Downtown L.A./Chinatown/Westlake

Chop Suey Café From 1935 until it faded away 50-odd years later, the Far East Café was a mainstay of the Little Tokyo neighborhood, with battered wooden booths, tall ceilings and a neon “Chop Suey” sign outside as grand as anything out of an Edward Hopper painting — also a reputation for unusually tired Chinese food. Now reopened, cobwebs scrubbed away but otherwise looking pretty much as it did in the mid-1980s, the redubbed Chop Suey Café seems to pick up just where the Far East left off: a mixed clientele of hipsters and old-timers eating sweet-and-sour pork flavored with one part vinegar, two parts nostalgia — there are probably dishes here you haven’t tasted since Richard Nixon was in office. Happy hour is a specialty. And if you are so inclined, Chop Suey Café is an aromatic, Chandler-esque place to kill an afternoon. 347 E. First St., dwntwn., (213) 617-9990. Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–2 p.m. & 5–10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.–2 p.m. & 5–11 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Asian.(JG)$

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. 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)$$

Nick & Stef’s Joachim Splichal’s downtown steak house pushes the genre’s envelope. The décor is sedate enough — banquettes wear banker’s gray — but annexed to the dining room is a climate-­controlled glass case filled with slabs of darkening, crusting, dry-aging beef — a library of meat. The à la carte menu features 12 kinds of potatoes, 12 sauces and at least as many other side dishes. The outside patio — a sunny clearing in a forest of skyscrapers — may be the best urban dining spot in town. 330 S. Hope St. (Wells Fargo Center), dwntwn., (213) 680-0330. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5:30–9:30 p.m., Fri. 5:30–10:30 p.m., Sat. 5–10:30 p.m., Sun. 4:30–8:30 p.m. Full bar. Parking in Wells Fargo Center. Entrées $19–$37. American steak house. MH $$

Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park

Canelé Dinner at Canelé, a Southern French restaurant in the old Osteria Nonni space in Atwater, can feel a lot like crashing a dinner party, with oddly minimalist décor, people you probably know and friendly but puzzled waitresses who aren’t quite sure why you’ve stumbled into their domain. The chef/owner is Corina Weibel, a Nancy Silverton protégée who also cooked for a while at Lucques, and she works the urban rustic side of new Los Angeles cooking. If this were your dinner party, and your kitchen guru of choice is Julia rather than Marcella or Madhur, this is the kind of food worthy of the good china. And on your way out, the hostess will hand you a small example of the restaurant’s namesake pastry, a dense, fluted cylinder of crisp-edged pudding traditional in Bordeaux. 3219 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village, (323) 666-7133. Tues.–Sun. 5:30–10:30 p.m. Beer, wine. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Entrees $16–$22. French.(JG)$$

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. Mon.–Thurs. 5 p.m.–mid., Fri. 5 p.m.–1 a.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–mid., Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $10–$18. American. MH ¢

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax

BLD This bustling café from Grace’s Neal Fraser may be the most useful restaurant of our time, open for quick breakfasts of croissants and cappuccino, for sybaritic brunches of fluffy ricotta pancakes and eggs Benedict, for salady lunches and meaty feasts, for serious date-night dinners and after-movie snacks of burgers and beer and butterscotch pudding. When the bouncers at Simon won’t let you within 50 yards of the restaurant, the wait at BLD, a high-turnover place that takes no reservations, is probably about 15 minutes. Neal Fraser has long been a bwana of complexity in fourth-stage Los Angeles restaurants, rarely content to settle for one garnish where three will do. Freed of the formal requirements of the destination-restaurant menu, Fraser also turns out to be a genius as a short-order cook. 7450 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 930-9744. Open daily 8 a.m.–11 p.m. (bar food till mid.) Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $26–$66. American. (JG)$$

