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 showcase 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 $$ ¤ ¦
Bliss. Once you find it, Bliss looks like a place the devil might like — a vast, cavernous club with womb-red walls, gas fires, and enormous sculptural paper lanterns that look like licking flames. There are two bars, and curtained “boxes” where you can have both privacy and a great view of the goings-on below, which are dressed-up people drinking and eating. The New American club fare is a mix of comfort food, fusion and meat. 650 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 659-0999. Dinner Wed.–Sat., from 7 p.m. Closed Sun.–Tues. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $25–$39. American. MH $$$ ¨ H
Cinch. Like so many of the restaurants designed by Dodd Mitchell, Cinch looks like the archvillain’s lair from a Sean Connery–era James Bond movie, sleek luxury fitted into a concrete bunker: dark woods, flickering candlelight, booming music and burnished chinoiserie seemingly concealing a darker, edgier function. Cinch operates as a swank lounge that just happens to serve bang bang chicken alongside its mojitos, and chef Chris Behre may occasionally be a little loose with the details of his cooking. As with a lot of cross-cultural chefs, he delivers fireworks in his small courses; big slabs of animal find him at a loss. 1519 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 395-4139. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–11 p.m. (bar food available one hour before and one hour after dinner). Full bar. Valet parking. All major credit cards. Entrées $12.50–$28.50. French-Japanese. JG $$ ¤ ¨ H
Enoteca Drago. A serious Italian wine bar, the posh Enoteca Drago is the latest outpost of Celestino Drago’s pasta-driven empire, where you can chase a plate of prosciutto or a mess of baby octopi with a glass of crisp Verdicchio from the Marches. Some of the wines are served in flights — sets of small pours of vintages arranged by grape or by region. Almost incidentally, Enoteca Drago does function as a full restaurant, although it is occasionally hard to remember, when you’re floating in the middle of a Brunello reverie, that you will also find great pasta with pesto and one of the few proper versions of spaghetti carbonara in town. 410 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 786-8236. Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrees $16–$33. Italian. JG $$ ¤ ¨ *
Grace. From the name I expected a serene and fluid vibe, but Grace is far more bustling and adult than that, citified and swank. And the ingredients in Neal Fraser’s take on American cooking are indisputably excellent, and usually respectfully handled — truly grace under pressure. Tuesdays through Thursdays, a seasonal tasting menu is available: five courses for $55 — a deal. On the weekend, dinner is à la carte. 7360 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 934-4400. Dinner Tues.–Thurs. 6–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–11 p.m., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $20–$32. AE, MC, V. MH $$$
The Ivy. The patio here is a New Yorker’s perfect dream of Los Angeles, splashed with sunlight, decorated with amusing American kitsch, populated with lunching actresses, agents, and New York magazine editors in town to take the pulse of the city. The food is acceptable though expensive, down-home food at uptown prices. 113 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 274-8303. Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–11:30 p.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $25–$39. American. JG $$
Matsuhisa. Nobu Matsuhisa was the first sushi master to introduce Americans to yellowtail sashimi with sliced jalapeños. Playing with tradition has made him an international star. To this day, despite many attempts, nobody has improved on his innovations. Reservations are a must and, at times, a pain. 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. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $15–$50. Japanese. MH $$$
Mélisse. It’s so French, this fancy, formal restaurant owned and cheffed by Josiah Citrin in Santa Monica. The room is sedate and a tad fussy — très authentique, from the massive chandelier down to the little footstools designed to keep your Gucci bag off the ground. Citrin gives his classical French training, high-end purveyors and farmers-market produce a real workout. Bring a big appetite and a credit card and let this restaurant have its way with you. 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 395-0881. Dinner Tues.–Fri. 6–10 p.m., Sat. 5:45–10 p.m. Closed Sun.–Mon. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $27–$38. French. MH $$$ ¤
Michael’s. California nouvelle cuisine may have been born in this art-infested restaurant where the Diebenkorns are real, the patio swarms with Robert Grahams, and media barons sup on pretty little salads of quail with pansy blossoms and sherry vinegar. 1147 Third St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-0843. Lunch Mon.–Fri. noon–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $28–$36. California. JG $$$ ¤
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Il Pastaio. This was Celestino Drago’s first café spinoff, and its original concept — carpaccio, salad, pasta and risotto (no meat-centered entrées) — remains sound. The window-walled room at Cañon and Brighton fills with sun and Beverly Hills types; don’t expect a lot of elbow room or romance, but the food is reliably delicious. 400 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 205-5444. Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 5–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $16.50–$24.50. Italian. MH ¦
Sona. What we know as California cuisine may be dedicated to revealing produce at its best, but Michelle and David Myers go after nature with blowtorches and dynamite, determined to bend the old woman to their will. The morning after nine courses at Sona (this is one restaurant where only the tasting menu will do), it will already seem like a half-forgotten dream. 401 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 659-7708. Dinner Tues.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5:30–11 p.m. Closed Sun.–Mon. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Modern French. JG $$$ ¤ ¦
Spago. The flagship restaurant of the Wolfgang Puck empire, Spago in Beverly Hills replaced the original Hollywood Spago — and then some. The kitchen is a small village unto itself with its own butchers, bakers, cooks and candy makers. Stars, moguls, tourists, lunching matrons and serious suits fill the tables. The service is a well-tempered hybrid of warmth, humor and strict professionalism. 176 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 385-0880. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:15 p.m., Sat. noon–2:15 p.m. Dinner seven days, from 5:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $19–$36. California. MH. $$$$
Table 8. Chef-owner Govind Armstrong’s food has an unmistakable aura of skill and competence, starting with a simple oak leaf salad with beets and feta cheese that glistens with excellent oil and the fine filigree crunch of good sea salt, and continuing with entrées that are just as intelligently put together. 7661 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 782-8258. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 6–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $18–$28. AE, DC, MC, V. California seasonal. MH $$$ ¨