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Where To Eat Now

Downtown L.A./Chinatown/Westlake

Izayoi Izayoi’s mastermind is chef Junichi Shiode, the whiz who used to run Sushi Ryo, one of those rare secret addresses beloved by chefs seeking a cuisine that many customers didn’t even know it served: classic Japanese izakaya dishes. Izakaya menus are typically long and hard to follow, with a host of different sections unfamiliar to anyone not versed in the style, and a list of daily specials often as long as the menu proper. Here is the secret: Order lots of stuff: gooey octopus sashimi, ramekins of roughly chopped Spanish mackerel, bowls of room-temperature egg custard topped with sea-urchin gonads, house-made tofu slicked with sweet miso paste, yakiniku skewers of grilled tongue, dried and grilled skate fins cut into little salty curls — and a bowl of ochazuke, brothy rice, at the end. Shiode has a particular deftness with sardines — the infamous “sardine burger” is as close to a mandatory order as you will ever find on a hundred-item menu. 132 S. Central Ave., dwntwn., (213) 613-9554. Mon.-Sat. 5:30-10:15 p.m. Beer, sake and wine. Parking in Office Depot lot on Second St. at Central Ave. AE, MC, V. Japanese. JG I

Mandarin Shanghai Restaurant This restaurant has a minor specialization in earthen-pot entrées, soupy things served in great clay vessels as big around as satellite dishes, and first among these is the fish-head earthen pot, the front half of a gigantic carp stewed in an aromatic stock, laced with sharply spicy chiles and mellowed with bean paste, the thing to get here if you don’t mind your dinner looking back at you. 970 N. Broadway, Suite 114, Chinatown, (213) 625-1195. Lunch and dinner. Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $19–$25. AE, D, MC, V. Mandarin. JG H?LM

AD?Royale A swank parlor of the oughts fitted into a swank art deco supper club of 80 years ago, Royale is an oddly formal restaurant for its MacArthur Park neighborhood, a citadel of Ginger Rogers–era civilization translated into beefsteak and halibut. Eric Ernest, late of Citrine, is a playful chef, flavoring a bit of big-eye tuna with an oil flavored to resemble the Punjabi lamb stew rogan josh, hitting the sautéed foie gras with preserved blood orange wedges and a blast of licorice, gilding the burger with braised shortribs and truffled cheese. For dessert, there are chocolate platters and bowls of blue cotton candy that resemble the hairdo of The Simpsons’ Sideshow Mel. And as you might expect, the dining room is lubricated with all the laid-back house music you can stand. 2619 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (213) 388-8488 or www.­royaleonwilshire.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner Open daily 5:30–10:30 p.m. (lounge open till 2 a.m.). Full bar. Valet parking. All major CC. European. JGJLMNK

Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park

Agra Balti, in theory at least, is a kind of Kashmiri curry with roots in the Islamic cuisine of northern Pakistan, cooked and served in handled metal pots that resemble miniature woks. In practice, the word balti has come to mean almost any fiercely hot curry served to the overwhelmingly English clientele of the baltihouses of Birmingham — food tailored, as a friend says, to the alcohol-deadened palates of drunken football hooligans. Like a Tommyburger, a balti worthy of the name can still be tasted when one is in the clutches of the next morning’s hangover. Agra, an Indian restaurant in Silver Lake, certainly serves cuisine more subtle than that, but there is a considerable list of baltis on the menu, and they are overwhelmingly, punishingly hot, with all the refinement of last week’s 50 Cent remix played at earth-thumping volume from the back of a Scion. “Do you want that American hot or English hot?” sneers the waiter. “I will be warning you: American hot is a little milder than what the English are calling medium.” 4325 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 665-7818. Open daily for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.–11 p.m. No alcohol. Parking lot. AE, DC, MC, V. JG $b?

