*Lemon Moon. A glamorous
restaurant in a sleekly modern media office complex on the Westside, Lemon Moon
is a stab at the ultimate office-building cafeteria. It has streamlined service,
relatively healthy food, plenty of takeout options, and a simplified menu wide
enough to cater to every imaginable diet, ethnic whim or religious persuasion.
Try the crisp, thin-crusted flatbread topped with herbed cheese or thin-sliced
potatoes. The cheeseburgers, made with profoundly aged prime beef, are among
the best in L.A. 12200 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 442-9191. Breakfast
and lunch Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. Food
for two: $11–$24. AE, MC, V. Contemporary American. JG
*Wonton Time. The wontons here are wondrous things: delicate and lightly
crunchy, scented with toasted sesame oil, available either plainly steamed or
plunked into a bowl of double-strength chicken broth with only a few slivers
of scallion for garnish. They come only a few to an order, but they are so intricately
dense, so bulky, that three or four are a meal. If you’re in the mood, the cook
will throw in a skein of chewy yellow vermicelli noodles, which are rugged enough
to maintain their tensile integrity in the extremely hot broth, yet not so aggressive
as to overpower it. 19 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 293-3366. Seven days,
11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Valet parking. Lunch or dinner for two,
food only, $8–$11. Cash only. Chinese. JG
*El Abajeno. The cornerstone of the menu at El Abajeno is its specialty
burrito, a monstrous construction the size and shape of a shoebox: two huge
tortillas wrapped around truly heroic portions of lettuce, rice, beans and meat.
An El Abajeno burrito, the Westside’s answer to the mammoth beasts served at
El Tepeyac in East L.A., could probably feed a family of six with leftovers
for lunch the next day, although I have never seen one attacked by more than
one hungry guy. 4515 Inglewood Blvd., Culver City, (310) 390-0755. Breakfast,
lunch and dinner Mon.–Thurs. 8 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Fri. 8 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.–8:30
p.m. Beer. Takeout. Lot parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $11–$18.
AE, MC, V. Mexican. JG
*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
*Lee’s Sandwiches. Banh mi are the Vietnamese equivalent of
submarine sandwiches, with charcuterie and vegetables smeared with mayonnaise,
laid into a baguette, and wrapped in a neatly folded sheet of paper. In the
assembly line at Lee’s Sandwiches — a small chain of restaurants centered around
bright, clean kitchens that seem to stretch into infinity — teams of sandwich
makers slice hot baguettes in half and neatly layer meat and condiments. Bakers
march across the kitchen bearing trays of freshly baked French bread. A quick
drive along Valley Boulevard reveals Ba Le, Baguette Express, Baguette du Jour,
Banh Mi So 1, and a brand-new Alhambra outlet of Lee’s, among a dozen other
places to buy the tasty sandwiches. 1289 Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 282-5589.
Seven days, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot Parking. Sandwiches, $1.50–$3.50.
Cash only. Vietnamese-European. JG
*Mr. Baguette. Mr. Baguette, a Vietnamese sandwich shop in Rosemead,
makes its own high-quality charcuterie — ham and headcheese and steamed pork
loaves — that it sells separately by the pound, and bakes its own baguettes.
There are fresh fruit smoothies, ham and cheese croissants, Vietnamese iced
coffee, and pickled vegetables that come packaged separately from the banh
mi sandwiches in little Baggies, so that you can garnish yours to taste.
For a quarter extra, you can get the banh mi made on a fresh baguette frosted
with toasted sesame seeds. 8702 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead, (626) 288-9166.
Seven days, 6 p.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Sandwiches, $2–$3.95.
Cash only. Vietnamese-French. JG