Dear Mr. Gold:

Where would one go for lunch with a group after a high school graduation — I mean, besides the school cafeteria — in the Woodland Hills/Encino area? It’s bad enough sitting through one of these things when it’s your kid, but it’s my godson and his family, with whom I have less in common than with goat-herders in Romania.

Irene, Torrance

Dear Irene:

At least they’re letting you choose the restaurant. It saves you from a fate worse than death, at Buca di Beppo or P.F. Chang’s. Pinot Bistro in Sherman Oaks is comfortable and the most reliable of the Splichal restaurants; Andre Guerrero’s Max has very good Asian-fusion cooking; and I am probably fonder of the Caesar salad, chicken hash and stiff drinks at the Daily Grill than I should be.

If they’re tolerant about such things, my first choice would be the leafy patio at Alcazar, which has decent prices, subdued Middle Eastern music and excellent Lebanese food — shanklish, shish tawook and fried fish with tahini, along with the usual salads. If you need a drink to ease your suffering, Alcazar happens to serve the best arak in town.

ALCAZAR: 17239 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 789-0991 or

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