The Edible Alphabet

In Italian, affogato means "drowned." Nothing short of a drenching in Italy's Trevi Fountain cools you down the way vanilla gelato with a cup of hot espresso tipped over it can. Get it at Alto Palato in Los Angeles, where former Torino barista Gino Rindone makes the espresso and gelato. Don't go there just for an affogato. Roman-style pizzas --potato and onion, broccoli rabe and mozzarella--are a must. Alto Palato, 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 657-9271. Affogato, $6. Pizzas, $10 to $14. Entrees, $11 to $25.

S. Irene Virbila

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From early April to roughly early June, Hans Rockenwagner presents a special menu featuring the fat ivory spears of asparagus he imports from Germany. This year's offering--marinated white asparagus with prime beef carpaccio and grated fresh wasabi--may be his most creative effort. It's hard to beat the classic pound of steamed white asparagus with new potatoes and handmade mayonnaise to which you could--and should--add some Black Forest ham. Rockenwagner, 2435 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 399-6504. One pound of steamed white asparagus, $29.50; with Black Forest ham, $38. Entrees, $22 to $33.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Oh, for a summer night on the patio at James' Beach and a wedge of tart topped with fat, juicy blueberries from the farmer's market. James' Beach, 60 N. Venice Blvd., Venice; (310) 823-5396. Blueberry tart, $8.50.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At J.R.'s Bar-B-Que, Jeannie Jackson and son Robert keep the Memphis-style 'que--massive slabs of traditional ribs, the prized rib tips, baby back ribs and beef brisket, all slathered in sauce--coming from her barbecue pit out back. The sides are terrific, too, and you can sit at the counter or the tables in the next room. Save room for the 7-Up cake. J.R.'s Bar-B-Que, 3055 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; (310) 837-6838. Sandwiches, $6. Dinners, $8 to $9. Slabs, $10 to $24.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Half a block from Venice beach, 5 Dudley is a real neighborhood spot with tables on the sidewalk, a tiny kitchen with three resident chefs and an affable owner who works the room, plying guests with country wines from California and France. The food is much more ambitious than you'd expect for the locale and the price, and that salt tang in the air only makes people hungrier. 5 Dudley, 5 Dudley Ave., Venice; (310) 399-6678. Entrees, $20 to $32.

S. Irene Virbila

*

BASTILLA, a gently spiced pigeon or chicken, almond and egg pie wrapped in fragile leaves of pastry and showered with confectioner's sugar, is one of the glories of Moroccan cuisine. At the minuscule, charming Mamounia in Beverly Hills, Saada Benkhay makes bastilla with traditional warka, a thin pastry made by bouncing a ball of dough off a hot griddle. Mamounia, 132 N. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 360-7535. Seven-course menu starts at $18.50 per person.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Chameau's chef and co-owner, Adel Chagar, is from Rabat, Morocco, and his Silver Lake restaurant's French-Moroccan menu includes a miniature chicken, egg and almond bastilla crowned with a twist of feuille de brik that resembles a full-blown rose. Chameau, 2520 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 953-1973. Bastilla, $7.50. Entrees, $15.50 to $18.50.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Nothing is more L.A. than a burger poolside at the Standard, Andre Balaz's hip budget hotel that's anything but standard. The juicy sirloin patty comes with onion and ripe tomato slices, Dijon mustard in a plastic squirter and a pile of excellent hand-cut fries. The Standard, 8300 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 650-9090. Burger, $11.

S. Irene Virbila

*

What could be more thoroughly French than a splendid prime rib chop for two roasted in a wood-fired oven and accompanied by a svelte marchand de vin sauce and coins of marvelously rich bone marrow. Troquet, the sophisticated bistro tucked away in South Coast Plaza, offers it with buttery pureed potatoes or frites. But who gets the bone? There's only one solution: You'll have to share. Troquet, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa; (714) 708-6865. Prime rib chop for two, $54. Entrees, $12 to $27.

