Dining – Directory

Margot Dougherty


Cafe Pinot 700 W. 5th St. (213-239-6500). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. This is another one of Joachim Splichal’s spots and is situated next to the Central Library in a box of glass with a handsome skyward view. The food is Splichal Lite–eccentrically delicious Provencal-California cooking. Full bar. ($$$) California/French Bistro

Cicada 617 S. Olive St. (213-488-9488). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. The room is a throwback to old-time elegance, and the food mixes traditional preparation with contemporary finesse. Appetizers run to shallot flan and foie gras with caramelized pineapple, and entrees include cuttlefish risotto, coffee-glazed rack of lamb, and seared snapper with baby leeks. Full bar. ($$$) Northern Italian

Ciudad 445 S. Figueroa St. (213-486-5171). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. The tortilla soup at Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s downtown place is a star. Follow with their pan-Latin cuisine: Argentine empanadas, Swiss chard with tomatillo sauce, and Brazilian maqueca–mussels, shrimp, and other seafood in a coconut-lime broth over coconut rice. Shuttle service to nearby theaters is available. Full bar. ($$$) Latin

Engine Co. No. 28 644 S. Figueroa St. (213-624-6996). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. This is a downtown citadel of Boy Food–beef, chili, meat loaf, and the like in a former firehouse full of brass and leather. It’s a busy businessmen’s hangout, but if you go for pretheater dinner, they’ll get you to the show on time. Full bar. ($$) American

La Boca del Conga Room 5370 Wilshire Blvd. (323-938-1696). D Wed.-Sat. Comprising the two whimsical rooms that lead to the Conga proper, the Boca seems straight out of Dr. Seuss–with the exception of the scantily clad crowd. The food is just as festive: tuna ceviche, cazuela de carne (grilled rib eye over mashed tamale), and a tres leches chocolate cake. Work it all off with a salsa lesson at the Conga. Full bar. ($$$) Nuevo Latino

L.A. Prime Westin Bonaventure Hotel, 404 S. Figueroa St. (213-624-1000). D nightly. Things have gotten very simple and very good on the 35th floor of the Bonaventure, with cherrystone clams, a jumbo lump crabmeat cocktail, a prime fillet of beef with cold-water lobster tail, and a 44-ounce porterhouse steak for two. For dessert, the Inui fudge sundae is the way to go. Full bar. ($$$$) Steak/Seafood

La Serenata de Garibaldi 1842 E. 1st St. (323-265-2887). B Sat.-Sun.; L-D daily. This large storefront in the heart of Boyle Heights attracts a steady stream of downtown gringos for a unique, tasty menu that focuses on Mexican seafood. Beer and wine. ($$) Mexican

Langer’s 704 S. Alvarado St. (213-483-8050). B-L Mon.-Sat. Despite a dicey location across from MacArthur Park, this is an acclaimed deli whose corned beef sandwiches have been proclaimed the best in the city. As proof of L.A.’s great ethnic stew, chances are the people eating matzo balls at the next table will be speaking Spanish, Korean, Tagalog, or Japanese. Beer and wine. ($) Deli

McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant 633 W. 5th St. (213-629-1929). L Mon.-Sat.; D nightly. This branch of one of the most successful seafood establishments in the Pacific Northwest holds close to 500 diners. The decor includes lots of wood and leather, and menus are printed daily to reflect what’s new, mixing traditional offerings with contemporary tastes. Full bar. ($$) Seafood

Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse 330 S. Hope St. (213-680-0330). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. At Joachim Splichal’s highbrow steak house, giant cuts of beef hang dramatically in a glass-walled aging chamber, and the service in the moderne dining room is flawless. Meats are superlative, and sides like artichoke gratin are seriously indulgent. So is the lemon meringue pie. Full bar. ($$$$) Steak House

Ocean Seafood 750 N. Hill St. (213-687-3088). B-L-D daily. One of Old Chinatown’s premier seafood houses, with a dim sum lunch some say is the best in town. (And who are we to argue–it’s wonderful!) Full bar. ($$) Cantonese

Pacific Dining Car 1310 W. 6th St. (213-483-6000). B-L-D daily. L.A.’s oldest steak house is built around an old railroad car. Expect top-quality steaks, serious service, and lots of manly sides. Prices for a hunk range into the thirties, but the prime, dry-aged beef is almost worth it. Full bar and extensive wine list. ($$$) American

R-23 923 E. 2nd St. (213-687-7178). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. One of the best sushi bars in L.A. is hidden away in the downtown artists district and sports cardboard furniture, exposed brick, and chefs who make miracles out of fish and rice. Beer and wine. ($$$) Japanese

The Restaurant Downtown Standard, 550 S. Flower St. (213-892-8080). B-L-D daily. It’s mellow yellow in this mod, ’60s-style hotel diner where the food is all about comfort: croque monsieur, roast pork with caramelized apples. Dessert? Mochi balls (red bean, vanilla, mango, strawberry). Every night and all day Sunday a DJ spins in the lobby Full bar. ($$$) International

Traxx 800 N. Alameda St. (213-625-1999). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. Fuse Spanish colonial and moderne architecture with an equally eclectic crowd, and you have this swank stop in Union Station. Savor the ambience while enjoying a pork chop with mission fig polenta and follow it up with crunchy chocolate truffle cake with creme anglaise. Full bar. ($$$) California Nouveau

Water Grill 544 S. Grand Ave. (213-891-0900). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. The room is sophisticated if somewhat businesslike, but the food is why you’re here. Choices include a seasonal range of top-notch oysters and an exquisite menu of fresh fish. The wine list is first-rate, as is the chocolate bread pudding. Full bar. ($$$) Seafood

Windows Transamerica Center, 1150 S. Olive St. (213-746-1554). L Mon.-Fri.; D Tue.-Sat. This spot atop the Transamerica Building features a view of Los Angeles that stretches from Pasadena to the Pacific. Expect men’s club food: rack of lamb, bacon-wrapped scallops, shrimp cocktail, and a lotta beef, including a 21-day dry-aged New York steak. Cheers. Full bar. ($$$) American


Cafe Stella 3932 Sunset Blvd. (323-666-0265). D Tue.-Sat. At this neighborhood cafe hidden behind Sunset Junction, specials are noted on a chalkboard, fresh baguettes are whisked to the tables, and everyone seems engaged in serious conversation. The asparagus salad and escargots in parsley-garlic sauce are nice starters, and main dishes include tarragon chicken and steak au poivre. Save room for the creme brulee. Beer and wine. ($$$) French

Chameau 2520 Hyperion Ave. (323-953-1973). D Thu.-Sat. This small neighborhood charmer serves Moroccan-style cuisine (chameau is French for “camel”) accessible to California palates. The bistilla appetizer is an aromatic blend of ground chicken and spices wrapped in phyllo, and the baked halibut is olive crusted. BYOB. ($$) French/Moroccan

Farfalla Trattoria 1978 Hillhurst Ave. (323-661-7365). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. An Italian cafe with mildly attitudinous service but great thin-crust pizza and superb pasta. Beer and wine. ($) Italian

Fred 62 1850 N. Vermont Ave. (323-667-0062). B-L-D 24 hours daily. Chef Fred Eric and designer Fred Sutherland have tweaked diner grub to create a menu of chewy Korean potato-starch noodles, tofu scramble, smoked salmon sandwiches, even homemade Pop-Tarts. This retro joint is cool 24 hours a day Beer and wine. ($) Eclectic Diner

The Hillmont 4655 W. Hollywood Blvd. (323-669-3922). D Tue.-Sun. Cobras & Matadors has a sister. Order before sitting at one of the communal tables, and establish your domain by clipping your ticket on a clothesline overhead. Oven-warmed bread comes with fresh-herb butter as do a sizzling steak and a shredded apple and spinach side. The menu embraces calories and carnivores–the grilled seafood platter being a tasty exception. Beer and wine. ($$) Steak House

II Capriccio on Vermont 1757 N. Vermont Ave. (323-662-5900). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. The smell of roasting garlic fills the dining room, thanks to a bustling kitchen cooking up chicken Vesuvio, spaghetti del mare, and rigatoni norcina (ground sausage, mushrooms, and onions in a light cream sauce). For dessert? The squash-shaped zuccotto (sponge cake). BYOB. ($$) Italian

The Kitchen 4348 Fountain Ave. (323-664-3663). L Sat.-Sun.; D nightly. It’s a throwback setting with a fast-forward crowd at this squeaky-clean neighborhood joint, which is open till midnight Sunday through Thursday and till 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The food is hearty and well priced–slow-cooked lamb shanks with mashed potatoes, dinner-sized stew of the day, and buttermilk fried chicken with black-eyed peas. Flourless chocolate cake or strawberry shortcake for dessert. BYOB. ($) Diner

Mexico City 2121 Hillhurst Ave. (323-661-7227). L Wed.-Sun.; D nightly. The decor is ’50s Naugahyde, the crowd Los Feliz hipster, and the menu atypical. Of the six enchilada offerings, the spinach–with a Zacatecanas sauce of poblano chiles, sour cream, and onions–best shows the kitchen’s ambition and ability. Shrimp is a favorite of the chef, and serious carnivores will want to try the cochinita pibil (Yucatan-style marinated pork). Full bar. ($) Mexican

Taix 1911 Sunset Blvd. (213-484-1265). L-D daily. A restaurant from the old school dating back to 1928 and serving the sort of family-style Gallic cuisine that was popular then but seems heavy now. The private rooms make it popular for lunch and dinner meetings, and the wine list is one of the most impressive and least expensive in town. Full bar. ($$) French

Tangier 2138 Hillhurst Ave. (323-666-8666). L Sat.-Sun.; D nightly. The menu’s an odd medley, ranging from spaghetti Bolognese with manchego to tandoori chicken croquettes to crackling pork chops. Settle into one of the old Chasen’s booths, start with an extraordinarily good martini, and stick with the basics–roast chicken, lamb shank, or drunken duck. Matthew Perry had his birthday party here. Full bar. ($$$) Global