Tiger Lily Is it a restaurant? Is it a lounge? Is it a place to pose by the bar in a pair of artfully ripped Rogans, nursing a glass of Viognier and a skewer of vegetable shashlik while you wait for prime time at the clubs? Will you ever find the actual squid for all the fried batter in the Mangalore calamari? Tiger Lily is the latest in a long, long series of Hollywood small-plates restaurants whose dramatic design perhaps outweighs the cuisine. In this case, a dramatic cavern, lit like a seraglio scene at the L.A. Opera, where it is possible to dine on the amusing snack foods of all Asian nations, from Indian samosas to Sri Lankan vegetarian curry plates, fermented-bean-flavored osso buco to tempura soft-shell crab, spring rolls to tandoori skewers, goat-cheese wontons to sweet sausage sandwiches supposedly inspired by Macao. The owner, Sumant Parda, has been at East India Grill for half of forever, and his chef, Edward Brik, has a long résum?é that includes Spago; the sleek, approachable, oversweet dishes are what Californians have grown to expect from pan-Asian cuisine. 1739 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 661-5900. Open daily 5 p.m.–2 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. All major CC. Asian. JG IMNK

 

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax

Ita-Cho Ita-Cho 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., L.A., (323) 938-9009. Tues.–Sat. 6:30–10:15 p.m. Beer and sake. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. $20–$50. Japanese. MH HNM

ADCB?Sapp Coffee Shop Sapp may be the best lunchroom in Hollywood, a bright Thai restaurant, unrelentingly yellow inside, sharing a small 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., Hlywd., (323) 665-1035. Open 7 a.m.–8:30 p.m.; closed Wednesdays. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Thai. JG G

AB?Luna Park “Serious” restaurants highlight Jidori chicken on their menus, have somebody in the kitchen who knows how to work the mulberry lady at the Santa Monica Farmers Market and feature at least two different preparations of foie gras. Luna Park, the La Brea Avenue spinoff of a popular San Francisco café, is more of a place to drop by for a salad with Green Goddess dressing, a glass of Shiraz and a pretty good piece of salmon with mashed potatoes — which is to say, it occupies a spot on the food chain halfway between Ortolan and the local branch of the Cheesecake Factory. The 20-somethings who throng the restaurant for goat-cheese fondue, garlicky moules frites and grilled artichokes with aioli presumably couldn’t care less. 672 S. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323) 934-2110. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5:30–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11:30 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m.; brunch Sat.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Full bar. AE, MC, V. $9.50–$16.50. American Comfort Food. JG ILMN

West Hollywood/La Cienega

ADCB?Sona What we know as California cuisine may be dedicated to revealing produce at its best, but David and Michelle Myers go after nature with blowtorches and microtomes and dynamite, determined to bend the old woman to their will. A sliver of watermelon may be less a sliver of watermelon than a wisp in a chilled soup, a salted crunch tracing the shape of a curl of marinated yellowtail, a glistening cellophane window into the soul of a pistachio, a texture in a sorbet, a jelly exposing its cucumberlike soul. 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., W. Hlywd., (310) 659-7708. Tues.–Fri. 6–10 p.m., Sat. 5:30–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Modern French. JG JM

Zeke’s This minichain of barbecue restaurants was conceived by Leonard Schwartz — which is to say, by the chef who reinserted meat loaf into the American canon 20-odd years ago at 72 Market Street. He’s either a compassionate conservative or a card-carrying postmodernist, and it is impossible to tell just which from the evidence of his food alone. Zeke’s 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 hush puppies, potato chips fried to order and 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. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Barbecue. JGIL

