be providing to Los Angeles artists, and also happens to sell each variety of the handmade tamales themselves. 2124 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles, (213) 487-7474. Breakfast and lunch Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–3:30 p.m., lunch Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. No alcohol. Coffee bar. Takeout. Validated parking around the corner on Lake Street in the Unified parking lot. AE, MC, V. Breakfast or lunch for two, food only, $7–$14. Mexican. Mama Voula’s Mama Voula, who commands her namesake kitchen as if she were commanding a nuclear submarine, is an overwhelming presence in this family-owned Greek restaurant. Expect the sharp funk of garlic and charring meat, decent seafood, and a killer gyro that combines the virtues of extreme lambiness with a delicate, carbonized crunchiness. 11923 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-9464. Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. BYOB. Lot parking. MC, V. Entrées $7–$13. Mediterranean/Greek. 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 and 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. Marouch If you wanted to imagine you were in Beirut, you could stop by this place a few times a day, easy — midmornings for a piece of baklava and a thimbleful of Turkish coffee, lunch for a kebab and a bottle of Lebanese beer, late afternoons for a bowl of dense lentil soup. At dinner, it’s a splendid, wild-thyme-dusted version of the toasted-bread salad fattoush, unsurpassed makanek sausages dressed with lemon and oil, the fine hummus with pine nuts, the grilled quail, and the complicated Lebanese desserts. Year after year, Marouch becomes nothing but better. 4905 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 662-9325. Open Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, CB, D, DC, MC, V. Lunch entrées $8.50–$11.50, dinner entrées $10–$16. Middle Eastern/Lebanese/Armenian. Matsuhisa See “Raw Power: Los Angeles sushi chefs reinvent the modern kitchen.” Max Fusion chefs, even the best of them, tend to fall on one side of the spectrum or the other, either dressing up essentially Western techniques with Asian flavors and exotic ingredients or supercharging existing Asian dishes with professional French technique. Chef Andre Guerrero, who is Filipino-American, seems to split the difference about as adroitly as anyone in town. So where his “ahi towers” are nothing like traditional sushi, for example, the perfectly engineered cylinders of fried sticky-rice cake, seaweed, pickled ginger, wasabi-flavored flying-fish roe and raw fish have all the sensations of a great, trashy tuna roll. This is a midlevel restaurant, not a temple of cuisine. But Guerrero’s formidable chicken adobo is a remarkable, remarkable dish. 13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 784-2915. Sun.–Thurs. 5:30–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. All major credit cards. $18–$28. California Asian.
Meals by Genet At the heart of Fairfax Avenue’s Little Ethiopia, Meals by Genet is more or less an Ethiopian bistro, which is to say a homey, soft-lit dining room that looks at least as French as it does African. The menu is short: crisp-skinned fried trout, half a dozen stews, and Genet Agonafer’s delicious version of kitfo, a dish of minced raw beef tossed with warm, spiced butter. And her dorowot is jaw-droppingly good, vibrating with what must be ginger and black pepper and bishop’s weed and clove, but tasting of none of them, so formidably solid that the chicken, which is well-cooked, becomes just another ingredient in the sauce. Even an Ethiopian grandmother would approve. 1053 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 938-9304, www.mealsbygenet.com. Lunch and dinner Wed.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Catering. Street parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $19–$27. Ethiopian. Mei Long Village Even if Mei Long Village served nothing but dumplings — terrific steamed bao stuffed with sweet red-bean paste, flaky sesame-flecked pastries filled with root vegetables and bits of pork, flying saucers of what seems like Chinese filo dough surrounding a meager but intense forcemeat of sautéed leeks — it would be worth a visit. Mei Long Village is also the perfect place to try any of the famous Shanghai standards: sweet fried Shanghai spareribs dusted with sesame seeds, garlicky whole cod braised in pungent hot bean sauce, big pork lion’s-head meatballs, tender as a Perry Como ballad, that practically croon in the key of star anise. The new-wave Shanghai classic jade shrimp, stir-fried with a spinach purée, is especially good, firm, subtly garlicked, garnished with deep-fried spinach leaves improbably glazed with sugar. And did we mention the stir-fried jellyfish head with ginger? Oops! Must have slipped our minds. 