S. Irene Virbila

*

To most Americans the idea of bollito, or boiled meat, isn't exactly appealing. But think pot au feu Italian style. Gianfranco Minuz, chef at Trattoria Tre Venezie, a gem of a restaurant in Pasadena, sometimes serves it as a special. His version is simply boiled beef served in thick, tender slices and accompanied by salsa verde (a piquant green sauce with masses of parsley, chopped white onion and capers stirred into olive oil). Trattoria Tre Venezie, 119 Green St., Pasadena; (626) 795-4455. Bollito, $27. Entrees, $20 to $35.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At Mako, chef-owner Makoto Tanaka strews a salad of sweet and bitter greens with crisp, tawny calamari rings and the violet-tinged tentacles. What sets this calamari salad apart is the dressing, a drizzle of sweet-hot honey chile sauce spiked with garlic. Mako Restaurant, 225 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 288-8338. Crispy calamari salad, $14. Entrees, $20 to $31.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Gina Lee's Bistro won a prize for its catfish from no less than the "Catfish Institute"-- whatever that might be--and has a framed award as proof. Its catfish is pretty much the classic: deep-fried to a dark gold and splashed with a graceful ponzu. Gina Lee's Bistro, 211 Palos Verdes Blvd., Redondo Beach; (310) 375-4462. Catfish, $17.50. Entrees, $9.95 to $29.95.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Nobu Matsuhisa's organic tomato ceviche reflects his signature clean, spare style--just shrimp, crab, scallops and salmon doused in lime juice and presented with fine slices of red onion and beautiful little gold, red and green tomatoes. Ubon, ground floor, Beverly Center, 8530 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 854-1115. Ceviche, $12. Entrees, $15 to $22.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Lee Hefter is the Patton of the kitchen wars--a culinary force heading up a staff of 96, inspiring the troops, experimenting with new dishes, creating superb tasting menus, all the while turning out 400-plus meals a day at Wolfgang Puck's flagship restaurant. This chef is so passionate about his work, he'll search the Olympic Peninsula for oyster suppliers, spend 10 days eating all over Japan, or explore Italy's Piedmont for inspiration. Since Spago opened, the 33-year-old has learned that less is more, resisting the temptation to add one more ingredient. Spago Beverly Hills, 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 385-0880. Entrees, $22 to $32. Tasting menu, $85.

S. Irene Virbila

*

When Joachim Splichal remodeled Patina late last year, he insisted on making room for a proper cheese cart. Now, once you've finished your entrees, the waiter rolls the cart over, whips off the gauzy cloth covering a good 20 fromages and proceeds to explain, entice and serve up ripe St. Marcellin from Burgundy; Brin d'Amour, dotted with herbs, from Corsica; Humboldt Fog, a delightful goat cheese; and a beautiful blue-veined Fourme d'Ambert. Patina, 5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 467-1108. Cheese course, $16. Entrees, $29 to $35. Tasting menus, $68 to $80.

S. Irene Virbila

*

COCKLES look like small clams, but their meat is sweeter, more tender and delicate. Brooke Williamson, the 22-year-old chef at Zax in Brentwood, tosses them in the shell with bucatini pasta, extra-virgin olive oil and a shower of toasted bread crumbs. Sometimes she simply steams the cockles with Manila clams in a lemongrass broth. Zax, 11604 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; (310) 571-3800. Bucatini with cockles, $18. Steamed Manila clams and cockles in lemongrass broth, $11. Entrees, $18 to $27.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At Olio e Limone, Alberto Morello makes a play on a familiar Italian appetizer with his "carpaccio" of pear. Cut lengthwise into thin, transparent slices, it looks like a botanical illustration for pear. Fanned out on the plate, the slices are strewn with crumbled Gorgonzola dolce (that glorious mild blue) and fresh walnuts. Olio e Limone, 17 W. Victoria St., Santa Barbara; (805) 899-2699. Pear carpaccio, $8.95. Entrees, $16.95 to $23.95.

S. Irene Virbila

*

For the past year Nancy Silverton, the dessert genie behind Campanile and La Brea Bakery, made doughnuts her mission. The results: sumptuous yeast-raised doughnuts, dusted with powdered sugar and sold with their holes riding shotgun. La Brea Bakery, 624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 939-6813. Doughnuts, $1.50.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Soup Dumplings bursting with juicy meat fillings are one of the calling cards of Shanghainese cooking. Din Tai Fung's range from canoe-shaped dumplings with a shrimp-and-pork stuffing to the thumbnail-sized pork dumpling siu loong tung bao, which comes 20 to an order, the main reason the average waiting time for tables here approaches one hour. Din Tai Fung, 1108 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia; (626) 574-7068. Siu loong tung bao, $9.

Max Jacobson

*

Ordering off Matsuhisa's huge menu can be hit or miss, but in the Omakase Room, which seats only eight, you'll get star treatment over a series of small courses carefully chosen by the chef. One of the last courses may be broiled unagi--freshwater eel--in a dark, sweet glaze, set on rounds of daikon radish with a grilled shiitake mushroom cap and a shiso leaf embellished with a flake of gold leaf. Tied into a knot, the deep-fried spine has a satisfying crunch. Matsuhisa, 129 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 659-9639. Omakase starts at $90.

