Amuse Café. Brooke Williamson, a mere 24 years old, has already been an executive chef twice — first at the now-defunct Boxer, then at Zax in Brentwood. Together with Nick Roberts, 25, they’ve appropriated Venice’s funky old Van Gogh’s Ear (once a railroad bunkhouse), gave it a lick of chrome-yellow paint, prettied up the patio and upstairs dining room filled with clear seaside light. Amuse serves California bistro cooking made with lots of local farmers-market ingredients — a modest and lovely ambition. 796 Main St., Venice, (310) 450-1956. In preparation for reopening with a new wine and beer license, the restaurant will be open only on weekends through August 31. Hours are Fri.–Sat. 9 a.m.–9 p.m. and Sun. 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Entrées $13–$18. California Bistro. MH$$ ¤ ¦
A.O.C. Lucques’ impressive and astute partners, Suzanne Goin and Carolyn Styne, have their second venture, a wine bar with terrific food in a serviceable space whose spare décor amplifies the fireworks on the plate. Goin cooks only small dishes, all of which showcases her rustic heart and sophisticated abilities. Styne built the wine list by focusing on high-quality wines from small producers for reasonable prices — between $30 and $50 a bottle — and many are available by the taste or the glass or the multiple-tasting “flight.” 8022 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 653-6359. Dinner Mon.–Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5:30–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. À la carte, $4–$16. Mediterranean. MH $$ ¤ ¦
Cobras & Matadors. Despite its name, this is, finally, a good tapas restaurant — and who knew how convivial a series of shared small plates with walloping flavors could be? Crimson walls, a hearthlike wood-fired oven and swinging jambons create a hip, Barcelona-style coziness. C&M is strictly BYOB, but the adjacent liquor store has a smart, handpicked selection of South American and Spanish wines, and corkage is $5. 7615 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 932-6178. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 6–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6 p.m.–mid. BYOB. Also at 4655 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 669-3922. Valet parking. MC, V. Tapas $3–$15. Spanish. MH $ ¨
Ita-Cho. Despite a recent move to a larger space on Beverly Boulevard, Ita-Cho still inspires long lines on the weekends for its country or village-style Japanese cuisine. The food comes out on a series of little plates that can be shared by everyone; and, hey, if someone bogarts the sautéed miso-soaked eggplant, or marinated black cod, just order more. The kitchen and service staff are so swift, you’ll hardly notice the wait, and the prices aren’t punishing. 7311 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 938-9009. Tues.–Sat. 6:30–10:15 p.m. Beer and sake. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. $20–$50. Japanese. MH $ ¨ ¦
Lucques. Named for a nutty, brine-cured French green olive, and rarely pronounced correctly, Lucques (leuk) has quietly and surely joined the small pantheon of great Los Angeles restaurants. Lucques has a quasi-historic setting (it was once Harold Lloyd’s brick, wood-beamed carriage house), a patio, adept service and, best of all, Suzanne Goin’s earthy, intelligent, somewhat indefinable cooking. Call it Cal-French-Med with welcome guests from North Africa, Spain and Berkeley, California. Go for Goin’s fish dishes, in particular, and check out the appealing bar menu. Also, Sunday nights feature three-course prix-fixe
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