Downtown L.A./Chinatown/Westlake

Capperi Restorante Little Tokyo’s Capperi, where almost all of the customers are Japanese, may be the most orthodox old-style Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, a living museum of the sights and smells that many of us had assumed became extinct in the 1970s: textbook linguine with seafood; pizzas annealed into ruddy planes; veal scallopine finished with Marsala, and scarcely a dollop of cod roe or a drop of balsamic vinegar in sight, reproduced as faithfully, and occasionally as soullessly, as a wax model of spaghetti marinara. 318 E. Second St., Little Tokyo, (213) 613-1003. Open daily 11 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–11 p.m. Pastas and entrees $10.50–$22. MC, V. Italian. JG IK

ADCB?Kagaya Shabu shabu joints have proliferated like rabbits in the last couple of years. And to tell the truth, the shabu shabu ritual is pretty basic: a slice of prime meat swished through bubbling broth for a second or two, just until the pink becomes frosted with white. But if you’ve done it right — and if the quality of the ingredients is as high as it is at Little Tokyo’s superb (and expensive) Kagaya — the texture is extraordinary, almost liquid, and the concentrated, sourish flavor of really good beef becomes vivid. 418 E. Second St., dwntwn., (213) 617-1016. Mon.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Wine, beer, sake. Lot parking. DC, MC, V. $38 fixed price. Japanese. JG J

Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park

AD?Canelé The chef/owner here is Corina Weibel, a Nancy Silverton protégée who also cooked for a while at Lucques, and she works the farmers-market-driven urban rustic side of new Los Angeles cooking: the Provençal onion tart ­pissaladière and an austere green salad with crème fraîche; rare roast lamb with Israeli couscous and beef bourguignon with noodles; steak with potatoes Anna; and 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

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 little list of small, shareable items by executive chef Robert Luna. The food has the hearty heft and flavor of good, home-cooked Mexican food. I could make a whole dinner from the iceberg-and-grilled-steak salad; the long-marinated 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 INK

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax

ADCB?La Terza You will never find cooking exactly like Gino Angelini’s in Italy, where the greens tend to be tougher, the rabbits plumper, the basil more pungent and the best beef leaner than it is in California. What Angelini is attempting at La Terza may be no less than re-imagining California food through the prism of his advanced Italian technique, re-imagining California as an Italian province that happens to have a few agricultural virtues of its own, produce that translates into supple pastas, complex salads and the subtle vegetable purées with which Angelini enriches his sauces. And look at those meats: glistening, wood-smoke-infused slabs of pork belly; drippingly rich duck with figs; mahogany-skinned squab enveloping a rich stuffing of shiitake mushrooms and its own liver. 8384 W. Third St., L.A., (323) 782-8384. Open daily for breakfast 7–11 a.m., for lunch 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m., for dinner 5:30–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Italian. JG JLNK

AC?Magnolia Magnolia is the very model of a useful restaurant, open ­after the clubs close but prepared to make you eggs ­Benedict for brunch the next day, suitable both for a first date and an impromptu burger after a movie at the ArcLight. The wine list is short and pleasant. The menu of big salads, hearty pastas, hummus with pita, and pan-seared halibut is probably the sort of thing you could assemble yourself out of ingredients bought from Trader Joe’s, but the kitchen does a pretty good job — and the point is to be out, with music, cocktails and your friends. 6266 1/2 W. Sunset Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 467-0660. Open daily 11 a.m.–2 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. California Contemporary. JG INK

Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown/Central Los Angeles

El Cholo Even in the ’20s, Angelenos vaguely remembered that the area used to belong to Mexico, and there have always been Mexican restaurants here that catered to American taste. The emblematic cuisine of these restaurants is embodied in the Number Two Dinner, the eternal combination platter of chile relleno, enchilada, rice and beans bound together with cinctures of orange cheese. 1121 S. Western Ave., L.A., (323) 734-2773. Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. to 11 p.m., Sun. to 9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $6.95–$13.50. Mexican. JG HN


La 27th The fritanga plate, in all its magnificence, is a crunchy tower of protein and shaved green bananas reaching almost halfway to heaven. You will find the well-marinated Nicaraguan-style carne asada on the plate, slivers of pork, and perhaps a few spareribs, rubbed with chile and deep-fried to a spurting crispness. At La 27th, a family-owned Nicaraguan restaurant, there are also chorizos, a skein of plump, peppery sausages that half encircle the plate like a retaining wall, the requisite pickled cabbage, and fried bricks of salty cheese that squeak like Wisconsin Cheddar curds when you bite into them. But La 27th’s fritanga is a formidable plate of food. 1830 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., (213) 387-2467. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Food for two: $12–$22. Nicaraguan. JG HL

