Where To Eat Now

Downtown Los Angeles

Cole’s P.E. Buffet. Seventy-five years before anybody thought to dress a squab salad with raspberry vinegar, Los Angeles was known across the country for French-dipped sandwiches, sliced roast meat layered on a French roll that had been sopped in meat juice. Dank old Cole’s, which is the oldest restaurant in Los Angeles and looks every week of it, has the best French dip: roasted brisket or pastrami, carved to order, dipped and served on a crusty roll. 118 E. Sixth St., downtown, (213) 622-4090. Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–7:30 p.m. (bar until 10 p.m.). Full bar. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Sandwiches $5.29–$7.29. American. JG ¢

Empress Pavilion. I can’t think of a better way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday than meeting friends here for dim sum. Pace it out, so you won’t risk missing the little short ribs in a glorious black-bean sauce, or any of the exquisite and varied steamed dumplings, so transparent you can easily read the contents: shrimp and greens, chicken and mushrooms. But dinners are pretty fine too: If you’re lucky, the Dungeness crab steamed with noodles and about half a ton of fresh garlic will be on the menu. Bamboo Plaza, 988 N. Hill St., Chinatown, (213) 617-9898. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Validated parking. AE, DC, MC, V. $1.85–$4.80 per plate, $12–$15 per person. Chinese. JG $$[

 LA99  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, 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 $$

Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park

Edendale 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. 2838 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 666-2000. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–11:30 p.m. Sunday brunch 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Full bar. Complimentary valet. Entrées $13.75–$27. AE, DC, MC, V. American. MH $$b?

Millie’s. As several generations of Silver Lake hipsters can attest, Millie’s was designed to cure hangovers the way that penicillin was designed to cure syphilis, a hot, crowded, underventilated slice of culinary purgatory that cuts straight to the heart of the problem. Swear by the grease antidote? Millie’s chicken-fried steak with 40-weight gravy is there for you. Believe in a shock to the system? An extra-spicy Devil’s Mess omelet, which comes with antitoxin doses of everything in the kitchen, may do the trick. Bacon and strong coffee the ticket? You’ve come to the right place. For better or for worse, Millie’s cooks breakfast like your dad used to make. And as they say, Father knows best. 3524 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 664–0404. Open seven days, 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. V, MC only. No liquor. Street parking. Takeout. American. JG ¢b

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax

Cha Cha Cha. It is hard to imagine a better brunch than Sunday mornings at the original Cha Cha Cha: strong coffee, suave tropical music and the pan-Caribbean cooking of Toribio Prado, who can rightly claim to be the first Nuevo Latino Caribbean–food chef in Los Angeles. The noise and the sceniness can be a little much at dinner (although the corn chowder is formidable), but on Sunday morning, when locals vastly outnumber screaming Corona bibbers, the buzz is exactly right. And the chilaquiles are the best in town. 656 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 664-7723. Mon.–Thurs. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sun. 8 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $20–$30. Caribbean. JG $$b?

 LA99  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.–2 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG $

La Fonda Antioqueña. If you like grilled meat, consider ordering the Ave Maria: a thin, plate-size marinated steak, tasting strongly of the grill; a dense, spicy chorizo; a thick, smoky pinto-bean stew (awesome!); fried plantains; rice; arepa; and the inevitable strip of pigskin. Don’t forget to try the Colombian soda pop, Manzana, which tastes a little like fresh apples. 4903 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 957-5164. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Parking in rear and front. Dinner for two, food only, $6.95–$13.95. MC, V. Colombian. JG ¢?b

Grub. Grub is a charming incongruity in the concrete heart of postproduction country. The coffee is a lot fresher than Charbucks, and they serve a homemade ginger ale with fresh lime wedges in a tall cup rimmed with raw sugar. Try the decadent After School Special, a grilled cheese sandwich made with Cheddar and Swiss, on sourdough and fried in, oh, maybe a half-stick of butter. 911 Seward St., Hollywood, (323) 461-3663. Breakfast Mon.–Fri. 8–10:30 a.m. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Brunch Sat.–Sun. 9 a.m.–2 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout daily, delivery Mon.–Fri. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $3.95–$10.95. American. Nancy Rommelmann $b[

