Downtown Los Angeles
Pho 97 The perfect breakfast is hard to find. Soul food is too fattening, diner food too bland, Japanese pickles just too weird before noon. If you like noodles, you might think Pho 79 serves the perfect breakfast, light, tasty and just exotic enough, inexpensive and filled with vitamins: beef soup. The strong, dark-roasted coffee, dripped at table in individual stainless-steel French filters, is among the best I’ve had anywhere. And in an area — Chinatown — thick with Vietnamese noodle shops, Pho 79 serves the best noodles. 727 N. Broadway, Suite 120, Chinatown, (213) 625-7026. Lunch and dinner daily 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Beer. Validated parking. Cash only. Food for two, $7-$10. Vietnamese. JG ¢
Suehiro One of the oldest late-night dives in Little Tokyo and still one of the best, Suehiro is a splendid place to drop in after an opening for a teriyaki combination, a bowl of tofu with grated ginger, a plate of Japanese curry rice or an order of yakisoba, fried noodles that are always a little greasy, a little intense, and wholly satisfying, especially if you dose them with a lot of the dried-seaweed condiment. Shelves by the entrance are well-stocked with sauce-spotted copies of Japanese-language manga comics, and expats can’t stay away from the mackerel, the donburi or the oily, magnificent salt-grilled whole sanma pike. 337 E. First St., Little Tokyo, (213) 626-9132. Open daily 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Japanese. JG $b?
Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park
Agra Balti, in theory at least, is a kind of Kashmiri curry with roots in the Islamic cuisine of northern Pakistan, cooked and served in handled metal pots that resemble miniature woks. In practice, the word balti has come to mean almost any fiercely hot curry served to the overwhelmingly English clientele of the baltihouses of Birmingham — food tailored, as a friend says, to the alcohol-deadened palates of drunken football hooligans. Like a Tommyburger, a balti worthy of the name can still be tasted when one is in the clutches of the next morning’s hangover. Agra, an Indian restaurant in Silver Lake, certainly serves cuisine more subtle than that, but there is a considerable list of baltis on the menu, and they are overwhelmingly, punishingly hot, with all the refinement of last week’s 50 Cent remix played at earth-thumping volume from the back of a Scion. “Do you want that American hot or English hot?” sneers the waiter. “I will be warning you: American hot is a little milder than what the English are calling medium.” 4325 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 665-7818. Open daily for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.-11 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Parking lot. AE, DC, MC, V. JG $b?
Gingergrass Gingergrass, a sleek Vietnamese bistro in Silver Lake, is probably the polar opposite of a place like Golden Deli, citified where the San Gabriel noodle shop is rustic, timid where the food at the other roars with flavor. There is pho, but it’s not really the point here. And the spicy fish steamed in banana leaves, the shrimp in fishy Vietnamese caramel sauce and the lemongrass chicken tend to be sluiced down with basil-spiked limeade instead of, say, salty lemonade or tepid tea. But the chef, Mako Antonishek, tends to cook in a way not unfriendly to wine (the restaurant has a symbiotic relationship with Silver Lake Wine Merchants across the street), and her multicourse Mako Monday blowout dinners are legendary in the neighborhood. 2396 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 644-1600. Sun.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5-10:30 p.m. Beer, wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. $6-$18. Vietnamese. JG $b[
Vermont Anchoring the commercial corridor of Vermont Avenue north of Sunset, Vermont (always lowercase) is like a stalwart, reliable friend. The owners often wander through the dining room, with its palmettos and pillars and gentle lighting, and they always like to chat. You may not be bowled over by anything you eat, but you’ll be back. Plus, the stylish bar is one of the neighborhood’s few upscale spots for cocktails. 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 661-6163. Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner 5:30-10:30 p.m. (until 11:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.). Full bar. Parking in rear. AE, MC, V. Entrées $13-$18. California. MH $
Cha Cha Cha It is hard to imagine a better brunch than Sunday mornings at the original Cha Cha Cha: strong coffee, suave tropical music and the pan-Caribbean cooking of Toribio Prado, who can rightly claim to be the first Nuevo Latino Caribbean–food chef in Los Angeles. The noise and the sceniness can be a little much at dinner (although the corn chowder is formidable), but on Sunday morning, when locals vastly outnumber screaming Corona bibbers, the buzz is exactly right. And the chilaquiles are the best in town. 656 N. Virgil Ave., L.A., (323) 664-7723. Mon.-Thurs. 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $20-$30. Caribbean. JG $$b?
