Downtown L.A./Chinatown/Westlake

Ebisu How many izakaya are there in Los Angeles? How many grains of sand lie upon Zuma Beach? Ebisu, named after the nightlife-intensive Tokyo neighborhood, is the newest restaurant from the people behind the splendid noodle shop Daikokuya, which introduced Little Tokyo to the pork-rich tonkotsu style of ramen. Like Daikokuya, Ebisu, fitted into the space that used to house the local Mandarin Deli, is nostalgically themed — suburban postwar, is my guess, with big fish on the walls, leatherette booths and a scattering of exotica that would look at home on the jacket of a Martin Denny album. For some reason, I kept thinking of late-’60s Marina del Rey, although I’m sure the designer is riffing on some classic Asagaya joint that the regulars could reference in a second. Unlike the rest of the izakaya in town at the moment, Ebisu is both huge and easy to get into on a weekend night, possibly because its menu of traditional Japanese appetizers, noodle soups and teriyaki dinners hews a little too close to the Japanese food you could actually taste in Little Tokyo in the Summer of Love, and possibly because it is too slick to appeal to the fans of Haru Ulala next door. 356 E. Second St., Little Tokyo, (213) 613-1644. Open daily 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5 p.m.–1 a.m. Beer, wine. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Japanese. JG ILNK

ADCB?Kagaya Shabu shabu joints have proliferated like rabbits in the last couple of years. And to tell the truth, the shabu shabu ritual is pretty basic: a slice of prime meat swished through bubbling broth for a second or two, just until the pink becomes frosted with white. But if you’ve done it right — and if the quality of the ingredients is as high as it is at Little Tokyo’s superb (and expensive) Kagaya — the texture is extraordinary, almost liquid, and the concentrated, sourish flavor of really good beef becomes vivid. 418 E. Second St., dwntwn., (213) 617-1016. Mon.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Wine, beer, sake. Lot parking. DC, MC, V. $38 fixed price. Japanese. JG J

Liberty Grill The Liberty Grill smells like money, or at least as much like money as you can expect from a restaurant that serves deep-fried mac-’n’-cheese balls. The bronze plaques boasting a roster of investors in the renovated building are a surer sign of the downtown elite than anything published by a magazine, and the patriotic gewgaws on the walls would make a senator proud. This is probably the last place you’d expect from wacky avant-gardist Fred Eric, who put the place together (Twain Schreiber is the chef of record), and Eric’s skill at putting together a menu is more in evidence here than his love for bizarre details. The wine list is thick with expensive California Cabernets; the chili is thick and chunky; the almond-smoked rib-eye steak is thick and rare. During basketball season, you can expect that a table at the Staples-adjacent restaurant will be only slightly easier to obtain than courtside seats at a Lakers game. 1037 S. Flower St., L.A., (213) 746-3400. Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. 4–10 p.m., Sun. 4–9 p.m. Full bar. Street parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG ILN

Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park

AB?Blair’s Blair’s is an adult restaurant for people who don’t really consider themselves to be grown-ups even into their late 40s, a civilized refuge of caesar salads and crab cakes and shrimp cocktails that are served with a side of deviled eggs, a sort of roadhouse where the pepper steak comes with oodles of farmers-market vegetables, the salmon comes with lentils, and the roster of artisanal beers is nearly as long as the wine list. I would be surprised if anybody’s parents ate this well at Rotary Club meetings. 2903 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 660-1882. Sun.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5–11 p.m. Full bar. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. $16–$32. New American. JG ILNK

Vermont Anchoring the commercial corridor of Vermont Avenue north of Sunset, Vermont is like a stalwart, reliable friend. The owners often wander through the dining room, with its palmettos and pillars and gentle lighting, and they always like to chat. You may not be bowled over by anything you eat, but you’ll be back. Plus, the stylish bar is one of the neighborhood’s few upscale spots for cocktails. 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 661-6163. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner 5:30–10:30 p.m. (until 11:30 p.m. Fri.–Sat.). Full bar. Parking in rear. AE, MC, V. Entrées $13–$18. California. MH H