S. Irene Virbila

*

The Apple Pan may be better known for its burgers, but the revelation at this 54-year-old West L.A. spot is its egg salad sandwich. Spread on soft fresh bread, the egg salad is properly tender, the yolks not cooked to rubbery hardness, and mixed with just enough mayonnaise to bind it. The Apple Pan, 10801 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 475-3585. Egg salad sandwich, $4.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Pinot Bistro is serving escargot in fancy dress--sauteed with thyme and tomatoes in a garlicky white wine sauce. Piled onto toasted croutons, the Gallic snails make a seductive mouthful. Pinot Bistro, 12969 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 990-0500. Escargots, $8.95. Entrees, $16 to $25.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Ginza Sushiko is the most exclusive restaurant in Southern California, and as good as the top restaurants in Tokyo or Kyoto. Sushi master Masa Takayama works only by reservation, and since there are only 10 seats at the counter, it's like having a three-star chef cook just for you. The seafood is exquisite, most of it flown in from Japan. Every meal is slightly different because of the season, and because he remembers what he served you the time before. An experience that opens the mind, heart and wallet. Ginza Sushiko, 218 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 247-8939. $250 and more per person.

S. Irene Virbila

*

With its zigzag roof, tiled walls and retro-futuristic bar, Temple looks the part. It's the first restaurant from fashionistas Jun and Soyon Kim. The food is an upbeat take on Korean cuisine, with touches of California and Brazil, where the Kims grew up. Try the kimchi crab cakes, the seafood pancake, beef carpaccio and Bulgogi steak. Temple, 14 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 360-9460. Entrees, $10 to $22.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Stop into this tres francais bakery in Los Feliz for that French schoolchild's treat: pain au chocolat--basically croissant dough with a bar of dark chocolate slipped inside. As the pastry bakes, the chocolate melts into all the crevices. Eaten warm, it's

divine. Figaro Brasserie, 1802 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 662-1587. Pain au chocolat $2.25.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At Ms. Saigon Cafe, a Vietnamese-French restaurant in Torrance, filet mignon tournedos are thoroughly French, but with a Vietnamese touch. Chef Ted Chu incorporates Chinese rice wine and Asian basil into the house specialty, served to specification with a beautiful wine glaze and masses of cracked black pepper. Ms. Saigon Cafe, 18537 Western Ave., Torrance; (310) 532-0999. Filet mignon tournedos, $13.95. Entrees, $4.50 to $14.

Linda Burum

*

For anyone who loves red meat, it's hard to resist the glorious dry-aged cote de boeuf for two at Melisse, Josiah Citrin's polished French restaurant. The presentation is as impressive as the prime rib itself. The beef, carved tableside, comes with sauteed wild mushrooms, a sumptuous potato leek torte, braised Boston lettuce--and an herb jus. But the crowning touch that shows off the beef's flavors is a miniature skillet filled with fleur de sel de Guerande, the precious mineral-laden salt from Brittany. Melisse, 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 395-0881. Dry-aged cote de boeuf for two, $70. Entrees, $28 to $36. Tasting menu, $65, plus any supplements.

S. Irene Virbila

*

One of JiRaffe's signature dishes, frequently available as a special, is seared foie gras in a pistachio crust. Chef-owner Raphael Lunetta uses fresh Hudson Valley duck liver, encrusts it with pistachio chunks and cooks it a point--caramelized on the outside, beautifully rosy within. And to offset the richness of the foie gras, he garnishes the plate with miniature baked apples that are more tart than sweet. JiRaffe, 502 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 917-6671. Foie gras in pistachio crust, $16. Entrees, $19 to $28.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At Posto, Valentino's Valley cousin, housemade garganelli pasta are something of a specialty. Chef Steven Samson's current version is stained black with cuttlefish ink and tossed with sweet rock shrimp in a pureed yellow tomato sauce. Posto, 14928 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 784-4400. Garganelli with rock shrimp, $14. Entrees, $14 to $27.

S. Irene Virbila

*

No one in the Southland makes better Japanese pub food than master chef Itsuki-san of Osaka Kappo. Saikyoyaki is a method of broiling things marinated in white miso, a sweet, complex fermented bean paste. Black cod (gindara) absorbs white miso more thoroughly than any other fish--an ideal pairing with sake. Osaka Kappo, 13681 Newport Ave., Tustin; (714) 730-7051. Gindara saikyoyaki, $10.

Max Jacobson

*

Clayudas are the Oaxacan equivalent of pizza--huge, pale disks of masa patted out by hand and cooked on a clay comal. L.A.'s best are stacked in the small grocery section of Soledad Lopez's Oaxacan cafe, Guelaguetza, in Palms. Smeared with a pungent black bean paste, they're heaped with shredded cabbage and garnished with queso fresco (fresh cheese) and a choice of tasajo (salty dried beef), cecina (chile-marinated pork) or stubby Oaxacan-style chorizo streaked with orange. Follow your clayuda with a steaming bowl of green mole soup laced with pork bones and chunks of potatoes and chayote as big as your fist. Guelaguetza, 11127 Palms Blvd., Palms; (310) 837-1153. Clayudas, $5.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Uncle Darrow's mostly moves fried shrimp, oysters and catfish in platters and po' boys. But on Friday and Saturday nights, it earns its phone number, (310) 306-GUMBO, by serving a gumbo overflowing with appetizing, swampy aromas, made with chicken, Gulf blue crabs and plenty of file powder. Uncle Darrow's Cajun Creole Eatery, 2560 S. Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey; (310) 306-GUMBO. File gumbo, $9.50.