LA99 Hungry Cat The best hamburger in Los Angeles? It may be the pug burger at Hungry Cat, an oozingly juicy patty of beef dressed with onions and full-fat blue cheese on a crusty La Brea Bakery roll, a $14 hamburger that leaves Hollywood’s other high-end hamburgers dog-paddling in the relish. And Hungry Cat doesn’t even specialize in burgers — it is Suzanne Goin’s answer to Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco, a place to drop into for a dozen oysters or a bowl of shrimp, a boiled crab or a bowl of chowder. The wine list is tiny, but includes a ton of obscure seafood-friendly wines, and everything is available by the glass. 1535 N. Vine St., Hlywd., (323) 462-2155, www.thehungrycat.com. Lunch Tues.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; brunch Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Mon.-Sat. 5:30 p.m.-mid., Sun. 5-11 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Seafood. JG $$Â
Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown/Central Los Angeles
LA99 Guelaguetza Are you in the mood for fried grasshoppers with chile and lime? Even if you aren’t, at Guelaguetza, the best of the Oaxacan-style restaurants by far, you’ll find dishes you may have only read about in cookbooks or glossy magazines. At the original Koreatown location of Guelaguetza, not far from the biggest concentration of Oaxacan restaurants and bakeries this side of Oaxaca itself, you’ll find tortilla-like tlayudas the size of manhole covers, delicate beverages made from squash, and delicious, mole-drenched tamales. The black mole, based on ingredients the restaurant brings up from Oaxaca, is rich with chopped chocolate and burnt grain, toasted chile, and wave upon wave of textured spice — it’s as simple yet as nuanced as a great, old Côte Rôtie. 3337½ W. Eighth St., L.A., (213) 427-0779. Open daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Oaxacan. JG ¢b
West Hollywood/?La Cienega
LA99 Bridge Restaurant & Lounge Bridge is the newest restaurant from the group that owns Koi, which means that the music is banging, the guy at the next table really is Ludacris, and the food, pan-peninsular Italian in this case, tends to be light, based on impeccable ingredients, and lovely to behold: thin petals of vitello tonnato arranged like fugu sashimi; delicate asparagus ravioli with butter and sage; a truly lovely, Koi-quality tuna tartare. The quality of the Italian cooking here will never quite measure up to that of the glorious prime of Alto Palato, which used to occupy this space, but the cuisine can be almost as sparkling as the crowd. 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., W. Hlywd., (310) 659-3535 or www.bridgela.com. Restaurant: Mon.-Sat. 6-11 p.m. Lounge: 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Full bar. Street and valet parking. AE, MC, V. Italian.JG $$$Â?
LA99 Sona What we know as California cuisine may be dedicated to revealing produce at its best, but David Myers goes after nature with blowtorches and microtomes and dynamite, determined to bend the old woman to their will. A sliver of watermelon may be less a sliver of watermelon than a wisp in a chilled soup, a salted crunch tracing the shape of a curl of marinated yellowtail, a glistening cellophane window into the soul of a pistachio, a texture in a sorbet, a jelly exposing its cucumberlike soul. The morning after nine courses at Sona (this is one restaurant where only the tasting menu will do), it will already seem like a half-forgotten dream. 401 N. La Cienega Blvd., W. Hlywd., (310) 659-7708. Dinner Tues.-Thurs. 6-10 p.m., Fri. 6-11 p.m., Sat. 5:30-11 p.m. Closed Sun.-Mon. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. $30-$40. Modern French (with global influences). JG $$$[
Westwood/West L.A./Century City
LA99 Kiriko Kiriko may be the great undiscovered sushi bar in Los Angeles, and Ken Namba’s traditional yet creative sashimi surpasses most of what is sold at three times the price. Namba smokes his salmon over smoldering cherry wood, slices it thick and wraps it around spears of ripe mango: The sashimi is soft and luscious, salty and sweet, penetratingly smoky yet delicate — one of the most magnificent mouthfuls of food imaginable. One of the gifts of a great sushi chef is the ability to appear casual, unhurried, processing the food for an entire restaurant while looking as serene and unbothered as a flirting Fred Astaire. 11301 Olympic Blvd., No. 102, West L.A., (310) 478-7769. Lunch Tues.-Fri. noon-2:15 p.m.; dinner Tues.-Sun. 6-10 p.m. Beer and wine. Parking lot. AE, MC, V. Japanese. JG $$$
LA99 Orris Is Orris in any sense a sushi bar? No. It is a great place to drop in for new-age sashimi like smoked scallops garnished with salmon roe, seared tuna with sweet onion marmalade, or even what amounts to lamb sashimi. Its location, convenient to the Nuart and the manga-intensive shopping strip anchored by the Giant Robot complex, couldn’t be better, and the small sake selection is swell. 2006 Sawtelle Blvd., W.L.A., (310) 268-2212. Dinner Mon.-Fri. 6-10 p.m., Sat. 5:30-10:30 p.m., Sun. 5:30-9:30 p.m. Beer, wine and sake. Lot parking (valet Wed.-Sat.). AE, D, MC, V. $6.50-$14 per dish.Small-plate cuisine. JG $$b[
LA99 Torafuku Devoted to the Japanese cult of perfect rice, Torafuku is the first American outpost of a small Tokyo-based chain. The restaurant’s rice is warm and fluffy with a sort of toasty quality that supposedly comes from a blast of heat at the end. It’s 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 $$b[