West Hollywood/La Cienega

ADCB?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, MC, V. French-Mediterranean-influenced small plates. JG ILNK

ADCB?Sona What we know as California cuisine may be dedicated to revealing produce at its best, but David and Michelle Myers go after nature with blowtorches and microtomes and dynamite, determined to bend the old woman to their will. A sliver of watermelon may be less a sliver of watermelon than a wisp in a chilled soup, a salted crunch tracing the shape of a curl of marinated yellowtail, a glistening cellophane window into the soul of a pistachio, a texture in a sorbet, a jelly exposing its cucumberlike soul. The morning after nine courses at Sona (this is one restaurant where only the tasting menu will do), it will already seem like a half-forgotten dream. 401 N. La Cienega Blvd., W. Hlywd., (310) 659-7708. Tues.–Fri. 6–10 p.m., Sat. 5:30–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Modern French. JG JM

Westwood/West L.A./Century City

AD?John o’ Groats The restaurant is named after a town at the northernmost point in Scotland, but give or take an order of fish ’n’ chips or two, the menu is pretty much all-American, with baking-powder biscuits, fluffy omelets, smoked pork chops and stretchy buckwheat pancakes. And although there seem to be no actual groats on the menu — which is kind of a relief — the steel-cut Irish oatmeal with bananas and heavy cream is fine. The best breakfasts on the Westside. 10516 W. Pico Blvd., W.L.A., (310) 204-0692. Breakfast and lunch daily 7 a.m.–3 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. MC, V. Entrées $9–$14. American. JG G

Santouka Part of a Japanese chain with American outlets in Orange County and Torrance, Santouka is pretty spare for a food-court restaurant. A wooden vitrine to one side of the cash register displays plastic replicas of the food on the menu, which you are well-advised to study — if you aren’t ready to order when you reach the counter, you will be ignored. What you get at Santouka is ramen, or more specifically shio ramen, thin, squiggly noodles served in a boiling-hot pork broth minimally seasoned with salt. Floating among the noodles will be a bit of seaweed, a pinch of chopped green onion, a thin round of bland fishcake and three slices of pork. At the exact middle point of the bowl is a single scarlet pickle, the dot over the “i” that brings the entire composition into focus. But the top of the line is undoubtedly the ramen with special pork — which is to say, a plateful of fattier, roastier slices of pork served on the side, unsullied by the taste of noodles or broth. In the Mitsuwa Marketplace, 3760 S. Centinela Ave., W.L.A., (310) 398-2113. Other locations in Torrance and Costa Mesa. Daily 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Cash only. No alcohol. No takeout. Lot parking. JGH


Beverly Hills and vicinity

ADCB?Fogo de Chao Churrascarias, southern Brazilian-style steak houses, are well established in Los Angeles. But Fogo de Chao, part of a Sao Paulo–based chain, 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, more expensive red wines. It is a land of razor-sharp knives and double-weight forks, A-1 sauce and chimichurri, a salad bar longer than the Pasadena Freeway, and all the dripping, smoking flesh you can eat carved off swords at your table. Refuse to leave until you get double portions of the grilled picanha. No Brazilian would settle for less. 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 CC. Brazilian. JG JN

Mastro’s One of a small, Scottsdale-based chain of steakhouses, the Beverly Hills Mastro’s has the look — volcanic rock work, blackout curtains, black-leather banquettes — of desert resorts, supper clubs, casinos and other booze-filled refuges where the dreaded sun don’t shine. Meat dominates the menu; steak to be exact. Order the Kansas City bone-in, the porterhouse or the bone-in rib-eye (the latter, ordered charred rare, is a glorious, rich, big, big-flavored piece of meat with a crusty char oozing juice). Here, rare means rare, i.e., cold inside — yes. Start with the horseradish-spiked caesar salad, or the traditional iceberg wedge with blue cheese. Finish with a paradigmatic Key lime pie. 246 N. Cañon Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 888-8782. Open for dinner weekdays 5–11 p.m., weekends 5 p.m.–mid. Entrées $20–$47. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. American. MH $$$?K