LA99 Cobras & Matadors Steven Arroyo is the Bill Graham of tapas in Los Angeles, the impresario who made the concept of Spanish drinks ’n’ snacks as popular as sushi platters after dozens of others had tried and failed. And his dark, buzzy tapas parlors are teeming dens of olive oil and garlic, octopus and cured pig, grilled meats and pungent concoctions of seafood and paprika and beans rushed to the table still crackling in unglazed crocks. The Los Feliz restaurant has a nicely curated list of Spanish and South American wines; at the Hollywood restaurant, you buy your wines from the shop conveniently located next door. When you bring your prize back to the table, don’t be surprised if the counter guy is standing right there, corkscrew in hand. 7615 W. Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 932-6178. 4655 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz, (323) 669-3922. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 6–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6 p.m.–mid. BYOB. Valet parking. MC, V. Spanish. JG $

Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown/Central Los Angeles

Bu San Korean-style raw sea cucumber is like nothing you’ve ever tasted before, and Korean-style sashimi, which you wrap in a lettuce leaf with raw garlic, sliced chiles and bean paste, is a revelation. The chefs are fond of converting live fish from the tanks into a meal’s worth of demonstrably fresh sashimi. Raw squid, luxuriously creamy, with a small bit of crunch at the center, only tastes alive. Although almost alarmingly so. 201 N. Western Ave., L.A., (323) 871-0703. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Beer and wine. Lot parking. MC, V. Entrées $25–$30. Korean. JG $$

Dino’s Burgers If you are looking for a proper representation of hellfire, the grill at Dino’s Burgers may be as close as you will get, a smoke-belching landscape of fire and ashes, with stacks of chickens ready to be flipped into the blaze like so many unrepentant sinners. A burger stand in the Byzantine-Latino Quarter still owned by founder Demetrios Pantazis, Dino’s is as perpetually crowded as Pink’s after the bars close. The half-chicken plates cost only $4.50 a pop, including fries and tortillas; steak platters with rice, beans and salad run maybe a buck more. And the best part of the meal may be the dense stratum of French fries that lies under the chicken like the hot rock beneath the earth’s crust, saturated with the greasy, capsaicin-rich juices of the bird. It may take a week to scrape the residue out from under your fingernails, but it will be worth the crimson shame. 2575 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., (213) 380-3554. Sun. 7 a.m.–11 p.m., Mon.–Thurs. 6 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6 a.m.–mid. No alcohol. Takeout. Limited lot parking. Cash only. Dinner for two, food only, $8–$11. JG¢

West Hollywood/La Cienega

LA99 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, DC, MC, V. French-Mediterranean-­influenced small plates. JG $$

LA99 The Griddle The Griddle is an instant Hollywood institution, an alternate universe of unshaven, bed-headed young actors in muscle shirts and those who would ogle them, of guys from the craft unions, gangs of pretty script readers, and middle-aged men preening in Robert Evans shades. The Griddle is probably the best place in Los Angeles to take an out-of-town niece intent on spotting a Fox network star. Coffee comes to the table in squat plunger pots, and the enormous pancakes are available blanketed in cinnamon streusel, or spiked with Kahlua and Bailey’s, or smothered under an improbable mass of whipped cream and crumbled Oreos, and they are not the best pancakes in Los Angeles, but they’re good enough. 7916 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd., (323) 874-0377. Breakfast and lunch Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–4 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Beer. Lot parking in rear. AE, D, MC, V. American. JG $

Westwood/West L.A./Century City

Aroma Café Pljeskavica is a thin, Balkan hamburger, as big and round as a phonograph record, flavored with salt and onions and peppers and briefly cooked over a hot charcoal fire, a chewy meat patty that still has all its juice. In Los Angeles, pljeskavica is served more or less exclusively at this Westside coffeehouse that offers probably the only Bosnian cooking in town. Tucked into its sturdy, focaccia-style bun, a steroidal construction that bears the same relationship to a supermarket roll that Barry Bonds’ right arm does to the musculature of a ballerina, Aroma’s pljeskavica is as daunting in its appearance as it is difficult to pronounce. The feta cheese roasted with herbs in tinfoil is goopy, salty, grand, like a great grilled cheese sandwich without the bread. 2530 Overland Ave., W.L.A., (310) 836-2919. Thurs.–Tues. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. BYOB. Lot and street parking. MC, V. Eastern European. JG $