Beverly Hills and vicinity
LA99 Cut If you have $120 million to spend on a painting, you might as well buy yourself a Klimt. If you have $120 to spend on a steak, you might want to consider visiting Cut — and splitting the Kobe strip three or four ways, because there is no way you can finish even a small example by yourself. Inserted into a new Richard Meier–designed space in the Regent Beverly Wilshire, in a semicircular all-white room whose angles make you feel as if you’re dining in a mid-’60s Frank Stella painting, Cut is to the other steak houses in town at the moment what Spago was to the pizza parlors back in 1981. Lee Hefter’s warm veal tongue with salsa verde, succulent maple-glazed pork belly, crisp-skinned potato “tart tatin” and pan-roasted Maine lobster with truffle sabayon are quite unlike anything before served in Los Angeles. 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 276-8500. Dinner Mon.-Sat. Full bar. Valet parking a half-block south of Wilshire Blvd. on Rodeo Drive. AE, D, MC, V. California Contemporary. JG $$$
LA99 Urasawa This tiny, luxurious sushi bar is famously the most expensive restaurant in California, and most nights, it is also the best, with fish unseen anywhere else in the country. Other sushi restaurants display fish triple-wrapped behind glass in a refrigerated case; at Urasawa, the fish is out in the open, lighted as carefully as the tomatoes in a Carl’s Jr. ad, all glistening pinks and glowing translucence. If a particular leaf or species of clam is in its Japanese two-week season, it will certainly be on your plate. Waitresses refill your glass with sake, replace hot towels and remove plates so efficiently that you are barely aware of them at all. And Urasawa’s artistry with a fillet is surpassed in the United States only by that of his mentor, Masa Takayama — there is, one senses, an enormous effort to keep the customers in a bubble of serenity, an uninterrupted flow of bliss. 218 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 247-8939. Open daily 5:30-8:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet. AE, MC, V. $250 per person. Japanese. JG $$$
LA99 Cora’s Coffee Shoppe An artfully rusted pergola, a patio shaded with crimson bougainvillea, a burbling Tuscan fountain, the low rumble of the nearby sea — Cora’s is to grungy beach cafés what a James Perse T-shirt is to something out of a Hanes three-pack: superficially similar, but perfected, made luxurious, and vastly more expensive. But 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 ham ’n’ eggs, and sometimes 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. 7 a.m.-3 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Continental, Italian-based. JG $b
Reddi-Chick In the exalted reaches north of Montana Avenue, the Brentwood Country Mart is synonymous with Reddi-Chick, whose roaring fire and golden-skinned roasting fowl exude an aroma almost powerful enough to smell at the beach. The basic item here is the chicken basket, half a roast chicken buried beneath a high mound of fries. It is probably not the best chicken you’ve ever had, but it’s real good, like the best conceivable version of the chickens that spin in supermarkets. 225 26th St., Santa Monica, (310) 393-5238. Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. Cash only. Sandwiches and dinners $4.10-$15.75. American. JG $b
Culver City/Venice and vicinity
LA99 Beacon: An Asian Cafe Beacon marks the triumphant return to form of Kazuto Matsusaka, who was chef for almost a decade at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois in the ’80s. His current versions of miso-marinated cod, vegetable nabemono and grilled shisito peppers are all fine. Grilled-chicken skewers are powerfully flavored with the herb shiso and the tiny Japanese plum called ume. The hanger steak with wasabi is so successful, the searing tang of the horseradish doing something wonderful to the tart, carbonized flavor of grilled meat, that you might wonder why nobody thought of the combination until now. 3280 Helms Ave., L.A., (310) 838-7500. Lunch Mon.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner Tues.-Wed. & Sun. 5:30-9 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 5:30-10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Asian Fusion. JG $bÂ[
Hal’s Bar & Grill Since the primordial days of the Los Angeles art scene, there has always been an artists’ hangout in Venice, a place where veterans of exotic Kassel and Frankfurt could indulge newfound fondnesses for rare wines and old Calvados, a place where art stars had the clout of the kind that springs out of Hollywood. For a lot of that time, that place has been Hal’s, a bastion of decent cheeseburgers and blue-chip paintings, caesar salads and canteloupe martinis, bread pudding and pretty women at the bar. Hal’s may have been more comfortable before they replaced the loungelike sofas in the front with a zillion bar tables, but it’s still a good place to listen to live jazz on Fridays and Sundays, hang out with a diverse crowd, and sip a mean Bloody Mary or three. 1349 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 396-3105. Lunch and dinner Mon. & Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Tues.-Wed. & Thurs. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Full bar open daily until 2 a.m. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. American. JG $$bÂ?
