Downtown Los Angeles

E3rd Steakhouse E3rd, which looks as if it were assembled by Michael Mann’s art director, is nominally a steak house, a designy, halogen-intensive joint from the guys who run the loungy Korean-cum-Japanese Zip Fusion Sushi restaurants, but their signature beef and pork cuts are marinated to a candylike density, the mashed potatoes are enriched with spicy kimchi, and the jalapeño peppers come stuffed with tuna and glopped with sticky eel sauce — it’s a modern izakaya with training wheels, a user-friendly cocktail lounge with sleek cross-cultural eats. 734 E. Third St., dwntwn., (213) 680-3003. Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner daily 5-11 p.m. (late-night menu 11 p.m.-1 a.m.). Full bar. Valet parking. All major CC. Asian Steak House. JG INK

Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park

AD?Canelé In Bordelaise dialect, a canele is a dense, fluted cylinder of pudding edged with crisp beeswax. In Atwater Village, Canele can feel a lot like an ongoing dinner party that just happens to tolerate strangers at its tables, with oddly minimalist décor, menus illegibly scrawled onto chalkboards, and friendly but puzzled waitresses who aren’t quite sure why you’ve stumbled into their domain. It works the farmers-market-driven urban rustic side of new Los Angeles cooking: the Provençal onion tart ­pissaladière, an austere green salad with crème fraîche; rare roast lamb with Israeli couscous, beef bourguignon, an honest flan. This is cooking worthy of the good china. 3219 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village, (323) 666-7133. Tues.–Sat. 5:30–10:30 p.m., Sun. 5–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, MC, V. French.JGHLM

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax

El Coyote Many restaurants resemble this place — from the cheap margaritas, to the “Mexican pizza” available in the ever-crowded bar, to the walls decorated with broken mirrors, to the wire-mesh-enclosed patio with its plastic smog-dusted foliage and visiting local sparrows, to the guacamole dinners, to the ersatz tostadas — but I could pick an El Coyote combination plate blindfolded out of 100 others, and most of the regulars could, too. 7312 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 939-2255. Lunch and dinner Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Dinner for two, food only, $18–$25. MC, V. Mexican. JG HLN

ADB?Jar Any place in town can serve you a grilled T-bone, but Suzanne Tracht’s snazzy steak house is strictly post­modernsville, man, chefly riffs on the strip steak and the porterhouse, the hash brown and the French fry that may or may not incorporate every last pea tendril and star-anise infusion in the Asian-fusion playbook, if that happens to be your desire. Some people we know have never even tried the steak here — the braised pork belly, the glorious pot roast and the duck fried rice are just too compelling. 8225 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 655-6566. Mon.–Thurs. 5:30–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–9:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. California American. JG INK

Miceli’s Did Miceli’s invent Hollywood’s idea of what an Italian restaurant should be, or did Hollywood invent Miceli’s? Owned by the same family since 1949, Miceli’s is an ancient, baroque pizzeria in the heart of Hollywood, all red candle globes, checked tablecloths and ceilings encrusted with Chianti flasks. As romantic as a bohemian Audrey Hepburn fantasy, it could stand in for the restaurant in the famous spaghetti-eating scene in Lady and the Tramp. 1646 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hlywd., (323) 466-3438 or Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–mid., Sat.–Sun. 4 p.m.–mid. Full bar. Parking lot. All major CC. Italian. JG HLN

Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown/Central Los Angeles

AD?A-WonJust south of L.A.’s oldest Thai-restaurant neighborhood, tucked away in a mini-mall where the Lexuses pack together as tightly as grains of rice in a bowl, A-Won is one of Koreatown’s oldest sushi restaurants. Marinated sea cucumber and the habit of eating sashimi with raw garlic have their fans, but the great Korean contribution to the world’s sushi kitchen is probably hwe dup bap, a raw-fish salad leavened with dried seaweed and flavored with chile paste. Good hwe dup bap — and A-Won’s is very good — is as alive and vivid and evanescent as a wildflower, the taste of the spring’s first asparagus, or the throwaway phrase in a Lily Allen song that breaks your heart. 913½ S. Vermont Ave., L.A., (213) 389-6764. Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; Sun. 4–11 p.m. AE, MC, V. Beer and soju. Guarded lot parking. Korean sushi. JG HLK

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., L.A., (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 HK