gr/eats This small, chic café is furnished with Eames shell chairs and the sort of harsh, glowing light one expects to find in Prada boutiques. The densely packed hamburgers are made with Angus beef, and the mango-garnished fish tacos are pretty good. A platter of French fries includes crunchy banana shavings and squishy sweet-potato fries along with the usual shoestring potatoes; an occasional special of fried tofu comes hip-deep in a dashi-based sauce that will be familiar to anybody who has ever eaten a single dinner in a Japanese-American home. The food at gr/eats is re-contextualized Asian-American home cooking: bland Thai shrimp curry and Japanese ­omelet rice; a mild Salvadoran seafood stew served over a yellow rice “paella” and slightly clumsy Vietnamese spring rolls wrapped in rice paper. 2050 Sawtelle Blvd., W.L.A., (310) 478-3242 or Open daily noon–3 p.m. & 5:30–10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. MC, V. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $15–$25. JG $

Beverly Hills and vicinity

LA99 Fogo de Chao Churrascarias, southern Brazilian steak houses, are not new in Los Angeles. But Fogo de Chao is less a restaurant than a sizzling theme park of meat, a quarter-acre of sword-wielding gauchos, smoldering logs, and soaring walls perforated with bottles of the heartier red wines. It is a land of razor-sharp knives and double-weight forks, A-1 sauce and chimichurri, and all the dripping, smoking flesh you can eat carved off swords at your table: $48.50, cash on the barrelhead. 133 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 289-7755. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.; dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri. 5–10:30 p.m., Sat. 4:30–10:30 p.m., Sun. 4–9:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. All major credit cards. Prix fixe, food only, dinner $48.50 per person. Southern Brazilian. JG $$$

Talesai The owners of Talesai on Sunset Boulevard brought all their experience and many of their best dishes to this chic, glassed-in fishbowl of a café situated at one end of a Beverly Hills mini-mall. Friendly service and beautiful Asian statuary mitigate the industrial spareness of the room, but nothing tempers the boomeranging noise during dinner. Through it all, the refined Thai cooking sings with freshness, quality and flavor — try crisp corncakes, chicken curry, rib-eye salad, all the desserts. 9198 Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9345. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner daily 5–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $7.95–$12.95. Thai. MH $

Santa Monica/Brentwood

LA99 Border Grill Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger don’t redefine Mexican food; they just prepare it well, transforming the taco, the tostada, the homely chile relleno into creatures almost unrecognizable if you’re used to their Cal-Mex equivalents. The long, black dining room looks even better now than it did when the place first opened. Border Grill is the rare mainstream restaurant whose tacos don’t make you yearn for a truck parked by an auto-parts junkyard somewhere in East L.A. 1445 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-1655. Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. till 11 p.m. Full bar open till mid. Takeout. Street and valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Modern Mexican. JG $

The Hump This little crow’s-nest sushi bar, named for a difficult Himalayan airway, sits atop Typhoon at the Santa ­Monica airport. Eat kampachi sashimi off Mineo Mizuno’s ceramics and watch the planes pop on and off the runway. Much of the fish comes directly from the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, and the chefs can go as simple or sophisticated as you like. Try the chopped Tataki-style sashimi. 3221 Donald Douglas Loop South, Third Floor, Santa Monica, (310) 313-0977. Lunch Mon.–Fri. noon–2 p.m., dinner seven nights 6–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $35–$150. Japanese. MH $$$