301 W. Valley Blvd., No. 112, San Gabriel, (626) 284-4769. Open daily 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. MC, V. Entrées $8–$12. Chinese. Metro Café At first glance, Metro Café might be one of the least promising restaurants in Los Angeles, a faux-’50s diner attached to a stucco chain motel. But the strange, fragrant dishes everybody seems to be eating bear little resemblance to the food listed on the menu. Metro Café is basically an informal Serbian restaurant disguised as an American diner, or at least an American diner that sometimes serves a Serbian dish or two: white-bean soup, flavored with ham imported from a Santa Monica deli; spareribs grilled with lots of garlic; or a grilled trout, nothing fancy, plopped on a bed of garlicky greens. If the owners are feeling charitable, there may be crepes for dessert, special, secret crepes stuffed with Nutella and raspberry jam. 11188 Washington Place, Culver City, (310) 559-6821. Breakfast and lunch 7 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner 6–10 p.m. No alcohol. Parking in Travelodge lot. MC, V. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $12–$24. Serbian. Michael’s Look around you, man. Art, the real stuff — Rauschenberg, Stella, Graham, Hockney. Luxury foodstuffs identified by port of origin. A garden patio like all of us dream of having between the lanai and the swimming pool. Heavy silver, Christofle. And organic pork chops, and grilled quail, and sautéed shad roe in season, and a cellar full — full! — of older Zinfandels and obscure Merlots and oaky, buttery Chardonnays that would be beautiful enough to make you weep if you ever got to taste them, because Michael’s, whose cooking under chef Nadav Bashan is nearly as Italian as it used to be French, still feels a little like an exclusive party that somebody forgot to invite us to. 1147 Third St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-0843. Mon.–Fri. noon–2:30 p.m. & 6–10 p.m., Sat. 6–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet and street parking. All major credit cards. $28–$40. California. Mimosa In an era where two splashy new restaurants out of three try to re-define cooking as we know it, there is a certain guilty pleasure in Jean-Pierre Bosc’s thoroughly unambitious restaurant: steak-frites instead of wok-charred escolar; chicken-liver pâté instead of seared foie gras with honey and figs. Few Food Network scouts are likely to get excited about the “tarte tatin” of pungently herbed tomatoes on a buttery puff-pastry tart shell smeared with pesto, though it’s the sort of dish you’d like to eat every night; or the Alsatian-style tarte flambée, a thin, crisp pizza crusted with an eggy cheese custard and a few slivers of smoked ham; or the thick, proper Provençal fish soup; or the plate of French charcuterie. In fact, Mimosa resembles an ordinary restaurant in almost every way except one: The food is really good. 8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 655-8895. Dinner Tues.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Valet and street parking. AE, D, MC, V. Reservations recommended on weekends. Entrées $11–$26. French Bistro. Mission 261: Choose to accept it. Mission 261 Mission 261 may be the most ambitious Chinese restaurant ever to open in the United States, a mammoth Cantonese banquet hall fitted into a sprawling adobe complex built 100 years ago as San Gabriel’s city hall. The suckling pig, a house specialty, is made from an animal so young it is practically prenatal; the braised pork belly is the essence of melting fat; the fried whole chicken with fermented taro is practically a sacrament. The steamed rock cod is the standard by which all local Chinese kitchens should be mentioned, and if you’re into plundering the endangered species list, Mission 261 does that too. And the dim sum is extraordinary, possibly the best in California at the moment — less a teeming mass-feed than a sort of aestheticized dim sum meal, where you sit with a pot of really great chrysanthemum tea and a few small plates of attractive, exquisitely prepared food, the clatter of plates replaced by the contemplative sounds of live Chinese music. 261 Mission Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 588-1666. Mon.-Fri. 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5:30–10 p.m. Sat.-Sun. 9 a.m.