 LA99  Ortolan. While L’Orangerie is straggling, Bastide is closed for remodeling, and half the émigré chefs in California are putting their knowledge of Escoffier to work cooking pasta, Ortolan, which reflects Christophe Emé’s Loire-trained palate, may be the most serious French restaurant in Los Angeles. Ortolan’s basic premise — high-level French cooking served in a supper-club setting — is an attractive one. And Emé, who co-owns the restaurant with his paramour Jeri Ryan, is remarkably skilled: The squab, served as a roasted breast paired with a leg confit, is exceptional, as are the crisp langoustines, and the complex tasting menus are among the most accomplished in town. 8338 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 653-3300. Tues.–Sat. 6–10 p.m. (Closed Sun.–Mon. in summer.) Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrees $29-$39. French. JG $$$b[Â

 LA99  Sapp Coffee Shop. Sapp may be the best lunchroom in Hollywood, a bright Thai restaurant, unrelentingly yellow inside, sharing a mini-mall with a video shop and a place to get griddled Thai desserts; crowded at noon not with revelers, but with people who have come to Thai Town to shop and eat spicy, stinky boat noodles, remarkable grilled chicken, and bright-green “jade” noodles tossed with Chinese barbecue. Sapp is the Thai equivalent of Pie ’n Burger, a lunchroom where the virtues of homeliness become extraordinary when put in context with the shiny, glittery surfaces against which it might compete. 5183 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 665-1035. Lunch and dinner 7 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Closed Wed. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Lunch for two, food only, $8.50–$14.50. Thai. JG $

Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown/Central Los Angeles

 LA99  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. 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 daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Korean barbecue. JG $Â?

Sky’s Tacos. Sky’s are not the tacos your mother used to make. Or rather, they probably are the tacos your mother used to make, unless you happened to grow up in a Mexican household: two thick corn tortillas molded into the bottom of a red plastic carhop basket, mounded with turkey or chicken, shrimp or beef, gilded with orange cheese, buried under lettuce and doused with a sweet-hot house salsa. Soul food pops up in the oddest places sometimes. 5408 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 932-6253. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $3.60–$10. Mexican-American Soul. JG ¢b

Soot Bull Jeep. Soot Bull Jeep may be the best of L.A.’s 100-odd Korean barbecues, noisy, smoky, with all the bustle you’d expect in the heart of a great city, a place to cook your own marinated short ribs and baby octopus, pork loin and tripe, above a tabletop heap of glowing hardwood coals. If you are new to this sort of thing, a waitress will return periodically to make sure that your ignorance of cooking times injures the meat no more than absolutely necessary. 3136 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles, (213) 387-3865. Open daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. MC, V. Entrées $15–$30. Korean. JG ¢

West Hollywood/La Cienega

 LA99  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, 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. The quality of the Italian cooking here will never quite measure up to that of the glorious prime of Alto Palato, which used to occupy this space, but the cuisine created by Dolce alum Mirko Paderno and Giorgio’s veteran Santos MacDonal can be almost as sparkling as the crowd. 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 659-3535. 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 $$$Â?

Zeke’s. This mini-chain of barbecue restaurants plays both sides of the fence in the barbecue game, serving essentially Piedmont-style pulled pork (with the controversial Carolinian mustard sauce), spare ribs that slouch toward a Kansas City style, and fairly magnificent Texas-style brisket, rimmed with a pink rictus of smoke. The side dishes, which are so beside the point at central Texas barbecue stands as to be practically nonexistent, tend to be pretty great — including the only barbecue-hut coleslaw I can ever remember finishing. 7100 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 850-9353. Also 2209 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, (818) 957-7045. AE, MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Takeout. JG$$b

Westwood/West L.A./Century City

 LA99  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 Mon.–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. $6.50–$14 per dish.Small-plate cuisine. JG $$b[

Shamshiri Grill. Lovers of the Persian dishes tah dig and karafs — a thin, crunchy cake of fried white rice with a delicious green stew on top — will find good versions of both at Shamshiri, a well-mannered restaurant on Westwood’s Iranian restaurant row. 1712 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 474-1410. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. noon–11 p.m., Sun. noon–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. $9.95–$16.95 (lunch $5.95–$7.95). AE, D, MC, V. Persian. JG ¢b

