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Flavor of India

9045 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood

(310) 274-1715

With a newly decorated interior to go along with a spectacular outside covered patio and garden, this restaurant is a sure pick for enjoyable dining (Dolly Parton is a regular). The food on the menu is as pleasing as the atmosphere, with tasty dishes like Madrasi duck curry (duck, covered in onions, garlic and coconut, served with rice, $19.95), and a curry lunch, served with either chicken or lamb à la carte ($6.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking; reservations suggested (four or more). AE, DIS, MC, V.

Floor 50 Restaurant

555 S. Flower St., Los Angeles (Bank of America Tower)

(213) 228-5050

What better way to enjoy lunch than by sitting nearest the heavens, checking out the view of greater Los Angeles from the 50th floor? While gazing out over the city, start with some won-ton-wrapped lemongrass tiger prawns with sweet Thai-chili sauce and sesame-daikon dressing ($9.95). In a hurry? Go for the 50-minute lunch menu, which features an achiote-spiced chicken sandwich ($9.95) or the penne marsala ($10.95). Exotic tastes should try the lobster ravioli (steamed lobster ravioli in a smoked sun-dried tomato sauce, $16.95). Available for private parties at night. Open Mon.–Fri. for lunch. Beer and wine; catering; parking ($5.50 flat-rate with validation, per car). AE, DC, MC, V.


Flying Leap Café

2538 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake

(323) 661-0618

This intimate yet casual establishment gives diners a chance to feast on fresh homemade cooking while enjoying some music. Among many outstanding choices on the menu, there is the Silver Lake salad ($9.50) with apples, baby greens, corn, onion and sausage all topped with lemon-herb dressing. Or try the hearty half-pound burger ($6.95), served with coleslaw and fries or fruit. Dinner entrées range from $10.50 to $15.95 and include the enticing bow-tie pasta with garlic, tomatoes and basil drenched in a French Brie sauce. Dinner Tues.-Sun. Full bar; takeout; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.


1017 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach

(310) 376-1536

Fonz's is renowned primarily for its San Franciscan cuisine and casual setting — but mostly for its home-cooking. Owned by silver-medalist of the 1996 Summer Olympics Mike Dodd, this steakhouse/seafood joint features some of the tastiest dishes in the South Bay. Start with seared ahi tuna ($10), with Asian slaw and miso vinaigrette dressing with a nice glass of MezzaCorona Pinot Grigio. Then go for a grilled New York steak ($22), seared Australian rack of lamb ($20) or the delicious wild-mushroom risotto with cremini, shiitake and portabello mushrooms ($19). Find the perfect wine to accompany your meal from Fonz's extensive list. Dinner seven nights, brunch on Sunday from 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.


The Gate

643 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles

(310) 289-8808

With the great, dimly lit shelves of books in the study and polished wooden furniture, dining here is an optimum experience. The two bars and dance floor, along with spacious surroundings and outdoor patio, make the Gate also a prime location for hosting private parties. Meanwhile, the regular menu features an array of highly decorated, fulfilling dishes like the sesame coated seared ahi tuna served with a spinach salad and topped with Asian spices, $23. Also recommended is the roasted lamb chops on a bed of white beans, pearl onions, cabbage and red-wine sauce, $26. Open Fri.–Sat. for dinner. Full bar; catering (on premises); valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.


Gate of India

7300 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood

(323) 874-6673

The folds of black and burgundy cloth billowing from the ceiling are more reminiscent of a work of art by Christo than a restaurant, but once the food arrives, there's no question you're here to chow. The menu features a wonderfully tangy chicken tikka masala ($5.95 lunch, $9.95 à la carte) and lamb pasanda cooked with almonds and cashews in a creamy meat sauce ($5.95, $9.95). Drop in for lunch for a 10-course buffet ($6.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking; reservations accepted. AE, DIS, DC, MC, V.

Gourmet Coffee Warehouse

671 Rose Ave., Venice

(310) 392-6479

10780 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City

(310) 253-9171

The motto here is “We're L.A.'s local coffee restaurant,” and if the rock-bottom prices don't lure you, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee will. Everyday folk get the same deal as the business buyers: 5-pound bags of high-end coffee at an average price of $6 per pound (available from half a pound to 5 pounds). Also available are bulk teas, chocolate and mugs. Check out the scrumptious baked goods, or the 35 different coffee selections from 22 countries, or the assortment of over 100 teas. Gourmet Coffee provides beans for many Westside restaurants (over 200). Open seven days. Parking. AE, MC, V.




