Culinarily speaking, the southwest corner of Melrose and Highland is one of the most important street corners in the country. Nancy Silverton, along with business partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, has built her empire in one collection of adjacent, interlocking buildings - a place you might think of as Los Angeles' culinary heart. Technically, we're talking about three separate operations (or four, if you count Mozza2Go), but as a group, Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza and Chi Spacca all exemplify Silverton's fierce dedication to quality Italian cooking. The pizza at the convivial, packed pizzeria ushered in a new school of California pizza making - a revolution, really - that prizes dough and farmers market - fresh toppings above all else. The osteria remains one of L.A.'s grandest restaurant experiences, chef Matt Molina's antipasti, pastas and rustic meat dishes showcasing the best of what happens when tradition and talent collide. And the baby of the bunch, Chi Spacca, has provided a platform for young chef Chad Colby to delve deeply into the philosophy of meat, giving Angelenos some of the most stunning charcuterie in the country, as well as mammoth cuts of meat you won't find elsewhere. (BR) 6602 Melrose Ave., Hancock Park; (323) 297-0100.
15. Tsujita L.A.
Do you really want to spend your lunch hour standing in line for the better part of an hour, inches from the busy traffic of Sawtelle Boulevard, waiting in a Wi-Fi dead zone to get into an equally crowded restaurant to slurp down a bowl of hot soup in a city where it's often 80 degrees in the dead of winter? Yes, you really do. And as often as you can manage it. The seemingly permanent crowds waiting to get into Tsujita L.A. haven't lessened since the Tokyo-based company opened its Annex across the street, possibly because the ramen and tsukemen are far superior at the original (though still good). These are probably the best bowls of the stuff in Southern California, technically masterful, Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen and exquisite iterations of tsukemen, or dip ramen, with hand-crafted noodles and broth as thick and potent as demi-glace. Sure, the ratio of waiting time to slurping time is ridiculous - but such is the mathematics of gastronomic pleasure. Just get in line. (AS) 2057 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle; (310) 231-7373.
14. Hinoki and the Bird
A year after opening, David Myers' Japanese/Californian restaurant Hinoki & the Bird hasn't changed much. The menu is basically the same as it was upon launch, and the room, tucked away in a Century City condominium building, feels no less vibrant. But these things wowed originally and they wow still - that hinoki-scented cod is still one of the best dishes in town, the fish so tender that it seems poised on the precipice between fatty liquid and silken solid, the skin blackened and sweet. The lobster roll, with its sweet flesh set against a black charcoal roll, is still as exciting as before, a triumph of subtle spicing and bold conception. The crudo dishes are still delicate, complex and surprising. Vegetables, from salty grilled mushrooms to a decadent baked yam, show off the chef's mastery of doing things simply and well. And the patio portion of the dining room is still one of the most magical places to eat in town, like a darkly enchanted dream. (BR) 10 W. Century Drive, Los Angeles; (310) 552-1200.
The modern Asian restaurant has been done so badly so often that it's beyond refreshing to see it done well - in fact, it's almost a revelation. Indeed, with Lukshon, chef/owner Sang Yoon has basically perfected the concept, as long as you're willing to buy into his vision wholeheartedly. Located in the Helms Bakery complex next to his beer bar, Father's Office, and across the way from his coming food hall/bakery project with Sherry Yard, Lukshon is one man's singular vision of what a restaurant should be, and that man doesn't really care if you concur or not. Thankfully, we fully concur. It's hard to get in a visit without succumbing to longtime favorite dishes like the outstanding dan dan noodles, which sizzle with Sichuan peppercorns and pack a savory wallop of sesame and peanuts; or the gooey Chinese eggplant, slathered with fennel raita and tomato sambal. Raw fish dishes, such as fluke sashimi with black sesame oil, spicy avocado and pickled orange, or the gorgeous, glossy Hawaiian butterfish, cannot be oversold. The food is highly flavored, there are no substitutions or modifications, children are discouraged, and the wine list is built for food, not name recognition (it's actually one of the best lists in the city if you're willing to give yourself over to it, and incredibly well-priced to boot). Timid palates and sticklers for the customer-is-always-right mantra probably ought to stay away. That's all right. More room for the rest of us. (BR) 3239 Helms Ave., Culver City; (310) 202-6808.