Beverly Hills and vicinity

 LA99  Cut. If you have $120 million to spend on a painting, you might as well buy yourself a Klimt. If you have $120 to spend on a steak, you might want to consider visiting Cut — and splitting the Kobe strip three or four ways, because there is no way you can finish even a small example by yourself. Inserted into a new Richard Meier–designed space in the Regent Beverly Wilshire, in a semicircular all-white room whose angles make you feel as if you’re dining in a mid-’60s Frank Stella painting, Cut is to the other steak houses in town at the moment what Spago was to the pizza parlors back in 1981. Lee Hefter’s warm veal tongue with salsa verde, succulent maple-glazed pork belly, crisp-skinned potato “tart tatin” and pan-roasted Maine lobster with truffle sabayon are quite unlike anything before served in Los Angeles. 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 276-8500. Dinner Mon.–Sat. Full bar. Valet parking a half-block south of Wilshire Blvd. on Rodeo Drive. AE, D, MC, V. California Contemporary. JG $$$

 LA99  Enoteca Drago. In New York City, Italian wine bars are multiplying like mosquitoes. In Los Angeles, the most serious Italian wine bar is probably the posh Enoteca Drago, an outpost of Celestino Drago’s pasta-driven empire, where you can chase a plate of prosciutto, a mess of baby octopods, or even the elusive lardo — cured pig fat in the style of northwestern Tuscany, melted onto a slab of fried bread — with a glass of crisp Verdicchiofrom the Marches. Some of the wines are served in flights — sets of small pours arranged by grape or by region. Enoteca Drago does function as a full restaurant, although it is occasionally hard to remember this when you’re floating in the middle of a Brunello reverie, but you will also find great pasta with pesto and one of the few proper versions of spaghetti carbonara in town. 410 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 786-8236. Open Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées. $13.50–$18. Italian. JG $$

Santa Monica/Brentwood

Reddi-Chick. In the exalted reaches north of Montana Avenue, the Brentwood Country Mart is synonymous with Reddi-Chick, whose roaring fire and golden-skinned roasting fowl exude an aroma almost powerful enough to smell at the beach. The basic item here is the chicken basket, half a roast chicken buried beneath a high mound of fries. It is probably not the best chicken you’ve ever had, but it’s real good, like the best conceivable version of the chickens that spin in supermarkets. 225 26th St., Santa Monica, (310) 393-5238. Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–7:30 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. Cash only. Sandwiches and dinners $4.10–$15.75. American. JG $b

Violet. A pleasant, mainstream bistro, Violet has all the appropriate buzzwords on its menu: the harissa aioli, the braised veal cheeks, the rare ahi tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes, but it is also possible to drop in after a show at McCabe’s up the block for a caesar salad, a decent pepper steak, or a dish of very nice macaroni and cheese made with Gruyère, slivered leeks and chunked-up Serrano ham; or to stop by at lunchtime for a cheeseburger or a sandwich of that same Spanish ham turbocharged with sliced manchego cheese and breathtaking amounts of fresh garlic. Violet is a little restaurant that cares. 3221 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 453-9113, www.­violetrestaurant.com. Lunch Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m., dinner Tues.–Fri. 6–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $44–$66. California cuisine. JG $$

Ye Olde King’s Head. Until the recent gastropub revolution, the food at most pubs in England may have fully justified everything ever muttered in a dark moment about British food. The King’s Head, a dank, overcrowded expat hangout near the Santa Monica Promenade, is no gastropub, but it does serve some of the best beer in town, which is to say the hand-drawn drafts of Real Ale that never seem to make it anywhere else. The food is, unfortunately, all too authentic, pasties and bangers and such, but the fish and chips are everything you could wish for, sweet fillets of North Sea cod, enrobed in light batter and fried to a delicate crunch. 116 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 451-1402. Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.–mid., Sat. 8 a.m.–mid., Sun. 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar open daily until 2 a.m. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. JG $$Â?b

Culver City/Venice and vicinity

 LA99  Bluebird Cafe. Let Beacon and Ford’s hog the credit: A few blocks from downtown Culver City, in a freshly painted diner that looks as if it has been languishing since the ’50s, Vincent Trevino and Chris Marble’s breakfast-lunch café is the real soul of the new Media District, a center of muscular omelets, big salads and thick hamburgers, BLTs with avocado, real iced tea, and a tuna melt for the ages. His pressed sandwiches of cold cuts and cheeses actually taste like their inspirations, the panini served at the Autogrills that dot every superhighway in Italy, more than the fancier uptown versions do, and Trevino’s pretty iced cupcakes are renowned. 8572 National Blvd., Culver City, (310) 841-0939, www.bluebirdcafela.com. Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–3 p.m. Free lot parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG $$

