Beacon. An Asian café conveniently located in the middle of Culver City’s
new gallery district, Beacon marks the triumphant return to form of Kazuto Matsusaka,
who was chef for almost a decade at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois in the ’80s. You’d
probably never find anything like Matsusaka’s salad of perfectly ripe avocado
dressed with toasted sesame seeds and minced scallions in Tokyo, but the salad
follows classical principles, and it is luscious. 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., Culver City, (310) 838-7500.
Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m., dinner Tues.–Wed. & Sun. 5:30–8:30 p.m., Thurs.–Sat.
5:30–9:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Lunch for two, food only,
$18–$35. Dinner for two $30–$60. Asian Fusion. JG $$
Daikokuya. Sooner or later, all ramen lovers end up at Daikokuya, a loud,
steamy noodle shop around the corner from the MOCA annex and just down the hill
from REDCAT and the Music Center. Most ramen shops offer an endless list of possibilities;
at Daikokuya, the choice is taken out of the equation — you will have the thin,
curly noodles in pork broth, or you will have them stamina-style, in even stronger
pork broth, a formidable liquid, opaque and calcium-intensive, almost as rich
as milk. Floating with the noodles are plump slabs of simmered pork, slices of
seasoned bamboo shoots and a dusky, soy-simmered egg. When you’re in the mood,
you can improve on the kitchen’s excesses by spooning in minced garlic from a
tabletop jar. 327 E. First St., downtown, (213) 626-1680. Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11
a.m.–2:30 p.m., dinner Mon.–Sat. 5–10 p.m., Sun. noon–8 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout.
Street parking. AE, MC, V. Food for two $13–$25. Japanese. JG ¢
Cobras & Matadors. Steven Arroyo is the Bill Graham of tapas in Los Angeles,
the impresario who made the concept of Spanish drinks ’n’ snacks as popular as
sushi platters after dozens of others had tried and failed. And his dark, buzzy
tapas parlors, essential stops after openings in Hollywood or Silver Lake, are
teeming dens of olive oil and garlic, octopus and cured pig, grilled meats, and
pungent concoctions of seafood and paprika and beans rushed to the table still
crackling in unglazed crocks. The Los Feliz restaurant has a nicely curated list
of Spanish and South American wines; at the L.A. restaurant, you buy your wines
from the wine store conveniently located next door. 7615 W. Beverly Blvd.,
Los Angeles, (323) 932-6178. 4655 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz, (323) 669-3922.
Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 6–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6 p.m.–mid. BYOB. Valet parking. MC, V.
Tapas $3–$15. Spanish. JG $
Hal’s Bar & Grill. Since the primordial days of the Los Angeles art scene,
there has always been an artists’ hangout in Venice, a place where veterans of
exotic Kassel and Frankfurt could indulge newfound fondnesses for rare wines and
old Calvados, a place where art stars had the clout of the kind that springs out
of Hollywood. For a lot of that time, that place has been Hal’s, a bastion of
decent cheeseburgers and blue-chip paintings, caesar salads and canteloupe martinis,
bread pudding and pretty women at the bar. Hal’s may have been more comfortable
before they replaced the loungelike sofas in the front with a zillion bar tables,
but it’s still a good place to listen to live jazz on Fridays and Sundays, hang
out with a diverse crowd, and sip a mean Bloody Mary or three. 1349 Abbot Kinney
Blvd., Venice, (310) 396-3105. Lunch and dinner Mon. & Fri. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Tues.–Wed.
& Thurs. 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Full
bar open daily until 2 a.m. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. American.
Hoan Kiem. After gallery openings on nearby Chung King Road, a certain
percentage of the art crowd drifts down to this one-dish restaurant, a specialist
in pho ga, Vietnamese chicken-noodle soup. When you order, or rather nod,
the massive bowl of soup is on your table in about 15 seconds, yellow and chickeny,
seasoned with nothing more elaborate than a sprig or two of cilantro and a handful
of chopped scallions, with soft rice noodles cooked about a hundred steps past
al dente into near gelatinousness, soup that makes the meager offerings of Junior’s
or Nate ’n’ Al’s seem like so many bouillon cubes dissolved in tepid tap water.
727 N. Broadway, Chinatown, (213) 617-3650. Open for lunch and dinner daily.
No alcohol. Validated lot parking. Cash only. Lunch or dinner for two, food only,
$10. Vietnamese. JG ¢
Pete’s Café and Bar. Right on the route of the monthly Downtown Art Walks
and open practically until the crack of dawn, Pete’s has completely classic bar-’n’-grill
good looks. There’s also a hint of contemporary clubbiness. The food is a functional,
midprice take on New American cooking: mac and cheese, a gilded burger (fontina,
tomato aioli), steaks, bread pudding. Highlights include the martini glass heaped
with shrimp, yellow and orange baby heirloom tomatoes, and green guacamole, all
doused in citrus salsa. And, when available, a fresh tomato soup that seems to
sing, optimistically, of summer. 400 S. Main St., downtown, (213) 617-1000.
Lunch and dinner Sun.–Wed. 11:30 a.m.–mid., Thurs.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m.; breakfast
Sat.–Sun. from 11:30 a.m. Full bar. Lot parking. Entrées $10–$24. AE, D, DC, MC,
V. American. MH $
Suehiro. One of the oldest late-night dives in Little Tokyo and still one
of the best, Suehiro is a splendid place to drop in after an opening for a teriyaki
combination, a bowl of tofu with grated ginger, a plate of Japanese curry rice
or an order of yakisoba, fried noodles that are always a little greasy,
a little intense, and wholly satisfying, especially if you dose them with a lot
of the dried-seaweed condiment. Shelves by the entrance are well-stocked with
sauce-spotted copies of Japanese-language manga comics, and expats can’t
stay away from the mackerel, the donburi or the oily, magnificent salt-grilled
whole sanma pike. 337 E. First St., Little Tokyo, (213) 626-9132. Open
seven days 11 a.m.–1 a.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Japanese.
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., Los Angeles, (213) 624-1155. Open 24 hours, seven days. No alcohol. Takeout.
Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Mexican. JG ¢