Daikokuya. The hub of the ramen cult at the moment is Daikokuya, a
long, narrow lunch counter that has been around for a couple of years but feels
as if it’s going on 50, a center of steam, noise and garlic at the heart of
Little Tokyo’s noodle-shop district. Most ramen shops offer an endless list
of possibilities; at Daikokuya, the choice is taken out of the equation — you
will have the house style of ramen, thin, curly noodles in pork broth, or you
will have no ramen at all. But the pork broth is 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 boiled
egg per bowl. Daikokuya feels just like Japan. 327 E. First St., downtown,
(213) 626-1680. Lunch, Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner, Mon.–Sat., 5 p.m.–3
a.m.; Sun., noon–8 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Food
for two, $13–$25. Japanese. JG ¢ * H ¦
The Kitchen. Here is the quintessential Silver Lake canteen. Its former
subtitle — “Lunch to Late Night” — reflects the circadian rhythms of its neighborhood
clientele. The interior is Early East Village — deep colors, battered tables,
crumbling cement, loud music. The service tends toward the casual and offhand,
which belies the big-hearted, darn good food — try a bowl of quite viable cioppino.
4348 Fountain Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 664-3663. Open Mon.–Fri. 5 p.m.–mid.,
Sat. noon–2:30 a.m., Sun. noon–10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V.
Entrées $10–$18. American. MH ¢ H
Malo. Okay, right off the bat: Malo is not malo. It’s a decent, stylish
Mexican restaurant that inhabits the former Cobalt Cantina in Silver Lake, and
the menu is a taut, well-devised list of small, shareable items by executive
chef Robert Luna. The food has the flavor of good, home-cooked Mexican food.
Soups tend to be meals unto themselves. I’d also make a whole dinner from the
iceberg-and-grilled-steak salad; the meat comes well-charred and sputtering
on the lettuce, which is flecked with grated cheese and olive slices. 4326
Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 664-1011. Dinner Fri.–Sat. 6 p.m.–midnight,
Sun.–Mon. 6–10 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 6–11 p.m. Full bar open until 2 a.m. Valet
parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées, à la carte, $7–$14. Mexican. MH $$ ¨
Pattaya. This modest Thai restaurant, in a mini-mall on Vermont Avenue
in Los Feliz, has a number of things going for it. First, it has a parking lot,
a true boon in this bustling, ever-hippifying neighborhood. Second, it opens
daily at 11 a.m. for lunch, and stays open nightly until 4 a.m., which means
that you can get an excellent curative hot pot of chicken soup before you call
it quits on a long evening out. Finally, it has a kitchen full of good Thai
cooks, so that whenever you come, you have a solid chance of getting something
delicious to eat. 1727 N. Vermont Ave., (323) 666-0880. Open seven days 11
a.m.–4 a.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $10 &
up. Thai. MH $ ¨ H ¦
Palm Thai. Palm Thai may be the most famous Thai supper club in Hollywood
— with Thai tour buses often parked out front. The food is first-rate. Bar snacks
include Thai sour sausages served with fried peanuts and raw cabbage, and beef
jerky, fried to a tooth-wrenching chaw. There is a proper papaya salad, and
Palm Thai prepares the best version in town of suea rong hai, northeastern-style
barbecued beef. 5273 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 462-5073. Lunch and
dinner seven days 11 a.m.–mid. (until 1:30 a.m. Fri.–Sat.). Beer and wine. Lot
parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $18–$40. Thai. JG $ ¨
Pink’s. Consider the Pink’s dog, uncouth and garlicky, skin thick and
taut, so that when you sink your teeth into it, the sausage . . . pops . . .
into a mouthful of juice. The bun is soft enough to achieve a oneness with the
thick chili that is ladled over the dog, but firm enough to resist dissolving
altogether, unless you order it with sauerkraut. And why wouldn’t you? 709
N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood, (323) 931-4223 (no phone orders). Open Sun.–Thurs.
9:30 a.m.–2 a.m., Fri.–Sat. 9:30 a.m.–3 a.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Takeout.