9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills

(310) 285-1268

There's nothing quite like Merv Griffin's signature poolside restaurant, which features daily breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, right in the center of all the action. On Wednesdays, join Griff's for a taste of Italy, featuring entrées such as osso buco and sautéed pastas made to order, or on Fridays with the seafood buffet (with ice crab claws, shrimp and oysters) complete with a sushi chef preparing sushi rolls and sashimi, also made to order. Don't forget Sunday champagne brunch! Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; valet and self parking available; reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.



8385 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles

(323) 653-0470

Although the sushi, noodles and Kappo cuisine are mouth-watering, Hirozen's real thrills are in its ever-changing specialty dishes. Traditional Japanese appetizers like the ground shrimp with zucchini flower ($8.50) complement inspired creations such as the vegetable hako sushi ($5.95), sashimi with three kinds of fish or the custom-made “Hirozen course” ($55–$120 a person gets you an appetizer, soup, sashimi, main entrée and dessert). Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Mon.–Sat. Beer, wine and sake; takeout; catering; reservations accepted weekdays only. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.


il Capriccio

1757 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz

(323) 662-5900

Begin a fabulous night out on the town at this welcoming neighborhood Italian restaurant. The appetizers are to die for, especially the calamari fritti, served with a delicious marinara sauce ($6.50). A favorite pasta is the green fettuccine with tre funghi, made with shiitake, porcini and champignon mushrooms and served in a light cream sauce ($10.50). If in the mood for meat, the chicken Vesuvio, oven-roasted with wine, garlic and rosemary, would be an excellent choice ($10.95). Dinner seven nights. BYOB; takeout; catering; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.


The Improvisation (at the Improv)

8152 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood

(323) 651-2583

Hey, now you can knock out two birds with one stone by seeing live comedy and eating a wholesome meal, all at the Improvisation. The California cuisine with a Cajun feel is a perfect accompaniment to the comedy club. For starters, indulge with some Improv nachos or fried calamari (both $7.25). Then try Drew Carey's favorite, the chicken tequila pasta ($11.25), or Jerry Seinfeld's choice, the sautéed chicken breast with artichokes ($13.95). The pasta jambalaya is equal to the task, and also awaiting its celebrity ($10.95). Open for dinner seven nights. Full bar; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DIS, MC, V.

Inn of the Seventh Ray

128 Old Topanga Canyon Road, Topanga Canyon

(310) 455-1311

Perhaps one of the loveliest places to dine in greater Los Angeles, Inn of the Seventh Ray is a naturalist's dream, set idyllically in the heart of the Topanga Canyon wilderness. If ever a menu complimented the peacefulness of its surrounds, this one does. The Sunday brunch is renowned for its wide selection of vegetarian dishes and desserts, as well as traditional favorites (with meat). This year's Valentine's menu is full of delights, from the auric glow of ponzu-roasted sea bass (served on a bed of udon rice noodles with baby bok choy in a roasted garlic coconut nage) to the Cupid's hoisin-glazed vegan duck (with ginger-orange reduction, mirin sweet potato purée and hijiki, carrot, daikon salad). Valentine's special is $70 for vegetarian, $75 for traditional. Open for lunch and dinner seven days. Wine; valet parking; reservations essential (dinner). AE, MC, V.



10916 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.

(310) 470-4994

Named after the famous Indian city, Jaipur entices with its authentic northern Indian specialties, serving bountiful selections of traditional curry, vegetarian dishes and tandoori dishes, as well as delicious samosa appetizers, lentil patties and salads. Try the “best” Chilean sea bass, a lamb chop (each $14) or the mainstay chicken tikka marsala ($12). The exotic chicken chat salad is also quite delicious. All tandoori entrées are marinated at length in a mixture of seven to eight spices and are cooked in a hot clay oven. While you wait, try not to fill up on the tear-shaped wedges of naan bread that flow freely and quickly to your table. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.


Karl Strauss Brewery Garden

1000 Universal Center Dr., Universal City

(818) 753-2739 (BREW)

Perfectly situated for people-watching above the vibrant center of CityWalk, this brewery, bearing the name of famed brewer Karl Strauss, is perfect for informal gatherings. Enjoy premium handcrafted brews such as the Red Trolley Ale or the Gaslamp Gold Ale while feasting on some chicken-lettuce wraps, or the appetizing Argentine-style beef skewers ($3.95-$7.50). For an entrée, indulge in the Lobster Tacos Vera Cruz, lobster sautéed with diced tomatoes, corn, jalapeños and spices, served with black beans, avocado salsa and fresh tortillas ($12.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering (private parties); parking. AE, MC, V.



