Where To Eat Now

Downtown Los Angeles/Highland Park

 Chichén Itzá. The community-run market La Paloma is everything a shopping center should be in Los Angeles, a collection of shops selling art and artisanal products, a bakery, and a food court representing the gamut of Mexican regional cooking in Los Angeles: a Oaxacan juice bar, a Michoacán-style taqueria — and Chichén Itzá, which may have the most serious Yucatecan cooking in town, its menu a living, chile-intensive thesaurus of the panuchos and codzitos, sopa de lima and papadzules, banana-leaf tamales and shark casseroles that make up one of Mexico’s most thrilling cuisines. 3655 S. Grand Ave., downtown, (213) 741-1075. Sun.–Wed. 8 a.m.–6:30 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 8 a.m.–8 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Yucatecan. JG $b

Haru Ulala. Los Angeles is in the middle of an izakaya renaissance, an explosion of intimate, beer-soaked taverns flipping out beakers of sake, small plates of tofu and braised seaweed, and small, oily grilled fish of every description. Haru Ulala, a neighborhood izakaya affiliated with the nearby Go-55 sushi bar, may have neither the encyclopedic sake list nor the fancy seafood selection of some other restaurants, but the steamed cow tongue, yellowtail with daikon radish, and simmered Kurobuta pork belly are delicious, the green-tea noodles are soothing, and the restaurant is open very late on weekends. 368 E. Second St., downtown, (213) 620-0977. Mon.–Thurs. 6 p.m.–mid., Fri.–Sat. 6 p.m.–2 a.m. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Japanese. JG $$

TV Café. If you were the kind of artist who mounts big shows at Ace or Gagosian, merits retrospectives at MOCA, or knows the meaning of the term “catalogue raisonné,” you may well sip old Bordeaux among the Grahams and Diebenkorns at Michael’s. If you are the other kind of artist, you probably already know the mammoth vegetarian burritos, serviceable hamburgers and bowls of cocido at this 24-hour entrepôt in the industrial district south of downtown. Are you dissuaded by the noisy Pac Man machine and the often-questionable clientele? Welcome to L.A. 1777 E. Olympic Blvd., downtown, (213) 624-1155. Open 24 hours, seven days. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Mexican. JG ¢

Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo ParkEdendale Grill. Housed in an old firehouse and named for Los Angeles’ first movie studio, Silver Lake’s Edendale Grill is a bit of set-dressed history. Craftsman-era lighting fixtures with mica shades cast a warm, golden glow in the dining room. The kitchen serves up its own brand of culinary nostalgia for midcentury Midwestern American cooking: oysters Rockefeller, caesar salads made tableside, Green Goddess salad dressing, sand dabs, steaks and chops, even a beet-red velvet cake from the Waldorf. 2838 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 666-2000. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–11 p.m. Sunday brunch 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Full bar. Complimentary valet. AE, DC, MC, V. American. MH $$

Gingergrass. Gingergrass, a sleek Vietnamese bistro in Silver Lake, is probably the polar opposite of a place like Golden Deli, citified where the San Gabriel noodle shop is rustic, timid where the food at the other roars with flavor. There is pho, but it’s not really the point here. And the spicy fish steamed in banana leaves, the shrimp in fishy Vietnamese caramel sauce and the lemongrass chicken tend to be sluiced down with basil-spiked limeade instead of, say, salty lemonade or tepid tea. But the chef, Mako Antonishek, tends to cook in a way not unfriendly to wine (the restaurant has a symbiotic relationship with Silverlake Wine Merchants across the street), and her multicourse Mako Monday blowout dinners are legendary in the neighborhood. 2396 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 644-1600. Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10:30 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Vietnamese. JG $Vermont. Anchoring the ever-new hip commercial corridor of Vermont Avenue north of Sunset, Vermont (always lowercase) is like a stalwart, reliable friend. The owners often wander through the dining room, with its palmettos and pillars and gentle lighting, and they always like to chat. You may not be bowled over by anything you eat, but you’ll be back. Plus, the stylish bar is one of the neighborhood’s few upscale spots for cocktails. 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 661-6163. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. ­Dinner 5:30–10:30 p.m. (until 11:30 p.m. Fri.–Sat.). Full bar. Parking in rear. AE, MC, V. California. MH $