–3 p.m, 5:30-10:30 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $10–$13. Cantonese. Musso & Frank Grill Before Musso & Frank Grill became a martini-fueled Hollywood clubhouse, the place where Faulkner blew out his liver and generations of character actors learned to show up on Wednesday for the chicken pot pie, the restaurant was practically a showcase for what was then considered California cuisine, a genteel marriage of the local produce, abundant local fisheries and masculinized lunchroom cooking: avocado cocktails smeared with sweet, pink dressing and frigid bowls of chilled consommé; great, naked planks of boiled finnan haddie and dainty plates of crab Louie; creamy Welsh rabbit served over crustless triangles of toast and kidneys Turbigo. This is what the cosmopolitan life was like, before cosmopolitans. 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 467-7788. Open Tues.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Validated parking in rear. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $15–$40. American. 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. Take his triptych of foie gras, for example: one part prepared au torchon in the French manner; the next whipped into a mousse glazed with a Coca-Cola gelatin, in the fashion of D.C. chef Jose Andres; the third fried like country ham and served on a tiny skillet of truffled scrambled eggs. 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. Sun.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $18–$32. Progressive American With Japanese Aesthetics. Nook Sometimes you get the feeling that the owners of Nook are running less an American bistro than a joke about an American bistro. As faithfully as they reproduce the fundamentals of the kind of fancily unfancy restaurants that pepper every urban neighborhood from San Diego to Augusta, Maine, they are also poking fun at it with every dried-cranberry garnish and each day-boat scallop, each obscure Belgian beer and each boutique Oregon Pinot Noir, each crusty roast chicken and dish of iconic macaroni and cheese. Almost every aspect of the restaurant, from its double-height communal table to the admonition on the menu that cell-phone use interferes with the controls on the deep fryer, is as ironically pitch-perfect as the Neil Diamond songs on a Silver Lake DJ’s iPod. 11628 Santa Monica Blvd., No. 9, West Los Angeles, (310) 207-5160; www.nookbistro.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner Mon.–Sat. 5–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $30–$60. Norman’s Norman Van Aken’s style of cooking, sometimes called Floribbean cuisine, processes Caribbean recipes through the matrix of French technique, often inflecting a dish with an Asian flavor or two: the kind of French toast you’d hope to find in an $800-per-night Antigua resort, for example, piled with seared foie gras and gingered lime zest, or duck cracklings served with a loose polenta that can’t decide whether its flavors come from Valencia or the Yucatán. Craig Petrella must have been the most talented chef in Van Aken’s restaurant empire, because it is impossible to discern where Van Aken’s ideas ease off and his own ideas begin. Except that I think I like the West Hollywood restaurant much better than the Florida original. 8570 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 657-2400. Tues.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m. Lounge open Tues.–Sat. at 5:30 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. AE, MC, V. $27–$39. New World. Orris Hideo Yamashiro’s Orris is sometimes described as an Asian “tapas bar,” a place to drift in for a glass of Viognier and a snack. Orris is something else, closer to a Mediterranean take on new-wave izakaya, a Japanese pub, than to anything you might ever come across in Spain — sweet shisito peppers sprinkled with shaved Parmesan cheese and crunchy bits of fried proscuitto; smoked scallops garnished with fat salmon eggs; Dungeness crab salad in a sweetish ginger dressing. This is food to wash down with sake, not with a glass of sherry — don’t miss the lamb tataki with rosemary and sheep cheese. 2006 Sawtelle Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 268-2212. Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.; dinner Mon.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5:30–10:30 p.m. AE, MC, V. Beer, wine and sake. Limited lot parking in rear. Small plates $6.50–$14. Ortolan If you are a fan of intimate, dungeon-like restaurant spaces, dining rooms so dark that diners are issued little flashlights along with their menus, and presentations that extend to mushroom soup served in test tubes and fish seared on hot river rocks, then Ortolan may be the restaurant for you. Actually, Ortolan’s basic premise — high-level French cooking served in a supper-club setting — is a fairly attractive one. And chef-owner Cristophe Eme, who comes to the restaurant from L’Orangerie, is remarkably skilled: the squab, served as a roasted breast paired with a leg confit, is exceptional, as are the crisp langoustines. 