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax

Beard Papa Sweets Café You have undoubtedly had other cream puffs in your day — damp, irregular spheroids of pastry split and filled with shelf-stabilized whipped cream — but the Beard Papa model is a different object altogether: crunchy where the standard cream puff tends to be elastic, round where the others are squat, injected to order with amplified doughnut custard flecked with tiny seeds, and dusted with powdered sugar. There is a distinct aftertaste of browned pie crust in a Papa puff where you usually encounter a vague, sweet smack. But as with a proper bagel, there is a tempered chaw under its thin, friable skin, and a subtly rich jolt of egginess that seems to rush straight to the pleasure center of the brain. Papa puffs are undoubtedly delivery systems for astronomical quantities of saturated fat, but the only thing it is possible to do after inhaling one is to immediately start in on another, until the box is empty, your stomach is full, and your sugar crash can be felt clear to the other side of the Tehachapis. If Papa puffs were any more addictive, they would be illegal in 38 states, the bearded, pipe-smoking mascot would be as suggestive as the Zig-Zag man, and puff-dumping codicils would be the subject of G7 trade negotiation. 6801 Hollywood Blvd., No. 153, Hlywd., (323) 462-6100 (among many other locations). Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Mall parking. MC, V. JG ¢b


ADCB?Campanile Mark Peel may be the most prominent chef in the country whose reputation largely rests with his prowess on the grill, and his Campanile may show­case more shades of fire and heat than any restaurant on Earth. Salmon grilled atop cedar planks takes on the cigar-box fragrance of that wood, and leg of lamb is sometimes flavored with the smoke from smoldering herbs. Thin, broad sheets of veal scallopine pick up all the heady fragrance of the cured oak logs burning beneath them. Grilled-fish soup is a sort of deconstructed bouillabaisse, a dish involving four or five sea creatures, each with a different cooking time and a different capacity for heat — a feat of kitchen virtuosity with the same degree of difficulty as a reverse 360 dunk. Peel is the LeBron James of the grill. 624 S. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323) 938-1447. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner Mon.–Wed. 6–10 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 5:30–11 p.m.; brunch Sunday 9:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. California/Mediterranean. JG JN

AD?Foundry For devotees of clean, precise, market-oriented global cooking, it can be argued that the heyday of Patina may have been as important a crucible of Los Angeles dining as Spago was a decade earlier. Patina, overseen by Joachim Splichal, perhaps the greatest technical chef in the history of Los Angeles restaurants, was the laboratory where a generation of young chefs learned to pair the mellowness of cooked vegetables with the sharper flavors of their raw counterparts, to compose brown-butter vinaigrettes, to arrange dishes using flavors and techniques from 12 phyla and three continents: a vibrant, intellectual, farm-friendly cuisine. Foundry, a Melrose supper club run by Patina alum Eric Greenspan, is the newest restaurant to emerge from Patina’s orbit, as relaxed as a place with a $90 tasting menu can be, with a spacious patio, a dining room weirdly commingled with the open kitchen, and a bar area dominated by laid-back piano music from founding Fishbone keyboardist Christopher Dowd. Waiters rush by with little cast-iron pots of pork belly with fried eggs and fitted rounds of toast; rare, crisp-skinned salmon with shaved beets and puréed beets; and braised short ribs with an exceptionally airy horseradish-potato purée. The eclectic wine list, put together by Mission Wine wizard (and former Patina sommelier) Chris Meeske, is long and reasonably priced. 7465 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 651-0915 or www.­ Tues.–Sat. 6–10 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Bar open Thurs. till mid. and Fri.–Sat. till 2 a.m. Full bar. Music. Valet parking. All major CC. California/American. JG IMNK

ADC?Lou If pigs had their way, pig candy would be made out of chocolate — better yet, out of chocolate that made its way into their troughs. But for better or worse, pig candy is the vernacular name for a snack made out of smoky, thick-cut bacon baked with lots and lots of brown sugar until it transforms itself into demonically fragrant slabs that bear more than a passing resemblance to pork-belly terrine. You want some of this stuff. Really, you do. Lou, a tiny, wonderful wine bar on the south end of Vine, serves a pretty decent range of artisanal cheeses, the garlic-laced salamis of Seattle’s Armandino Batali, and house-made rillettes. The wine list is pleasantly oddball, thick with rustic bottles of obscure country wines. Lou has a minor specialty in both long-braised meats and tasty vegetarian soups, and the elaborate Monday-night wine dinners revolving around, say, choucroute or the season’s first Alaskan halibut have become legendary. Still, on cool nights there may be nothing better than a plateful of the pig candy made with Lou’s house-smoked bacon, a bowlful of olives and a glass of organic Côtes du Luberon. 724 N. Vine St., Hlywd., (323) 962-6369 or Mon.–Sat. 6 p.m.–mid. Wine. Lot parking. MC, V. California Contemporary. JG HMNK


Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown/Central Los Angeles

ADCB?Meals by Genet Among all the kitsch and incense of Fairfax Avenue’s Little Ethiopia, Meals by Genet stands out as an Ethiopian bistro, which is to say a homey, soft-lit dining room that looks at least as French as it does African. The menu is short: crisp-skinned fried trout, half a dozen stews, and Genet Agonafer’s delicious version of kitfo, a dish of minced raw beef tossed with warm, spiced butter. And her dorowot is jaw-droppingly good, vibrating with what must be ginger and black pepper and bishop’s weed and clove, but tasting of none of them, so formidably solid that the chicken, which is well-cooked, becomes just another ingredient in the sauce. Even an Ethiopian grandmother would approve. 1053 S. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 938-9304 or Wed.–Sun. 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Catering. Street parking. MC, V. Ethiopian. JG IML

AD?Pizzeria Mozza At Pizzeria Mozza, Nancy Silverton has people arguing over the entire paradigm of what a pizza might be. Her pizza is airy and burnt and risen around the rim, 53>

<51thin and crisp in the center, neither bready in the traditional Neapolitan manner nor wispy the way you find pizza in the best places in Tuscany. The crust is sweet and bitter, salty and chewy, circled by crunchy charred bubbles that may or may not be snipped off by Silverton or her chef, Matt Molina, as they inspect the pizzas at the pass. Every pizza at Mozza is a unique marriage of flour, salt and hot-burning almond wood, stretched into irregular disks, as individually lovable as children, topped with sausage and wild fennel, or squash blossoms and burrata, or fried eggs and puréed anchovies. Mario Batali is a part owner, and the buzziness and heat may remind you of Otto, Batali’s pizza parlor in Greenwich Village, although Mozza’s pizza is better than Otto’s. The antipasti, which are mostly vegetables, include crackling, deep-fried squash blossoms stuffed with oozing ricotta cheese. David Rosoff’s all-Italian wine list is short and obscure but loaded with delicious things to drink, and nothing is over $50. 641 N. Highland Ave., L.A., (323) 297-0101 or Open daily noon–mid. Valet parking. AE, M, V. Italian pizzeria. JG IMNK

West Hollywood/La Cienega

ADCB?A.O.C. If Suzanne Goin’s wine bar weren’t quite so popular, it would be the kind of place you dropped into for a glass of vino and maybe a bit of octopus, then a glass of Sancerre and a few grilled sardines, then a glass of Friulian Tocai and a plate of sliced prosciutto, then a glass of Corbières and the tiniest plate of skewered grilled lamb with mint. Unless you were in the mood for the bacon-wrapped dates with Parmesan on the bar menu, which would go so nicely with one of those big southern Italian reds, or a ripe Crozier blue with a late-bottled port, or whatever creature comes with a bit of Goin’s romesco sauce. You could drink and eat like this all night if you remembered to make a reservation — and if A.O.C. didn’t unreasonably stop serving at 11. 8022 W. Third St., L.A., (323) 653-6359. Mon.–Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5:30–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Wine bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. French-Mediterranean-influenced small plates. JG ILNK

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, 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

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


ACB?Clementine At lunchtime, there may be no happier place in Los Angeles than Annie Miler’s cheerful takeout café across from Century City, home to Southern-ham biscuits, a showcaseful of carefully composed roast-vegetable salads, and an anthology’s worth of grilled cheese sandwiches crisped in an Italian sandwich press. The hot chocolate, made in the style of the Parisian tearoom Angelina, is a local legend. 1751 Ensley Ave., L.A., (310) 552-1080 or Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–7:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. No alcohol. Parking in rear lot and on street. AE, DC, MC, V. American. JG HLM

