Downtown L.A./Chinatown/Westlake

ADCB?Ciudad Glistening oysters at happy hour. Fatally strong mojitos. Peruvian-style ceviches and Bolivian-style tamales, Caribbean paella and a classic pescado Veracruzana, Bahia-style moqueqas and a fritanga that would knock them silly in Managua. Ciudad, the Pan-Latin downtown outpost of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, may be all things to all people, but especially to all people whose pleasures include bending an elbow every now and then. 445 S. Figueroa St., dwntwn., (213) 486-5171. Mon.–Tues. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Wed.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 5–11 p.m., Sun. 5–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Pan-Latino. JG ILN

AC?Haru Ulala Los Angeles is in the middle of an izakaya renaissance, an explosion of intimate, beer-soaked taverns flipping out beakers of sake, small plates of tofu and braised seaweed, and small, oily grilled fish of every description. Haru Ulala, a neighborhood izakaya affiliated with the nearby Go-55 sushi bar, may have neither the encyclopedic sake list nor the fancy seafood selection of some other restaurants, but the steamed cow tongue, yellowtail with daikon radish, and simmered Kurobuta pork belly are delicious, the green-tea noodles are soothing, and the restaurant is open very late on weekends. 368 E. Second St., downtown, (213) 620-0977. Mon.–Thurs. 6 p.m.–mid., Fri.–Sat. 6 p.m.–2 a.m. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Japanese. JG I

Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park

Millie’s As several generations of Silver Lake hipsters can attest, Millie’s was designed to cure hangovers the way that penicillin was designed to cure syphilis, a hot, crowded, underventilated slice of culinary purgatory that cuts straight to the heart of the problem. Swear by the grease cure? Millie’s chicken-fried steak with 40-weight gravy is there for you. Believe in a shock to the system? An extra-spicy Devil’s Mess omelet, which comes with therapeutic doses of everything in the kitchen, may do the trick. Bacon and strong coffee the ticket? You’ve come to the right place. 3524 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 664–0404. Open daily 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. V, MC only. No liquor. Street parking. American. JG GL

Say Cheese A dual storefront in Silver Lake houses this gourmet store on one side and espresso café on the other. The lunch menu features salads, sandwiches, quiche and the house specialty, tartiflette (baked diced potatoes with onion and bacon topped with melted reblochon cheese and served with a mixed green salad). The gourmet shop tempts with a notable variety of pâtés (including duck foie gras at a dizzy-making $106 a pound), olives and, of course, a handpicked selection of French cheeses. 2800 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 665-0545, fax (323) 665-6465. Open Mon.–Sat. 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m (store open until 6:30), Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m . No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Sandwiches $8–$9.50. MH GL

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax

Antequera de Oaxaca The place specializes in botanas — bar munchies, more or less, served in a restaurant without alcohol. The botanas are assembled into a big combination plate for one, two or four people: crunchy balls of chorizo, dried beef, professional-strength slabs of fried pork rind, a tangle of shredded string cheese, Oaxacan chile relleno stuffed with a sweet-sour chicken stew, and chunky, rustic guacamole. The pace is just right. The dining room is pleasant. And the plate is enough for two or three hungry people. 5200 Melrose Ave., Hlywd., (323) 466-1101. Open daily 9 a.m.–8:30 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. MC, V. Oaxacan. JG H

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, with an outdoor dining room suited to long conversations and an indoor one so loud that conversation is moot. 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

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, a temple of raw halibut and sliced chiles, a serene but well-worn place where the high-backed booths are as private as little cabanas and the soju flows like water. Marinated sea cucumber, massive portions 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, an elaborate raw-fish salad leavened with dried seaweed and hot rice. And at A-Won, a Koreatown institution devoted to the cult of hwe dup bap, the display is formidable: order after order racing out of the kitchen in bowls as big as Valkyrie helmets. Good hwe dup bapis 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