West Hollywood/La Cienega

Orso The West Coast branch of New York’s Orso has fully embraced Southern California’s resemblance to the Italian countryside; the high-walled garden bursts with Mediterranean plants and grasses. The wood-paneled interior has its own rustic, candlelit romantic allure — and a cozy bar. If, for some reason, celebrities enhance your appetite, you can often spot a film star of some ilk on the Orso premises. To our mind, the fresh Italian cooking — grilled trout with cockles, seasonal risottos — is incentive enough. 8706 W. Third St., L.A., (310) 274-7144. Lunch and dinner daily 11:45 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $18–$27. Italian. MH I

Westwood/West L.A./Century City

Indo Café The cooking here is sort of an intelligently gentrified, Muslim-accented greatest-hits version of pan-Indonesian cuisine, with curries of all sorts. Mellow Javanese-style chicken soup is slightly soured with lemon grass. Martabak telur, a scramble of meat, eggs and herbs, is a terrific sort of Indonesian borek, an exotically spiced version of something you’d expect to find at a North African restaurant. And Indo Café may be the only Southland restaurant to serve the fried mashed-potato fritter called perkedel that is pretty good on its own, but which almost explodes with flavor when you daub it with a bit of Indo Café’s fiery chile condiments. 10428 W. National Blvd., W.L.A., (310) 815-1290. Open Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Fri.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. for lunch and dinner. No alcohol. Street parking. Indonesian. JG HL

ACB?Torafuku Devoted to the Japanese cult of perfect rice, Torafuku is the first American outpost of a small Tokyo-based chain. Rice is the focus of Torafuku’s expensive, luxurious izakaya menu: at the center of set meals, accompanied only by miso soup and pickles; topped with fried prawns or marinated tuna; or as tou-ban-yaki, seared in a superheated clay bowl with bits of seaweed, tiny dried sardines and a lightly poached egg. 10914 Pico Blvd., W.L.A., (310) 470-0014. Lunch Mon.–Sat. noon–2:30 p.m.; dinner Mon.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m., Sun. 5–10 p.m. Beer, wine and sake. Valet and street parking. AE, MC, V. Prix fixe starts at $80, set dinners $38, bento lunches $8.50–$12, à la carte meals vary, takeout $55. Traditional Japanese. JG ILM

Beverly Hills and vicinity

ADC?The Lodge Restaurant magnate Adolfo Suaya is the dark prince of the anti-chef wing of the local restaurant scene, the evil one behind half the velvet-rope joints in town. Yet I love the Lodge for its double-fisted Tanqueray martinis, for the thick-cut pepper bacon put out like peanuts at the bar, for the big chunks of blue cheese in the house chopped salad. The $75 porterhouse-for-two starts to seem not only possible but desirable in the heat of the Lodge moment, and if you do the math, it is one of the least costly items on the menu. But the potatoes are not just baked, but salt baked, crunchy skinned, accompanied by enough condiments to crank the vibe from Ornish all the way up to Atkins with just a few dips of the fork. 14 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 854-0024. Open nightly 5 p.m.–1 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. California Steak House. JG JNK

Santa Monica/Brentwood

Chez Mimi Chez Mimi is surely the loveliest patio dining spot around, where the vine-entwined gateway alone makes it hard to remember you’re in California and not some gentrified country stable yard in southern France. Inside, in charming low-ceilinged rooms that, if we didn’t know better, we might assume were built for our far shorter 18th-century ancestors, fires snap on cold nights and Mimi herself checks in on her customers. Try the excellent bouillabaisse and the rich, soothing cassoulet. 246 26th St., Santa Monica, (310) 393-0558. Lunch Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner Sun.-Thurs. 5:30–9:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. $9–$29. French. MH IL

The Shack The Shack is a manly place, a place that hosts Jaegergirl promotions, a place where a man can watch the Lakers and drink a Rusty Nail. The Shack is also an archetypal beach hamburger dive, the kind of vaguely nautical-looking place where most of the clientele seem to treat the food as something to soak up the beer: cheesesteaks, chiliburgers, fries. The basic unit of exchange at The Shack is something called the Shack Burger, a quarter-pound of charred ground beef and a Louisiana sausage crammed together in a bun. The Shack Burger seems repellent on the surface, and it will seem repellent an hour after you eat one, but like your favorite punk rock song, a Shack Burger is three minutes of pure greatness, all grease and smoke and snap. 2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 449-1171; 185 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey, (310) 823-6222. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch for two, food only, $9-$14. Full bar. AE, D, V. American. JG GNL