Tantra 3705 Sunset Blvd. (323-663-8268). L-D daily. Think neo-hip Indian overseen by a golden Ganesh. The dining area is open to the street, and the food is superior–curries, masalas, stir-fries, and a fine raita. An adjacent lounge looks like Jeannie’s bottle might on an acid trip and serves the likes of tantrinis and Indian Sunsets. Namaste. Full bar. ($$) Indian

Vermont 1714 N. Vermont Ave. (323-661-6163). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. The atmosphere is elegant, and the menu includes deliciously prepared standard-bearers like poached salmon, beef fillet, and roast chicken as well as such fanciful creations as a shrimp and arugula salad buzzing with citrus. The flourless chocolate cake is just plain good. Full bar. ($$$) Cal-French

Vida 1930 Hillhurst Ave. (323-660-4446). D nightly. Fred Eric’s eccentric presentations can’t disguise the fact that he’s serving some of our finest meals. A cantilevered appetizer may look like Frank Gehry designed it, but smart and funny don’t preclude delicious. Try the Thai Cobb salad; try the grilled rolled rare tuna; try anything. Full bar. ($$$) California


Ago 8478 Melrose Ave. (323-655-6333). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. At this sleek, highbrow showcase (co-owned by Robert De Niro), pastas are served piping hot and al dente, and pizzas come direct from a brick oven. Entrees include the likes of monkfish with creamy polenta and baby rack of lamb. Full bar. ($$$) Tuscan

Alessi 6602 Melrose Ave. (323-935-1197). D Mon.-Sat. This neighborhood boite makes elegance inviting. The cuisine is neither fussy nor heavy just superbly executed. Linguine is al dente, prosciutto pizza has a pastry-thin crust, and osso buco is so tender you can toss your knife. After dinner, linger at the marble-topped bar with a glass of Antigua muscat. Full bar. ($$) Italian

Alex 6703 Melrose Ave. (323-933-5233). L Tue.-Fri.; D Tue.-Sat. Chef-owner Alex Scrimgeour (SCRIM-jer), ex of Saddle Peak Lodge, has beautifully appointed the old Citrus site and created a menu that goes way beyond the wild ones: knee-weakening foie gras; coriander-crusted skate wings; an exceptional lamb dish with osso buco and a rack on the same plate. Service is perfect. This is the place to celebrate–or simply indulge. Full bar. ($$$) Contemporary European

Ammo 1155 N. Highland Ave. (323-871-2666). B-L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat.; brunch Sat.-Sun. The highly regarded catering company’s tiny cafe sports exposed pipes, paper lanterns, and severe (but comfy) metal chairs and dishes up everything from ten-grain pancakes to turkey burgers, tuna tartare to lasagna, grilled chicken to chocolate mousse layer cake. Beer and wine. ($$) American

Brasserie Vert Hollywood & Highland, 6801 Hollywood Blvd. (323-491-1300). L-D daily. The open-kitchen decor at Wolfgang Puck’s newest place is smart: warmer than the surrounding mall, easier to navigate, and lit just right. The menu is on the hearty side, with snails persillade (garlic and butter sauce), fritto misto, gnocchi with Gorgonzola, short ribs, pork chops, and steaks. Sides include Tuscan potatoes that are small pillows of spud inside crisped skins. Heaven. Full bar. ($$$) Brasserie

Ca’Brea 346 S. La Brea Ave. (323-938-2863). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. An always-happening Venetian-style trattoria from the people who brought us Locanda Veneta. They serve the same sort of pasta and seafood but in larger portions and for less money Full bar. ($$) Northern Italian

Cafe des Artistes 1534 N. McCadden Pl. (323-469-7300). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. A garden complete with fountains and a tree-draped terrace surround this cozy bistro, where the fireplace is always lit. The must-have item is the confit de canard served with green cabbage and sauteed apples–that is, if you’re able to eat anything after devouring the jumbo shrimp cocktail. Full bar. ($$$) French

Campanile 624 S. La Brea Ave. (323-938-1447). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat.; brunch Sat.-Sun. Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton own this beautiful showcase of urban-rustic cuisine that is consistently ranked among L.A.’s finest. The menu changes regularly but might include such innovative concoctions as cedar-smoked trout with fennel salad; rosemary-charred lamb with artichokes, fava beans, and olives; and sour cherry brioche. Full bar. ($$$) Cal-Mediterranean

Canter’s 419 N. Fairfax Ave. (323-651-2030). B-L-D 24 hours daily. Perhaps the rudest deli this side of Houston Street, with waitresses who have seen it all–many times. The too-hip-for-words crowd shows up late for blintzes and abuse. Nate ‘n Al has more class, but Canter’s has more soul. Full bar. ($) Deli

Chianti 7383 Melrose Ave. (323-653-8333). D nightly. It’s dark here, but the menu shines with offerings like fresh black mussels steamed in spiced tomato broth and superb brick-pressed baby chicken marinated in lemon and thyme. The tiramisu is Melrose’s creamiest. Full bar. ($$$) Italian

Falcon 7213 Sunset Blvd. (323-850-5530). D nightly. The atmosphere is Asia moderne, with a large patio extending from the dining room and a lounge area grounded by shag carpeting The service is smart and friendly, the food is, so far, so-so, but the beet salad with goat cheese and the pressed chicken with grits are good bets. Full bar. ($$$) California

the house 5750 Melrose Ave. (323-462-4687). L-D Tue.-Sun. Scooter Kanfer serves her trademark up-scale home cooking–Pop’s Pate, mac and cheese, spoon bread tart du jour–in a handsome dining room. A farmers’ market potpie changes seasonally, and the roasted black cod is delish. Dessert includes pots de creme with a thick smudge of chocolate. Beer and wine. ($$$) American

Las Palmas 1714 N. Las Palmas Ave. (323-464-0171). D Mon., Wed.-Sat. Reservations don’t hold much weight (they’re likely to be changed to suit the restaurant) at this swell spot for the young and fabulous. Never mind that the menu offers only four entrees–you’re here to be seen. If the bar seems too far away, sit still for the tequila-poached pears dessert. Full bar. ($$$) Mexican-Asian

Les Deux Cafes 1638 N. Las Palmas Ave. (323-465-0509). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Even if you’re not Somebody, you might fool everyone if proprietress Michele Lamy shows any signs of recognition. The scene, particularly in the garden, is worth the trip, and the menu is bring-on-the-butter French: frisee salad with foie gras and wild mushrooms; potatoes with osetra; pork tenderloin; and sliced chicken breast in a velvety foie gras sauce. Full bar. ($$$) French

Lucques 8474 Melrose Ave. (323-655-6277). L Tue.-Sat.; D Mon.-Sun. Highlights at Suzanne Goin’s foodie mecca include braised beef short ribs with potato puree, greens, and horseradish cream and a prix fixe menu that features the chef’s specialties and changes weekly Full bar. ($$$) Cal-Mediterranean

Mortons 8764 Melrose Ave. (310-276-5205). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. The discerning diner can spy a sprinkling of Big Names fueling up on the likes of overstuffed shrimp quesadillas, crab cakes, filet mignon with seared spinach, and pork chops with horseradish polenta. Close the deal with a hot-fudge sundae. Full bar. ($$$$) American

Moun of Tunis 7445 1/2 Sunset Blvd. (323-874-3333). D nightly. With food that’s akin to Moroccan but off by a few degrees, this is a Sunset Boulevard institution. (Try the brik, a pancake filled with soft-cooked egg.) The setting is more intimate than most Moroccan eateries, which means the belly dancer has to work a lot closer to you. Beer and wine. ($$) Tunisian/Moroccan

Musso & Frank Grill 6667 Hollywood Blvd. (323-467-7788). B-L-D Tue.-Sat. The oldest restaurant in Hollywood remains a dark, imposing landmark serving flannel cakes in the morning and short ribs at night, along with the martini against which all others must be judged. The waiters are gruff, experienced, and perfect. Pure Raymond Chandler. Full bar. ($$$) Continental

Nishimura 8684 Melrose Ave. (310-659-4770). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. Sushi chef Hiro Nishimura’s spot across from the PDC is cool and minimalist, allowing the food to provide the splash. Warm, coarsely salted edamame, thinly sliced hamachi sashimi with serrano chile and garlic-citrus sauce, abalone sauteed with shiitakes and asparagus, and peppered tuna sashimi are all exquisite. Beer and wine. ($$$$) Japanese

Patina 5955 Melrose Ave. (323-467-1108). L Fri.; D nightly. Joachim Splichal’s landmark is one of L.A.’s most consistently acclaimed restaurants. Grilled asparagus with shaved truffles, braised veal cheeks with hand-rolled macaroni, striped bass with white bean mousseline, and a cote du boeuf carved tableside are all, well, kind of perfect. For dessert try the piping hot fruit potpie with vanilla ice cream. Full bar. ($$$$) Cal-French

The Pig 612 N. La Brea Ave. (323-935-1116). L-D Tue.-Sun. The late-night crowd here is as inevitable as the lines at Pink’s. Among the must-haves: brisket, an applewood-smoked hunk in a sweet mustard sauce; hickory-smoked baby back ribs; Cajun crusted Mississippi catfish; and Smoky Mountain gumbo with jalapeno corn bread. Dessert? Karo pecan pie. BYOB. ($$) Barbecue

Pig ‘n Whistle 6714 Hollywood Blvd. (323-463-0000). L-D daily. The menu at this renovated landmark mixes dependable pub grub with better-than-expected contemporary fare. If romance is your MO, consider the backroom boudoir, where couples can dine on a standout roast pig or seared ahi in the comfort of a canopy bed. Full bar. ($$) French/American

Pinot Hollywood 1448 N. Gower St. (323-461-8800). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. This Joachim Splichal outpost has a pun-filled menu and serious food and wine. Try the crab-and-risotto cake, bacon-wrapped steak with mushroom masheds, or veal short ribs with pumpkin ravioli. The walled-in patio is one of the nicest in L.A. Full bar. ($$$) Cal-French