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax Citizen Smith. Your opinion of Citizen Smith probably has a lot to do with whether you think it’s amusing or insulting to be offered a bottle of Mickey’s Big Mouth with your fried chicken, whether you’d enjoy a live DJ with a fondness for Foghat and ELO, and whether you’d be comfortable in a restaurant whose ­specialty is probably giant onion rings, stacked on a plate like so many snow tires in a garage — the dining room feels like a lavish backstage party after a Strokes concert, although probably with less vegan food. 1600 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 461-5001. Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner nightly 6 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG $

Hatfield’s. In restaurants as in actresses, forced quirkiness can be an unforgivable flaw. But some restaurants, like the comfortable, modern Hatfield’s near Hollywood, can’t help themselves. Instead of merlot and Chianti, there is a weirdly wonderful list of old Loire whites, stern reds from Austria and the Italian Alps, and German “champagne.” The croque madame sandwich is made with yellowtail and prosciutto instead of Gruyère cheese and pale ham, and tentacles of Japanese octopus just happen to curl around pillars of vanilla-braised hearts of palm. 7458 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 935-2977. Mon.–Sat. 6–10 p.m. Full Bar. AE, MC, V. California Contemporary. JG $$

Lou. If pigs had their way, pig candy would be made out of chocolate — better yet, out of chocolate that made its way into their troughs. But for better or worse, pig candy is the vernacular name for a snack made out of smoky, thick-cut bacon baked with lots and lots of brown sugar until it transforms itself into demonically fragrant slabs that bear more than a passing resemblance to pork-belly terrine. You want some of this stuff. Really you do. Lou, a tiny, wonderful wine bar on the south end of Vine, serves a pretty decent range of artisanal cheeses, the garlic-laced salamis of Seattle’s Armandino Batali, and slivers of Kentucky ham. 724 N. Vine St., Hollywood, (323) 962-6369. Mon.–Thurs. 5–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5 p.m.–mid. Wine. Lot parking. MC, V. California Contemporary. JG $$

Red Corner Asia. The signature attraction at Red Corner Asia is a phenomenon known as Volcano Chicken, a rotisserie-cooked creation brought to the table trailing liquid streamers of fire, rising from the flames like a phoenix, whole and reborn and new as the day. Red Corner Asia describes itself as a Thai grill, and although you will find all the usual Thai curries, pan-fried noodles and crocks of chicken-coconut soup, the emphasis is on the gentler products of Thai live-fire cooking: candy-coated grilled pork ribs; crosshatched bits of grilled squid served with a tart green dipping sauce; and all the traditional satays. 5267 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-6722, www.redcornerasia.com. Open daily 11 a.m.–2 a.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Valet parking on weekends. AE, MC, V. Asian Fusion. JG $$$

Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown/Central Los Angeles O-Dae San. This is the grandest fish restaurant in Koreatown, a vast, sleek space with a Korean-style sushi bar running the length of the dining room. The private dining rooms are sumptuous. There are massive live halibut in the sushi tanks and subtleties to O-Dae San’s long menu that we won’t even try to address, because we can rarely tear ourselves away from the ever-fascinating al bap, a big bowl of sushi rice frosted — frosted! — with a half-dozen different kinds of fish eggs, laid out in contrasting streaks radiating from a plop of creamy sea-urchin roe at the center of the bowl like rays from the sun. 2889 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 383-9800. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Korean. 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 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.–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Valet parking. Korean Barbecue. JG $Taylor’s Steak House. The filet mignon here is soft, buttery, as rare as you order it, and crusted with char; the New York steak is beefy and rich; London broil, kind of stewy-tasting, comes sliced, with a horseradish and sour-cream sauce on the side. But the glory of Taylor’s is the culotte steak, a softball-shaped prime thing cut from the top of the sirloin. If you order it rare, the interior is scarlet, dripping juice, marbled with fat, full of the tremendous mineral sourness of great meat. It’s the steak that time forgot. 3361 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles, (213) 382-8449. Open daily for lunch 11:30 a.m.–4 p.m. and dinner 4–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. American. JG $

West Hollywood/La Cienega A.O.C. If Suzanne Goin’s wine bar weren’t quite so popular, it would be the kind of place you dropped into for a glass of vino and maybe a bit of octopus, then a glass of Sancerre and a few grilled sardines, then a glass of Friulian Tocai and a plate of sliced prosciutto, then a glass of Corbières and the tiniest plate of skewered grilled lamb with mint. Unless you were in the mood for the bacon-wrapped dates with Parmesan on the bar menu, which would go so nicely with one of those big southern Italian reds, or a ripe Crozier blue with a late-bottled port, or whatever creature comes with a bit of Goin’s romesco sauce. 8022 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 653-6359. Mon.–Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5:30–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Wine bar. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. French-Mediterranean-­influenced small plates. JG $$