Yatai Asian Tapas Bar The similarity between the Spanish tapas bar and the Japanese izakaya has been long noted — both are places where the cooking is subsidiary to the drinking, where immoderate consumption is both encouraged and facilitated, and where the portions are just big enough to get you through to the next glass. Yatai, a pleasantly sleek patio restaurant tucked away off the Sunset Strip, is a Japanese izakaya pretending to be an American joint pretending to be an izakaya, if you know what I mean, although the putative concept is Asian street food. The customers, most of whom seem to be Japanese-speaking hipsters, groove on the Indonesian gado-gado, the chicken dumplings with Thai curry, the samosas and the gooey, apple-spiked “Korean-style” sashimi as much as they do on the soy-paper sushi rolls and tempura. Yatai has the usual shortlist of soju cocktails and Pacific Rim wines, but there is also a nicely edited selection of cold sakes. I liked the Tomoju, which had a faint but distinct aftertaste of the wax lips you probably used to chew on as a kid. 8535 W. Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd., (310) 289-0030. Tues.–Thurs. noon–3 p.m. & 5:30–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–mid., Sun. 5:30–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Parking lot. AE, MC, V. Asian. Entrees $12–$30. JG ILMK

 

Westwood/West L.A./Century City

AD?Apple Pan The top and bottom buns of an Apple Pan burger are crisped and slightly oily, crunchy at the edges, working toward a near-complete softness at the middle; the pickles are resilient dill chips; the sheaf of fresh iceberg lettuce provides a dozen-layered crispness at the core. The beef, generally cooked to a perfect, pink-centered medium, is juicy and full flavored; the cheese, half melted to a kind of sharp graininess, is good Tillamook Cheddar. And come dessert time, no matter how many waiting people may be crowded in behind you, no matter how hungrily they stare at your enormous slice of pie, the veteran countermen will always draw you another cup of coffee from the gas-fired urn and hand it over with a dram of fresh, heavy cream. My family has been regulars at least since Lew Alcindor played freshman ball. 10801 W. Pico Blvd., W.L.A., (310) 475-3585. Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–mid., Fri.–Sat. till 1 a.m. No alcohol. Street parking. Cash only. American. JG GLK

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 GL

Beverly Hills and vicinity

AB?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 ILN

ADCB?Urasawa This tiny, luxurious sushi bar is famously the most expensive restaurant in California, and most nights it is also the best, with fish unseen anywhere else in the country. Other sushi restaurants display fish triple-wrapped behind glass in a refrigerated case; at Urasawa, the fish is out in the open, lighted as carefully as the tomatoes in a Carl’s Jr. ad, all glistening pinks and glowing translucence. If a particular leaf or species of clam is in its Japanese two-week season, it will certainly be on your plate. Waitresses refill your glass with sake, replace hot towels and remove plates so efficiently that you are barely aware of them at all. And Urasawa’s artistry with a fillet is surpassed in the United States only by that of his mentor, Masa Takayama — there is, one senses, an enormous effort to keep the customers in a bubble of serenity, an uninterrupted flow of bliss. 218 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 247-8939. Mon.–Sun. 6–8:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet. AE, MC, V. Japanese. JG $$$$

Santa Monica/Brentwood

ADCB?Vincenti Valentino may be grander than Vincenti, La Terza flashier and Giorgio Baldi may draw a more famous clientele, but Vincenti feels like the spiritual center of fine Italian cooking in Los Angeles, its hearth. And befitting a hearth, much of Nicola Mastronardi’s food comes from the big, hardwood-burning ovens, flavored with the presence of smoke, of forests, stone chimneys and chilly afternoons — a scallop, say, sprinkled with bread crumbs and baked in its shell until it sizzles; a magnificent veal chop; soft curls of cuttlefish tucked into an herb salad; a whole, truffle-laced squab. The adjacent rotisserie turns out the best restaurant version of porchetta I have ever tasted in California — loin and belly are wrapped into a spiral, seasoned with fennel and spit-roasted to a crackling, licorice-y succulence. It is certainly possible to eat several mediocre Italian meals elsewhere in this neighborhood for the price of a single superb one here. At these times, it is good to remember that on Monday nights, pizza also comes out of these ovens. 11930 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood, (310) 207-0127. Mon.–Sat. 6–10 p.m., Friday for lunch noon–2 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Italian. JG JL

 

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. 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. Street parking. AE, MC, V. JG $$N?b