Culver City/Venice and vicinity

LA99 Bluebird Cafe Let Beacon and Ford’s hog the credit: A few blocks from downtown Culver City, in a freshly painted diner that looks as if it has been languishing since the ’50s, Vincent Trevino and Chris Marble’s breakfast-lunch café is the real soul of the new Media District, a center of muscular omelets, big salads and thick hamburgers, BLTs with avocado, real iced tea, and a tuna melt for the ages. His pressed sandwiches actually taste like their inspirations, the panini served at the Autogrills that dot every superhighway in Italy, more than the fancier uptown versions do, and Trevino’s pretty iced cupcakes are renowned. 8572 National Blvd., Culver City, (310) 841-0939. Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–3 p.m. Free lot parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG $$

El Sazon Oaxaqueño Where many of the other Oaxacan places on the Westside interpret mole as a mandate to serve fairly incidental segments of reheated chicken, the chicken at El Sazon Oaxaqueño is fresh, full of juice, tending toward old-bird chewiness rather than dissolving into mush under your fork. The mole negro is impeccable, but it is the extravagantly hot coloradito de pollo that is El Sazon’s greatest dish, a red sauce that almost sings with roasted chiles, with sautéed spices, with ground, charred bread. 12131 Washington Place, Mar Vista, (310) 391-4721. Open daily 8 a.m.–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Entrées $6–$15. Mexican. JG ¢

San Fernando Valley

Art’s Delicatessen Art’s has been the best deli in the Valley since late in the Eisenhower administration, and its dense, tasty chicken soup, puddled around matzo balls the size of grapefruit, is justifiably renowned. Among the local cognoscenti, Art’s is well-known for the ­succulence of its knockwurst, the creaminess of its chopped liver, and the particular garlicky smack of its house-made pickles. Lox and eggs? Matzo Brie? Kreplach soup? Crisp-skinned cheese blintzes? Well-cured salmon on fresh Brooklyn Bagel bagels? Got ’em. And as it says on the menu: “Every Sandwich Is a Work of Art.” 12224 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 762-1221. Sun.–Thurs. 7 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 7 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $18–$36. Deli. JG $$

La Fondue Bourguignonne La Fondue is the ’70s on a stick, a Three’s Company restaurant set come to living, breathing life: dark wood and gleaming copper; jugs of California “burgundy” siphoned into carafes; tape loops of classical music that repeat so often, you begin to suspect they are recorded on 8-track. If you have ever eaten fondue, you probably know the drill. A waiter brings out a chafing dish filled with bubbling melted Gruyère, and you dunk stale hunks of baguette into the stuff, inhaling sweetly alcoholic fumes from the cherry brandy and white wine that are always incorporated into the mixture, occasionally pausing to munch on a pickle or to take a swig of wine. For dessert? Chocolate fondue, of course. 13359 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 788-8680. Dinner nightly 5:30–10 p.m. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Fondue. JG $$

South Bay/LAX

LA99 Al-Watan A bare, smoky dining room adjacent to a Muslim butcher shop, Al-Watan is the summit of basic Pakistani cooking in Los Angeles, spicy, meaty, and deeply inflected by the flavors of ginger, cardamom and chiles, with some of the most vividly smoky tandoor-cooked meats you will ever taste. First among the stews is haleem, beef braised with shredded wheat until it breaks down into a thick gravy with the flavor of well-browned roast-beef drippings, but as meaty as Al-Watan may be, even vegetarians can be happy here: Navratan korma, a mixture of cauliflower, green beans and carrots stir-fried with chile and plenty of spices, is like a wonderful Muslim ratatouille, the flavors of each vegetable fresh and distinct while contributing to the cumulative effect of the cumin-scented whole. 13611 Inglewood Ave., Hawthorne, (310) 644-6395. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. MC, V. Indian. JG $