West Hollywood/La Cienega

ADCB?Koi At a time when hot restaurants tend to have the lifespan of mayflies, Koi is more popular than ever, a hookup nirvana of intimate patios and forested corners; a dining room whose seating chart seems ripped straight from the pages of Us Weekly. Koi’s matrix of sushi, celebrity and sex bumped up the paradigm, and there are now Koi-like lounges around the globe. It is widely believed, though, that the post-Matsuhisa-style cuisine at Koi is an afterthought, secondary to the rush, the scene, even the steak. But somebody has been paying attention behind the sushi bar — the sourcing of the fish is extraordinary. And if you’re going to eat something like a baked-crab hand roll, you might as well have a good one. It’ll give you something to do while you eavesdrop on Lindsay Lohan. 730 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 659-9449. Mon.–Wed. 6–11 p.m., Thurs. 6–11:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–mid., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. All major CC. California Contemporary. JG JN

AD?Simon LA Rolling Stone once called Kerry Simon, the soulful, long-haired chef of this perpetually overcrowded restaurant in the Sofitel, the Rock ’n’ Roll Chef, a title he bears with the pride that other chefs tend to reserve for their James Beard Awards. And he has conquered the competition on Iron Chef. But the emblematic dish at Simon LA so far, the one on the lips of the people whose names are inscribed in indelible ink on all the best clipboards in town, is the mammoth concoction Simon calls the Junk Food Sampler: a $25 mass of cotton candy, Sno Balls and Rice Krispies marshmallow treats so insidious, so awe-inspiring, that it may as well have been designed by a consortium of work-deprived Beverly Hills dentists. It isn’t a dessert; it’s a diabetic coma on a plate. 8555 Beverly Blvd., (in the Sofitel), L.A., (310) 358-3979. Open daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Validated valet parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG INK

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: $52.50, cash on the barrelhead. 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

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. A waitress will try to sell you a third or fourth martini. 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. 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

ADCB?Cora’s Coffee Shoppe A crusty beach café transformed into something out of a GQ shoot; a patio shaded with crimson bougainvillea, a burbling Tuscan fountain, the distant crashing of the surf — sometimes you want a chef’s salad, and sometimes you want an insalata caprese made with farmers-market tomatoes and oozingly creamy burrata cheese; sometimes you need ham ’n’ eggs the morning after, and sometimes delicate petals of San Daniele prosciutto. Cora’s hamburgers are magnificent, drippy creatures made of coarsely chopped, beyond-prime Wagyu cow, and for dessert, there is an intense homemade burnt-caramel ice cream bitter enough to make a 10-year-old child weep. 1802 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 451-9562. Tues.–Sat. 7 a.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Continental, Italian based. JG HL


ADCB?JiRaffe JiRaffe is a pleasant space in a bright corner of Santa Monica, all neo-Palladian windows, white tablecloths and the kind of minimal Gallic décor you see in the restored farmhouses they feature in Elle Decor. Raphael Lunetta’s food tends to be elegant, almost ladylike, with the sort of seasonality you might expect from a serious restaurant located a few hundred yards from the best farmers market in Southern California. JiRaffe is a real California bistro, the kind of casual yet slightly formal place the Ivy only pretends to be, and with much better food. 502 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 917-6671. Mon.–Sat. 5:30–10 p.m., Sun. 5:30–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. French. JG IMK

Culver City/Venice and vicinity

Axe At Axe (pronounced “ah-shay”), simple and gleaming as a Zendo, the clear ocean air is practically a design element. Some find the austere aesthetic “refreshing”; others find the seats uncomfortable, the overall effect harsh. The wait staff does tend to be more physically attractive than efficient, but this restaurant marches to its own beat, or rather, to that of the chef-owner Joanna Moore, whose breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are seductively eclectic. Try her meal-sized whole-grain pancake, a composed salad, her masterly spaghetti aglio olio and any dessert. 1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 664-9787. Lunch Tues.–Fri., dinner Tues.–Sun., brunch Sat.–Sun. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $11–$28. California. MH IM