Sonora Cafe 180 S. La Brea Ave. (323-857-1800). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. This upscale cousin of the venerable El Cholo serves Southwestern cuisine for meat lovers and shellfish-ionados. Try the south Texas antelope, cowboy steak, smoked pork chop, or when in season, abalone. Full bar. ($$) Southwestern

Sunset Room 1430 N. Cahuenga Blvd. (323-463-0004). D Tue.-Sat. Highlights here include salmon with lemon chutney and Chilean sea bass marinated in soy sauce and sake. Soups (the carrot-and-ginger is delish) and desserts (like the crisp, warm apple tart) are made fresh daily. On weekends, when there’s dancing in the lounge, request a booth. Full bar. ($$$) Cal-French/Asian


Alto Palato 755 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310-657-9271). D nightly. This modern echo chamber of a space serves favorites from up and down the Boot: cozze alla Napoletana (mussels with parsley, garlic, and tomatoes), thin-crust pizza, and a superb monkish fillet sauteed with lemon, capers, and olive oil. The gelato is renowned, the warm chocolate tart with kiwi and raspberry sauces downright heady. The espresso is perfect. Full bar. ($$) Italian

Angelini Osteria 7313 Beverly Blvd. (323-297-0070). L Mon.-Sat.; D nightly. The place is tiny, the kitchen is open, and the room is busy. The menu’s written in a pastiche of Italian (taglierino con salumi e burrata) and English (pork chop with red cabbage and apple), and the food is equally mixed. A special of polenta, olives, and scallops is divinity on a plate, but a sea bass fillet might pack a few bones. Beer and wine. ($$$) Italian

Arnie Morton’s of Chicago 435 S. La Cienega Blvd. (310-246-1501). D nightly. This Windy City offshoot is a classic American steak house, complete with mahogany paneling and waiters who wheel slabs of beef and veal and live lobsters tableside in lieu of menus. The more-than-ample portions are the perfect entree to cholesterol heaven. Full bar. ($$$) American

Asia de Cuba 8440 W. Sunset Blvd. (323-848-6000). B-L-D daily. This dining equivalent of Sky Bar, set in the beyond-hip Mondrian, is filled with hot young celebs. The tuna pica starter is worthy of an Oscar; the Cuban spiced chicken and yucca-crusted mahimahi warm the cockles. Don’t go home without the Latin Lover–chocolate mousse cake with white coffee anglaise. Full bar. ($$$) Asian/Cuban

Balboa Prime Grafton Hotel, 8462 W. Sunset Blvd. (323-650-8383). B-L-D daily. Steak’s the name of the game, and the prime cuts, from porterhouse to ostrich, are top of the line, served with various rubs (blue cheese, pepper-corn) and sauces (pinot noir, truffle). You choose. Skip the roasted broccoli and only go for the mac and cheese if you’re into heavily smoked Gouda–and haven’t had more than your share of the addictive shoestring potatoes. Full bar. ($$$$) Steak House

The Belmont 747 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310-659-8871). D nightly. Stamped-copper ceilings, leather booths, and a gleaming bar make this is a New York kinda place. Crab cakes are rolled in panko, the Caesar’s perfectly dressed, bbq chicken skewers are moist and steaks are first-rate. The atmosphere is friendly without the frenzy; you’ll be comfortable with a crowd or all by your lonesome. Full bar. ($$) American

Bliss Restaurant and Lounge 650 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310-659-0999). D Tue.-Sat. This is an architectural fortress with sky-high ceilings that needs a crowd to warm the chill, even with the giant fireplace in situ. It’s still early days, and the food’s hit-and-miss–beware the margarita oyster shooter that drowns a poor bivalve in oversweet lime juice, and enjoy the bacon-wrapped scallops, perfectly cooked, because they’ll cost you. The upstairs bar/lounge has a way groovy vibe that seems yet to establish its clientele. Make it yours. Full bar. ($$$$) California

Celestino Italian Steak House 8908 Beverly Blvd. (310-858-5777). D nightly. Celestino Drago’s steak house celebrates Piedmontese beef–tasty meat indeed. Sauteed rapini and garlic masheds are hearty sides. Pizzas, pastas, and risotto are nonbeef alternatives, and the cold lemon souffle is a dessert essential. Full bar. ($$$) Italian Steak House

Chaya Brasserie 8741 Alden Dr. (310-859-8833). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. This multiculti bistro–with patio–is a hit with WeHo’s creative community, not to mention the staff at Cedars-Sinai. The food’s unerringly good, somewhat surprising given the bustle and lengthy menu, and incorporates Asian tinges with continental regulars. Think grilled mahimahi with black bean sauce and halibut with lemongrass curry and glass noodles. Nifty cocktails. Full bar. ($$$) French/Italian/Asian

Cobras & Matadors 7615 W. Beverly Blvd. (323-932-6178). D nightly. This is a bustling tapas restaurant, and little plates, traditional or not, have never been so good: shrimp-studded paellas served in mini skillets; wood oven-roasted mushrooms, jamon serrano with lentils, white anchovies with fried-garlic vinaigrette. The place is always packed, so make a reservation or browse the extensive Spanish-wine selection at the store next door while you wait. BYOB. ($$) Tapas

Dan Tana’s 9071 Santa Monica Blvd. (310-275-9444). D nightly. This old-fashioned hangout is a favorite among those who live for great steaks and chops, served by waiters who have been around, well, forever. The room is dark, the drinks strong. Celebs who hate to be bothered love the place. The spaghetti sauce is right out of Little Italy. Full bar. ($$$) Northern Italian

Dominick’s 8715 Beverly Blvd. (310-652-7272). D Mon.-Sat. Frank Sinatra owned this restaurant and lounge back when it was a Rat Pack haunt. Its newer incarnation, under the ownership of Jon Sidel, packs in its own share of the hip and famous with mac and cheese, shrimp cakes, tuna au poivre, and steak. The cocktail menu is as long as your arm. Full bar. ($$$) Continental/American

G. Garvins 8420 W. 3rd St. (323-655-3888). D Mon.-Sat. The banquettes are a buttery tan suede, the lighting is soft, and Sade croons through the speakers. Gerry Garvin’s menu is small but rich: grilled satay of filet mignon, roasted Colorado rack of lamb with baby vegetables, new potatoes in a port wine and pepper sauce, and a nice sauteed Atlantic salmon. Dessert? Homemade banana mousse cake with warm caramel sauce. Beer and wine. ($$$) Cal-Continental

Ita-Cho 7311 Beverly Blvd. (323-938-9009). D Tue.-Sat. Waitresses are oblivious of the luminaries in the crowd, and there’s a menu of sake to sip along with your tatsuta age, a Japanese-style deep-fried chicken that’s luscious and greaseless. Sashimi (they don’t serve sushi) is usually sparkling-fresh tuna or yellowtail with spiked soy sauce. For dessert, it’s green tea or red bean ice cream. Beer and wine. ($$) Japanese

The Ivy 113 N. Robertson Blvd. (310-274-8303). L-D daily; brunch Sun. This is the place to be seen dining, whether on the streetfront patio or inside where it’s as cozy as a French farmhouse. The menu, which never changes, runs from crab cakes and chopped salads to pastas, tandoori chicken, and grilled fish. The handsome hand-painted crockery is also sold next door. The tarte Tatin and key lime pie are especially delish. Full bar. ($$$) American

JAR 8225 Beverly Blvd. (323-655-6566). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Suzanne Tracht, ex of Jozu, and Mark Peel of Campanile have teamed up for this chophouse, where Tracht’s short ribs and braised pork belly are among the favored dishes. Steaks, chops, fish, and classics like an iceberg wedge and a lobster cocktail hold down the balance of the menu. Sides–creamed spinach, fries, roast asparagus–and sauces like horseradish, tamarind, and bearnaise are a la carte. Full bar. ($$$) Steak House

Katana 8439 Sunset Blvd. (323-650-8585). D nightly. From the boys who brought you Balboa and Sushi Roku comes this salute to robata-yaki: Everything from yellowtail to chicken gizzard is cooked over an open flame and served on skewers. Not even the excellent toro tartare, however, can top Dodd Mitchell’s sleek design, which mixes Italian Renaissance brick and mortar with the woodsy warmth of a Japanese temple. Watch Sunset from the patio. Full bar. ($$$) Japanese

Koi 730 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310-659-9449). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. The short-lived Cienega has been revamped with an Asian theme, an outdoor patio, a Hawaiian chef, and a menu with sushi, sashimi, and Japanese-influenced entrees. Dishes like seared scallop with yuzu and black cod with miso are tasty, but expect them to be tossed your way by a waiter rushing off to his next gig. Festive party drinks abound. Full bar. ($$$) Japanese

Linq 8338 W. 3rd St. (323-655-4555). D nightly. It’s Dodd Mitchell’s design that put this place on the map: white walls, marble, glass, and Brancusi-inspired woodwork. A fabulous crowd dines on Moroccan seared chicken with chutney and soy-mirin-glazed Chilean sea bass with wasabi masheds. The lemon meringue semifreddo is luscious, but most meals end with a martini in the lounge. Full bar. ($$$) Fusion

The Little Door 8164 W. 3rd St. (323-951-1210). D nightly. The place is such a poorly kept Industry secret that it doesn’t even need a sign. The ambitious menu changes every month and offers appetizers like Moroccan grilled eggplants and entrees like lamb tajine with peaches and almonds. Beer and wine. ($$$) French/Mediterranean

Locanda Veneta 8638 W. 3rd St. (310-274-1893). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. This little restaurant across from Cedars-Sinai has Venetian cuisine as good as anything on the Grand Canal The setting may be small, but the cooking is grand. Beer and wine. ($$$) Northern Italian

L’Orangerie 903 N. La Cienega Blvd. (320-652-9770). D Tue.-Sun. The opulent rooms are worthy of Versailles, and the food, quintessential French, is equally regal: beluga with corn blini and sour cream, beef tenderloin with Bordelaise sauce, roast veal chop with tarte Tatin. Full bar. ($$$$) French