 LA99  Joe’s. Everybody loves an underdog, and at Joe’s, which has been an institution since it was the size of a rent-controlled studio beach apartment, half of Venice has a crush on Joe Miller’s uncomplicated cuisine. You may not have a transcendent experience at Joe’s, and you’ll spend more than you think you should, but there is this to be said for the restaurant: The kitchen never, ever screws up the fish. 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 399-5811. Lunch Tues.–Fri. noon–2:30 p.m., dinner Tues.–Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 6–11 p.m., brunch Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $10–$25, plus $38–$45 prix fixe dinner. California. JG $

El Rincon Criollo. This family-owned café serves hearty, classic Cuban fare minus the grease or frills. Start off with a little fried yuca ($3), lightly salted, with a potato-like consistency. The Cuban roast pork ($7.50) is hard to beat, delicately seasoned and bursting with flavor, served alongside a hefty portion of white rice and black beans. Be sure and complement your meal with a fresh cup of Cuban coffee ($1.50). 4361 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, (310) 391-4478. Lunch and dinner seven days, 11 a.m.– 10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout; catering. MC, V. Cuban. JG ¢b

San Fernando Valley

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 knockwurst, 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., Studio City, (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, D, MC, V. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $18–$36. Deli. JG $$[

Carnival. The whole human comedy — or carnival, as it were — flocks to this relentlessly popular Middle Eastern restaurant in a Sherman Oaks mini-mall for big portions of mezze and kebabs. (A buck seventy-five adds soup or salad and rice or fries to any entrée.) Never mind the harassed, overworked waiters racing around on their last nerves. Try the daily specials — lamb shanks, lamb and okra stew. Hummus meat — chopped, deeply seasoned lamb and pine nuts in a nest of good hummus — is the dish to order. 4356 Woodman Ave., Sherman Oaks, (818) 784-3469. Seven days 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $8.25–$12.95. Middle Eastern. MH ¢b

 LA99  Woodlands. In the afternoons, Woodlands is strictly a buffet restaurant, and on the steam table you’ll find the crunchy fried-lentil doughnuts called vada, puffs of poori bread, buttery rounds of paratha, knobby lumps of limp vegetable pakora, and a vat of Woodlands’ special lemon rasam, a thin, peppery Tamil vegetable sauce for rice that doubles as a soup and a healing tonic. Depending on the chef’s mood, you may find something mysteriously identified as moore khulambzu, a tart, runny, complex curry of yogurt and tiny fried-lentil dumplings that is among the best Indian dishes we have ever tasted. 9840 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Chatsworth, (818) 998-3031. Also at 11833 Artesia Blvd., Artesia, (562) 860-6500.Tues.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. $7.95 lunch buffet Tues.–Fri., $9.95 brunch buffet Sat.–Sun. Indian. JG $$b[

South Bay/LAX

 LA99  Al-Watan. A bare, smoky dining room adjacent to a Muslim butcher shop, 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. 13611 Inglewood Ave., Hawthorne, (310) 644-6395. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. MC, V. Indian. JG $b

Dinah’s Restaurant. The oven-baked German pancake at this Westchester-proximate coffee shop feeds three: It’s brown around the edges, crisp and spongy like a giant Yorkshire pudding, thickening into a dense, moist, springy crepe as you descend into the pancake’s interior. Less voracious appetites may wish to try the extra-cinnamony apple pancakes, or the thin, crisp Swedish pancakes, or the potato pancakes, sour, lacy-edged crepes that happen to have a little grated potato stirred into them. 6521 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 645-0456. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.–Sun. 6 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. Breakfast for two, food only, $6–$14. AE, DC, MC, V. American. JG $b

South Los Angeles

Kotohira. Kotohira is one of the few places in the United States that still makes udon by hand: thick, white and long, diminishing to squiggles at the ends, clean in flavor, with the bouncy resiliency of elastic ropes. Whether dunked in fish soup or anointed with curry; hot in a bowl or cold on a mat; or dry in a bowl and garnished with ginger, green onion and wisps of freshly shaved bonito — the wheaty sweetness of the noodles, set off by the clean smoky smack of the dried bonito, is among the most delicious things you have ever eaten. 1747 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena, (310) 323-3966. Lunch and dinner, Wed.–Mon. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and sake. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $15–$19. MC, V. Japanese. JG ¢[