Kass Bah Brasserie

9010 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood

(323) 274-7664

Everything on the menu is popular at Kass Bah, which serves California/French cuisine in an upscale but casual setting. But if you had to choose, the deliciously fresh tuna tartare appetizer with sliced avocado, baked won-ton skins and soy-ginger vinaigrette ($12) might win every time. Follow that with sesame-crusted Chilean sea bass with sautéed fava beans in a velvety lobster tomato sauce ($22). Heaven on earth, anyone? Dinner Mon.–Sat. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.

Kiku Sushi

246 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles

(323) 464-1200

Since opening just two months ago, Kiku Sushi has already flexed its culinary muscles for the dining public with the best of Japanese cuisine. Start your meal with a delicious shrimp and crab salad ($6.95), or perhaps the Hawaiian poki salad, a tuna salad with house dressing ($7.95). Afterwards, go wild with the crazy roll, brimming with spicy, flavorful yellowtail ($8.50), and then be sure to try the Larchmont roll, the restaurant's own fried version of the California roll ($9.50 for eight pieces). Your taste buds will not be disappointed. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat. Beer, wine sake; takeout; delivery; catering; street parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.


260 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills

(310) 858-0535

This swanky Japanese restaurant has it all, from classic dishes like the teriyaki and tempura combo, served with salad, miso soup, rice and fruit ($13.80), to the ornate tekkadonna meal, featuring slices of fresh tuna in a lacquered bowl of sticky white rice, garnished with sea urchin, crab, salmon eggs or mentaiko (spicy cold eggs), pickled vegetables and miso soup ($15.80). Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; takeout; street parking. AE, DC, MC, V.


The Kitchen

4348 Fountain Blvd., Silver Lake

(323) 664-3663

Hey, it's just like home cooking! Everything is made from scratch, in a very small kitchen, hence the name. And the attention given to each dish at the Kitchen is what makes it memorably delicious. The menu has traditional American cuisine as well as vegetarian dishes like the Silver Lake spinach salad (tossed nuts, goat cheese, grapes and red wine vinaigrette, $3.50–$6.50) and the grilled tofu plate (with autumn vegetables, cous cous ad curry oil, $7.25). Of course there are burgers, chili, stew and chicken dishes available as well, and the Kitchen’s open late (until 3 a.m. on Fri. and Sat.). Lunch and dinner seven days, brunch on weekends. BYOB; delivery (for lunch); parking, reservations accepted for parties of six or more. MC, V.


La Cabaña

738 Rose Ave., Venice

(310) 392-6161

Outside you can enjoy the eye-catching fountain and garden, inside you can see tortillas being made before your eyes. Anywhere you sit, it's as if you're on vacation. The fish tacos are a popular staple ($8.60), as are the chile rellenos ($3.50), great for munching on while you indulge one of the many margaritas, in over —count them — 18 flavors, ($4.25 and up). Open nightly until 3 a.m. Lunch and dinner seven days, brunch Sun. Full bar; takeout; parking; reservations suggested for large parties. DIS, MC, V.


Locanda Del Lago

231 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica

(310) 451-3525

Perfect for a pre-cinema date or that special romantic outing, this stylish, open-air trattoria features an inviting freshwater menu that includes the delectable trotella al burro e salvia (fillet of trout sautéed in sage and butter, $16.50) and the alborelle fritte — freshwater smelt lightly battered and fried crisp ($6.95). Select from the Wine Spectator award-winning wine list, or share sips from a Friendship Cup — a flaming Italian Grolla ($9 per person), concocted with espresso, grappa, brandy, sambuca, lemon peel and sugar. Lunch and dinner seven days, Sat.–Sun. brunch. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.


Lulu's Alibi

1640 Sawtelle Ave., West Los Angeles

(310) 479-6007

A great coffeehouse/café to read a book, meet with friends, or simply enjoy the tasty java and fine foods. Lulu's Alibi offers a wide selection of sandwiches, soups, salads and appetizers, such as the caprese and avocado ($4.65). Try the warm spinach salad (toasted almonds, sautéed mushrooms, goat cheese and warm house balsamic vinaigrette dressing, $7.95) or a salad niçoise (tuna, green leaf lettuce, mandarin oranges, bell peppers, hard-boiled eggs, roma tomatoes, olives and anchovies, with dressing, $8.75). Lunch and dinner seven days. No alcohol; takeout; delivery; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.