Matsuhisa 129 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310-659-9639). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. It looks like an ordinary neighborhood sushi bar, but wait till you get to Nobu Matsuhisa’s 25-page menu of cooked seafood dishes, including miso-flavored black cod, shrimp in a pepper sauce, and tempura sea urchin in a shiso leaf. Beer and wine. ($$$) Japanese

Newsroom Cafe 120 N. Robertson Blvd. (310-652-4444). B-L-D daily. There’s a quick and easy alternative if you can’t get a seat at the Ivy across the street. Okay, a little less power-packed. But it’s swell for a casual and healthy bite–fruit smoothies, fresh juices, hearty soups, salads and sandwiches, pastas, and vegan dishes. It’s got wine, beer, and tequila along with the wheat grass but no whole milk for your latte–lactose, you know. Full bar. ($$) Organic

north 8029 W. Sunset Blvd. (323-654-1313). D nightly. This is a cool watering hole with a mod, Alpine feel. Excellent grilled shrimp cocktail and mac and cheese go well with such house specials as the Twig & Berries (Frangelico, Chambord, Bailey’s, Absolut, and cream). For serious eating, slip into a banquette and order the porterhouse and the superlative caramelized apple tart. Full bar. ($$) Eclectic

Orso 8706 W. 3rd St. (310-274-7144). L-D daily. This place is popular with celebrities, who linger on the patio over fine thin-crust pizza and pasta, chicken, and fish. It’s noisy, affable, and reasonably priced. Full bar and exclusively Italian wine list. ($$) Italian

The Palm 9001 Santa Monica Blvd. (310-550-8811). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. You want steak? This is the place. The walls are covered with celebrity caricatures, the booths are packed, and the waiters talk fast–so keep up. Start with the clams casino and keep going with the double steak (a 36-ounce New York strip for two), which has that misshapen look all great steaks have. Full bar. ($$$) American

Pane e Vino 8265 Beverly Blvd. (323-651-4600). L Mon.-Sat.; D nightly. This is a celebrity-intensive cafe with a rear entrance that allows stars to sneak in for a plate of roasted veggies in a clay pot and some fine risotto. Also at 1482 E. Valley Rd., Montecito (805-969-9274). Full bar. ($$) Italian

Pastis 8114 Beverly Blvd. (323-655-8822). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. This is a classic French restaurant with elegant service and an authentic menu presented with nouvelle freshness. Among the offerings: Roquefort beignets with an endive salad, moules marinieres, bouillabaisse, coquilles St. Jacques, and lavender creme brulee. Bon appetit. Beer and wine. ($$$) French

The Spanish Kitchen 826 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310-659-4794). D nightly. The ambience–low lights, wrought iron, shiny wood, and a bar that runs just about the length of the place–is muy buzzy and Latin Quarter, the crowd is mixed and collectively amped, and chef Hugo Molina (who ran a namesake restaurant in Pasadena) is cooking his heart out: mesquite-smoked beef flautas, squash blossom soup, chicken mole, and a chocolate crepes with lobster appetizer that sounds iffy but is a tone poem. Good margaritas, too. Open late. Full bar. ($$$) Traditional Mexican

Sugarplum Bakery 7122 Beverly Blvd. (323-934-7900). B-L daily. Oh. The cookies. Fairy-sized pipings of marzipan dotted with fruit, tiny cloudlike baci di damas, bitty almond-flaked balls bursting with Amarena cherries, the crunchiest of biscotti, fig and apricot tarts, croissants, focaccia sandwiches. Perfect coffee. The place has 15 tables, it’s true-blue Italian right down to the tiles in the vanilla-scented bathroom, and it’s heavenly Liquor license pending. ($) Bakery

Surya 8048 W. 3rd St. (323-653-5151). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Restaurants don’t get much more welcoming, and Indian food in L.A. doesn’t get much better. Stuffed nan is a meal in itself, and the curries–vegetarian or with tender chicken or lamb–are exquisitely seasoned. A prawn-pepper masala is comfort food, Eastern style. Beer and wine. ($$) Indian

Sushi Roku 8445 W. 3rd St. (323-655-6767). L Mon.-Sat.; D nightly. People don’t come here just for hand rolls and sashimi. Cooked food abounds: smoky salmon-skin salad, sizzling tobanyaki (sauteed mushrooms), filet mignon teriyaki. If you’re lucky, the specials will include caviar-topped monkfish pate wrapped with salmon or cashew-dusted soft-shell crab with chile-lime dressing. Also at 33 Miller Alley, Pasadena (626-683-3000); 1401 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica (310-458-4771). Full bar. ($$$) Japanese

Swingers Beverly Laurel Motor Hotel, 8020 Beverly Blvd. (323-653-5858). B-L-D daily. The kind of spot for people who conduct business breakfasts at 3:30 p.m. or 1:30 a.m. L.A. scenemeister Sean MacPherson has morphed this Special K-serving nugget of the Kennedy era into a place where the MTV generation scarfs down tofu scrambles, chili omelettes, and smoothies. Beer and wine. ($) Eclectic


Airstream Diner 9601 Little Santa Monica Blvd. (310-550-8883). B-L-D daily. Fred Eric’s shiny trailer has pillowed seats, and gnome stools at the counter. The menu is Americana: breakfast all day with Hunka Hunka Burning Love pancakes (peanut butter, chocolate chips, bananas) and Bearded Mr. Frenchy Toast (with a cornflake coating). Too sweet? There are also Mr. Loaf meat loaf sandwiches (Mrs. Loaf is turkey) and a Coffee Shop grilled cheese. Full bar. ($$) American

Barney Greengrass Barneys New York, 9570 Wilshire Blvd. (310-777-5877). B-L daily. The smoked fish emporium occupies a dazzling space on Barneys’ top floor. The salmon, sturgeon, sable, and cod will bring tears to the eyes of the most seasoned deli lover. Plenty of salads to fawn over, too. Full bar. ($$) Deli/California

Blue on Blue Avalon Hotel, 9400 W. Olympic Blvd. (310-407-7790. B-L-D daily. This is indoor-outdoor dining at its easiest, with a hipster clientele likely to be sipping something blue from martini glasses. Roasted pear salad with candied walnuts and chevre is a good way to start, and crab cakes are worth a stab. Entrees tend to be simple and satisfying: peppered king salmon, filet mignon with Yukon masheds, and meat loaf with mushroom gravy. Sit poolside and stare at the stars for dessert. Full bar. ($$$) Cal-French

Brasserie des Artistes 8300 Wilshire Blvd. (323-655-6196). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Get in the Gallic spirit with an appetizer of foie gras, escargots, or warm goat cheese salad, and move on to steak tartare, filet mignon with bearnaise, or whitefish fillet with champagne sauce. For dessert, choose from patisserie classics: creme brulee, crepes suzette, tarte Tatin, and Grand Marnier parfait. Karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights. Full bar. ($$$) French

Cafe Blanc 9777 Little Santa Monica Blvd. (310-888-0108). L-D Tue.-Sat. Gemlike cooking is served in this small, minimalist storefront space, where two prix fixe meals are offered at dinner and the chef does what he wants–which is just fine with the regulars, who come from all over. Beer and wine. ($$$) Cal-Asian

De Mori 421 N. Rodeo Dr. (310-274-1500). L-D daily; brunch Sat.-Sun. Silvio de Mori, formerly of Mimosa and Cafe des Artistes, has bravely taken on the Reata space tucked below street level behind La Perla–ideal for lingerie lovers. The outdoor patio is festive for lunch and early dinner, and the inside is a banquetted wash of Ralph Lauren and Martha. The food’s Italian to the core, from pizzas to pastas to polentas, calamari to carpaccio to veal and lamb chops. Tiramisu for dessert. Full bar. ($$$) Northern Italian

The Farm 439 N. Beverly Dr. (310-273-5578). B Mon.-Fri.; L-D daily; brunch Sat.-Sun. Here’s one of the most comfortable rooms in town. Try the oven-roasted chicken breast with white corn and mashed potatoes and fennel-lemon jus. Beer and wine. ($$) American

Frida 236 S. Beverly Dr. (310-278-7666). L-D daily. Dozens of cream-colored candles dot the tiny space, brand-new religious iconography is mounted perfectly on the walls, and the glasses are the thick kind you get with chip-and-dip sets. This is the Z Gallerie of Mexican restaurants–with snappy food. The shrimp ceviche pops; the mole poblano is thick and dark. For dessert, the pastel de tres leches and a thick flan are bueno. Full bar. ($$$) Mexican

Il Cielo 9018 Burton Way (310-276-9990). L-D Mon.-Sat. Pasquale Vericella’s dreamy little garden spot has been the site of many a tryst and more than a few weddings. Come in for homemade pasta, or try the Italian sea bass, grilled whole and filleted tableside. Full bar. ($$$) Northern Italian

Il Pastaio 400 N. Canon Dr. (310-205-5444). L Mon.-Sat.; D nightly. Giacomino Drago’s restaurant is always good for antipasti, carpaccio, pasta, and risotto and reminds you of the homey neighborhood cafes found all over Italy. Full bar. ($$) Regional Italian

Kate Mantilini 9101 Wilshire Blvd. (310-278-3699). B-L-D daily. An informal and moderately trendy spot where movie buzz fills the tables and Americana rules the kitchen. Faves include meat loaf, grilled chicken, burgers, and candy bar-ice cream pie. Full bar. ($$$) American

Mako 225 S. Beverly Dr. (310-288-8338). L Wed.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. The open kitchen is almost as large as the blond-wood dining room of this outstanding restaurant. Mako Tanaka and crew balletically whip up crispy oyster and pickled beet salads and wok-sauteed sea bass with rapini and mushrooms in a spicy sun-dried-tomato sauce for a well-dressed clientele. A menu of small-plate portions is a recent addition. Full bar. ($$$) Asian-Mediterranean