Sanuki No Sato. Udon noodles come in all the standard flavors: topped with crisp buttons of tempura batter in a plain soy-enriched broth, or with chewy bits of rice cake, or with exquisitely slimy Japanese mountain yams. Yukinabe udon — served in a rustic-looking iron kettle and buried beneath half an inch of grated daikon, a sprinkling of grated wasabi and a ferociously spiced cod-egg sac — is an exotic bowl you could eat every day. 18206 S. Western Ave., Gardena, (310) 324-9184. Open seven days, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $13–$36. AE, DC, MC, V. Japanese. JG $ b[

East Los Angeles

Mariscos Sinaloa. Think simple, beachy seafood. Mariscos Sinaloa, in a converted Taco Bell, serves competent ceviches, basic tostadas topped with sliced avocado and things like octopus or shrimp, and straightforward seafood botanas, which are the Mexican equivalent of tapas more or less. It’s a pleasant place to spend an afternoon, out on the patio, watching the world pass by. 5633 York Blvd., Highland Park, (323) 258-6823. Open daily 9 a.m.–8:30 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Parking in rear. Dinner for two, food only, $4–$22. Regional Mexican. JG ¢?b

Tacos el Michoacano. This is a modest Michoacán-style takeout restaurant with a photo menu by the register and worn vinyl booths along the walls. The state is famous throughout Mexico for its take on fried pork, and El Michoacano’s is first-rate: crunchy, oozing and slightly gamy. And on each table is a molcajete half-filled with the majestic house salsa, dried chiles toasted black, ground into a fine paste and finished simply with oil and salt. Some days, I think I could live on that chile paste and El Michoacano’s great strawberry licuados alone. 5933 York Blvd., Highland Park, (323) 258-0794. Open daily 7 a.m.–8 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout Dinner for two, food only, $2–$6. Regional Mexican. JG ¢b

Pasadena and vicinity

 LA99  Pie ’n Burger. Even in Los Angeles . . . where it is possible to eat not only wood-fired goat-cheese pizza with duck sausage and sun-dried fennel, but also reasonably authentic Merida-style cochinito pibil and properly made Cambodian catfish amok, sometimes only a hamburger will do. Pie ’n Burger is an essential address at these times. 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. Entrées $5–$10. American. JG ¢b

 LA99  Trattoria Tre Venezie. Tre Venezie, a tiny Italian restaurant in Pasadena’s Old Town, could easily pass for one of the better trattorias in Udine — the cooking, mostly in the Slavic-influenced style of Friuli, northeast of Venice, is superb. True, the careful authenticity of the food must be balanced against the fact that dinner with a nice wine can cost not much less than a roundtrip ticket to Venice itself. But I love the orzotto, a soothing Friulian stew of tripe and grain that emphasizes the gentle muskiness, the slippery contours of the meat, without an offending chile in sight. 119 W. Green St., Pasadena, (626) 795-4455. Lunch Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner Tues.–Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet and street parking. AE, DC, MC, V. $25–$32. Italian. JG $$b

Monterey Park/San Gabriel and vicinity

Luscious Dumplings Inc. There are the usual kinds of dumplings and noodles here. But the pan-fried pork dumplings at Luscious Dumplings Inc. can be absolutely magnificent things — flattened hemispheres blackened to a luminous, carbon-edged crunch, heavily caramelized, then exploding in the mouth with a blistering, onion-scented pop, a primal flood of juice, of heat, of flavor. 704 W. Las Tunas Drive, No. E4, San Gabriel, (626) 282-8695. Lunch and dinner Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–8 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–2 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Lunch for two, food only, $10–$16. JG $b

 LA99  New Concept. From the week it opened, New Concept was celebrated as a beacon of Chinese cuisine in Los Angeles, an elegant Monterey Park restaurant with actual mainland ownership, elaborate photo menus and a chef, Chen Chen Liang, who had reinvented the possibilities of Chinese cooking in America. Foodies swooned over the coffee-flavored pork and the soda-pop chicken wings. But you’ll do better with more traditional Hong Kong–style dishes: roast duck seasoned with cinnamon; Shunde-style fish soup; rich Macao-style roast pork; 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 $$$ [


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