8338 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 653-3300. Mon.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $29-$39. French. Philippe the Original The place is so much a part of old Los Angeles that sometimes it feels as if it isn’t really a part of Los Angeles, as if it belongs to an older city without chrome. The French-dipped sandwiches of lamb or beef are wet and rich, with something of the gamy animal pungency of old-fashioned roast meat. And if you enjoy the sight of eyes bulging and nostrils flaring as people encounter depth charges of ultrahot mustard in their sandwiches, there’s even something of a floor show. 1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles, (213) 628-3781. Open daily 6 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. For takeout, must call ahead and order must be over $40. Lot parking. Cash only. Sandwiches $4–$5. American. Vat’s incredible! Mr. Phillips stirs the sauce. Phillips’ Barbecue Crusted with black and deeply smoky, the spareribs at Phillips’ Barbecue are rich and crisp and juicy, not too lean. Beef ribs, almost as big around as beer cans, are beefy as rib roasts beneath their coat of char, tasty even without the sauce. They are the best ribs in Los Angeles, perhaps the only ribs that can compete on equal terms with the best from Kansas City or Tuscaloosa. And the extra-hot sauce, so crowded with whole dried chiles that the ribs occasionally look as if they have been embellished with Byzantine mosaics, can be pretty exhilarating. Tucked into a mini-mall between a liquor store and the local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, the original Phillips’ might be a little hard to find, although if you keep your window open, you should be able to sniff it out from half a mile away. But the newest location, in the well-scrubbed chalet-style Crenshaw building that until recently housed the well-regarded Leo’s Bar-B-Q, is only a couple of blocks south of the 10. 4307 Leimert Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 292-7613. 2619 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 731-4772. Mon. 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–mid. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. $11–$14. Barbecue. Pink’s Consider the Pink’s dog, uncouth and garlicky, skin thick and taut, so that when you sink your teeth into it, the sausage . . . pops . . . into a mouthful of juice. The bun is soft enough to achieve a oneness with the thick chili that is ladled over the dog, but firm enough to resist dissolving altogether, unless you order it with sauerkraut. And why wouldn’t you? Avoid the fries. 709 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood, (323) 931-4223. Open Sun.–Thurs. 9:30 a.m.–2 a.m., Fri.–Sat. 9:30 a.m.–3 a.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Takeout. Cash only. Dogs $3–$6. American. Pollo a la Brasa If you are anywhere near Koreatown when the need for takeout chicken strikes, follow your nose to Pollo a la Brasa, a Peruvian chicken joint all but concealed behind a fortress of hardwood logs. The smoky, crisp-skinned chicken here, sizzled over a hot wood fire and served with the incendiary Peruvian herb sauce aji, is what happens when you cross a chicken with a smoldering log. 764 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 382-4090. Lunch and dinner Wed.–Mon. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Food for two $5–$10. Peruvian. Providence Ever since Michael Cimarusti left the stoves at Water Grill, well-heeled Los Angeles fish lovers have been waiting expectantly for his new restaurant in the old Patina space, which was widely rumored to become the Los Angeles equivalent of fish palaces like Le Bernardin and Oceana in New York. At this glowing new restaurant he managed to fulfill even those super-high expectations — this is among the best restaurants ever to hit Los Angeles. It just doesn’t get better than Cimarusti’s tartare of live spot prawns served with buttery leaves of brik pastry, sautéed squid with piquillo peppers and meltingly soft slivers of stewed pig’s ear, or a terrine of foie gras with muscat gelee that may be the best foie gras preparation in this foie gras–happy town. 5955 Melrose Ave., Hancock Park, (323) 460-4170. Mon.–Sat. 6 p.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $30–$40. Modern American Seafood.
To read the first section of Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants click here.
To read the third section of Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants click here.
To read Raw Power: Los Angeles sushi chefs reinvent the modern kitchen click here.
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