Maple Drive 345 N. Maple Dr. (310-274-9800). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. Not much has changed here since its opening in ’89, when gourmet meat loaf was avant-garde. Anchoring the building that houses Elektra and DreamWorks offices, it is still a lunchtime haunt for Industry types and should be more of a hot spot at night. The food’s great, from Kick Ass Chili to sevruga, grilled cod with capers to rack of lamb–and meat loaf. The bar has a civil lounge area where chatting is an attainable goal. Full bar. ($$$$) Comfort Food

Mastro’s Steakhouse 246 N. Canon Dr. (310-888-8782). D nightly. This place is serious about its meat: hand-cut USDA prime served with the bone in on 400-degree plates. Supreme. It’s also serious about its martinis, which come in full-size shakers left at your table. Lots of stately fishes to choose from as well. Downstairs is dark and serious; upstairs is a happening bar scene with live music for an over-40 crowd. Full bar. ($$$$) Steak House

Nic’s 453 N. Canon Dr. (310-550-5707). D Mon.-Sat. Larry Nicola has one cool supper club/martini lounge. Nic’s Oysters–lightly sauteed, with spinach, garlic, and walnuts–are brisk, baby. Live music nightly. Full bar. ($$$) Contemporary American

Pammolli Ristorante 9513 Santa Monica Blvd. (310-273-7588). L-D Mon.-Sat. Massimo Ormani and wife Daniela have a romantic charmer where tiny greens are perfectly dressed and scattered with almonds, leek and crabmeat risotto is infused with lemon, and an oven-roasted veal shank comes with buttered baby carrots. Desserts like Piedmont-style hazelnut cake keep the Tuscan theme going, and the well-culled wine list is reasonably priced. Full bar. ($$$) Tuscan

Piccolo Paradiso 150 S. Beverly Dr. (310-271-0030). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. This is indeed a “little paradise,” thanks to Giacomino Drago, who is still in the kitchen at Il Pastaio as well. Images from Cinema Paradiso (his favorite movie) are projected on the walls. Salads and antipasti are simple and perfect. Entrees of note include rigatoni with wild boar ragout and veal shank with polenta. The dessert menu could use a little fine-tuning. Beer and wine. ($$) Italian

Polo Lounge Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd. (310-276-2251). B-L-D daily; brunch Sun. This was a power-breakfast spot before there was such a thing. Tried-and-true favorites, including the McCarthy salad, are as good as ever. There are even a few updates, like the appetizer of shrimp and scallops stir-fried with sweet chile sauce and shredded green papaya. Full bar. ($$$) California/Asian

Reign 180 N. Robertson Blvd. (310-273-4463). D nightly. Regulars know to put in two orders of the smothered pork chops (one to take home) and that there’s always room for fried green tomatoes, peach cobbler, and a banana cream pie that’s decadence in a dish. Full bar. ($$$) Contemporary Southern & Soul

Spago Beverly Hills 176 N. Canon Dr. (310-385-0880). L Mon.-Sat.; D nightly. You’ve read the books, seen the TV show–now sit at the table. Who doesn’t know about Wolfgang Puck’s California cuisine? What could be ordinary–crawfish salad, filet mignon tartare, yellow-tail, veal chop, lobster with asparagus puree–becomes, in the hands of chef Lee Hefter, quite extraordinary Sherry Yard’s desserts are equally divine. Full bar. ($$$) California


El Dorado Cantina 11777 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood (310-207-0150). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly; brunch Sun. Even in L.A. a velvet-rope Mexican restaurant is unusual. But so it is at this handsome spot where the scene is at the bar, but the food’s tasty, too. Alongside standard enchilada and taco fare are a silky corn soup, melt-in-your-mouth carne asada, and spicy pollo mole. Desserts are full of surprises: warm chocolate-chile truffle cake, orange flan, and an apple empanada. Full bar. ($$$) Mexican

Four Oaks 2181 N. Beverly Glen Blvd., Bel-Air (310-470-3623). L Tue.-Sat.; D Tue.-Sun.; brunch Sun. This secluded garden restaurant smacks of the fine eateries of Provence, where the tables wobble, the service can be bemused, but the chef is always on the money Full bar. ($$$) French/American

Gyu-kaku 10925 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A. (310-234-8641). D nightly. Walk in, the staff shouts a welcome, and you’re hustled to a table (or the bar) with its very own stainless steel charcoal grill Pop some edamame while you get the rundown on yakiniki dining and your waiter delivers small plates of marinated raw scallops, beef, and shrimp. Once you get the tongs you’re officially the chef. It’s a good time–but pay attention to your asparagus. Fast cooker. For dessert, a rare Asian delicacy: s’mores. Indulge your inner Girl Scout. Beer and wine. ($$) Japanese-style Korean barbecue

HamaSaku 11043 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A. (310-479-7636). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. It’s easy to order a medley of starters and call it a meal at this minimall spot–spicy tuna ravioli (sublime), tuna tartare in a martini glass, and tuna sushi all come on a single plate. The mixed tempura is flawless, and the salmon sashimi roll is wrapped in cucumber with caviar. Entrees include rack of lamb, chicken teriyaki, assorted sushi and sashimi dinners, and an outstanding omakase. Beer and wine. ($$$) Japanese

Il Grano 11359 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A. (310-477-7886). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. Chef Sal Marino presents Neapolitan specialties and is deft with pasta and gnocchi (with baby clams and arugula). Finish with the flaming Vesuvius, a mound of rich chocolate mousse torched with Bacardi. Full bar. ($$) Italian

La Cachette 10506 Little Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A. (310-470-4992). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Master French chef Jean Francois Meteigner serves his exquisite food in a beautiful dining room presided over by his wife, Allie Ko. From Petrossian caviar to foie gras terrine, from Marseilles bouillabaisse to sweetbreads with black chanterelle-morel sauce, from venison medallions to braised lamb shank with golden raisins, it’s all extraordinary. Full bar. ($$$) French

La Serenata Gourmet 10924 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A. (310-441-9667). B Sat.-Sun.; L-D daily. A revelation, with hand-patted tortillas, fresh chips dusted with grated anejo cheese, and guava and watermelon juices. The menu’s loaded with interesting seafood items, not to mention a wonderful garlicked beef tongue in tomatillo sauce. Beer and wine. ($$) Mexican

Restaurant at the Getty Center 1200 Getty Center Dr., West L.A. (310-440-6810). L Tue.-Sat.; D Fri.-Sat.; brunch Sun. You’ll spot Getty architect Richard Meier and art-world bigwigs in this reservations-only dining room in the sky. Everything from the classic California cuisine to the wraparound vistas–stunning at sundown–is perfect at this lovely museum restaurant. Full bar. ($$$) California

Sushi Sasabune 11300 Nebraska Ave., West L.A. (310-268-8380). L-D Mon.-Fri. Spanish mackerel, Japanese octopus, toro, and other swimmers are so fresh they practically snap at you. Diners seated at the bar must observe a strict chef’s-choice menu: You eat what Nobi wants, how he wants. Trust him. Beer and wine. ($$$) Japanese

Tanino 1043 Westwood Blvd., Westwood (310-208-0444). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. The food at this Drago brother’s upstairs/downstairs spot is superb. Starters include calamari stew, carpaccio, and artichoke salad with pecorino. And it’s hard to go wrong with the main courses: pumpkin and sage lasagna, risotto with shrimp and truffles, grilled ahi, T-bone with baby bok choy Velvety pannacotta with a berry compote is the ultimate kicker. Full bar. ($$$) Italian

Tengu 10845 Lindbrook Dr., Westwood (310-209-0071). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. This Japanese joint rivals EURO-CHOW in Westwood’s places-to-be-seen stakes. A three-sided bar is ever hopping, and the adjacent restaurant-cum-sushi bar is always packed. The sushi is fresh and prettily presented, and the tempura is delightful. The coconut ice cream (billed as sorbet) is served in a coconut husk and hits the spot. Full bar. ($$$) Japanese

Toscana 11633 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood (310-820-2448). L Mon.-Sat.; D nightly. There’s no place to stand in this popular trattoria while you wait in one of the loudest rooms around. Why is it so packed? Because the food is solid Italian, served in large portions–so much like the real thing that the pizza crunches when you bite into it and the waiters yell in Italian. Beer and wine. ($$$) Italian

Zax 11604 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood (310-571-3800). L Tue.-Fri.; D Tue.-Sun. Appetizers in this small and well-regarded restaurant include a tasty salad of grilled endive with burrata, apricots, and walnuts, and entrees like halibut with escarole and a grapefruit emulsion are outstanding. Ditto the braised short ribs with Israeli couscous. A mint ice cream sandwich is the standout dessert. Beer and wine. ($$$) Contemporary California


Ballona Fish Market 13455 Maxella Ave. (310-822-8979). D nightly. Hans and Patti Rockenwagner’s New England–style fish house offers a neatly tweaked compilation of classics: crab cakes with lemongrass mayo, Caesar salad with crisp fried oysters, opah with mission fig compote, and for carnivores, steaks or pretzel burgers. Perfect for a civilized bite before or after a movie in the Villa Marina Marketplace. Full bar. ($$$) Seafood

Buggy Whip 7420 La Tijera Blvd., Westchester (310-645-7131). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Red leather booths, mature waiters, and a piano player crooning “My Way” make this unabashed throwback so retro it’s now. The no-fuss cuisine is served in Elizabethan portions: steak, lobster, pork chops with applesauce, and a roast beef platter that would make Lecter go weak. Get your iceberg wedge with a dollop of green goddess. Wave to the piano man–and the photos of Liberace–as you leave. Full bar. ($$$) Continental

Cafe del Rey 4451 Admiralty Way (310-823-6395). L-D daily; brunch Sun. Well-heeled Marina types come here for everything from black bean soup to pizza to sushi to Thai shellfish sausage. While the entrees seem overzealous–grilled pesto salmon with a lobster-mousse timbale, seared cauliflower, caramelized carrots, and citrus-fennel sauce–they’re all task, as is the Grand Marnier chocolate souffle. Full bar. ($$$) Fusion


