In the hands of an inspired chef, the humble black shellfish--moules, cozze, mussels--is transformed into a world-class delicacy.

* Restaurant Devon: For the best mussels in Monrovia, look to chef Pedro Simental, who offers a large bowlful of black mussels steamed and served in garlic butter. (Mussels, $10.) Restaurant Devon, 109 E. Lemon Ave., Monrovia, (818) 305-0013.

* Mistral: At this atmospheric San Fernando Valley bistro, mussels are cooked a la mariniere, with white wine, garlic, shallots and herbs, or a la poulete, with cream. (Mussels, appetizer, $7; entree, with French fries, $13.50.) Mistral, 13422 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 981-6650.

* L.A. Trattoria/Antica Pizzeria: In addition to making some of the best Neapolitan pizza in town, chef Peppe Miele cooks mussels the way you would find them in the trattorias and pizzerias of Naples, Italy. Impepata di cozze are tasty black mussels stewed in their own liquor, with lots of cracked black pepper and lemon. (Mussels, $5.75.) L.A. Trattoria/Antica Pizzeria, 8022 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (213) 658-7607; 13455 Maxell Ave., Marina del Rey, (310) 577-8182.

* Mimosa: For his elegantly simple bistro menu, Jean Pierre Bosc prepares steamed mussels “en mouclade"--black mussels sauced with white wine, curry and a clever, revelatory drop of coconut milk. (Mussels, $8.25.) Mimosa, 8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 655-8895.


* Pastis: A big seller at this small neighborhood French bistro, moules pouletes, prepared by chef Laurent Katgely, are black mussels steamed in white wine garlic, parsley, shallots and olive oil, then finished with a whisper of cream. (Mussels, $8.50.) Pastis, 8114 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 655-8822.

* Woodside: The new chef at this Brentwood restaurant, Dean James Max, serves steamed black mussels in a ginger-spiked lemon grass broth. (Mussels, $8.) Woodside, 11604 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 571-3800.

* Vincenti: Wonderful chef Gino Angelini spreads garlic-rubbed crostini with a puree of cannellini beans and tops them with crispy fried mussels--a taste and textural sensation! (Crispy mussels, $9.) Vincenti Ristorante, 11930 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood, (310) 207-0127.

* Moustache Cafe: At these reliable, old-standby bistros, you can get an impressive bowl of mussels steamed with garlic, shallots, white wine, olive oil and cream. (Mussels, $14.50.) Moustache Cafe, 8511 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 651-2111; 1071 Glendon Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-6633.