Beverly Hills and vicinity

ADC?Cut If Spago is at heart Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, its menu plumped out with his easygoing air, his enriched stocks and his Austrian favorites, Cut, designed to the teeth by Getty Center architect Richard Meier, despite obvious signs of the master’s touch, is actually the love child of Puck’s capo, Spago chef Lee Hefter, whose obsessions lie as much in technique as they do in produce, and whose menus of warm veal-tongue salads, succulent maple-glazed pork bellies, potato “tarte tatin” and flan-stuffed marrow bones tend to be more modern but less user friendly than the dishes Puck turns out on his own. If you have $120 to spend on a steak, you might want to consider visiting Cut — and splitting the Kobe strip four or five ways, because unless you happen to play in the NFL, there is no way you can digest even a small example of the plutonium-dense meat by yourself. Cut is to the other steak houses in town what Spago was to the pizza parlors back in 1981. 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 276-8500. Mon.–Thurs. 5:30–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking a half-block south of Wilshire Blvd. on Rodeo Drive. AE, D, MC, V. California Contemporary. JG $$$$N

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?Father’s Office Creator of the most-imitated Los Angeles dish since Nancy Silverton reinvented an obscure Piedmontese dessert called panna cotta, Sang Yoon is the baron of the new-style cheeseburger: dry-aged beef cooked exceptionally rare, dressed with onions 54>

<53cooked down to the sweetness of maple syrup, Gruyère and Maytag blue cheeses, smoky bacon, arugula and a tomato compote, all on a French roll. I’m not sure that a restaurant has opened on the Westside in the last couple of years without some kind of variation of Yoon’s burger — I half expect to see a ciabatta-based version at Jack in the Box any day now. Still, at least until Yoon’s adults-only microbrew fiefdom expands to include a larger Culver City location later this year, dining here is a full-contact sport. If you want one of the few tables in the bar, you will have to circle the room until somebody gets ready to leave, then plunge into a vicious scrum. The more Unibroue you drink, the easier the battle becomes. 1018 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 393-BEER or Food served Mon.–Wed. 5–10 p.m., Thurs. 5–11 p.m., Fri. 4–11 p.m., Sat. noon–11 p.m., Sun. 3–10 p.m. 21 and over only. Beer and wine. Difficult street parking. AE, M, V. California Contemporary. JG HLN

AD?Mélisse When Mélisse opened a few years ago, it seemed as if Josiah Citrin was trying to create a Michelin-worthy restaurant by force of will alone, imposing luxury ingredients and luxury prices on a local public that seemed happy enough to eat its seared venison without the benefit of Christofle silver, velvet purse stools or airy sauces inflected with fresh black truffle. The cooking was always good enough, but the effect was faintly ridiculous, like a teenager trying on his father’s best sports jacket when he thinks nobody is looking. (What I remember best from my first several visits is not a particular dish, but the sight of Don Rickles and Bob Newhart at the next table insulting the waiters with material that would have killed at a Friars Club roast.) And the prices, $95 for an all-but-mandatory four-course menu, would be high even in Paris. But Citrin has grown into Mélisse; he wears it like a custom-fitted suit. And his cuisine has shed most of its baby fat – the cassoulet of white asparagus with morels, the melting Copper River salmon and the butter-soft duck breast at a recent dinner all brought out the soulful essence of the ingredients in the least showy way imaginable. 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 395-0881. Dinner Tues.–Thurs. 6–9:30 p.m., Fri. 6–10 p.m., Sat. 5:45–10 p.m. Closed Sun.–Mon. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. JG $$$$


AC?Wilshire Wilshire is an odd place, a handsome patio restaurant that seems unable to decide whether it is a farm-driven restaurant or a roaring bar and grill; a celebration of the seasons, a paparazzi’s stalking ground, or a celebration of the organic wine and food that can be purchased with an American Express card. Christopher Blobaum, who has run more high-end hotel kitchens than anybody else this side of Escoffier, seems to be running his dream restaurant, and he obviously spends some of his happiest hours at the Santa Monica farmers’ market. At Wilshire, there will always be jewel-like baby Nantes carrots the week that baby Nantes carrots hit the best farm stands; sweet satsuma tangerines in the duck confit salad at the time satsumas are at their peak; tiny purple artichokes when tiny purple artichokes are the thing — the stuff that defines Southern California as a great agricultural region. 2454 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (310) 586-1707. Lunch Mon.–Fri. noon–2 p.m.; dinner Mon.–Wed. 6–10 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 6–10:45 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. California Seasonal. JG J