Culver City/Venice ?and vicinity

AC?Ford’s Filling Station Ford’s, whose chef-owner is Benjamin Ford, formerly of the restaurant Chadwick, is a bar that happens to have ambitious, organic food as opposed to a restaurant that happens to have a bar attached, a gastropub where you can enjoy pretty decent cooking while being bounced around like a pachinko ball. If you manage to power your way to a barstool or to an actual table, you will find most of the usual Los Angeles gastropub classics. If you like the fried Ipswich clams at Jar, you will probably like Ford’s rudely indelicate version. There is a hamburger tricked out with blue cheese and an onion compote, the requisite butter-lettuce salad with bacon, and a decent selection of cheeses and meats, some of them procured from Armandino Batali in Seattle, to help down the wine. And there’s butterscotch pudding for dessert. 9531 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 202-1470. Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 4–11 p.m. Full bar. Parking at city lot around the corner. AE, MC, V. California Contemporary. JG I

La Oaxaquena This is an excellent taco truck, parked evenings and weekends on Lincoln Avenue just south of Rose in Venice. It serves delicious Oaxacan tlayudas and tamales and such, also very decent carne asada tacos and burritos with thin taquería guacamole that is so good you may be tempted to lick it off your flip-flops. The regulars at this truck are so intent on chewing the cecina in the tacos that they probably wouldn’t notice if you forgot to wear pants. Lincoln Avenue just south of Rose in Venice. Regional Mexican. JG GL

San Fernando Valley

ADCB?Max Fusion chefs, even the best of them, tend to fall on one side of the spectrum or the other, either dressing up essentially Western techniques with Asian flavors and exotic ingredients or supercharging existing Asian dishes with professional French technique. Max chef Andre Guerrero, who is Filipino-American, seems to split the difference about as adroitly as anyone in town. So where his “ahi towers” are nothing like traditional sushi, for example, the perfectly engineered cylinders of fried sticky-rice cake, seaweed, pickled ginger, wasabi-flavored flying-fish roe and raw fish have all the sensations of a great, trashy tuna roll. And Guerrero’s formidable chicken adobo is a remarkable, remarkable dish. 13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 784-2915. Sun.–Thurs. 5:30–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11 p.m. Full bar. Street parking. All major CC. California Asian. JGI.LMK

South Bay/LAX

El Pollo Inka Beyond the roasted chicken that earned the chain its reputation, El Pollo Inka’s menu is filled with the seafood dishes typical of Lima’s industrial port suburb, Callao: hotly spiced ceviche; crisply fried catfish fillets garnished with a sort of Peruvian pico de gallo; and noodles tossed with various tentacles. The fish soup parihuela is close to the classic version, dark and pepper-hot as a superior Louisiana gumbo. 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378. 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062. 11000 Pacific Coast Hwy., Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433. Lunch and dinner daily (some locations close late on Fri. and Sat.). Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $5–$17. Peruvian. JG GL

East Los Angeles/Highland Park

Ciro’s Stylistically, flautas can range from the greasy taquitos your college dorm used to serve, to the giant, tasteless roll-ups served by certain upscale Mexican chains. Located just down the street from El Tepeyac, beloved by local families and cops, Ciro’s is known across all East L.A. for its flautas, tiny things that come six to an order, tightly rolled and sauced with thick, chunky, fresh guaca­mole and a dollop of tart Mexican cream. 705 N. Evergreen St., E.L.A., (323) 267-8637. Tues.–Thurs. 7 a.m.–8 p.m., Fri.–Sun. 7 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer only. Street parking. D, MC, V. Mexican. JG GL

Juanito’s I am not sure that I have ever tasted a tamale as wonderful as the tamales that sell for $20 a dozen at the venerable Juanito’s in East L.A., savory tamales steamed in rich stock instead of water, slender, pliant shells of masa unrolling to reveal tender, superthin tubes of masa around fillings of pork, stewed chicken, or melted cheese spiked with sweet green chiles. A Juanito’s tamale, made the same way since Kennedy was in the White House, is a tamale worthy of a great metropolis. 4214 E. Floral Drive, E.L.A., (323) 268-2365. Open Mon.–Sat. 7 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.–3 p.m. AE, MC, V. Mexican. JG GLM