Charles Perry

*

The traditional Japanese handrolls at Sushi Wasabi are works of primitive perfection. Conical and raggedy, filled with rice and combined with Texas blue crab or spicy tuna, the crackling dry seaweed wrap makes each bite a delight. Sushi Wasabi, 14460 Newport Ave., Suite F, Tustin; (714) 505-3496. Sushi, $3.20 to $6.

Martin Booe

*

Black and ornery looking, huitlacoche is a fungus that grows right out of the corn kernels and has a funky, alluring taste that's as unique as it is delicious. At La Serenata de Garibaldi, chef-owner Jose Rodriguez often serves Mexican sea bass as a special, topped with huitlacoche and surrounded by a smooth mahogany salsa that has a spark of heat. La Serenata de Garibaldi, 1842 E. 1st St., Boyle Heights; (323) 265-2887. Mexican sea bass with huitlacoche, $17.95. Entrees, $12.95 to $20.95.

S. Irene Virbila

*

The province of Hunan in southeastern China is famous for its ham, which is often served with a honey sauce. At Shiang Garden in Monterey Park, the chefs cure a fresh pork leg to make their own hunan-style ham. Try it in the appetizer called "dual crispy delight." Slices of the ruddy ham and brittle fried bean curd sheet are inserted into steamed white buns. The waiter spoons on honey sauce and then closes the bun to make a thin sandwich. Shiang Garden, 111 N. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park; (626) 458-4508. Dual crispy delight, $3.50. Entrees, $7 to $22.

S. Irene Virbila

*

The star dish at Hortobagy, one of the Southland's few Hungarian restaurants, is hurka--fat little sausages in natural casings, made daily. The soft, rich blood sausage is called veres; the grainy country-style liver sausage is majas. Both are heartily spiced with paprika and marjoram, but the soupcon of nutmeg in the majas adds a dimension of sheer wonderment. Hortobagy, 11138 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 980-2273. Hurka, $10.

Max Jacobson

*

The grill men at hollywood's oldest restaurant, Musso & Frank Grill, are pros, every one of them. Double-cut lamb chops come out perfectly rosy; they can put a char on steak and time it so it's still blood-rare inside. And when it comes to grilling calf's liver, few places do it better. Order it with onions and a slab or two of crisp bacon. Musso & Frank Grill, 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 467-7788. Grilled calf's liver with onions and bacon, $16. Entrees, $15 to $30.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At the cozy House restaurant, Scooter Kanfer offers a plate of homemade cookies for dessert. One day it could be chocolate chip and delicate butter cookies with a dab of jam, served with a glass of milk with a monkey-shaped cookie laid across the top of it. The rest of her American menu is equally comforting. The House, 5750 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; (323) 462-4687. Cookies and milk, $7. Entrees, $16 to $28.

S. Irene Virbila

*

IDDLYS are South Indian comfort food: steamed white cakes of rice and lentil batter, served with sambar (a lentil stew) and fresh coconut chutney. In Southern California, you find them at Indian vegetarian restaurants such as Udupi Palace, which serves three types: plain iddly, rava iddly (made with wheat instead of rice, plus carrot shreds and cashews) and the yellow Kancheepurum iddly, flavored with ginger, coriander and cashews. Udupi Palace, 18635 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia; (562) 860-1950. Iddlys, $3. Kancheepuram and rava iddlys are available weekends only. Entrees, $6 to $13.

Barbara Hansen

*

Vincent Tapper, who hails from Kingston, Jamaica, seasons his jerk chicken with peppers, allspice, cane vinegar, thyme, garlic and black pepper. He kneads this incendiary mixture into--and under--the skin of his birds and then broils them slowly for well over an hour. The result is one of the most sensuous jerk chickens around. Irie Jamaican Restaurant, 9062 Valley View St., Cypress; (714) 484-0661. Jerk chicken, $5.95 (quarter), $8.95 (half).

Max Jacobson

*

There is no more elemental Chinese dish than juk (known in English as congee), a creamy white porridge made of rice, water and salt. Har Lam Kee, deep in the heart of Monterey Park, serves more than 15 varieties of this Asian comfort food, with embellishments such as abalone, pork meatballs and various organ meats. The minced beef version (min ngau jook in Cantonese) is a particularly nice pick-me-up with hot oolong tea. Har Lam Kee, 150 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park; (626) 288-7299. Congee with minced beef, $3.75.

