Art’s Delicatessen. Art’s has been the best deli in the Valley since late in the Eisenhower administration, and its dense, tasty chicken soup, puddled around matzo balls the size of grapefruit, is justifiably renowned. Among the local cognoscenti, Art’s is well-known for the succulence of its knackwurst, the creaminess of its chopped liver and the particular garlicky smack of its house-made pickles. Lox and eggs? Matzo Brie? Kreplach soup? Crisp-skinned cheese blintzes? Well-cured salmon on fresh Brooklyn Bagel bagels? Got ’em. And as it says on the menu: "Every Sandwich Is a Work of Art." 12224 Ventura Blvd., (818) 762-1221. Sun.–Thurs. 7 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 7 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $18–$36. Deli. JG $$
Asanebo. For a while, Asanebo was famous as the No-Sushi Bar, an establishment that served only sashimi and tiny portions of proto-Japanese cooked foods — grilled salmon with mashed potatoes and salmon eggs, fried squid with asparagus, steamed catfish with miso and ginger — and all Hollywood seemed to flock to the place, eager to visit a restaurant that had come up with an entirely new way to deny satisfaction to its customers. Still, it is a pleasure to pull up a stool to the bar, to utter the magic word omakase — "Feed me until I burst!" — and to sit back and wait for the food to arrive. Soft, oily salmon, mounded in a bowl, is garnished with caviar; fillets of kanpache, a tiny cold--water tuna imported from Japan, are arranged into a little fishy Stonehenge. The ankimo (seasonal), cylinders of molded monkfish liver in a sharp ponzu sauce, is fine. 11941 Ventura Blvd., (818) 760-3348. Lunch Tues.–Fri. noon–2 p.m. Dinner Tues.–Thurs. 6–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–11:30 p.m., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $25–$90. Japanese. JG $$$
Minibar. A new small-plates restaurant situated in a patch along Cahuenga that doesn’t like to admit it’s part of the San Fernando Valley, Minibar is a tall lounge with sofas, throbbing post-rock and hidden antechambers. Op-art dots on the walls, and Keane paintings of bug-eyed waifs big as the Peter Paul Rubens allegories in the Louvre — it’s like being in the inside of Tara Reid’s head. The snack-food-intensive menu — put together by Sharon Hage, who is often called Dallas’ answer to Alice Waters, and executed by Noah Rosen — is as cross-cultural as they come: crisp cheese-stuffed yuca puffs like the ones that show up at breakfast time in São Paulo; Yucatecan-style pollo pibil, baked in banana leaves; Indian-style curried lamb; Shanghai-style spring rolls stuffed with French duck confit. And there’s a lot of interesting wine priced around $20 a bottle — which is good, because it takes a lot of experimentation to figure out the proper thing to drink with plantain latkes smothered in Salvadoran crema. Go with the Albarino, I say. Merlot and plantains are just not a match. 3413 Cahuenga Blvd., (323) 882-6965. Sun.–Thurs. 5:30–1 a.m.; Fri.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–2 a.m. Full bar. Takeout available until 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Fri.–Sat.). Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Price range: $35–$45 per person. Global tapas. JG $$
Out Take Cafe. From won tons to lamb shank, there’s something for everyone at this too small, often packed café — but if you’ve never been, you’ll have to hit it in the next couple weeks, before the doors close permanently. You can order a terrific meal of vareniki (sturdy Polish dumplings topped with cara-melized onions and sour cream), followed by a bowl of borscht. 12159 Ventura Blvd., (818) 760-1111. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. $11–$16. Polish/Eclectic. MH $
Spark Woodfire Cooking. What happens when a sophisticated regional-Italian restaurant like Alto Palato marries a mass-market Cal-Ital coffee shop like Louise’s? Well, Spark — a cheerful Cal-Ital Valley girl with corporate polish and flickerings of soul. Thin-crust Roman pizzas and pressed Italian sandwiches share a menu with creamy coleslaw, and rotisserie meats. Spark’s second, larger, more thoroughly Italian incarnation is seaside, at the Pierside Pavilion in Huntington Beach. 11801 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 623-8883. Lunch Mon.–Fri.; dinner seven nights. 300 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (714) 960-0996. Lunch Sat.–Sun.; dinner seven nights. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $8.95–$22.95. California Italian. MH $
Tama Sushi. Formerly known as Katsu (until a fire closed it for a year), Studio City’s Tama Sushi is owned and run by veteran sushi master Michite Katsu and his wife, Tama. Katsu’s first restaurant, which opened on Hillhurst in the ’80s, was seminal for its beauty and art, both on and off the plate; subsequent establishments (Katsu on Third, Café Katsu) upheld his aesthetic standards. Now, there’s only Tama Sushi, a spare, understated yet charming piece of architecture, with Katsu himself expertly carving up fish at the bar — it’s both educational and joyous to watch him at work. Start with a plate of assorted sashimi, and you’ll find he cuts fish as a gem cutter works with rubies, accentuating inherent virtues. 11920 Ventura Blvd., (818) 760-4585. Open for lunch daily 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner nightly 5–9:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Sushi and sashimi $1.50–$15. Japanese. MH $
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