Culver City/Venice and vicinity

Bottle Rock The tables at Bottle Rock are the size of phonograph records, and the wobbly metal stools seem perpetually on the verge of collapse. The location, tucked behind a parking structure, is obscure, even if it is just a step or two from Culver City’s new restaurant row. But Bottle Rock, which doubles as a shop, is among the most appealing of the wine bars that have opened on the Westside over the past year — because of the house-made pâtés, because of the tomato bread and the pressed sandwiches, because of the cheese board, but mostly because of the wine, which tends to be obscure, well chosen and reasonably priced. The proprietors will open any bottle in the shop, from simple California wines to aged Barolos, if you commit to two glasses of the stuff, and the chalkboard list of available wines can change 20 times a night. The little grilled chorizos are delicious. And there is always something good to drink for $5 a glass. After a screening at Sony or a show at one of the local theaters, Bottle Rock is the perfect place to kick it. 3847 Main St., Culver City, (310) 836-WINE. Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–mid. Beer, wine. Lot parking. All major CC. American/French. JG ILNK

Simpang Asia With a huge selection of Japanese candy and boxes piled neatly to the ceiling, this small Indonesian grocery, with a Web site, is what I’d imagine a 7-Eleven in Sulawesi might look like: immaculate shelves of chile peanuts, dried squid and juice boxes of starfruit drink, kilo bags of fried shallots, and more flavors of instant noodles than you may have known existed. Neighborhood kids drop in, carefully counting dimes for their rations of Pocky sticks or Japanese bubblegum. UCLA students haul off caseloads of ramen. Simpang Asia is almost exotic in its nonexoticism. 10433 National Blvd., L.A., (310) 815-9075 or www.veryasia.com. Lunch and dinner, Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. D, MC, V. Food for two: $10–$13. Indonesian. JG GL

San Fernando Valley

ADCB?Krua Thai Like any respectable Thai joint in this part of Los Angeles, Krua Thai features a sign outside boasting of serving the Best Noodles in Town, but unlike the rest of them, Krua Thai has a pretty fair claim to the title. In a city where great Thai noodle shops are all that keeps some of us going some days, when the anguish of the Dodgers’ annual collapse can be eased, at least a little, by the knowledge of a great bowl of boat noodles, Krua Thai’s pad Thai and pad kee mao and rad na and pad see ew may be the very best of all. In its way, Krua Thai could be the Thai equivalent of a delicatessen like Canter’s: cheerful, fast, popular across ethnic lines, and open very, very late. 13130 Sherman Way, N. Hlywd., (818) 759-7998. Open daily 11 a.m.–3:30 a.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. All major CC. Also at 935 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina, (626) 480-0116. Thai. JG HLMK

 

ADCB?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. Max 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. This is a midlevel restaurant, not a temple of cuisine. But Guerrero’s formidable chicken adobo is a remarkable, remarkable dish. 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 CC. California Asian. JG I.LMK

ADC?Woodlands Broad as knotted carpets or the infield at Dodger Stadium, dosas are the only snack that might as reasonably be sold by yardage as by weight. And these days, the biggest dosas in town may be found at this south Indian vegetarian restaurant. The butter dosa, a half acre of crunchy brownness jutting off both ends of a rather long platter, is rolled around a slug of gently curried potatoes that you may not run across until you’ve been eating the thing for 15 minutes. This is dosa heaven. They serve the usual south Indian starches too — iddly, uttupam, pesarat — served with the usual complements of sambar and chutney. In the afternoons the buffet tends to have the most exotic array of vegetarian Indian food in town. 9840 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Chatsworth, (818) 998-3031. Tues.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–10 p.m. $7.95 lunch buffet Tues.–Fri., $9.95 brunch buffet Sat.–Sun. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Also at 11833 Artesia Blvd., Artesia, (562) 860-6500. JG $$b[