Axe 1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice (310-664-9787). L Tue.-Fri.; D Tue.-Sun.; brunch Sat.-Sun. The atmosphere is minimalist, but the food is hearty and delicious. After an appetizer of grilled flatbread served with a trio of spreads–hummus, eggplant, and caramelized onions–tuck into miso-marinated poached halibut or duck leg confit with plum-orange-cilantro sauce. Dessert? Chocolate brownie pudding or peach cobbler. Beer and wine. ($$$) Eclectic

Chaya Venice 110 Navy St., Venice (310-396-1179). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Talk about a jumpin’ joint. Happy hour’s a mob of the sleek and chic at this Asian moderne happening, and the food is always top-notch. Everything, from carpaccio, sashimi, sushi, and seaweed salad to the pastas and the vegetarian plate, is superbly prepared. Full bar. ($$$) French/Asian

Five Dudley 5 Dudley Ave., Venice (310-399-6678). D Tue.-Sun. The menu is an oral tradition at this tiny place next to the beach, and the food is fab: vanilla-bean asparagus soup, a great Caesar (eaten without utensils), a giant lamb shank on a bed of saffron risotto, and the best monkfish in town, cooked in a cylinder of crisped potato on a pillow of sunchoke mousse. Homey desserts. Beer and wine. ($$$) Cal-French

Hal’s Bar & Grill 1349 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice (310-396-3105). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly;, brunch Sat.-Sun. The main hang for Venice’s artsy crowd, this room is home to one of the city’s supreme Caesar salads as well as fine grilled dishes–including an outstanding vegetable plate–served in a space that would work just as well in SoHo, except the attitude level is turned way down. Full bar. ($$) California

James Beach 60 N. Venice Blvd., Venice (310-823-5396). L Wed.-Fri.; D nightly; brunch Sat.-Sun. The menu at James Evans’s restaurant–which has a strong and loyal local following–couples fresh takes on American classics such as chicken potpie and Maine lobster with the likes of panfried sand dabs and grilled portabella. Don’t skip the chocolate souffle. Full bar. ($$) American

Joe’s Restaurant 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice (310-399-5811). L Tue.-Fri.; D Tue.-Sun; brunch Sat.-Sun. Joe Miller’s subtly stylish restaurant is a Venice landmark that serves upscale creative food at moderate prices and was an early pioneer on what’s now Restaurant Row. Entrees include beef risotto with grilled asparagus and crispy chicken with a spring vegetable ragout. Full bar. ($$) Cal-French

Lilly’s 1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice (310-314-0004). L-D daily; brunch Sun. Here’s a delightful cafe with outstanding food. Check out the goat cheese and leek tart, wild mushrooms and asparagus tucked in puff pastry, or the crispy salad of fennel, cucumber, and celery with olives and goat cheese. The fish bourride and the thick sirloin steak with green beans and potato gratin are top entrees. Dive into the floating island for dessert. Beer and wine. ($$$) French

Primitivo Wine Bistro 1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice (310-396-5353). D Mon.-Sat. Tapas rule! Outstanding fried calamari, decadent cheese plates, and all manner of Spanish meats both cooked and deli style are a small sampling of the menu here, where standard entrees are also a possibility. An extraordinary selection of wines by the glass, a minimal-chic room with cement floors, and a cool but non-snooty vibe have made this an instant favorite on Restaurant Row. Beer and wine. ($$-$$$) Mediterranean

Table 796 Main St., Venice (310-392-2611). L Mon.-Fri.; D Tue.-Sun.; brunch Sat.-Sun. Van Gogh’s Ear has given way to a neighborhood find with highbrow cooking in a relaxed setting. David Wolfe, ex of 2424 Pico and the Beach House, is letting rip with a menu determined by the fish and farmers’ markets. It could be sauteed barracuda, Manila clams in tamarind broth, coconut chicken curry or pompano on a bed of dried fruit and couscous. Giant salads, scrumptious weekend brunch. BYOB. ($$) California

Wabi Sabi 1635 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice (310-396-8857). D nightly. Venice finally has a good sushi bar–superior fish beautifully presented–and a real neighborhood restaurant. An extensive sushi menu is complemented by a few salads (pear and candied walnut), appetizers (popcorn-crusted chicken wings), and entrees (bouillabaisse ladled over a chewy rice cake, tender beef fillet with pumpkin puree). Asian-spiced desserts. Full bar. ($$) Japanese


The Beach House 100 W. Channel Rd. (310-454-8299). D Tue.-Sun. This romantic, candlelit spot serves good food in warm, elegant surroundings–often to a collection of Industry heavyweights. The bar scene in back, once scarily crowded and trendy, has calmed down considerably, which makes the cozy annex great for a drink. Full bar. ($$$) American

Border Grill 1445 4th St. (310-451-1655). L Tue.-Sun.; D nightly. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s hip cantina serves creations like rock shrimp ceviche in serrano-lime marinade and plantain empanadas stuffed with black beans, poblanos, and cheese, then topped with chipotle salsa and Mexican crema. Key lime pie for dessert. Full bar. ($$) Mexican/Latin American

Capo 1810 Ocean Ave. (310-394-5550). D Tue.-Sat. This tiny romantic room sits smack on the ocean (no views, though) next to the Santa Monica Pier. The menu is short and simple–filet mignon, rack of lamb, lobster risotto et al.–and the ingredients are exquisite. Finish with candied bread pudding. Full bar. ($$$$) Italian

Chez Jay 1657 Ocean Ave. (310-395-1741). L-D daily;, brunch Sun. Across the street from the Santa Monica Pier, Chez Jay may be the perfect L.A. restaurant: sawdust on the floor, Dino on the jukebox, and beachcombers and movie directors elbow-to-elbow at the bar. The food–steamed clams, swordfish, steak–is really just another good excuse for one more round. Full bar. ($$) American

Chez Mimi 246 26th St. (310-393-0558). L Tue.-Sat.; D Tue.-Sun. The setting–two stone cottages linked with a patio–is as French as the food. Hors d’oeuvres include escargots, smoked salmon, and puff pastry with chevre. Entrees are indulgent: bouillabaisse with lobster and shrimp, veal chops with truffle-vinegar sauce, calf’s liver sauteed in lemon sauce. Tarte Tatin with homemade ice cream for dessert. Full bar. ($$$) French

Chinois on Main 2709 Main St. (310-392-9025). L Wed.-Fri.; D nightly. The salads and the sashimi appetizer are exquisite and light, but the entrees tend to be heavy. That doesn’t mean they aren’t tasty: Cantonese duck, barbecued salmon with black and gold pasta, and bottarga are some of the stars. For dessert indulge in the creme brulee trio. Full bar. ($$$) French/Chinese

Father’s Office 1018 Montana Ave. (310-393-BEER). D nightly. This is a bar, emphasis on beer, and entrance age is 21. Chef-owner Sang Yoon, ex of Michael’s, makes primo tapas that are well worth the trip: imported jamon serrano, spicy olives, and house-cured white anchovies. He’s also got one of L.A.’s best burgers, made with Gruyere and Maytag blue and served on a perfectly toasted bun stuffed with arugula. No table service; order at the bar. Beer and wine. ($) Tapas

Ivy at the Shorn 1541 Ocean Ave. (310-393-3113). L-D daily. The Ivy’s ocean-adjacent outpost sports a tropical-beach-shack decor and patio, and as on Robertson, the food is excellent and the celeb sightings frequent. Why mess with perfection? Full bar. ($$$) American

JiRaffe 502 Santa Monica Blvd. (310-917-6671). L Tue.-Fri.; D nightly. The food is elegant, with lots of fresh vegetables and dishes accented with intense flavors. Imagine purple Peruvian potato gnocchi with rock shrimp, roast rabbit with polenta, or a caramelized pork chop with cider sauce. Warm chocolate truffle cake for dessert. Full bar. ($$) French Rustic

Josie 2424 Pico Blvd. (310-581-9888). D Mon.-Sat. Chef Josie LeBalch indulges her flair for Italian, French, and game, which means creations like seared baby cuttlefish on a bed of warm sausage-studded lentils, fennel and persimmon salad, rack of lamb with a marmalade onion–potato tart, fish tagine with preserved lemon, or Texas wild boar. Crumble or lemon zabaglione for dessert. Full bar. ($$$) Progressive American

La Serenata 1416 4th St. (310-656-7017). L-D daily. This installment of one of L.A.’s primo Mexican franchises is more upscale than the others. Better yet, reservations and margaritas are available. The food is as sabroso as ever: fresh seafood, beef, and chicken in a variety of exquisite sauces and classics (enchiladas, burritos, and tacos) that are out of this world. So is the flan. Full bar. ($$) Mexican

Melisse 1104 Wilshire Blvd. (310-395-0881). L Thu.-Fri.; D nightly. The tariff is steep at this foodie mecca, but the cuisine–Mandarin tomato soup with goat cheese-sweet garlic flan, mille-feuille of ahi tartare with fennel sauce and tapenade, wild king salmon with lima bean puree–is exquisite. Cheese plates are a big deal here, as is the ever-changing chef’s menu. Full bar. ($$$$) French/American

Michael’s 1147 3rd St. (310-451-0843). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. The garden here is still the most romantic in town. Sauteed spot prawns are served with carrot pesto and jalapeno oil, and rosemary-chicken liver mousse comes with crostini. As for the main courses, whether it’s a seared, rare salmon with pea puree or a classic dry-aged steak with pommes frites, it’s all good. The staff are particularly well versed in the wine list, so feel free to go with their flow. Full bar. ($$$) California

Patrick’s Roadhouse 106 Entrada Dr. at Pacific Coast Hwy (310-459-4544). B-L daily. You’ll find Arnold, Tom, Mike, and Jeff–along with an army of followers–at this rambunctious cafe that serves breakfasts bigger than most stomachs. No alcohol No credit cards. ($) American

Rebecca’s 101 Broadway (310-260-1100). L-D daily. This venerable Venice standby features Mexican standards–tamales, tacos, enchiladas et al.–but the cocktail selection shows a little more flair: almond margaritas, macho martinis (with jalapenos), and a concoction called Latin Lover, which we surmise includes a shot of stamina. Full bar. ($$) Mexican/Seafood