ADCB?Metro Café Metro Café is everybody’s favorite secret  restaurant, a faux-’50s diner attached to a stucco chain motel that just happens to serve grilled trout on garlicky greens alongside its patty melts and chef salads, white-bean soup flavored with ham imported from a Santa Monica deli, or a grilled trout, nothing fancy, plopped on a bed of garlicky greens. If the owners are feeling charitable, there may be crepes for dessert, special, secret crepes stuffed with Nutella and jam. 11188 Washington Place, Culver City, (310) 559-6821. Breakfast and lunch 7 a.m.–3 p.m.; dinner 6–10 p.m. Beer and wine. MC, V. Serbian. JG H

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. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $18–$36. Deli. JG ILM

South Bay/LAX

Dinah’s Restaurant The oven-baked German pancake at this Westchester-proximate coffee shop feeds three: It’s brown around the edges, crisp and spongy like a giant Yorkshire pudding, thickening into a dense, moist, springy crepe as you descend into the pancake’s interior. Less voracious appetites may wish to try the extra-cinnamony apple pancakes, or the thin, crisp Swedish pancakes, or French pancakes rolled in flavored butter, or the potato pancakes, sour, lacy-edged crepes that happen to have a little grated potato stirred into them. 6521 Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 645-0456. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.–Sun. 6 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Breakfast for two, food only, $6–$14. AE, DC, MC, V. American. JG HL

GaJa Okonomiyaki may be the homeliest food in creation, a squat, unlovely, vaguely circular mess of batter, cabbage and egg, slicked with a tarry black substance made from ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, inscribed with mayonnaise, and dusted with curls of shaved dried bonito that shudder and writhe on top of the pancake like a thousand pencil shavings come to gruesome life. When you are presented with your first okonomiyaki, you don’t know whether to kill it or to eat it. GaJa puts a certain amount of effort into its identity as an izakaya, a snack-intensive Japanese pub, but it is probably the premier okonomiyaki specialist in town right now. They’ll cook okonomiyaki for you in the kitchen, but most diners opt to sizzle up their own on tabletop griddles, stirring and smashing and flipping and searing. With any luck, you’ll have dinner. 2383 Lomita Blvd., Suite 102, Lomita, (310) 534-0153 or Lunch Tues.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.; dinner Tues.–Thurs. 6–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–mid., Sun. 5 p.m.–10 p.m. MC, V. Beer, wine and soju. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $19-$32. Japanese. JG $Nb


South Los Angeles

Sanuki No Sato Udon noodles come in all the standard flavors: topped with crisp buttons of tempura batter in a plain soy-enriched broth, or with chewy bits of rice cake, or with exquisitely slimy Japanese mountain yams. Yukinabe udon — served in a rustic-looking iron kettle and buried beneath half an inch of grated daikon, a sprinkling of grated wasabi and a ferociously spiced cod-egg sac — is refreshing in spite of its bulk, an exotic bowl you could eat every day. 18206 S. Western Ave., Gardena, (310) 324-9184. Open daily, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. & 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $13–$36. AE, DC, MC, V. Japanese. JG HLM

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. Street parking. Dinner for two, food only, $5.50–$6.99. Mexican. JG G?L

El Tepeyac The burrito is a symbol of abundance, the humble taco transformed into a plump, overstuffed creation. At El Tepeyac, the legendary East L.A. stand whose name has practically become synonymous with the burrito, the Hollenbeck, named after the local East L.A. police division, is more or less an old-line Mexican restaurant’s entire menu wrapped into a tortilla the size of a pillowcase — rice, beans, stewed meat, guacamole and lakes of melted cheese. 812 N. Evergreen Ave., E.L.A., (323) 267-8668. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Wed.–Mon. No alcohol. Street parking. Cash only. Entrées $3.75–$12. Mexican. JG G