Pasadena and vicinity

AD?Bulgarini Gelato Los Angeles is thick with skilled gelato makers at the moment — Tai Kim at Scoops, Allessandro Fontana at Gelato Bar, and the artisans at Pazzo Gelato. But Bulgarini, the love child of Roman expat Leo Bulgarini and his Altadena-raised wife, Elizabeth Foldi, is a singular, perfect blossom in a world of international sweets conglomerates and by-the-book mixes: fragrant Sicilian pistachio gelato, vivid blood orange sorbetto, subtle cinnamon cream, and dark, smoky chocolate gelati flavored with orange peel, with fresh hazelnuts, or with rum. After a Gypsy-like year of existence flitting from museum courtyard to moviehouse lobby, Bulgarini finally has a permanent location, although unless you’re lucky enough to live in Altadena or the upper reaches of Pasadena, the new shop could hardly be less convenient. The faithful could scarcely care less. 749 E. Altadena Dr. Altadena, (626) 441-2319. Wed.–Thurs., Sun. noon–8 p.m., Fri.–Sat. noon–9 p.m. Gelateria. JG GL


ADCB?Europane Sumi Chang’s bakery may be the center of civilized life in Pasadena: a place to buy excellent-to-superb scones and baguettes and pains au chocolat, of course, but also the heart of a certain sort of society, the chemistry professors, theology students and writers who worship at the twin altars of caffeine and conversation. On a good day, Euro Pane’s magnificent croissants could be mistaken for France’s best in a police lineup. Toss in the homemade granola, the epochal bread pudding, the rustic fruit tarts and the gooiest egg-salad sandwich in town, and it’s no wonder that Europane’s regulars treat the bakery more as a permanent residence than as a café. 950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 577-1828. Mon.–Sat. 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Sun. till 3 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. MC, V for orders over $20 only. JG GL

Porto Alegre The upper-west level of Pasadena’s Paseo Colorado complex is a catalog of mild modern sins, a promenade of cigar stores, wine bars and tea shops, crystal-laden boutiques and holistic-massage parlors, overlaid by a thin film of hot suburban lust. Fitting right in is the new Brazilian churrascaria Porto Alegre, a yawningly huge palace of the basest carnal appetites. Here, dripping rump roasts carved to order from superheated metal swords, fennel-laced sausages and plump chicken legs, bacon-wrapped filets and an incongruous side of baked salmon are slipped onto your plate until you grab a waiter’s lapels and shriek “Stop!” There is an enormous salad bar, of course, and warm balls of cheese bread that expand in your belly like some magical diet aid — the establishment wants your stomach to be full for your $35.50 prix fixe. Porto Alegre is neither L.A.’s best churrascaria (that would be Fogo de Chão), its sexiest (By Brazil in Torrance), nor its sleekest (probably Burbank’s Picanha). Its sisters, the massive Green Field restaurants in Covina, Long Beach and Queens, far surpass it in grandeur. Gaucho’s Village in Glendale is homier. But in a mall whose other choices run to Tokyo Wako, Islands and P.F. Chang’s, Porto Alegre might as well be the greatest restaurant in the world. 260 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 744-0555. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Parking lot. All major CC. Entrees $18.50–$35. Brazilian. JG IM

Monterey Park/San Gabriel and vicinity

Dai Ho Kitchen Dai Ho Kitchen’s spicy beef noodle soup is an angry red brew spiked with chopped herbs, golf ball–sized chunks of long-simmered meat and noodles — slithery, linguine-thick noodles, disarmingly soft, that like all the best pasta seem to have mastered the trick of appearing almost alive. The house-special cold appetizer of spicy tripe, pressed tofu and sliced pork shank is delicious. But Dai Ho’s version of the beef noodle soup is on a plane of its own, a dense, stinky taste of Valhalla. 9148 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City, (626) 291-2295. Lunch Tues.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; dinner, takeout only. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Lunch for two, food only, $11–$18. Chinese. JG GL

888 Seafood Restaurant A good place to start is the Chiu Chow cold plate: symmetrically arranged slices of tender steamed geoduck clam, aspic-rimmed pork terrine, crunchy strands of jellyfish, cold halved shrimp in a sweet, citrus-based sauce. Or try a soup of whole perch gently poached in the heat of broth, sharp with the flavor of Chinese celery and herbs, made complexly tart with sour plum, or an astonishing dish of Chiu Chow–style braised goose. The epic dim sum breakfasts are locally esteemed. 8450 Valley Blvd., Rosemead, (626) 573-1888. Lunch and dinner daily 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $20–$30. MC, V. Chinese. JG HL

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