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 (who for years labored under another woman’s name at Chez Helene) 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

Juliano’s Raw At Raw there is no cooking — at least no cooking with heat. There is slicing, chopping, grinding, mashing, juicing, soaking, dehydrating, rehydrating, fermenting, sprouting, extruding, wrapping and saucing aplenty. The dining room features a poster of the chef, Juliano, an impossibly long-waisted, shirtless, surfer-tanned human spectacle. Like their employer, the waitresses also bear witness to the benefits of the raw life. I have sampled raw-food preparations and was anticipating a different realm of textures and food combinations. What I did not expect, and was thrilled by, was Juliano’s level of flavor. By the end of each meal, however, I found myself wearied by the excessive remaking of everything. Juliano, with all his talent, may be trying too hard. A few islands of simplicity might have gone a long way to relieve the unabashed fussiness of his non-cooking. 609 Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 587-1552. Lunch and dinner daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Entrées $9.95–$12.95. No alcohol served. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. MH HLM

Culver City/Venice and vicinity

Baby Blues Bar-B-Q There have been gun battles fought in the Carolinas between partisans of mustard-based barbecue sauce and those who prefer their pork doused with vinegar. Certain barbecue cooks in beef-loving Texas would just as soon throw your mother-in-law on the grill as a pork rib. But Baby Blues serves it all. Like the best uptown essays into the art form of barbecue, the cooking here arises less out of fierce, quasi-religious devotion than out of genial connoisseurship. As such, the restaurant may be lacking in the charming, cussed idiosyncrasies that lead otherwise sane individuals to chatter in cumin-tinged tongues. It’s just a nice, slightly pricey place to eat ribs, baby-back or otherwise. Baby Blues has a strong sideline in Carolina pulled-pork barbecue, stringy mounds of smoky meat that may not have quite the universal appeal of spareribs, but fit much more neatly into a sandwich. 444 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, (310) 396-7675. Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–mid. Beer and wine. MC, V. Barbecue. JGILK

El Rincon Criollo This family-owned café serves hearty, classic Cuban fare minus the grease or frills. Start off with a little fried yuca ($3), lightly salted, with a potato-like consistency. The Cuban roast pork ($7.50) is hard to beat, delicately seasoned and bursting with flavor, served alongside a hefty portion of white rice and black beans. Be sure and complement your meal with a fresh cup of Cuban coffee ($1.50). 4361 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, (310) 391-4478. Lunch and dinner daily, 11 a.m.– 10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout; catering. MC, V. Cuban. 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. This is a midlevel restaurant, not a temple of cuisine. But 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. JG I.LMK

Minibar A small-plates restaurant situated in a patch of Universal City that doesn’t like to admit it’s part of the San Fernando Valley, Minibar is a tall lounge with sofas, throbbing post-rock and hidden antechambers. Op-art dots on the walls, and Keane paintings of bug-eyed waifs big as the Peter Paul Rubens allegories in the Louvre — it’s like being in the inside of Tara Reid’s head. The snack-food-intensive menu is as cross-cultural as they come: cheese-stuffed yuca puffs like the ones that show up at breakfast time in São Paulo; Shanghai-style spring rolls stuffed with French duck confit and served with a Thai-style peanut sauce. And there’s a lot of interesting wine priced around $20 a bottle — which is good, because it takes a lot of experimentation to figure out the proper thing to drink with plantain latkes smothered in Salvadoran crema. Go with the Albarino, I say. Merlot and plantains are just not a match. 3413 Cahuenga Blvd., Universal City; (323) 882-6965. Sun.–Thurs. 5:30–11:30 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–1 a.m. Full bar. Takeout available until 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Fri.–Sat.). Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Price range: $35–$45 per person. Global tapas. JG IK

East Los Angeles/Highland Park

ADC?Golden Triangle Possibly the most compelling culinary reason to visit Whittier, the suburb that gave us Richard Nixon, M.F.K. Fisher and conceptual artist Mark Kostabi, Golden Triangle may be the best place in California to taste Burmese food, a phantasmagoria of a cuisine that draws from the cooking of nearby India, China, Thailand and Laos — the country is in a pretty good neighborhood. The restaurant specializes in the garbanzo-flour-thickened catfish chowder called moh hin gha, the biryani-style rice dish called dun buk htaminh, and lap pad thoke, a salad made with pickled tea leaves that have the consistency of stewed collard greens and the caffeine kick of a double espresso, and also in a sour vegetable dish made with a special Burmese green that the owner grows in his backyard. 7011 S. Greenleaf Ave., Whittier, (562) 945-6778. Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer and wine. AE, D, MC, V. Thai-Burmese. JG HL