Burbank/Glendale/Eagle Rock

AD?The Oinkster A converted Eagle Rock joint saturated with the smell of wood smoke, red roof gleaming in the late-afternoon sun, Oinkster is the newest child of André Guerrero, who is chef of Max and Señor Fred. Oinkster is a perfected fast-food restaurant, the old-school paradigm of pastrami, burgers and chicken reinvented for a new age. “Slow fast food,’’ proclaims the sign outside: smoky Carolina-style pulled-pork sandwiches, chopped salad, and fast-food-style Angus-beef hamburgers with sweet housemade catsup. He roasts chickens on a creaky rotisserie and smokes his own pastrami. Would you be willing to pay a couple dollars extra to experience artisanal soda pop, Fosselman’s-based milkshakes and other fast food with a chefly edge? Guerrero is betting that you are. With all of the above, of course, it is necessary to have an order of Belgian fries, fried twice to leave them light and hot, their fluffy potato essence encased in a stiff, perfectly golden capsule of crunch. 2005 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, (323) 255-OINK or Open Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.-Sat, 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun., 11 a.m.–9 p.m. AE, D, MC, V. No alcohol. Slow-cooked fast food. JGHL

Pasadena and vicinity

Briganti Some people with whom I am acquainted consider the Hollywood trattoria La Buca to be one of the great Italian restaurants in Los Angeles, a place to find perfect gnocchi, crisp-crusted pizza and pasta made with the care that only an Italian grandmother could bring to the job. Briganti, a rather sleeker restaurant from the same owner, is more or less a replica of La Buca on South Pasadena’s growing restaurant row, only with better furniture, easier parking and a patio perfect for sipping cool Orvieto on hot summer nights, but with the gnocchi recipe intact. Even if you are a La Buca regular, you may ask yourself where you have tasted rigatoni alla amatriciana, spaghetti with clams and pizza Margherita like Briganti’s, until the answer occurs to you: pretty much everywhere, especially if you have spent much time in the neo-Tuscan ghetto in Brentwood. Briganti, 1423 Mission St., S. Pasadena, (626) 441-4663, Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner Mon.-Fri. 5:30-10 p.m. and Sat.-Sun. 5:30-10:30 pm. Full bar. Street and lot parking. AE, MC, V. Italian. JG INL

AB?Firefly Bistro Monique King’s Firefly Bistro — which she runs with husband and co-chef Paul Rosenbluh — is a comfortable restaurant, the kind of neighborhood place you drop into a couple of times a month because you like the idea of cornmeal-fried anchovies in your caesar salad, or of a paella that tastes more like an uptown version of jambalaya, or of a strawberry shortcake that just happens to be frosted with a superior lemon curd. Asian touches pop up now and again, and a few Mexican things, and quite a few folky flavors from Spain. (The tapas served to coincide with the Thursday-evening farmers market right outside the bistro’s doors have become a South Pasadena tradition.) But King’s culinary specialty is probably the food of the African-American diaspora, and the best dishes on the menu run toward things like crawfish jambalaya, and the pecan-crusted catfish fillets stacked up like poker chips. 1009 El Centro Ave., South Pasadena, (626) 441-2443. Lunch Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., brunch Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m., dinner Tues.–Sun. 5:30–9:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. $14–$27. Modern American. JG ILM


Monterey Park/?San Gabriel and vicinity

AD?Green Village At Green Village, the cold roast duck, saturated with the essence of star anise and soy, tastes even better than the hot roast duck, which is saying a lot. When Green Village took up in a humbler San Gabriel location several years ago, its directness of flavor and use of vegetables set it apart from most of the Shanghai-style restaurants in town. This is still true — try the bean sheets with the amazing bitter green called gee-tsai — but don’t miss the braised pork knuckle, a jellied mass in a sea of brown gravy, garnished with a femur that resembles the one that the ape sent flying at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey. 250 W. Valley Blvd., #M, San Gabriel, (626) 576-2228. Lunch daily 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner 3–10 p.m. Full bar. Underground lot parking. MC, V. JG HM

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