Bridge Restaurant & Lounge. Bridge is the newest restaurant from the group that owns Koi, which means that the music is banging, the guy at the next table really is Ludacris, and the food, pan-peninsular Italian in this case, tends to be light, based on impeccable ingredients, and lovely to behold: thin petals of vitello tonnato arranged like fugu sashimi; delicate asparagus ravioli with butter and sage; a truly lovely, Koi-quality tuna tartare. 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 659-3535, www.bridgela.com. Restaurant Mon.–Sat. 6–11 p.m. Lounge 8 p.m.–2 a.m. Full bar. Street and valet parking. AE, MC, V. Italian. JG $$$

Grace. If Los Angeles restaurants are like rock bands, Neal Fraser is the glamorous indie-rock hero, a chef with a wobbly, idiosyncratic style that couldn’t be further from the finish-fetish crowd pleasers, a detailed, market-oriented sort of New American cuisine, heavy on French technique and inspired by the strong flavors and intricate presentations of New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. 7360 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 934-4400. Tues.–Thurs. 6–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–11 p.m., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking; difficult street parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG $$$

Koi. It is widely believed, however, that the post-Matsuhisa-style cuisine at Koi is an afterthought, that the avocado-laden tuna tartare on crispy won tons, the tuna sashimi with jalapeño, and the albacore Italiano are secondary to the rush, the scene, even the steak. But somebody has been paying attention behind the sushi bar lately. 730 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 659-9449. Dinner Mon.–Wed. 6–11 p.m., Thurs. 6–11:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–mid., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. All major credit cards. California Contemporary. JG $$$

Westwood/West L.A./Century City Attari. If you grew up in pre-revolution Tehran, this leafy patio is probably the café of your dreams, a pleasant place where the sandwiches are made with Iranian vegetable cutlets or extravagantly dressed hot dogs, and the clientele is as well-dressed as the lunch crowd at Spago. On Fridays, ab-goosht is the closest thing there is in the restaurant world to an automatic order, an intricate lamb stew mashed into a thick, homogeneous paste with the texture of refried beans, and an expressed liquid, the soul of the dish, served separately as soup. 1388 Westwood Blvd., Westwood (entrance on Wilkins), (310) 441-5488. Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking, plus validated lot parking at Borders. MC, V. Iranian. JG $

Clementine. At lunchtime, there may be no happier place in Los Angeles than Annie Miler’s cheerful takeout café across from Century City, home to Southern-ham biscuits, a showcaseful of carefully composed roast-vegetable salads, and an anthology’s worth of grilled cheese sandwiches crisped in an Italian sandwich press. The hot chocolate, made in the style of the Parisian tearoom Angelina, is a local legend. 1751 Ensley Ave., West Los Angeles, (310) 552-1080, www.clementineonline.com. Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–7:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. No alcohol. Parking in rear lot and on street. AE, DC, MC, V. American. JG $

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 kinds of fancily unfancy restaurants that pepper every urban neighborhood from San Diego to Augusta, Maine, they are also poking fun at them 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. 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. American Bistro. JG $$

Orris. Is Orris in any sense a sushi bar? No. It is a great place to drop in for new-age sashimi like smoked scallops garnished with salmon roe, seared tuna with sweet onion marmalade, or even what amounts to lamb sashimi. Its location, convenient to the Nuart and the manga-intensive shopping strip anchored by the Giant Robot complex, couldn’t be better, and the small sake selection is swell. 2006 Sawtelle Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 268-2212. Dinner Tue.–Fri. 6–10 p.m., Sat. 5:30–10:30 p.m., Sun. 5:30–9:30 p.m. Beer, wine and sake. Lot parking (valet Wed.–Sat.). AE, D, MC, V. Small-plate cuisine. JG $$