Max Jacobson

*

KIBBEH, the Middle Eastern paste of meat, onions and bulgur wheat beaten smooth, can be used in many ways, but the most exacting is qras kibbeh: torpedo-shaped meatballs of kibbeh filled with fried meat and pine nuts. The challenge is to make the outer layer so thin that it fries up brown and crisp--but without cracking in the process. Em Toni Chamma, the owner of Sunnin, doesn't disappoint. Sunnin, 1779 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 477-2358. Kibbeh, $1.25. Entrees, $7 to $9.

Charles Perry

*

Anybody who's ever been to France has fond memories of sitting at sidewalk cafes sipping a kir. That's the popular Burgundian aperitif of a little creme de cassis poured into white wine, which turns the wine a gorgeous rose. At Lilly's Cafe in Venice, which is about as French a cafe as you can find in Los Angeles, they make their kir with the house white, Val St. Jean from Pays d'Herault in the Languedoc. Lilly's French Cafe & Wine Bar, 1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 314-0004. Kir, $5. Entrees, $13 to $20. Lunch prix fixe menu, $10.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Eating at Pink's without waiting in line just doesn't happen--not at noon, night or in the early hours of the morning. Use the time to ponder 30-some hot dog options, though the seasoned pro goes straight for the chili cheese dog with kraut. Pink's Famous Chili Dogs, 709 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 931-7594. Hot dogs, $2.35 to $4.65.

Heather John

*

Yujean Kang's julienne of fresh sea bass with slivered hot red chiles and orange-gold kumquat--a combination of mild white fish in a tart-sweet sauce--is magical. Yujean Kang's, 8826 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (310) 288-0806. And 67 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; (626) 585-0855. Julienne of fresh sea bass, $10.25. Entrees, $13.95 to $18.95.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Think of the Bombay Cafe's lamb frankie as an Indian burrito. It's a thin, supple flatbread filled with a fragrant lamb masala simmered with an intricate filigree of spices. Rolled up and eaten out of the hand, it's a snack that co-owner Neela Paniz remembers eating at Bombay's Breach Candy Beach when she was a kid. Bombay Cafe, 12021 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 473-3388. Lamb frankie, $8. Entrees, $7 to $16.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Hisashi Yoshiara, chef at Jozu in West Hollywood, has given this serene Asian-inflected restaurant new direction with his thoughtful tasting menus. One of the dishes I love, which is also sometimes a special, is his charbroiled lobster, the meat just pulled from the shell and set on a velvety shiitake mushroom cap. A gossamer-light yuzu vinaigrette brings about this soulful marriage of sea and earth. Jozu, 8360 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 655-5600. Lobster with shiitake, $30 to $45. Entrees, $16 to $45.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At Babita, his cozy nouvelle Mexican restaurant, Roberto Berrelleza slathers whole lamb shanks with a complex amalgam of toasted ground chiles, exotic spices and beer. He then drapes the shanks in fresh avocado leaves, wraps them in foil and steam-bakes them (a cooking technique that mimics Mexico's ancient pit-roasted barbacoa). Each bite of fork-tender, spice-infused lamb is food for the Aztec gods--and for us. Babita, 1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 288-7265. Lamb mixiote, $15. Entrees, $11 to $19.

Linda Burum

*

A classic and immensely satisfying dish at the L.A. bistro Mimosa is leeks trailing their long green tails through a heap of stone green lentils de puy splashed with a sharp vinaigrette. Mimosa, 8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 655-8895. Leeks vinaigrette, $7. Entrees, $13.50 to $25.

S. Irene Virbila

*

The Venetians add a splash of vinegar to liver and onions, but chef Pedro Simental at Restaurant Devon in Monrovia gets that touch of acidity from capers. He sautees strips of calf's liver in olive oil with capers and shallots to create a beautiful marriage of flavors. Restaurant Devon, 109 E. Lemon Ave., Monrovia; (626) 305-0013. Liver and onions, $16.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Despite the trendy nature of the Buffalo Club, which features live music on Thursday and Saturday nights, the food is consistently excellent. Love those spice-encrusted Buffalo wings, chicken pot pie and cheese-grit fries. Still the best dish is Patrick Healy's Maine lobster, gently poached in a classic bouillon and served on sweet corn mashed potatoes with a silky lobster sauce and masses of crinkly morel mushrooms. Buffalo Club, 1520 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 450-8600. Maine lobster, $35. Entrees, $25 to $35.