Cash only. Dogs $3–$6. American. JG ¢ H
Ruen Pair Thai. One can order the standard pad Thai and cashew chicken,
but more interesting choices include preserved-egg salad and pork fried with
Chinese olives. At 2 a.m., everybody is eating more or less the same thing:
flat, crisp Thai omelets, and morning-glory stems fried with an immoderate amount
of garlic. 5257 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-0153. 11 a.m.–4 a.m.
daily. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Entrées $4.95–$7.95. Thai. JG
¢ H *
Sanamluang Café. Sanamluang is a Thai place to duck into and out of
at 3 a.m. after the clubs close for vast plates of rice fried with mint leaves,
seafood and chiles; for big, comforting bowls of chicken soup flavored with
toasted garlic; and for wide noodles fried with Chinese broccoli and shiitake
mushrooms. Truly extraordinary is the general’s noodle soup: thin, garlicky
egg noodles garnished with bits of duck, barbecued pork, crumbles of ground
pork and a couple of shrimp, submerged in a clean, clear broth. 5176 Hollywood
Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 660-8006. Open daily 10:30 a.m.–4 a.m. No alcohol. Lot
parking. Cash only. Entrées $5–$10. Thai. JG ¢ H
White Lotus. What you eat here is essentially a fusion-inflected version
of familiar club comfort fare . . . plus sushi, an already well-established
combo in this town. For appetizers, there’s dim sum. For steak and potatoes,
it’s steak and rice. But food and dining are not necessarily the featured attraction;
as the evening deepens and the throng thickens, the noise level rises, the martinis
flow, sushi flies from the sushi bar — it’s a locus, a scene — and a pleasant
one at that. 1743 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 463-0060. Dinner Tues.–Sat.
6 p.m.–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $14.50–$32. AE, D, MC, V.
Asian fusion. MH $$ ¨ H
Mandarin House. Hand-pulled noodles are immeasurably better than the
machine-made kind: stretchy yet supple, irregularly shaped, veritable magnets
for sauce. For some reason, the vast majority of L.A. chefs skilled in noodle
pulling seem to own Chinese restaurants aimed at a Korean clientele, and perhaps
the best of these is Mandarin House, right in the heart of Koreatown. The kung
pao shrimp may be pedestrian, but the chachiang mein, in a dense, black sauce
of fermented beans and pork, is out of this world. 3074 W. Eighth St., (213)
386-8976. 11:30 a.m.–mid. seven days. Beer only. Lot parking. Takeout/delivery.
AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $11–$12. Chinese. JG $ H
Nyala. The central fact of Ethiopian cuisine is injera, the sour, pale,
platter-size pancake that acts as plate, utensil, condiment and bread, and also
as an ingredient in about half the stews. At the vegetarian-friendly Nyala,
there is a fine version of the chicken stew doro wot, thick with hot spice and
glistening with butter. 1076 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 936-5918.
Mon.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Street parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V.
Entrées $7–$12. Ethiopian. JG $ H
Bliss. Once you find it, Bliss looks like a place the devil might like
— a vast, cavernous club with womb-red walls, gas fires, and enormous sculptural
paper lanterns that look like licking flames. (There’s no outside signage or
address, but it’s just south of Melrose Place.) There are two bars, and curtained
“boxes” where you can have both privacy and a great view of the goings-on below,
which are mostly dressed-up people drinking and eating. The New American club
fare is a mix of comfort food, fusion and meat. 650 N. La Cienega Blvd.,
Los Angeles, (310) 659-0999. Dinner Wed.–Sat., from 7 p.m. Closed Sun.–Tues.
Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $25–$39. American. MH $$$ ¨
Hot Dog on a Stick. It’s a hot dog. It’s on a stick. It’s fried in
a sweetish corn batter and served by pretty college girls who wear tall, multicolored
caps. Frankly, as regional hot-dog styles go, Hot Dog on a Stick may not rank
with Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island or the elaborately garnished franks of
Chicago, but the stands in those cities have no spectacle that even comes close
to the sight of a short-skirted Hot Dog on a Stick chick pumping up a tankful
of lemonade. In malls citywide. Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–7
p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–6 p.m. No alcohol. Parking in mall. MC, V. Hot dogs $1–$2.
American. JG ¢ H *