Beverly Hills and vicinity  Cut. Have you ever tasted Kobe beef — not the admittedly decent American wagyu from the same breed of cow, but the real stuff, the $200-a-pound steaks imported from Japan? If you happen to be at Wolfgang Puck’s new steak house, Cut, which at the moment is probably the best steakhouse in the world that doesn’t happen to be in either Tokyo or Buenos Aires, and you happen to have in front of you what would ordinarily be a perfectly splendid corn-fed Nebraska strip steak, aged 35 days, seared at 1,200 degrees then finished over oak to a ruddy, juicy medium rare, and garnished, perhaps with bone marrow, you would take one bite of your neighbor’s Kobe steak and look around for rocks to throw at your own hunk of meat. 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 276-8500. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5:30 p.m.- 11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking a half-block south of Wilshire Blvd. on Rodeo Drive. AE, D, MC, V. California Contemporary. JG $$$

The Grill on the Alley. Yes, the steaks are good; yes, the martinis are perfect; yes, the corned-beef hash (well-done, thank you very much) is sublime. But within the decidedly nonsoothing confines of the Grill, you will also find this town’s essential rice pudding: touched with cinnamon, drizzled with heavy cream, coaxing the nutty, rounded essence out of every grain of rice. 9560 Dayton Way, Beverly Hills, (310) 276-0615. Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 5–9 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking after 6 p.m.; free street parking before that. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Traditional American Steak House. JG $$$

Lodge. The $75 porterhouse-for-two starts to seem not only possible but desirable in the heat of The Lodge moment, and if you do the math, it is one of the least costly items on the menu. But, for example, while every steak house in town has the au courant wedge-of-iceberg salad, The Lodge ups the ante by pairing its wedge with another wedge. The potatoes are not just baked, but salt-baked, crunchy-skinned, accompanied by enough condiments to crank the vibe from Ornish all the way up to Atkins with just a few dips of the fork. 14 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 854-0024. Open nightly 5:30 p.m.–1 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. California Steak House. JG $$

Santa Monica/BrentwoodBay Cities. The Italian deli Bay Cities makes a decent turkey sandwich, a loud, greasy meatball sandwich and a very respectable hero, but the sandwich of choice here is a monster sub, straight outta Brooklyn, called “The Godmother,” which includes a slice of every Italian cold cut on Earth. Fully dressed with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, mustard and a few squirts of a garlicky vinaigrette, a Godmother feeds a couple of people at least; the guys behind the counter will look at you quizzically if they suspect you’re planning to eat a whole one yourself. 1517 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 395-8279. Tues.–Sat. 9 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. till 6 p.m. Beer, wine and liquor for takeout only. Lot parking. MC, V. Italian Deli. JG ¢

Border Grill. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger don’t redefine Mexican food; they just prepare it well, transforming the taco, the tostada, the homely chile relleno — here a freshly roasted poblano crammed with Mexican cheese and fried in an egg batter crisp and lacy as the coating on tempura shrimp — into creatures almost unrecognizable if you’re used to their Cal-Mex equivalents. Border Grill is the rare mainstream restaurant whose tacos don’t make you yearn for a truck parked by an auto-parts junkyard somewhere in East L.A. 1445 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-1655. Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. till 11 p.m. Full bar open till mid. Takeout. Street and valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Modern Mexican. JG $

Cha Cha Chicken. Although Cha Cha Chicken seems to operate mostly as a takeout stand, the patio off to the side is a pleasant place on a hot night. The cuisine is Caribbean poultry with attitude: a luscious, crisp-skinned bird gritty with spices and painted with dense, black sauce, slightly sweet and intricately spiced. Mulato Cubano is everything you could want in a pressed sandwich: violently spicy chicken, melted cheese, a pickle chip or two, and a French roll that has been folded, spindled and mutilated in the jaws of a sandwich press. 1906 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 581-1684. Open Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–10 p.m. BYOB. Street parking. MC, V. Caribbean. JG ¢

Wilshire. At Wilshire, there will always be jewel-like baby Nantes carrots the week that baby Nantes carrots hit the best farm stands; sweet satsuma tangerines in the duck confit salad at the time satsumas are at their peak; tiny purple artichokes when tiny purple artichokes are the thing — the stuff that defines Southern California as a great agricultural region. 2454 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 586-1707. Lunch Mon.–Fri. noon–2 p.m.; dinner Mon.–Wed. 6–10 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 6–10:45 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. California Seasonal. JG $$$