S. Irene Virbila

*

What could be finer than a bowl brimming with Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in white wine and shallots? At Vermont, it's the scent of lemon zest, salt and sea that makes these mussels memorable. Vermont, 1714 Vermont Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 661-6163. Steamed mussels, $12. Entrees, $14 to $26.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Come summer, Jennifer Naylor at Granita sends out a Malibu variation on the classic insalata Caprese, made with a stack of luscious sliced heirloom tomatoes--butter yellow, red, cadmium orange, striped green, mahogany--and tender mozzarella so fresh it's practically squirting milk. Granita, 23725 W. Malibu Road, Malibu; (310) 456-0488. Heirloom tomato salad, $12. Entrees, $20 to $34.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At Go Chau, mam va rau--a boiling kettle of catfish, tiny shrimp and chunks of eggplant and pumpkin--is flavored by an intense purple fish sauce (mam) made from five kinds of anchovy. The va rau refers to the approved technique of pushing the vegetables and seafood into your mouth with chopsticks. If Imperial rolls are Vietnamese Food 101, mam va rau is graduate school. Go Chau, 9856 Bolsa Ave., Westminster; (714) 839-4218. Mam va rau, $8 to $15. Entrees, $4.50 to $15.

Max Jacobson

*

The main thing about the Middle Eastern snacks called mezze is to have a lot of them, and Carousel does. You can get hummus plain or with fried sausage, lamb or pine nuts. Creamy yogurt cheese comes with several toppings, tomatoes, olive oil and red pepper or with two California toppings involving jalapenos. Also try the tabbouleh, mtabbal, falafel and kibbeh, of course, and fatayer (lengths of puffy pastry filled with white cheese), sausages (the one called soujouk comes on hummus, stewed with tomatoes and some tangy pickled turnip or flambe). Carousel, 304 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 246-7775. Mezze, $5 to $13. Entrees, $11 to $27.

Charles Perry

*

Merilee Atkinson's desserts for The Restaurant at the Getty are works of art, especially the napoleon she constructs of vanilla-scented pastry cream, bananas and spiced pecans. The Restaurant at the Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles; (310) 440-7300 and also online at www.getty.edu. Napoleon, $9. Entrees, $20 to $31. Limited same-day reservations may be available at the restaurant or at the Museum Information Desk.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Instead of sticking strictly to the customary olive oil and wine vinaigrette for octapodi psito, the cooks at Malvasia char-grill the octopus, sprinkle on Greek oregano and dress it with an updated vinaigrette of extra-virgin olive oil and Greek red wine. Malvasia, 5316 E. 2nd St., Long Beach; (562) 433-5005. Octapodi psito, $8.95. Entrees, $7.95 to $24.95.

Linda Burum

*

Joachim Splichal must love oysters because each of his six Pinot restaurants gives good oysters. They'll always have at least three splendidly fresh varieties on hand, and his prices are among the best in town. You'll feel awfully suave sipping a glass of good Sancerre while downing a dozen or two kumamotos and fanny bays on the half shell. Pinot Hollywood, 1448 N. Gower St., Hollywood; (323) 461-8800. Oysters, $8, half dozen; $16, dozen. Entrees, $17 to $24.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Langer's Deli was honored this year by the James Beard Foundation as an American classic. Al Langer, at 88, is from the old school: He still insists on hand-cutting his pastrami. Piled high between two slices of mild rye bread, with a sharp bite of pepper and smoke, Langer's pastrami sandwich beats out even those from the Big Apple's fabled delis. Langer's Deli, 704 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles; (213) 483-8050. Pastrami sandwich, $8.50.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Walk into the hyper-modern Vincenti in Brentwood and the first thing you see (after the clutch of beautiful people at the bar) is the glow of the wood-burning rosticceria at the end of the room. Chef Nicolo Mastronardi grills whole fish in front of the fire, but if you want to drink a great Barbaresco or Chianti Classico Riserva, order the piccione (pigeon). Stuffed with guanciale (cured pork jowl) and potatoes or a ruffle of Savoy cabbage, it's dark-fleshed and delicious. Vincenti, 11930 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; (310) 207-0127. Pigeon, $30. Entrees, $15 to $38.

S. Irene Virbila

*

On Sundays, the special at La Super-Rica, Santa Barbara's wildly popular and truly super taco stand, is pozole. It's a comforting bowl of dried corn, tender pork and red chile garnished with cilantro, avocado slices, red onion and cabbage. La Super-Rica, 622 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara; (805) 963-4940; Pozole, $6.50. Lunch, about $8 per person.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At La Serenata Gourmet, quesadilla means the classic: two rounds of supple corn tortilla oozing molten cheese. Doctored with a dab of smoldering red chile salsa or a cilantro-laced tomatillo sauce, it makes an irresistible snack or first course. La Serenata Gourmet, 10924 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 441-9667. Quesadilla, $5.25.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Aubergine, Tim and Liza Goodell's sophisticated Newport Beach restaurant, is worth a considerable detour, to speak in Michelin guide parlance, for Tim Goodell's serious French-California cooking. To get the full effect, order the tasting menu, a symphony of flavors that builds with each course. One night he wrapped a rabbit sirloin in bacon and served it with its delectable roasted kidney and a little seared foie gras. It's a memorable dish, one I hope he'll repeat soon. Aubergine, 508 29th St., Newport Beach; (949) 723-4150. Five-course menu, $75.