Stroh’s Gourmet Since its inception, Stroh’s (a small corner shop on Abbot Kinney) has had a following. In addition to the cheese case, a cold case of drinks (including large glass bottles of Badoit water, which are rare here and price-controlled in France) and a small selection of high-priced, premium groceries (chestnut honey, organic coffee, rustic pasta, anchovy paste, that sort of thing), there’s a third refrigerated case, displaying a large array of big, shaggy sandwiches, all freshly made and wantonly stacked in preparation for the hungry hordes — who do indeed come. 1239 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 450-5119. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sandwiches $6.44 each. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Sandwiches. MH $b
San Fernando Valley
Carnival The whole human comedy — or carnival, as it were — flocks to this relentlessly popular Middle Eastern restaurant in a Sherman Oaks mini-mall for big portions of mezze and kebabs. (A buck seventy-five adds soup or salad and rice or fries to any entrée.) Never mind the harassed, overworked waiters racing around on their last nerves. Try the daily specials — lamb shanks, lamb and okra stew. Hummus meat — chopped, deeply seasoned lamb and pine nuts in a nest of good hummus — is the dish to order. 4356 Woodman Ave., Sherman Oaks, (818) 784-3469. Open daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $8.25-$12.95. Middle Eastern. MH ¢b
LA99 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. 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 credit cards. $18-$28. California Asian. JG $$.b[?
South Bay/LAX/South Los Angeles
Kotohira Kotohira is one of the few places in the United States that still makes udon by hand: thick, white and long, diminishing to squiggles at the ends, clean in flavor, with the bouncy resiliency of elastic ropes. Whether dunked in fish soup or anointed with curry; hot in a bowl or cold on a mat; or dry in a bowl and garnished with ginger, green onion and wisps of freshly shaved bonito — the wheaty sweetness of the noodles, set off by the clean smoky smack of the dried bonito, is among the most delicious things you have ever eaten. 1747 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena, (310) 323-3966. Lunch and dinner Wed.-Mon. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Beer and sake. Takeout. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $15-$19. MC, V. Japanese. JG ¢[
Original Pancake House There may be no meal in America that commands more acreage than breakfast at the Original Pancake House, a massive if two-dimensional feast that covers large tabletops as thoroughly as king-size fitted sheets. Jumbo spinach crepes are served with a side of thin, LP-size potato pancakes; butter-dripping Dutch babies are the size of satellite dishes; and puffy cheese omelets, already as big as Mary Poppins’ handbag, come with broad stacks of buttermilk pancakes — or, for an extra buck, an oozing payload of chocolate-chip pancakes buried underneath a shot put of freshly whipped cream. If you can see even a scrap of table underneath the barrage of sausage patties, fresh orange juice, basted eggs, stewed prunes, hash browns, strawberry waffles, Cointreau-flavored sour cream, and ham, the restaurant hasn’t been doing its job. At prime brunch hours, the wait for a table can verge on the infinite, although you may be the only person in the restaurant if you show up on a Tuesday at noon. 1756 Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach, (310) 543-9875. Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-3 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout weekdays only. Lot parking. MC, V. Breakfast for two, food only, $12-$20. JG $
Pann’sEvery Angeleno has a secret backdoor shortcut to the airport, and Pann’s is smack on the route of at least two-thirds of them. It’s a grand ’50s coffee shop right on the triangle formed by the intersection of La Cienega, La Tijera and Centinela, a bright, neon-lit fortress of patty melts, Dreamburgers, banana splits and pie, bottomless cups of coffee, and a twangy soundtrack that veers from Duane Eddy to Elvis and back. Pann’s is a coffee shop, not a temple of cuisine, but we all owe it to ourselves to stop by for a plate of chicken from time to time. 6710 La Tijera Blvd., L.A., (310) 337-2860. Open Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. AE, MC, V accepted. Beer and wine. Lot parking. American. JG $?