Culver City/Venice and vicinity Beacon: An Asian Cafe. Versions of miso-marinated cod, vegetable nabemono and grilled shisito peppers are all fine. Grilled-chicken skewers are powerfully flavored with the herb shiso and the tiny Japanese plum called ume. The hanger steak with wasabi is so successful, the searing tang of the horseradish doing something wonderful to the tart, carbonized flavor of grilled meat, that you might wonder why nobody thought of the combination until now. 3280 Helms Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 838-7500. Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.; dinner Tues.–Wed. and Sun. 5:30–8:15 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 5:30–9:15 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Asian Fusion. JG $

Beechwood. Chefs Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts, a kitchen team who have been the Next Big Thing in Los Angeles since their late pubescence, seem to have settled into variations on the theme of bar snacks here, the farmers-market-inflected rib-eye ­burgers, sticky pork ribs and burrata-tomato salads you may remember from their last venture, Amuse, plus a slightly more formal New American menu for the serene back dining room that includes things like duck confit with dandelion greens and sautéed catfish with collards and black-eyed peas. 822 Washington Blvd., Venice, (310) 448-8884. Dinner menu Tues.–Sat. 6–11 p.m.; bar menu served late into the evening and also Sun.–Mon. Full bar. Valet parking. New American. JG $$

Metro Café. 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. Beer and wine. Parking in Travelodge lot. MC, V. Serbian. Serbian. JG $

San Fernando Valley

Caioti Pizza Café. When the secret history of California pizza is finally written, a greasy volume inscribed in arugula, goat cheese and white truffle oil, former Spago pizza chef Ed LaDou’s name will be known across the land. If a pizza in Denmark or Ohio has smoked Gouda and pine nuts on it, it is in no small part due to LaDou. And Caioti Pizza Café is a shrine to LaDou’s creations. The barbecue chicken pizza, with slivered red onion, smoked Gouda and barbecue sauce instead of tomato, is definitive nostalgia, a taste of multiculti post-Olympics Los Angeles. 4346 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 761-3588. Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. till 11 p.m.; brunch Sat. 9–11 a.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–3 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. MC, V. Contemporary California. JG

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. 13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 784-2915. Sun.–Thurs. 5:30–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11 p.m. Full bar. Street parking. All major credit cards. California Asian. JG $$.Tama Sushi. Start with a plate of assorted sashimi, and you’ll find the chef cuts the fish like a gem cutter works with rubies, accentuating inherent virtues. And don’t miss the live scallop sushi, dressed in lime juice with a sprinkle of Italian sea salt. 11920 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 760-4585. Open for lunch daily 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner nightly 5–9:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Japanese. MH $

South Bay/LAX

Al-Noor. Nehari is more or less the Pakistani national dish, an intense, mahogany concoction of lamb shanks flavored with garlic, chiles, and an immoderate amount of shredded fresh ginger. Nehari can sometimes be as genteel as a country French ragout, but the nehari at Al-Noor — also a respectable venue for Pakistani breads, spicy stews and smoky, tandoor-cooked meats — is simmered down to a steaming, creamy mass with the density of a dwarf star, bubbling and glistening with red-tinted oil, a stew substantial enough to fortify three hungry men after a day of hard labor. 15112 Inglewood Ave., Lawndale, (310) 675-4700. Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Valet parking. D, MC, V. Indian. $

Al-Watan. Al-Watan is the summit of basic Pakistani cooking in Los Angeles, spicy, meaty, and deeply inflected by the flavors of ginger, cardamom and chiles, with some of the most vividly smoky tandoor-cooked meats you will ever taste. First among the stews is haleem, beef braised with shredded wheat until it breaks down into a thick gravy with the flavor of well-browned roast-beef drippings, but as meaty as Al-Watan may be, even vegetarians can be happy here: Navratan korma, a mixture of cauliflower, green beans and carrots stir-fried with chile and plenty of spices, is like a wonderful Muslim ratatouille, the flavors of each vegetable fresh and distinct while contributing to the cumulative effect of the cumin-scented whole. 13611 Inglewood Ave., Hawthorne, (310) 644-6395. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. MC, V. Indian. JG $

South Los Angeles

Badiraguato. This converted hamburger stand, named for a patch of Mexico notorious from narcocorrido ballads, traffics in the coastal cuisine of Sinaloa — tacos stuffed with marlin and salty cheese, chicken gorditas fried to a delicate crunchiness, and a great, crisp version of the roast-beef hash called asado estilo Sinaloa that would probably be as popular in Nebraska as in Culiacan. And, of course, there’s the famous machaca — all salt and smoke and heat — smashed into powder with a stone pestle, and fried to a frizzle with bits of onion. 3070 Firestone Blvd., South Gate, (323) 563-3450. Open daily, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Mexican. JG ¢