Lunaria Restaurant

10351 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City

(310) 282-8870

L.A.'s finest blend of French-Italian Provençal cuisine and entertainment can be found at restaurant/jazz lounge Lunaria. Groove to modal melodies while your taste buds swing to the braised Chilean sea bass with potato-fennel purée, tomato, green onion, capers, black olives and basil ($21.50). If you would like to be informed of Lunaria specials and promotional offers on a weekly basis, get on its e-mail list at lunaria@earthlink.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Tues.–Sat. Full bar; takeout; delivery (within two miles); catering; valet parking (and complimentary self-parking); reservations suggested. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.


Lush (East)

615 Brand Ave., Glendale

(818) 246-1717

The grand opening of Lush in Glendale is slated for Valentine's Day, which is most likely by design since the venue's romantic setting features roses, vines and garden splendors under seductive blue lighting. Staying in tune with its parent location in Santa Monica, the bar/restaurant will feature exquisite Mexican cuisine, including soups, salads, quesadillas, fajitas, chile rellenos, tostadas and much, much more ($7.95–$11.95). The new Lush will also have the same delectable dessert dishes, such as platanos asados (griddle-roasted plantains) and almond pound (each $4.50). Open for dinner Tues.–Sat. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations accepted. AE, DIS, MC, V.



2020 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica

(310) 829-1933

With all the verdurous vines growing around the back cantina, the term “lush” is adequately chosen for the bar/restaurant's name (rather than the term “lush” for one who is fond of the drink — but one shouldn't get hung up on meanings). Lush is more than a live venue for bands of all genres to showcase their talents; it is also an eclectic restaurant serving up fine Mexican cuisine. As an appetizer for the whole table, try the nachos à la Mexicana (choice of chicken or beef, $9.95). Then dig on those tasty Lush enchiladas (chicken, cheese or vegetables, $9.95). Open for dinner Tues.–Sat. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations accepted. AE, DIS, MC, V.


Maria's Cucina

11723 Barrington Court, Brentwood

(310) 476-6112

10761 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.

(310) 441-3663

There is nothing skimpy about the portions served at Maria's Cucina! Come with an appetite, because the hearty meals will have you leaving feeling oh-so-fulfilled. Try one of the gourmet pizzas: traditional cheese ($7.25), three-cheese and basil (smoked gouda, mozzarella and Parmesan, $7.65) or the classic BBQ chicken ($9.45 individual, $16.95 medium). The calzones are the best in town, with choices like the regular cheese ($7.45) and the Black Forest ham or spinach ($7.75). There is also great antipasti and insalatas to choose from. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking; reservations suggested (for six or more). AE, DC, MC, V.


McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant

2101 Rosecrans Ave. #1250, El Segundo

(310) 416-1123

111 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena

(626) 405-0064

633 W. Fifth th St., Los Angeles

(213) 629-1929

206 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills

(310) 416-1123

2000 Main St., Irvine

(949) 756-0505

McCormick & Schmick's offers its patrons a choice of 30 to 40 different seafood dishes from around the world, but the daily printed menu also includes chicken, pasta and salads. Among the house specialties are Dungeness crab cakes in spicy hollandaise sauce and New Zealand blue-nose bass stuffed with bay shrimp and Brie cheese (dinners range from $12 to $19). Join in for early and late evening happy hours with a cold brew and Cajun fish tacos. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.


The Mediterranean Restaurant and Café

10445 Venice Blvd., Los Angles

(310) 559-1808

Can't make it to the rim of the Mediterranean Sea for lunch? Don't sweat it. Come on over to this fine Lebanese establishment and save yourself the jet lag! With the argile water pipes and the majestic outdoor patio, one can feel quite taken away here. Go for some moussaka (eggplant, garbanzo beans and onions cooked with olive oil and tomato, $4.50) for starters, and then give the chicken kebab a try ($8). There is also a grand selection of sandwiches like soujouk ($5) and kafta kebab ($5) available. Lunch and dinner seven days. No alcohol; delivery; takeout; catering; parking; reservations accepted. AE, MC, V.

Continued in Part 3

LA Weekly