Amuse Café. Brooke Williamson, a mere 24 years old, has already been an executive chef twice — first at the now-defunct Boxer, then at Zax in Brentwood. Together with Nick Roberts, 25, they’ve appropriated Venice’s funky old Van Gogh’s Ear (once a railroad bunkhouse), gave it a lick of chrome-yellow paint, prettied up the patio and upstairs dining room filled with clear seaside light. Amuse serves California bistro cooking made with lots of local farmers-market ingredients — a modest and lovely ambition. 796 Main St., Venice, (310) 450-1956. In preparation for reopening with a new wine and beer license, the restaurant will be open only on weekends through August 31. Hours are Fri.–Sat. 9 a.m.–9 p.m. and Sun. 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Entrées $13–$18. California Bistro. MH $$ ¤ ¦

Angeli Caffé. Most L.A. restaurants have the shelf life of rock & roll bands, so it’s an impressive and moving fact that Angeli Caffé on Melrose has survived two decades. It was among the first of the new Italians, and chef Evan Kleiman’s clear-eyed, big-flavored cooking was an enormous influence. 7274 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 936-9086. Lunch Tues.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Dinner Tues.–Thurs., 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m. Closed Monday. Beer and wine. Valet parking. Entrées $11–$18. Thursday dinners $25. AE, D, MC, V. Italian. MH ¤

A.O.C. Lucques’ impressive and astute partners, Suzanne Goin and Carolyn Styne, have their second venture, a wine bar with terrific food in a serviceable space whose spare décor amplifies the fireworks on the plate. 8022 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 653-6359. Dinner Mon.–Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5:30–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. À la carte, $4–$16. Mediterranean. MH $$ ¤ ¦

Axe. This restaurant marches to its own beat, or rather, to that of the chef-owner Joanna Moore, whose 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 ¦

Border Grill. The Santa Monica flagship restaurant of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger has become a prime tourist destination, but the regional Mexican cuisine still comes out vivid and strong — fat juicy tacos, refreshing ceviches, spot-on chile verde. 1445 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-1655. Lunch and dinner seven days. Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.– Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $13–$25. Mexican. MH ¨

Ciudad. The design of Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s downtown restaurant is bold — those yellow chairs, those retro drinking glasses! The menu is a Pan-American pastiche, complete with Old World footnotes. 445 S. Figueroa St., downtown, (213) 486-5171. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Dinner Sun.–Tues. 5–8:45 p.m., Wed.–Thurs. 5–9:45 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $17–$28. Pan-Latino. MH $$ ¨

Clementine. Annie Miler, a food-historian-turned-chef, makes delicious versions of great American regional favorites at her sunny breakfast, lunch and takeout café. 1751 Ensley Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 552-1080. No alcohol. Open Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–7:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Parking in rear lot. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $7–$10. California. MH * ¦

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. Asian touches pop up now and again, and a few Mexican things, and quite a few folky flavors from Spain. 1009 El Centro St., South Pasadena, (626) 441-2443. Lunch Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Dinner Tues.–Thurs. and Sun. 5:30–9:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–10 p.m. Closed Mon. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. Dinner entrées $14.50–$26.50. American fusion. JG $$ ¤ * ¦

Jar. Chef Suzanne Tracht’s interpretation of the contemporary American steak house means many sides and sauces and the occasional Asian twist (duck fried rice, sautéed pea tendrils, tamarind sauce). But meat, braised or dry-aged and grilled, is the real focus. 8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 655-6566. Thurs. and Tues.–Sun. 5:30–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. to 11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $19–$29. California American. MH $$

Lucques. Suzanne Goin’s cooking is earthy, intelligent, somewhat indefinable — call it Cal-French-Med with welcome guests from North Africa, Spain and Berkeley. 8474 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 655-6277. Lunch Tues.–Sat. noon–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Sat. 6–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Limited bar menu Fri.–Sat. 10 p.m.–mid., Mon.– Thurs. 9:30–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $21–$30. California/Mediterranean. MH $$ ¤

Mama Voula’s and Ulysses Voyage. Mama Voula, who commands her namesake kitchen as if she were commanding a nuclear submarine, is an overwhelming presence in both of these family-owned Greek restaurants. Mama Voula’s and Ulysses Voyage (which is considerably fancier) have a strong, symbiotic relationship, with the sharp funk of garlic and charring meat, the flowing streams of cold Santorini wine, menus almost exactly alike give or take a few seafood specials, and a killer gyro that combines the virtues of extreme lambiness with a delicate, carbonized crunchiness. Mama Voula’s, 11923 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-9464. Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. MC, V. Food for two $14–$24. Ulysses Voyage, 6333 W. Third St., (323) 939-9728. Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Validated parking in Farmers Market lot. AE, MC, V. Food for two, $24–$48. Greek. JG $/$$ * ¦

Restaurant Josie. Chef-owner Josie LeBalch, formerly of the Saddle Peak Lodge, Remi and the Beach House, cooks her own mix of Cal-Med dishes with an emphasis on game. 2424 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 581-9888. Dinner seven nights. Mon.–Sat. 6–10 p.m., Sun. 5:30–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $18–$32. California. MH $$$ Ü

Sona. What we know as California cuisine may be dedicated to revealing produce at its best, but Michelle and David Myers go after nature with blowtorches and dynamite, determined to bend the old woman to their will. At Sona, 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., West Hollywood, (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. Modern French. JG $$$ ¤ ¦

Tamarin. Is Tamarin the second coming of Indian cooking in Los Angeles? Is the Western-tinged cuisine of its chef, Uma Singh, on a par with that of Floyd Cardoz from the accomplished Franco-Indian restaurant Tabla in Manhattan or even that of the Bombay Café’s estimable Neela Paniz? Probably not. But if you’re hungry for vindaloo or chicken tikka and you happen to be in Beverly Hills, you could do a lot worse. 9162 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 777-0360. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner daily 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Dinner entrées $12–$18. Indian. JG $$

Xiomara. Funny, extroverted restaurateur Xiomara Ardolina now serves big-flavored Nuevo Latino cuisine with a Cuban accent in her Old Town digs. The dining room is calm, elegant, even sedate but all the liveliness you’d want arrives on the plates. 69 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, (626) 796-2520. Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 5–11 p.m. Also at 6101 W. Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 461-0601. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $16–$32. Cuban/Pan-Latino. MH $$

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