S. Irene Virbila

*

The mystery at Il Ristorante di Giorgio Baldi is how the long list of specials hardly ever changes. Neither does the written menu, which is a good thing if you've fallen in love with Giorgio Baldi's supple ravioli. Pasta packets are stuffed with lobster or asparagus, and both are napped in melted butter--the better to show off the flavors of the filling. Il Ristorante di Giorgio Baldi, 114 W. Channel Road, Santa Monica; (310) 573-1660. Ravioli, $18. Entrees, $15 to $30.

S. Irene Virbila

*

RENDANG is a labor-intensive Maylasian beef stew redolent of ginger, garlic, chile, coconut and a variety of other spices. At the Asian Grill, the beef is tender and the sauce luxurious and multidimensional. Asian Grill, 24531 Trabuco Road, Lake Forest; (949) 588-0875. Rendang, $6 to $8. Entrees, $3.75 to $13.

Martin Booe

*

The tartness at the heart of stewed rhubarb is a thrilling, old-fashioned taste. At Julienne in San Marino, Susan and Julie Campoy make a tart from Grandmother Jilly's recipe. It's gently stewed and sweetened rhubarb beneath a billowy coverlet of meringue. Julienne, 2649 Mission St., San Marino; (626) 441-2299. Individual rhubarb tart, $4.95. Large tart, $35.

S. Irene Virbila

*

For Los Angeles, L'Orangerie is the special occasion restaurant. It's hard to believe chef Ludovic Lefebvre just turned 30, but he's been cooking since he was 14. And it shows. His latest menu is his best yet, a tribute to the ancient spice route--a thoroughly contemporary, ever lighter interpretation of French cuisine. And do try his blood-red organic strawberry tart with a fragile short crust, served with a scoop of balsamic vinegar ice cream. Brilliant. L'Orangerie, 903 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 652-9770. Entrees, $32 to $48; Strawberry tart, $12. Eight-course tasting menu, $95.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At Cafe Talesai in Beverly Hills, southern thai border beef is infused with the heady fragrance of lime leaves. This tender beef is stir-fried with a jolt of red chile paste to weave an intricately spiced sauce. Cafe Talesai, 9198 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 271-9345. Southern Thai Border Beef, $13. Entrees, $7 to $15.

S. Irene Virbila

*

The treatment given to scallops at the Vertical Wine Bar varies, but the results are always dazzling. Whether "dusted" in porcini mushrooms or drizzled with a subtle curry sauce, they're always plump, succulent and creatively prepared. Vertical Wine Bar, 234 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach; (949) 494-0990. Scallops, $16. Entrees, $9 to $18.

Martin Booe

*

The definitive dish at Gustaf Anders is Ander Strandberg's sumptuous sugar-and-salt-cured salmon. Cut in fine, silky slices, the North Atlantic salmon is served with a lidded porcelain dish of creamed dill potatoes. The combination is heartbreaking. Gustaf Anders, South Coast Plaza Village, Santa Ana; (714) 668-1737. Sugar-and-salt-cured salmon, $17. Entrees, $18 to $29.

S. Irene Virbila

*

The pork prime rib at Zov's Bistro is rotisserie-roasted in a sour cherry glaze that bestows it with a nice crisp bite and yields to a soft, juicy interior. The thick chop is expertly grilled and the glaze liberates its natural flavors. Zov's Bistro, 17440 E. 17th St., Tustin; (714) 838-8855. Entrees, $11 to $24.