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. 4307 Leimert Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 292-7613. Mon. 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–mid., Sun. 11 a.m.–6 p.m. 2619 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 731-4772. Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Also at 1517 Centinela Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 412-7135. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Barbecue. JG $Woody’s. As you blast down Slauson toward the Westside, Woody’s Bar-B-Que is visible from a long way off, a white plume that looks from a distance as if it might come from a belching bus or a car fire, but quickly sorts itself out into a meat-fragrant cloud of woodsmoke. What you get here is, y’know, barbecue: crusty pork ribs spurting with juice; thick, blackened hot-link sausages with the chaw of good jerky; chewy, meaty little rib tips; giant beef ribs; and charred, only occasionally stewy-tasting, slices of well-done barbecued beef brisket that even Texans condescend to like. The sauce is one of the sweet brick-red kinds, hotly spiced with red pepper flakes, that you sop up with slices of damp white bread until all of it is gone, less a condiment than a way of life. 3446 W. Slauson Ave., (323) 294-9443. Also 475 S. Market St., Inglewood, (310) 672-4200. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Takeout only. Cash only. JG $

East Los AngelesAntojitos Guerrero. Bathed in the deafening roar of a jukebox and the Atlántico game playing simultaneously at top volume, Antojitos Guerrero is a small family restaurant specializing in the dishes of central Mexico’s Guerrero state, which is to say barbacoa, beef steamed with chiles in maguey leaves until it is tender as an Usher ballad, heaps of it with thick, homemade tortillas and extra chile if you happen to be into excess. 5623 York Blvd., Highland Park, (323) 254-6118. Open daily 8 a.m.–7 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. Mexican. JG ¢El Borrego de Oro. In the neighborhood of Boyle Heights, which is thronged with businesses selling carnitas, fried seafood, grilled beef, El Borrego de Oro — the Golden Sheep — stands out as a specialist in mutton, specifically mutton pit-roasted with maguey leaves in the style of the central Mexican state of Hidalgo, a savory mess known by the rather generic term barbacoa: slivers and shards and nubs hacked from a steaming carcass, some of it attached to the bone and some of it not, some crunchy, some soft, some greasy, luscious and dark. This is pungent, powerful stuff, sweetly reeking of the gamy underbrush, like lamb that bites you back. 2403 E. Whittier Blvd., Boyle Heights, (323) 780-4213. Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 6 a.m.–8 p.m. No alchohol. Takeout and catering. Lot parking. AE, V. Mexican. JG ¢El Chamizal. The basic unit of currency at El Chamizal is the parrillada, a squat iron brazier shimmering from the heat of the charcoal within, brought to your table piled high with thin grilled steaks, pork chops marinated in chile, hunks of chorizo sausage, fried bananas, whole jalapeños burnt black, and little ramekins of melted cheese and scallions bronzed and wilted to a superb sweetness. The meat is terrific, well-marinated, very nice folded into a little taco with the house’s fine smoked tomato sauce and a spoonful of the smoky bacon-stewed beans. 7111 Pacific Blvd., Huntington Park, (323) 583-3251. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days, 8 a.m.–2 a.m. Full bar. Takeout. Street parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Mexican. JG $

Burbank/Glendale/Eagle Rock/Pasadena

Café Atlantic. This Cuban café from Xiomara Ardolina serves authentic, gently priced Cuban cuisine with a high-quality sheen that may provoke some Versailles die-hards to quibble with the term authentic. But Cuban cooking in general, and this menu in particular, are a rhapsody of garlic and onions, sofrito (sautéed aromatic vegetables), and mojo. Here, the flavors are as bold as the Cuban jazz on the tape deck. Don’t miss the fufu de platanos con chicharrones, the rich mash of semi-ripe plantains and crunchy pork rind. 53 E. Union St., Pasadena, (626) 796-7350. Breakfast, lunch and å seven days, Mon.–Fri. 6 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 7:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Wine and beer. Street parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $11–$14. Cuban. MH $$