Culver City/Venice and vicinity

AC?Beechwood Only in the 21st century could you find a restaurant quite so midcentury modern, with sleek love-seat sofas and machine-polished wood and a quantity of prefabricated design that probably would have amused Ray and Charles Eames back in the days when their aesthetic was found more in your kindergarten classroom than in fashionable cafés. Chefs Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts, a kitchen team who have been the Next Big Thing in Los Angeles since their late pubescence, seem to have settled into variations on the theme of bar snacks here, the farmers-market-inflected rib-eye ­burgers, sticky pork ribs and burrata-tomato salads you may remember from their last venture, Amuse, plus a slightly more formal New American menu for the serene back dining room that includes things like duck confit with dandelion greens and sautéed catfish with collards and black-eyed peas. But the restaurant is open until 1 a.m. And if you are so inclined, the fire pit in the patio may be even cozier than the one at Johnny’s French Dip Pastrami. If you ask nicely, the waitress may even bring you a plate of fried smelt to go with your Amstel Light. 822 Washington Blvd., Venice, (310) 448-8884. Dinner menu Tues.–Sat. 6–11 p.m.; bar menu served late into the evening and also Sun.–Mon. Full bar. Valet parking. New American. JG I

San Fernando Valley

AD?Tama Sushi Twenty years ago, Katsu Michite was at the center of the Los Angeles sushi universe, the sushi chef of choice to both famous chefs and famous artists. And Michite’s sushi is still fantastic; his omakase lunch is one of the better sushi deals in town — with all the needlefish and beltfish and various kinds of jacks you’d expect at a high-caliber sushi counter. His signature method is to mold fish to rice in a way that leaves the sushi easy to manage but allows it to practically explode inside your mouth. He may be using lemon to dress his halibut instead of imported yuzu and a decent paste instead of fresh wasabi, but he knows how to buy a fish, and his knife has an unerring sense of the sweet spot on a fillet. 11920 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 760-4585. Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., dinner Fri.–Sat.. 5–11 p.m., Sun.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m. Beer, wine and sake. Valet parking Tues.–Sat. AE, MC, V. Japanese. JG IL


South Bay/LAX

Pann’sEvery Angeleno has a secret backdoor shortcut to the airport, and Pann’s is smack on the route of at least two-thirds of them. It’s a grand ’50s coffee shop right on the triangle formed by the intersection of La Cienega, La Tijera and Centinela, a bright, neon-lit fortress of patty melts, Dreamburgers, banana splits and pie, bottomless cups of coffee, and a twangy soundtrack that veers from Duane Eddy to Elvis and back. Mornings see customers from all over Los Angeles, some of them bleary-eyed from the previous night’s festivities, who can’t stay away from the sugar-cured ham, the thick blueberry pancakes or the big plates of steak and eggs. Pann’s is a coffee shop, not a temple of cuisine, but we all owe it to ourselves to stop by for a plate of chicken from time to time. 6710 La Tijera Blvd., L.A., (310) 337–2860. Open Mon.–Sat. 7 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.–10 p.m. AE, MC, V accepted. Beer and wine. Lot parking. American. JG HK

South Los Angeles

Harold & Belle’s Many of the best Cajun and creole restaurants in Los Angeles seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur. Orleans and Patout’s and Gagnier’s and Sid’s Café have been gone for years. The Gumbo Pot, in Farmers Market, is past its glory days. And we recently had a Cajun-ish meal, in Monrovia, so bad that we believe the state of Louisiana may be entitled to sue for damages. We highly recommend Harold & Belle’s, an old-line creole restaurant down by USC, where the smoked sausage is delicious, the fried seafood is formidable, the crawfish étouffée is really worth checking out, and the oyster po’ boys are fine. Plus, you can get a decent drink at Harold & Belle’s, which, as anybody who has spent more than a couple of days in New Orleans can tell you, is what dinner is all about. 2920 W. Jefferson Blvd., L.A., (323) 735-9023. Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Parking lot. AE, MC, V. JG $Âb