Rockenwagner 2435 Main St. (310-399-6504). D nightly; brunch Sat.-Sun. Hans Rockenwagner serves up the dishes that made a name for him: crab souffle, lamb, tiered salmon, and breakfasts of bread and cheese, a pleasure unduplicated anywhere else in town. Full bar. ($$$) Euro-California

Sam’s 108 W. Channel Rd. (310-230-9100). D Tue.-Sat.; brunch Sun. Owner Samer Elias is showcasing the Mediterranean here: Sea urchin on arugula, bluefin tuna tartare, red pepper soup, and grilled escolar served with citrus fruits are all outstanding. The milk custard in a phyllo bird’s nest with rose water syrup is an exotic kicker. Beer and wine. ($$$) Cal-Mediterranean

17th St. Cafe 1610 Montana Ave. (310-453-2771). B-L-D daily. The neighborhood place for those in the know, this cafe does everything right, including serving salads in both whole and half orders (the alderwood-smoked salmon is awesome) along with Asian, European, and Mexican specialties. Local screenwriters and producers love it for its lack of schmooze. Beer and wine. ($$) California

Union 1413 5th St. (310-656-9688). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. There’s bossa nova playing in the bar/lounge upstairs, a pounded-copper communal table on the dreamy patio outside, and artsy waterfalls in the main dining room downstairs. The food is pure Americana: grilled T-bone with potato puree, sauteed duck breast with braised brussels sprouts, and baked spiced shrimp gratin. Don’t head upstairs until you try the cheese plate. Full bar. ($$$) American

Whist Viceroy Hotel, 1819 Ocean Ave. (310-451-8711). B-L-D daily. Chefs Tim and Liza Goodell, known for their classy O.C. restaurants and fine food, have taken a brave step at the Viceroy. If you can get past both the bouncer and the gaggle of swinging singles at the bar, you’ll find yourself in a fine dining room serving incongruously assured and delicious food: foie gras, steak tartare, honey-coriander duck breast, smoked salmon with madras curry. The wine list is further testament to a sophisticated palate. Full bar. ($$$$) California Eclectic

World Cafe 2820 Main St. (310-392-1661). L Tue.-Fri.; D nightly; brunch Sat.-Sun. Graying yuppies, Gap-styled kids, name-tagged parties, and surfers with dreads and full-body art keep the scene at this local favorite as eclectic as the menu: Harlem drum rolls with collard greens; wood-fired pizzas with pesto, shrimp, goat cheese, and pine nuts; and daily steak specials. For dessert, chocolate-chip banana-bread pudding. Everyone is in the candlelit lounge or dining alfresco (and lighting up) on the tropical, twinkly-lighted patio. Full bar. ($$$) Creative California


Allegria 22821 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu (310-456-3132). L-D daily. Antonio Tommasi’s festive cooking includes thin-crust pizza rustica with Gorgonzola and salty speck, spinach tortelloni in an asparagus sauce, rack of lamb, and fish del giorno. Beer and wine. ($$) Italian

Geoffrey’s 27400 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu (310-457-1519). L-D daily; brunch Sat.-Sun. Lots of folks come here for the romance only a cliff-top restaurant with a great view of the Pacific can provide. But the food–fine California cuisine–is well worth the trip. Start off with ahi tartare or a little baked Brie in puff pastry before heading into the likes of New Zealand rack of lamb stuffed with feta and steamed Maine lobster. Then walk it off on the beach. Full bar. ($$$) California

Granita 23725 W. Malibu Rd., Malibu (310-456-0488). D Tue.-Sun.; brunch Sat.-Sun. After tasting Jennifer Naylor’s cooking–almond-blackberry pancakes with lemon curd for brunch, morel mushroom lasagna with purple asparagus or ahi with a spicy miso glaze, soba noodles, and sesame crisps for dinner–at Wolfgang Puck’s Malibu outpost, even the saddest souls will want to skip their Prozac. The sorbets and granitas burst with flavor. Full bar. ($$$) Cal-Mediterranean

The Gray Whale 6800 Westward Beach Rd., Malibu (310-457-5521). D nightly. It’s that little white house at the end of Zuma Beach with lots of windows for whale watching (migration runs November through February). This is a neighborhood spot with a wedding downstairs every other weekend. Much of the menu–Caesar salads, duck a l’orange, and steak Diane–is prepared tableside. Give the macadamia nut-crusted halibut in raspberry sauce a try. Full bar. ($$$) Continental

Inn of the Seventh Ray 128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd., Topanga (310-455-1311). L Mon.-Sat.; D nightly; brunch Sun. Sit by a crackling fire and dine on succulent roast duckling with papaya-mango puree, a standout rack of lamb, or the Vegan Love Fest–many, many vegetables. Desserts are ever changing but may include an unforgettable pecan-cranberry pie. Beer and wine. ($$$) California-Country

New Moonshadows 20356 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu (310-456-3010). L-D daily. Don’t let the hokey name (sorry, Cat) scare you off. This formerly pink-and-purple-flagged institution has a brand-new bag–and it’s blue: dark blue sea-glass floor, cushy blue patio chairs for outside lounging, and blue candles on the tables. The outdoor extension of the Blue Lounge, smack on top of the waves, is a great spot to pop fried calamari and sup on puree of corn soup or seared snapper in a shallot-caper sauce. The dark chocolate pot de creme alone will bring you back. Goodlooking bar crowd with cocktails for two–get the Blue Lava Flow and call it a copacetic night. Full bar. ($$$) American

Nobu Malibu Country Mart, 3835 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu (310-317-9140). L Sat.-Sun.; D nightly. At Nobu Matsuhisa’s cozy coastal hot spot, ceviche is a spicy melange of shrimp and fish marinated in lemon juice and rice vinegar; the tiradito plate is a flower-shaped arrangement of whitefish; and the sushi and sashimi are standard-bearers. For dessert, try the bento box with green tea ice cream and chocolate souffle or broiled plums with a meringue puff, ginger ice cream, and a cookie. Full bar. ($$$) Japanese

Saddle Peak Lodge 419 Cold Canyon Rd., Calabasas (818-222-3888). D Wed.-Sun.; brunch Sun. Deer and moose heads give the three-story landmark a clubby feel, and the food is wild–literally: rack of venison, roast pheasant breast in herbs, and a game tasting plate of buffalo, crispy-skin duck, and elk. Everything is elegant, meticulously seasoned, and expertly cooked. The banana-and-walnut bread pudding is served with–what else?–Wild Turkey caramel sauce. Full bar. ($$$) American


Aromi 14531 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (818-905-5542). B-L-D daily. With a few tables inside, a few outside, and a lot of hospitality behind the counter, this Italian cafe hosts a steady stream of cappuccino sippers. Its panini are made with fresh-baked bread and filled with feta, olive, and tomato or maybe pancetta, turkey, and provolone. Salads are classic, and the gelato, made daily, is a legal means to euphoria. No alcohol ($) Italian

Art’s Deli 12224 Ventura Blvd., Studio City (818-762-2221). B-L-D daily. The neighborhood deli for those who don’t like Jerry’s, a land of ess and fress presided over by the thinned-down Art Ginsburg, a man who knows his corned beef and pastrami. Beer and wine. ($) Deli

Bamboo Inn 14010 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (818-788-0202). L-D daily. Arguably the best Chinese restaurant in the San Fernando Valley, this modernistic eatery is always packed with those who want the flavors of Chinatown and Monterey Park without the drive. Full bar. ($) Mandarin/Szechuan

Barsac Brasserie 4212 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood (818-760-7081). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. The high-energy crowd of Universal execs, locals, and pre-concertgoers makes for great people watching in this airy, comfy space. But come for the food from the open kitchen: lamb shanks and chops, grilled beef and fish, salads, pasta, and homemade desserts. Full bar. ($$) Continental

Bistro Garden at Coldwater 12950 Ventura Blvd., Studio City (818-501-0202). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. The prettiest room in the Valley is light and airy if a bit noisy. Menu highlights include poached salmon with champagne-caviar sauce and an elk chop with red cabbage, spaetzle, and chestnut-ginger sauce. Full bar. ($$$) Continental

Ca’ del Sole 4100 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood (818-985-4669). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly; brunch Sun. This modern trattoria–created by the team from Locanda Veneta, Ca’Brea, and Il Moro–caused a sensation among Universal execs tired of driving to Hollywood to eat. Pasta intensive; lots of great fish. Full bar. ($$) Northern Italian

Cafe Bizou 14016 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (818-788-3536). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly; brunch Sat.-Sun. There are two prominent features here: a lively French menu and remarkably low prices. The setting is casual, reservations hard to land. Helping things along is a bring-your-own-wine, $2-per-bottle corkage policy. Full bar. ($) French/Continental

Cha Cha Cha Encino 17499 Ventura Blvd., Encino (818-789-3600). L-D daily; brunch Sat.-Sun. This trendy hotbed of Caribbean cuisine is filled with music from the islands and offers spicy preparations from Jamaica, Cuba, and Trinidad. Full bar. ($$) Caribbean

New Darband 19337 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana (818-654-9918). L-D daily. Waiters talk neophytes out of over-ambitious choices at this packed spot. “First time trying Persian? Start with kabob.” Okay, then: The joojeh kabob (broiled Cornish hen with vegetables and tomato) is enough to make you a regular. Graduate to zereshk polow (baked chicken with sour barberries and saffron) or the gheimeh bademjan (eggplant stew with beef-and-saffron tomato sauce). Dessert? Persian vanilla ice cream flavored with rose water and saffron. Beer and wine. ($$) Persian

Delmonico’s Lobster House 16358 Ventura Blvd., Encino (818-986-0777). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Lobster tail, lobster ravioli, broiled lobster, steamed lobster–anything but ikezukuri-style (still-kicking) lobster. While undecided diners can opt for the pricey shellfish platter, the real winner here is the swordfish, lightly grilled and so tender it’s practically pastry. The banana cream pie rocks, too, but skip the painfully straight-backed side booths in favor of a regular table. Full bar. ($$$) Seafood