Canadian Cafe. Until a few months ago, poutine was on a longish list of foods, from creole cream cheese to real Tuscan lardo, that were simply unavailable in Los Angeles. Even if there were a place in town that sold the cheese curds that are a necessary component of poutine, the implicit heaviness of a dish composed of French-fried potatoes smothered in gravy and molten curds seems more appropriate to the endless gloom of Quebec winters than to Surf City, USA. But the Canadian Cafe, in Monrovia, is a divey temple to all things Canadian, walls emblazoned with moose and Mounties, pennants and maps. Poutine may not be as useful a Montreal import as Eric Gagné, but it’s nice to know that it’s around. 125 E. Colorado Blvd., Monrovia, (626) 303-2303. Tue.–Sat. 11 a.m.–7 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. D, MC, V. JG $

Europane. A good croissant is a joy forever, crisp, airy and saturated with butter, large enough to take the sting off a double cappuccino but not so large that you’d be tempted to use it for anything so vulgar as a “croissandwich.” On a good day, Europane’s magnificent croissants could be mistaken for France’s best in a police lineup — the crisp, buttery chocolate croissant could make you swoon. Toss in the homemade granola, the epochal bread pudding and the gooiest egg-salad sandwich in town, and it’s no wonder that Europane’s regulars treat the bakery more as a permanent residence than as a café. 950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 577-1828. Mon.–Sat. 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Sun. till 3 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. MC, V. California Bakery. JG ¢

101 Noodle Express. This restaurant is home to the Shandong-style beef roll, a splendid object of desire, a massive, bronzed construction of crisp Chinese pancakes, slivers of stewed beef and a sweet, house-made bean paste that bears the same relationship to ordinary hoisin sauce that a L’Orangerie’s demi-glacé might to a slug of canned brown gravy. It is a simple composition, and yet not; ordinary street food, but raised to the transcendent level of a great carne asada taco or a Modena housewife’s very best homemade tortellini. 1408 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 300-8654. Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10 p.m. Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–11 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Chinese. JG $

Pie ’n Burger. Like all good hamburgers, paper-jacketed Pie ’n Burgers are all about texture, the crunchy sheaf of lettuce, the carbonized surface of the meat, the outer rim of the bun crisped to almost the consistency of toast, plus pink dressing and soft, sweet grilled onions. The fries are good too. 913 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 795-1123. Mon.–Fri. 6 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun,. 7 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash or check. American. JG ¢

Raffi’s Place. You go to Raffi’s for its enormous, affordable plates of Persian-­Armenian food, but you also get canaries singing in the trees, a heated brick patio, quick service and a location close to ­Glendale’s best movie theaters. Everyone comes for the grilled kebabs served with whole charred tomatoes and peppers, plus mountains of aromatic basmati rice — try the shishlique, or lamb chops. 211 E. Broadway, Glendale, (818) 240-7411. Daily 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $8–$14. Persian/Armenian. MH ¢

Monterey Park/San Gabriel and vicinity Golden Triangle. The place specializes in the garbanzo-flour-thickened fish chowder called moh hin gha, the biryani-style rice dish called dun buk htaminh, and lap pad thoke, a salad made with pickled tea leaves that have the consistency of stewed collard greens and the caffeine kick of a double espresso. 7011 S. Greenleaf Ave., Whittier, (562) 945-6778. Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. AE, D, MC, V. Thai-Burmese. JG $b

New Concept. The foodie community swooned over New Concept’s coffee-flavored pork, the oatmeal prawns and the soda-pop chicken wings. But you’ll do better with more traditional Hong Kong–style dishes: succulent roast duck seasoned with cinnamon; Shunde-style fish soup; rich Macao-style roast pork; smoky clay-pot rice with barbecue; and steamed whole fish, which can be ruinously expensive if you forget to determine the price. 700 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park, (626) 282-6800. Dim sum Mon.–Fri. 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; dinner nightly 5–11 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. MC, V. Chinese. JG $$$

Long Beach and vicinitySan Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant. Steamed live Dungeness crabs served with mallets. Deep-fried carp. Beer sold from an ice-filled bin. And shrimp “fajitas” fried hard with garlic, peppers and onions, which you eat while you watch big freighters ease their way into the harbor. What more could you want? Berth 78, 1190 Nagoya Way, San Pedro, (310) 832-4251. Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V JG $$Shahnawaz Halal Tandoori Restaurant. The best dish at this Pakistani redoubt may be mirch ka salan — a thick, tan curry of fresh jalapeño peppers, heady with the scents of garlic and ginger, bound with a pungent, grainy mortar of ground spice. 12225 E. Centralia St., Lakewood, (562) 402-7443. Open. Tues.–Sun. for lunch and dinner. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Pakistani. JG $


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