By Brazil You eat meat until you die. Massive, garlicky heaps of short ribs and spareribs and sausage and rump roast and chicken are sliced off metal spears onto your plate by a parade of meat-bearing waiters, all for the fixed price of $21.99. And while the buffet may be nothing to write home about, come evening there’s the classic churrasco (barbecue), brought to your plate until you cry uncle. 1615 Cabrillo Ave., Torrance, (310) 787-7520. Lunch and dinner daily, 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Full churrasco on weekends. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Lunch for two, food only, $16. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Brazilian. JG $

El Rocoto Jalea is an enormous thing, an acre and a half of fish and shrimp, squid and octopus, scallops and clams, potatoes and chunked yuca, brown and sizzling, piled halfway to the ceiling, still smoking from its bath of hot oil. You’ve had fried shellfish before, but the clams and scallops in the jalea from El Rocoto are dipped in batter and fried still in their shells, which are almost impossible to prize open without burning your fingers. You’ve had fried yuca, too, ­probably at a Caribbean restaurant, but this yuca is especially appealing, frazzled to a deep crunch on the outside and almost molten inside. There is a sprinkling of chancho on top, toasted kernels of oversized Peruvian corn, and an intensely tart salsa criolla, made with shaved red onions, chiles and fresh lime juice. 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768. Open for lunch and dinner Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 9:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 9:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Peruvian breakfast Sat.–Sun. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $17–$32. JG $$

East Los Angeles/Highland Park

Antojitos Guerrero Bathed in the deafening roar of a jukebox and the Atlántico game playing simultaneously at top volume, Antojitos Guerrero is a small family restaurant specializing in the dishes of central Mexico’s Guerrero state, which is to say barbacoa, beef steamed with chiles in maguey leaves until it is tender as an Usher ballad, heaps of it with thick, homemade tortillas and extra chile if you happen to be into excess. 5623 York Blvd., Highland Park, (323) 254-6118. Open daily 8 a.m.–7 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. Dinner for two, food only, $5.50–$6.99. Mexican. JG ¢

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 lovingly patted into cornhusks, unrolling to reveal tender, superthin tubes of masa that seem almost engineered around fillings of pork in dusky red-chile sauce, 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 ¢

Burbank/Glendale/Eagle Rock

The Oinkster If you approach Colorado Boulevard just right, on the blocks west of Eagle Rock Boulevard, you will be hit with the smell of wood smoke, a formidable, fragrant blast. The Oinkster is the newest child of André Guerrero — chef of Max and Señor Fred and a lot of long-gone places that you’d recognize if you’ve been following the Los Angeles restaurant scene for a while — and it appears to be his stab at fame and fortune in the franchisable-fast-food division. Where Leonard “Zeke’s” Schwartz threw his hard-won reputation behind barbecue and Wolfgang Puck behind pizza, Guerrero places his behind pork. He apprenticed himself to the masters at Langer’s, and now he cures and smokes his own pastrami. There are intensely smoky Carolina-style pulled-pork sandwiches on hamburger buns, caesar-esque salads with chicken, garlic mayonnaise and homemade catsup, Angus-beef burgers, and rotisserie chickens when they haven’t run out of them. (Zankou is just a few blocks away — I’d imagine rotisserie chicken is a hard sell in this part of town.) The Belgian fries turn out better if you ask for them well done than if you leave the matter to chance. 2005 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, (323) 255-OINK. Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer, wine. Parking lot. All major credit cards. Entrees $4.75–$8.75. American. JG $

Pasadena and vicinity

Canadian Cafe The Canadian Cafe, in Monrovia, is a divey temple to all things Canadian, walls emblazoned with moose and Mounties, pennants and maps. The café specializes in Canadian-style rotisserie chicken, and it is possible to snack on raisin-stuffed Canadian butter tarts, Tim Horton coffee and a tasty sandwich called a “bacon buddy,” which is made with cured, unsmoked pork loin rolled in cornmeal, which I gather is the real Canadian bacon. The poutine at Canadian Cafe seems authentic enough: fries; shiny, clotted brown gravy; and gooey, runny cheese curds that the restaurant supposedly imports from northern Quebec. Poutine may not be as useful a Montreal import as Eric Gagné, but it’s nice to know that it’s around. 125 E. Colorado Blvd., Monrovia, (626) 303-2303. Tues.–Sat. 11 a.m.–7 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. D, MC, V. JG $b