South Bay to Long Beach

Chip’s Is the coffee-shop cooking at Chip’s as artfully updated as the menu at nearby Pann’s? Not quite. Do the eggs Benedict merit a long drive? Perhaps not. Is the full-on late-’50s exterior as museum-worthy as the Wich Stand, where a teenage Brian Wilson used to go for hamburgers? Not really, even if that old drive-in is a health-food joint now. But real, over-the-top Googie-style restaurants are getting to be as rare as condors here in their birthplace, and you could do worse than a Chip’s meal of patty melts and strawberry shakes. 11908 S. Hawthorne Blvd., Hawthorne, (310) 679-2947. Open 7 days 6 a.m.–8 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG $b

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. On weekends, there’s a very nice biryani, basmati rice cooked with butter and sweet spices and tossed with chunks of lamb. And consider the tandoori-mix plate: a rare lamb chop, subtly smoky, crisp at the edges; a few pieces of bright-red marinated chicken tikka that spurt juice like chicken Kiev; a ruddy whole chicken leg; several inches’ worth of clove-scented minced-lamb kebab; and a tart pile of yogurt-marinated roasted beef. 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$

East Los Angeles/Highland Park

Antojitos Denise’s In a land dominated by carne asada, Denise’s is where to go for pork, a bagful of one of three or four different kinds of house-made chicharrones (fried pork rinds), the pickled pigskin called cueritos, or a pound or two of roast pork. If you have a buck for a taco, you can taste the carnitas, among the best in East L.A., dense-textured, with the full, almost gamy flavor of slow-cooked pig. Also good are the tacos with chicharrones stewed in spicy tomato sauce — numbingly rich, a 1,500-calorie taco. 4060 E. Olympic Blvd., E.L.A., (323) 264-8199. Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Lunch for two, food only, $7–$10. D, MC, V. Mexican. JG GL

Valenzuela’s We’ve been craving the carne asada en su jugo at Valenzuela’s in El Monte, a big pile of browned beef flavored with bacon, plumped out with beans, seasoned with finely chopped onion and cilantro, and moistened with a spicy puddle of juice — maybe as much for the charred chiles served alongside as for the meat itself. Carne asada en su jugo is an unusually compelling dish, smoky and spicy and tart with lime, and almost nothing goes quite so well with an icy bottle of beer. 11721 E. Valley Blvd., El Monte, (626) 579-5384.Open daily 9 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Beer and wine ­margaritas. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. JG $b

 

Pasadena and vicinity

Vertical Wine Bistro Probably the swankest wine bar in Old Town Pasadena, this high-design joint juts from a hidden courtyard on Raymond’s restaurant row, all subdued lighting and gleaming surfaces and hidden corners. You will never, never feel out of place in an LBD or a pinstriped Thom Browne suit here, or lack for well-heeled admirers. But Vertical is more ambitious than that: It aspires to be nothing less than the Pasadena equivalent of A.O.C., with zillions of wines available by the taste, the glass, the bottle and the flight — three side-by-side Williams Selyem pinot noirs, for example, or New Zealand sauvignon blancs, or Argentine malbecs. Sara Levine, who opened the foodie-beloved Opus, is the chef here, and beyond the wine, Vertical is a showcase of artisanal cheeses and cured meats, Serrano-ham-wrapped fig poppers and meaty, grape-friendly small dishes like pulled pork with prunes and polenta, and duck confit with chestnuts. If you would rather look into the depths of a Barolo-braised brisket than into the eyes of an attractive stranger, at Vertical it can always be arranged. 70 N. Raymond Ave., upstairs, Pasadena, (626) 795-3999, verticalwinebistro.com. Sun. 4–11 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 5–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 4 p.m.–1 a.m. Beer, wine. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrees $10–$18. JG ILNK