East Los Angeles/Highland Park

El Borrego de Oro In the neighborhood of Boyle Heights, which is thronged with businesses selling carnitas, fried seafood, grilled beef, El Borrego de Oro — the Golden Sheep — stands out as a specialist in mutton, specifically mutton pit-roasted with maguey leaves in the style of the central Mexican state Hidalgo, a savory mess known by the rather generic term barbacoa: slivers and shards and nubs hacked from a steaming carcass, some of it attached to the bone and some of it not, some crunchy, some soft, some greasy, luscious and dark. This is pungent, powerful stuff, sweetly reeking of the gamy underbrush, like lamb that bites you back. 2403 E. Whittier Blvd., Boyle Heights, (323) 780-4213. Open daily 6 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout and catering. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $16–$24. AE, V. Mexican. JG GL

ADCB?Tacos Baja Ensenada In most of Mexico, the words estilo Ensenada signify just one thing: fish tacos, specifically the fried-fish tacos served at stalls in the fish market down by the docks. In East L.A., you will come no closer to the ideal than these crunchy, sizzlingly hot strips of batter-fried halibut, folded into warm corn tortillas with salsa, shredded cabbage and a squeeze of lime, sprinkled with freshly chopped herbs and finished with a squirt of thick, cultured cream. Entire religions have been founded on miracles less profound than the Ensenada fish taco. 5385 Whittier Blvd., E.L.A., (323) 887-1980. Tues.–Sun. 10 a.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Mexican. JG GL

Burbank/Glendale/Eagle Rock

Raffi’s Place You go to Raffi’s for its enormous, affordable plates of Persian-­Armenian food, but you also get canaries singing in the trees, a heated brick patio, quick service and a location close to ­Glendale’s best movie theaters. Everyone comes for the grilled kebabs served with whole charred tomatoes and peppers, plus mountains of aromatic basmati rice — try the shishlique, or lamb chops. Also recommended: the lemony hummus and a smoky eggplant dip (baba ganoush) scooped up with supple, paper-thin lavash. 211 E. Broadway, Glendale, (818) 240-7411. Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. noon–10 p.m., Sun. noon–9 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $8–$14. Persian/Armenian. MH GLM

Pasadena and vicinity

Dish With lots of light, lots of room and smart, friendly servers, Dish is a prime example of the new American coffee shop. Located in the small foothill village of La Cañada, the look is scrubbed-California-farmhouse, the ingredients are fresh, and the all-American menu showcases our national love of sugar, salt, meat and crunch. Have eggs or fluffy cornmeal “jonnycakes” along with applewood-smoked bacon, sausages from Schreiner’s, the local German butchers, or thick slices of baked ham that’s been encrusted with gingersnaps and brown sugar. For lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong with the Dish burger — a fat, juicy, meaty thing in a grilled-till-crisp sesame bun. 734 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada, (818) 790-5355. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily 7 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $7.95–$15.95. American. MH H


ACB?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, and the wine list is egregiously overpriced. 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 IL

Monterey Park/San Gabriel and vicinity

Yazmin In the San Gabriel Valley, ethnic institutions are layered as intricately as microchips — an apt setting for what is probably the most polymorphous of all the world’s cuisines, a shotgun wedding of Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai and indigenous Malay cooking. The satay at Yazmin is especially good, strips of grilled beef or chicken crusted with ground cumin and coriander seed, burnt and crunchy at the edges, floating in that hazy area of perfection between sweetness and charred bitterness — and set off just right by an extremely fine sauce of chile and ground peanuts, and a big heap of acar, a spicy Malaysian pickle stained bright yellow with turmeric and showered with ground peanuts. 19 E. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 308-2036. Closed Tues. Open for lunch Mon., Wed.–Fri. 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5 p.m.–9:30 p.m., Fri. 5 p.m.–10 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $13–$20. Beer only. Lot parking. D, MC, V. JG $b

LA Weekly