Woody’s As you blast down Slauson toward the Westside, Woody’s Bar-B-Que is visible from a long way off, a white plume that looks from a distance as if it might come from a belching bus or a car fire, but quickly sorts itself out into a meat-fragrant cloud of woodsmoke. What you get here is, y’know, barbecue: crusty pork ribs spurting with juice; thick, blackened hot-link sausages with the chaw of good jerky; chewy, meaty little rib tips; giant beef ribs; and charred, only occasionally stewy-tasting, slices of well-done barbecued beef brisket that even Texans condescend to like. The sauce is one of the sweet brick-red kinds, hotly spiced with red pepper flakes, less a condiment than a way of life. 3446 W. Slauson Ave., L.A., (323) 294-9443. Also 475 S. Market St., Inglewood, (310) 672-4200. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Takeout only. Cash only. JG$ b
East Los Angeles
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 ¢
LA99 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, sprinkled with freshly chopped herbs and finished with a squirt of thick, cultured cream. Entire religions have been founded on miracles less profound than the Ensenada fish taco. 5385 Whittier Blvd., L.A., (323) 887-1980. Lunch and dinner Tues.-Sun. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Entrées $3.99-$10. Mexican. JG ¢b
El Loco del Pollo The tastiest roast chickens in the Los Angeles area, if not the Western Hemisphere itself, are the smoky rotisserie fowl beloved by the Peruvian community, the shotgun marriage of plump birds, roaring wood fires, and a sharp marinade made with citrus, chiles and immoderate amounts of garlic. And the best chickens of all may be a couple blocks from the Glendale Galleria at El Loco del Pollo. With the chicken comes a small crock of aji, the doctored chile purée that serves as a universal Peruvian condiment, and maybe some hand-cut French fries, stewed beans, or the mayonnaisey potato salad that is for some reason a Peruvian standard. It is enough. 230 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 956-5888. Lunch and dinner Mon. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Tues.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout and delivery. Lot parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $10-$22. MC, V. Peruvian. JG ¢
Raffi’s Place You go to Raffi’s for its enormous, affordable plates of Persian-Armenian food, but you also get canaries singing in the trees, a heated brick patio, quick service and a location close to Glendale’s best movie theaters. Everyone comes for the grilled kebabs served with whole charred tomatoes and peppers, plus mountains of aromatic basmati rice — try the shishlique, or lamb chops. Also recommended: the lemony hummus and a smoky eggplant dip (baba ganoush) scooped up with supple, paper-thin lavash. 211 E. Broadway, Glendale, (818) 240-7411. Tues.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. noon-10 p.m., Sun. noon-9 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $8-$14. Persian/Armenian. MH ¢b[
Pasadena and vicinity
Julienne Beethoven scherzos skitter through the plant-strewn patio, and regulars park their dogs just outside it. You would expect a place like Julienne to serve genteel luncheon salads, and it does: The Chinese chicken salad sprinkled with crunchy noodles is renowned. But the basic currency of the restaurant seems to be the sandwich, including soft chicken-salad sandwiches of a sort many of us haven’t tasted since the Bullocks Wilshire tearoom closed down. 2649 Mission St., San Marino, (626) 441-2299. Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Sat. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $8.95-$15.95. California. JG $b
LA99 101 Noodle Express You could drive by this mini-mall café place a thousand times without easing up on the gas. But the restaurant is home to the Shandong-style beef roll, a splendid object of desire, a massive, bronzed construction of crisp Chinese pancakes, slivers of stewed beef and a sweet, house-made bean paste that bears the same relationship to ordinary hoisin sauce that a L’Orangerie’s demi-glacé might to a slug of canned brown gravy. It is a simple composition, and yet not; ordinary street food, but raised to the transcendent level of a great carne asada taco or a Modena housewife’s very best homemade tortellini. The actual house specialty of this Shandong-style café is dezhou chicken, a tan, tender bird that has been simmered with soy sauce and spices, served at room temperature in all of its plain, wrinkly splendor. 1408 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 300-8654. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5-10 p.m. Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-11 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Chinese. JG $b[At luptat