Hurry Curry Japanese curry tastes more like the sort of “African” gravies you find in the Portuguese colony Macao than anything you might run across in Britain — or, for that matter, India. At the same time, it’s characteristically Japanese: sweet, thick, homogenized, and powered by a multilayered pepper heat that somehow comes together as a single note. The signature product at Hurry Curry, a sleek, modern dining room tended by waitresses in belly shirts, is a sticky, dark, dense goo, served in a bowl and ready to be spooned onto plates of rice and crisply fried chicken, beef or pork cutlets; vegetables too, we suppose. 37 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, (626) 792-8474. Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m. MC, V. Beer and sake. Parking lot. Takeout. JG $b?

Sin Ba La Sweet sausages seem to be a mainstay at almost every Taiwanese snack shop, sharing menu space with stinky tofu, pork chop rice and those peculiarly Taiwanese logs of rice steamed in bamboo. But we particularly like the version served at the snack shop Sin Ba La in Arcadia, caloric sausages with a delicious crunch and the high smack of good charcuterie. If you are so inclined, you can enjoy your sausages with everything from minced garlic to great gobs of strawberry jam. Don’t miss the boba, which is among the best in town. 651 W. Duarte Road, Arcadia, (626) 446-0886. Mon., Wed.–Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Cash only. JG $

Monterey Park/San Gabriel and vicinity

Dong Ting Chun True Hunanese cooking is rough, peasanty stuff, inflected with feral fragrances and fresh-chile heat, strong pickles and fermented everything, a dozen different intensities of smokiness. Dong Ting Chun may be the most accessible local Hunanese restaurant since Charming Garden closed a few years ago, although it still isn’t quite set up for those of us illiterate in Chinese. The famous dish at the Shanghai Dong Ting Chun (which may or may not be related to this one) is a steamed fish head plastered with fresh and fermented chiles, and here you will find fish heads on two tables out of three, enormous things, painted Santa Claus red with a solid quarter-inch layer of chiles. 140 W. Valley Blvd., No. 206, San Gabriel, (626) 288-5918. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer, wine. Takeout. Lot parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $16–$25. Chinese. (JG) $

Lu’s Garden Lu’s classic porridge-house cooking tends to be the sort of homey fare you might see at dinner at a Chinese friend’s house: whole tiny squid sautéed in dark soy sauce; ground pork simmered with a handful of winter pickles; briskly garlicked seaweed salad; cold, chopped mustard greens. Go for fish, a pickle and a vegetable; try something you’ve never seen before. 534 E. Valley Blvd., Suite 12, San Gabriel, (626) 280-5883. Lunch and dinner daily 11 a.m.–mid. Beer only. Lot parking. Lunch for two, $6–$7; dinner for two, $12–$15. Cash only. Chinese. JG ¢

Oriental Pearl Oriental Pearl, a well-regarded Sichuan restaurant that recently moved to the Hilton-adjacent mall from its former location in Alhambra, may only be the fifth- or sixth-best Sichuan restaurant in the area. The fried chicken cubes with hot pepper don’t sing quite like the same dish at Chung King, where it is prepared with at least triple the amount of dried chiles, and the octopus with pickled pepper is pleasing in a direct, funky way but is somehow one-dimensional. But still — one of the great things about the San Gabriel restaurant scene is that the fifth-best Sichuan restaurant in the area is really pretty good, and after a meal of wonton in chile broth, Chinese bacon with leeks, and water-boiled fish, by which the Sichuanese mean fish boiled in almost pure chile oil, you will probably be very happy. 727 E. Valley Blvd., No. 128C, San Gabriel, (626) 281-1898. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Takeout. AE, MC, V. JG $

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