Chosun Galbi. For decades, Woo Lae Oak on Western was the favorite Korean restaurant of people who didn’t like Korean food all that much, a fancy place where they could convince themselves that galbi wasn’t too different from an ordinary steak dinner. Now that the Koreatown Woo Lae Oak is on hiatus, the conservative Koreatown choice is probably Chosun Galbi, a pleasant restaurant with the patio-side glamour of a Beverly Hills garden party: granite tables, gorgeous waitresses, and expensive, well-marbled meat that glows as pinkly as a Tintoretto cherub. Don’t miss the chewy cold buckwheat noodles with marinated stingray. And make sure to throw some shrimp on the barbie, too — the pricey little beasties crisp up like a dream. 3330 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 734-3330. Open seven days for lunch and dinner 11:30 a.m–10:30 p.m. MC, V, AE. Full bar. Valet parking. JG $
GaJa. Okonomiyaki may be the homeliest food in creation, a squat, unlovely, vaguely circular mess of batter, cabbage and egg, slicked with a tarry black substance made from ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, inscribed with mayonnaise, and dusted with curls of shaved dried bonito that shudder and writhe on top of the pancake like a thousand pencil shavings come to gruesome life. When you are presented with your first okonomiyaki, you don’t know whether to kill it or to eat it. GaJa puts a certain amount of effort into its identity as an izakaya, a snack-intensive Japanese pub, but it is probably the premier okonomiyaki specialist in town right now. They’ll cook okonomiyaki for you in the kitchen, but most diners opt to sizzle up their own on tabletop griddles, stirring and smashing and flipping and searing. With any luck, you’ll have dinner. 2383 Lomita Blvd., Suite 102, Lomita, (310) 534-0153 or www.gajaokonomiyaki.com. Lunch Tues.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.; dinner Tues.–Thurs. 6–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–mid., Sun. 5 p.m.–10 p.m. MC, V. Beer, wine and soju. Lot parking. Takeout. Dinner for two, food only, $19-$32. Japanese. JG $
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. JG $$
La Fondue Bourguignonne. La Fondue is the ’70s on a stick, a Three’s Company restaurant set come to living, breathing life: dark wood and gleaming copper; jugs of California “burgundy” siphoned into carafes; tape loops of classical music that repeat so often, you begin to suspect they are recorded on 8-track. If you have ever eaten fondue, you probably know the drill. A waiter brings out a chafing dish filled with bubbling melted Gruyère, and you dunk stale hunks of baguette into the stuff, inhaling sweetly alcoholic fumes from the cherry brandy and white wine that are always incorporated into the mixture, occasionally pausing to munch on a pickle or to take a swig of wine. For dessert? Chocolate fondue, of course. 13359 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 788-8680. Dinner nightly 5:30–10 p.m. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Fondue. JG $$
La Parrilla. La Parrilla specializes in marinated, charcoal-grilled meats — thin beef fillets, pork coated in a ruddy chile paste, chorizo sausage, sweetly sauced spareribs, and chicken served in various combinations. If you order parrilladas al brasero, the meat comes to the table piled on a little grill. Combinations are served with rice, grilled scallions, and little bowls of spicy charro beans made smoky with bacon, and mostly the grilled meat is very good. Fine too are the many dishes based around grilled beef: puntas de filete (grilled chunks of steak tossed with pickled jalapeños and topped with melted cheese), fillet in a smoky sauce of chipotle chiles, fillet in a spicy Veracruz-style tomato sauce. 2126 Cesar E. Chavez Ave., (323) 262-3434. Open daily 8 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $10–$20. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, Disc., MC, V. Latin. JG $
Little Sheep. If cumin were as toxic as VX gas, the atmosphere at Little Sheep could be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Little Sheep, a newish restaurant in yet another Monterey Park strip mall, is a specialist in the Mongolian hot pot, which is to say the severely aromatic hot pot of China’s extreme north, stocked with more medicinal plants than an herbalist’s shop and fairly intensive in lamb, a meat many Chinese people tend to dislike. There are juicy steamed lamb dumplings, lamb fried rice, a sort of crunchy pan-fried lamb bun and lamb chow mein. And the walls are papered with gauzy, room-size photomurals of grazing sheep and giant Mongolian shepherdesses. 120 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park, (626) 282-1089. Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5 p.m.–mid., Sat.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–mid. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Food for two, $14–$24. Mongolian. JG $
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–$16.50. American comfort food. JG ¢$
Tahoe Galbi. Natural-charcoal barbecue, which is to say the atavistic pleasure of grilling meat over live coals, is traditionally a cheap thrill. Such barbecuing as practiced at fancier Korean restaurants is usually done over well-ventilated gas grills, which are much less likely to leave your favorite blouse perforated with tiny holes like a silk colander. The newish, marble-encrusted Tahoe Galbi may be the first place in town where it is possible to enjoy both the superb meat characteristic of the best Korean restaurants and the smoky kick of live-fire cooking. When you bite into the galbi, Korean short ribs, they flood your mouth with sweet juice. 3986 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 365-9000. Daily 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Valet parking. Dinner $10.99–$25. Korean barbecue. JG $
Venice Room. It is hard to imagine a simpler meal than a dinner at the Venice Room, or a meal more satisfying than grill-it-yourself meat, garlic bread, a baked potato and a pony of bar Scotch. Seasoned veterans hover over the communal grill, slashing and battering their steaks with knives and long metal prongs, lavishing them with garlic salt, cayenne and bulk-packaged Cajun seasoning, drizzling them with oil, massaging cracked pepper and dehydrated onion flakes into the meat’s bruised flanks. French bread crisps on the cooler edge of the grill and almost everybody seems to improvise some sort of grilled garlic bread with garlic powder and butter, while baked potatoes steam in their foil. 2428 S. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park, (323) 722-3075. Open Mon.–Sat. 9–2 a.m., Sun. till mid. Dinner for two, food only, $18. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG $$
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