Monterey Park/San Gabriel and vicinity

ADCB?Babita Something close to the platonic ideal of a Southern California Mexican restaurant, Babita is a comfortable place that just happens to have great food, a rough-edged Eastside joint whose service is burnished to a white-tablecloth sheen. Chef-owner Roberto Berrelleza, who spent years as a waiter and maitre d’ at places like the Brown Derby before he ever picked up a pan, is a modern master of Mexican cuisine, including antojitos from his hometown of Los Mochis in Sinaloa — and a few classic dishes that seem to have been invented by Berrelleza himself: fish-stuffed yellow chiles in strawberry salsa, seared fish with huitlacoche vinaigrette and chiles en nogada. (The latter is seasonal, September to January.) His shrimp Topolobampo, named after a seaport just outside of Los Mochis, may still be the single fieriest invention in the history of Los Angeles cuisine, a citrusy sauté of white wine, tomatoes and diced habanero peppers. 1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 288-7265. Lunch Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.; dinner Sun. & Tues.–Thurs. 5:30–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Mexican. JGHL

Little Malaysia Little Malaysia seems to concentrate on the Nonya cooking of Penang. But it’s when multiculturalism rears its head that things really start happening on the plate. The Hainanese chicken-rice dish is subtly fragrant with ginger. Curried fish head is delicately flavored and tartly sauced, although the job of digging out the fish’s cheeks, jowls and lips is hardly a dainty one. 3944 N. Peck Road, No. 8, El Monte, (626) 401-3188. Lunch and dinner. Tues.–Fri. 11 a.m.–2 p.m., 5:30 p.m.–9 p.m.; Sat.–Sun. 12 p.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $20. Cash only. Malaysian. JGGL

Satay Fong The Hong Kong Plaza Food Court may not seem a likely site for a culinary epiphany ­— but if you were to get your hands on a dripping, ink-black skewer of grilled pork at Satay Fong, you might be inclined to disagree. Like any Indonesian fast-food joint worth its kecap, Satay Fong’s menu revolves around variations on the basic nasi rames combination platter, foam plates containing dabs of three or four dishes, a mound of simmered rice, and a plastic cup or two of one chile sambal or another — maybe the mysterious but powerfully delicious roasted green-chile sauce hot enough to make the reputation of any Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles. Hong Kong Plaza Food Court, 989 S. Glendora Ave., No. 18, West Covina, (626) 337-1111. Open Tues.–Sun. noon–8 p.m. Cash only. No alcohol. JG $b

Burbank/Glendale/Eagle Rock

Le Petit Beaujolais This charming bakery and lunch spot is the offspring of Café Beaujolais, a small French restaurant that opened several years ago on the south side of the street. The bright, cheerful Beaujolais Boulangerie is delightful — or, as one friend happily sighed, “paradise.” The breakfast menu has been expanded to include egg dishes, and the lunch menu, available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., offers an appealing selection of soups, quiches, sandwiches and meal-size salads. The cult favorite appears to be the croque monsieur. A central display case of desserts lures you in with jewel-toned fruit tarts, miniature cheesecakes and glassy-topped crème brûlée. In another case are baskets of pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins and croissants. The service is French and good-natured — so good-natured that the waiters let me practice my rudimentary Berlitz French on them. 1661 Colorado Blvd., ­Eagle Rock, (323) 255-5133. Tues.–Fri. 7 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. Nothing over $11. MC, V. French. MH GL

 

Lola’s The tastiest roast chickens in the Los Angeles area, if not the Western Hemisphere itself, are the smoky rotisserie fowl beloved by the Peruvian community, the shotgun marriage of plump birds, roaring wood fires, and a sharp marinade made with citrus, chiles and immoderate amounts of garlic. And some of the best chickens of all are a couple blocks from the Glendale Galleria at a restaurant named Lola’s. With the chicken comes a small crock of aji, the doctored chile purée that serves as a universal Peruvian condiment, and maybe some hand-cut French fries, stewed beans, or the mayonnaisey potato salad that is for some reason a Peruvian standard. It is enough. 230 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 956-5888. Lunch and dinner Mon. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout and delivery. Lot parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $10–$22. MC, V. Peruvian. JG G

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Izayoi

132 S. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

213-613-9554


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