La Petit Bistro 13360 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (818-501-7999). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. The atmosphere is convivial yet intimate, the food excellent. The authentic bistro fare includes black mussels marinara, frog legs, veal sausage, baby lamb chops, and profiteroles. Also at 631 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood (310-289-9797). Beer and wine. ($$) French

Marrakesh 13003 Ventura Blvd., Studio City (818-788-6354). D nightly. A great spot for letting go in a fantasy of plush cushions, huge orders of chicken bistilla, and mint tea poured from a great height–at some of the best prices in town. The bill goes up if you indulge the belly dancer. Full bar. ($$) Moroccan

Max 13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (818-784-2915). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Linq ex-chef Andre Guerrero is making an Asian menu with highlights that include coconut-lemongrass soup, an ahi tower layered with seaweed, wok-sauteed filet mignon on potato-mushroom hash, and Indian coriander-crusted cod with lemon-cashew basmati rice. The flourless chocolate cake is simultaneously dense and light. Beer and wine. ($$$) Cal-Asian

Pinot Bistro 12969 Ventura Blvd., Studio City (818-990-0500). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. After the success of Patina, Joachim Splichal followed up with a restaurant serving classic bistro fare: potato and artichoke terrine with Nicois olives, French onion soup with Gruyere, seared skate wing with wilted frisee, iamb pot-au-feu, and sweetbread lasagna. Full bar. ($$$) Cal-French

Posto 14928 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (818-784-4400). D Mon.-Sat. Playful Italian fare is the specialty here. Starters like flaky salmon crepes and serene potato-and-squash soup set up the entrees for a potentially dangerous anticlimax, so skip the tagliatelle and try the juicy grilled chicken breast with sausage. Then it’s time for chocolate ravioli. Full bar. ($$$) Italian

Tournesol 13251 Ventura Blvd., Studio City (818-986-3190). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. This cheery yellow bistro, named for the sunflower, runs a solid Gallic gamut with escargots, duck a l’orange, and filet mignon. Waiters dole out palate-cleansing spoonfuls of sorbet between courses, and desserts include a house specialty of chocolate mousse surrounded by a fan of wafers and shaped like–what else–a sunflower. Full bar. ($$$) French


Bistro 45 45 S. Mentor Ave., Pasadena (626-795-2478). L Tue.-Fri.; D Tue.-Sun. Squirreled away on a side street, this art deco bistro is one of the Rose City’s best-kept secrets–a romantic space with one of the finest wine lists in town and monthly dinners with wine makers. Full bar. ($$$) Cal-French

Camilo’s California Bistro 2128 Colorado Blvd. Eagle Rock (323-478-2644). B-L daily; D Tue.-Sat. If you’re looking for supreme chilaquiles, this is a destination resort–crispy-fried julienned tortillas bright with spice, topped with eggs, avocado, and salsa. And we wager you won’t find a better tiramisu in town. In between are salads and griddle sandwiches at lunch and a fine dining menu at night: sweetbreads, calamari, filet mignon with Stilton, and roast pork chops with apples and onions. BYOB. ($$) California

Firefly Bistro 1009 El Centro Ave., South Pasadena (626-441-2443). L Tue.-Fri.; D Tue.-Sun.; brunch Sun. The tented garden patio, pom-pom topiaries, wall-to-wall twinkle lights, and sheer celadon drapes make for an atmosphere that’s part Arabian Nights, part Zen wellness spa. The entrees–pecan-coated catfish, sauteed duck breast, and mint-sprinkled lamb skewers–are full of flavor, though the appetizers can be hit-or-miss. Molten chocolate cake, however, served with caramelized bananas and homemade vanilla bean ice cream, is lick-the-plate good. Beer and wine. ($$) American Eclectic

Madre’s 897 Granite Dr., Pasadena (626-744-0900). L-D daily. Play the CDs, see the movies, wear the lingerie, and now, eat the food. J.Lo has opened a Cuban restaurant where Pinot at the Chronicle was housed. Shabby Chic’s Rachel Ashwell did the feminine interiors, which are grounded by dark wood floors and overseen by mismatched chandeliers. The menu is hearty–pork, chicken, and beef; fried bananas; rice and beans–and secondary to the filled-to-capacity scene: ladies who lunch by day, hipsters and hangers-on by night. Full bar. ($$$) Cuban

Maison Akira 713 E. Green St., Pasadena (626-796-9501). L Tue.-Fri.; D Tue.-Sun.; brunch Sun. The best of Paris and Tokyo are melded on this menu. Seared foie gras with a port wine-truffle sauce on a bed of assorted mushrooms is a sublime precursor to the grilled sea bass in lemon-honey dressing with small rounds of zucchini. The mixed berry feuilletee could be the work of a five-star patisserie. Beer and wine. ($$$) French-Japanese

Parkway Grill 510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena (626-795-1001). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. After 18 years, this is still the jewel in the Smith brothers’ crown (Smitty’s Grill, Crocodile Cafe, Arroyo Chop House). The room’s sophisticated, the servers seem delighted to serve, and the food’s creative without being wacky. After the mandatory hot cheese-pear-walnut flat bread, head for roasted beet salad, black linguini with shrimp, mesquite-grilled filet mignon, or anything else you see. There’s nothing not to like. Great wine list. Full bar. ($$$) American

The Raymond 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena (626-441-3136). L Tue.-Fri.; D Tue.-Sun.; brunch Sat.-Sun. One of our most romantic spots is housed in an understated restored bungalow with fireplaces and gardens. For starters try the figs, fresh from the restaurant’s tree, wrapped in pancetta. Entrees include succulent rack of lamb with Grand Marnier sauce. Full bar. ($$$) American

Restaurant Halie 1030 E. Green St., Pasadena (626-440-7067). D Tue.-Sun. Chinese-red walls, giant gilt-framed mirrors, and candlelight give this bar, lounge, and restaurant that lovin’ feeling. It’s set in the historic Cheesewright building, where Einstein worked in the ’40s. Service is elegant, and the food follows suit: tuna tartare with wasabi caviar, paper-thin gravlax with pepper brioche, porcini-dusted halibut, and dry-aged rib eye. Good wine list, too. Full bar. ($$$) California

Saladang Song 383 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena (626-793-5200). B-L-D daily. Tired of the same ol’, same ol’ breakfast? Try pearly rice soup with ginger and chicken, or shimmering tofu in a warm sweet-and-tangy syrup, and have it under an umbrella on the terrace of this popular Thai-tech outpost. For lunch or dinner, grilled calamari, fish cakes steamed in a banana leaf, or one of a huge assortment of noodle soups might do the trick. Beer and wine. ($$) Thai

Smitty’s Grill 110 S. Lake St., Pasadena (626-792-9999). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. The short-lived Ducz got a remodel by the Parkway Grill and Crocodile Cafe folks. The room’s the same–but busier-and the menu is now reminiscent of a pub-steak house cross. Look for meat loaf, potpies, mac and cheese, prime rib, and shrimp Louie. Oh–or barbecued rattlesnake. Full bar. ($$$) American

Yujean Kang’s 67 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena (626-585-0855). L-D daily. A Chinese restaurant like no other: One soup is topped with meringue in which a small village scene is drawn, prawns are stir-fried with fava beans, and polenta is cooked Chinese style. Kang even makes a mean cheesecake. Also at 8826 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood (310-288-0806). Beer and wine. ($$) Chinese


Chez Melange 1716 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach (310-540-1222). B-L-D daily; brunch Sat.-Sun. This eclectic cafe offers some of the area’s best cooking–from Japanese to Cajun, Italian to Chinese, with stops at a vodka-and-caviar bar. It’s been called the “Spago of Redondo Beach”–at about half the price. Full bar. ($$) California-Eclectic

Christy’s 3937 E. Broadway Ave., Long Beach (562-433-7133). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Christy (daughter of Sonny) Bono’s gem in Belmont Heights offers delicious eats: an impossibly tender osso buco, a striped bass served with orange-ginger vinaigrette bursting with flavor. For the finale, order the cappuccino creme brulee or the chocolate bread pudding. Full bar. ($$$) Italian

Depot 1250 Cabrillo Ave., Torrance (310-787-7501). L Mon.-Fri.; D Mon.-Sat. Located in a restored train station, this eclectic spin-off of Chez Melange is where imposing, avuncular Michael Shafer’s restless palate reveals itself in a constantly evolving menu. Full bar and extensive wine list. ($$) California

Legacy 1701 S. Catalina Ave., Redondo Beach (310-375-8006). L Wed.-Sun.; D Tue.-Sat. Here’s a swank spot with a European feel and great food: baked asparagus in a pastry shell; Vietnamese rolls with chopped shrimp, papaya, and avocado; seared Muscovy duck with sugar peas and polenta; angel-hair pasta with pesto-encrusted scallops, and rack of lamb with lentils. Finish with the chocolate flourless cake. Full bar. ($$) French/ Mediterranean

Restaurant Christine 24530 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance (310-373-1952). L Mon.-Fri.; D nightly. Stepping into this stylish restaurant owned by chef Christine Brown and husband Jordan Funk is like entering a friend’s home. The Pac Rim-accented food–sesame-crusted salmon with Chinese long beans on sticky rice, lobster ravioli, warm mushroom salad with Gorgonzola–is as elegant as the service. Beautiful desserts. Beer and wine. ($$$) Mediterranean/Pacific Rim

Zazou 1810 S. Catalina Ave., Redondo Beach (310-540-4884). L Tue.-Sat.; D nightly. The name means “stylishly hip” in French, and this bright spot–with cuisine from Tuscany and Provence, Morocco and Southern California–lives up to its moniker. The roasted vegetables with spicy couscous, the carrot gnocchi, and the fish dishes are hard to beat. The chocolate brioche is richer than Prince Rainier. Full bar. ($$) French/ Mediterranean

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