ADCB?Tacos Baja Ensenada In most of Mexico, the words estilo Ensenada signify just one thing: fish tacos, specifically the fried-fish tacos served at stalls in the fish market down by the docks. In East L.A., you will come no closer to the ideal than these crunchy, sizzlingly hot strips of batter-fried halibut, folded into warm corn tortillas with salsa, shredded cabbage and a squeeze of lime. Entire religions have been founded on miracles less profound than the Ensenada fish taco. 5385 Whittier Blvd., E.L.A., (323) 887-1980. Tues.–Sun. 10 a.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Mexican. JG GL

Pasadena and vicinity

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


Heidar Baba Heidar Baba may be the first halal Iranian restaurant in the Los Angeles area, a redoubt of extreme cleanliness, meat slaughtered according to Islamic law, and cooks who wear the hijab even in the heat of lunch rush; of strong tea served in glasses; of direct flavors and unmodulated herbal tartness. One end of the restaurant is taken up by a kind of café selling espresso, boba tea and exotic, rosewater-intensive house-made ice cream. The menu is pretty basic — kebabs mostly, various combination plates of grilled beef and grilled lamb, grilled chicken and grilled lengths of koobideh, lightly seasoned ground beef or chicken, all flanked with charred tomatoes and grilled hot peppers, lined up like soldiers around lofty drifts of saffron-gilded rice that go on forever. 1511 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 844-7970. Lunch and dinner Mon. 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Food for two: $14–$28. Halal Iranian. JG HL

Monterey Park/San Gabriel and vicinity

ADCB?Chung King With the demise of the Beijing duck restaurant Quanjude and the Taiwanese makeover of the Islamic-Chinese restaurant Tung Lai Shun, the Sichuan restaurant Chung King may be the premier San Gabriel Valley destination for traveling food people at the moment, a restaurant of a sort you just can’t find in Chicago, San Francisco or New York. The Western Chinese cooking, sizzling with four or five different kinds of chiles, vibrating with the flavors of extreme fermentation and smacked with the cooling, numbing sensation of Sichuan peppercorns, lies halfway between dentist’s-chair Novocain and the last time you could afford a lot of blow. It never fails to leave visitors exhausted, narcotized and happy, drenched in foul, garlic-laced sweat. The deli case filled with chile-marinated pigs’ ears and blisteringly hot tripe is worth a drive alone. If Chuck Jones had ever decided to draw something spicy for the coyote to injure himself with, it probably would have looked a lot like Chung King’s fried chicken with hot peppers, a knoll of crunchy dark-meat cubes subsumed under a blizzard of dried chiles that are the red of silk pajamas, the red of firecrackers, the red of the Chinese flag. Make sure you end up at the San Gabriel restaurant, which is vastly superior to the Monterey Park imposter of the same name. 1000 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 286-0298. Open daily 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Beer. Lot parking. Cash only. Chinese/Szechuan. JG HL

Burbank/Glendale/Eagle Rock

ADCB?Casa Bianca Can there be a substance on the planet more delicious than a pizza pie from Casa Bianca straight out of the oven, a crisp, pliable crust speckled with burnt bits of cornmeal, slightly acid tomato sauce and a gooey mantle of cheese? Casa Bianca, run since the early 1950s by Sam and Jennie Martorana, is the premier checked-tablecloth restaurant in Los Angeles, a monument founded on dough. And there’s freshly filled cannoli for dessert. 1650 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, (323) 256-9617. Tues.–Thurs. 4 p.m.–mid., Fri.–Sat. 4 p.m.–1 a.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. Cash only. Italian. JG HLK

Long Beach and vicinity

San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant Steamed live Dungeness crabs served with mallets. Deep-fried carp. Beer sold from an ice-filled bin. And shrimp “fajitas” fried hard with garlic, peppers and onions, which you eat while you watch big freighters ease their way into the harbor. What more could you want? Berth 78, 1190 Nagoya Way, San Pedro, (310) 832-4251. Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V JG IL

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