Martin Booe

*

At Spago Beverly Hills, Sherry Yard reinvents the classic strawberry shortcake. A wonderfully crumbly shortcake is split and filled with a splendid pink strawberry sorbet. The top goes back on and is crowned with a dollop of rich ivory creme fra'che. Strawberries and shortcake never had it so good. Spago Beverly Hills, 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 385-0880. Shortcake with strawberry sorbet, $9.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Kyoto, the spare, elegant Japanese restaurant in the Wilshire Grand Hotel downtown, not only has a sushi bar but also a separate tempura bar. It's fun to sit at the counter and watch tempura chef and former Mr. Japan Masafumi Takehara swirl morsels of vegetables and seafood through his batter, then fry each piece to a shattering crispness. The batter on the asparagus is so fine it looks as if the spears have been dipped in sea foam. A dainty Japanese eggplant is cut to resemble a tea whisk. Fresh shrimp is sheathed in thicker batter that creates delicious whorls and knobs of crunchiness once it's fried. Kyoto Restaurant, Wilshire Grand Hotel, 930 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 896-3812. Tempura items, $3 to $17. Open Monday through Friday only.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Though not many chefs are making it anymore, tarte tatin has found its way into Southern Californians' hearts. Mercifully, Joe Miller of Joe's Restaurant has remained faithful to the ideal. He cooks fat wedges of apple in a burnt-sugar caramel until they soften and turn the color of mahogany. Joe's Restaurant, 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 399-5811. Tarte tatin, $6. Entrees, $18 to $28.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Wednesday through Friday, Chadwick pastry chef Angela Hunter offers afternoon tea in either the garden or the charming brick cottage that was once home to Chez Helene. It begins with a few savory bites, then moves to sweets such as orange oatmeal scones, miniature peanut butter and chocolate cakes, and vanilla mascarpone with organic strawberries. Reason enough to play hooky on a summer afternoon. Chadwick, 267 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 205-9424. Afternoon tea, $30 per person, Wednesday through Friday only (Saturday is reserved for private parties).

S. Irene Virbila

*

Is there a more enticing outdoor dining room in all of Los Angeles than the terrace at Hotel Bel-Air? Mornings, guests unfurl the newspaper beneath the canopy of bougainvillea to the scent of fresh brewed coffee and cinnamon-freckled morning pastries. At noon, the dappled sunlight and gentle breeze make lunch an oasis in the middle of the day. And at night, the shadowed garden and the sweet fragrance of jasmine and flowering vines add to the romance. Hotel Bel-Air, 701 Stone Canyon Road, Bel-Air; (310) 472-1211.

S. Irene Virbila

*

For dramatic theater dining before or after a play, there's Cayo restaurant, next door to the Pasadena Playhouse. Owner-chef Claud Beltran turns out sophisticated yet soulful French-California food at this year-and-a-half-old restaurant. Cayo, 39 S. El Molino, Pasadena; (626) 396-1800. Entrees, $17 to $29.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At Indo Cafe, chef Farida Lestari works magic with tofu, a potentially bland but nourishing staple. She uses it in place of pork in her exquisite vegetarian version of the omelet-like martabak telur. Her most exotic variant is tahu isi: dense tofu blocks topped with minced shrimp and chicken, then sheathed in a mildly sweet-and-sour peanut sauce. Indo Cafe, 104281/2 National Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 815-1290. Tahu isi, $5.95. Entrees, $5.25 to $11.95.

Linda Burum

*

Chef Martin Woesle works close enough to Chino Farm that he can write the day's specials based on the exceptional produce picked that day. During tomato season, he may be inspired to make a chilled tomato soup of three different purees poured side by side into the same shallow bowl. The red one is as snappy as a gazpacho; the gold, sweet and mild; the third, the color of green-grape tomatoes, has a refreshing bite of acidity. Mille Fleurs, 6009 Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe; (858) 756-3085. Chilled tomato soup, $12. Entrees, $26 to $36.

S. Irene Virbila

*

While nothing quite matches the flavor of a freshly caught trout cooked over a wood fire right beside the stream, Josie Le Balch's "campfire trout" is pretty scrumptious. Cooked whole in a cast-iron skillet, its skin an iridescent silvery black, this freshwater fish certainly holds its own against the more glamorous Chilean sea bass and escolar on local menus. Josie Restaurant, 2424 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 581-9888. Campfire trout, $18. Entrees, $18 to $32.

S. Irene Virbila

*

For excellent tortas, try the milanesa version at Tacos Tumbras a Tomas in downtown's Grand Central Market. They line a wide, soft roll, called a telera, with saucy beans, then add beef milanesa, shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, red salsa (hot) or green salsa (milder), avocado and sour cream, and pack this to go with lemon wedges. Tacos Tumbras a Tomas, Stall A-5, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles; (213) 620-0477. Tortas, $3.50.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Michael Cimarusti's tuna tartare is on a plane of its own. Made from hand-diced sashimi-grade blue-fin tuna, it's dressed with admirable restraint--the better to let the tuna's taste come through--garnished with avocado, radish and wispy micro-greens. The green peppercorn sauce has a sharply pointed heat. Water Grill, 544 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 891-0900. Tuna tartare, $16. Entrees, $25 to $38.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At Gardena's excellent sushi restaurant Tsukiji, named after Tokyo's sprawling fish market, the sushi master makes a sauce from umeboshi, a sour, pickled plumlike fruit stained red with shiso (Japanese basil). He serves the tart sauce with translucent halibut and violet-edged octopus sashimi. Tsukiji, 1745 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena; (310) 323-4077. Sushi for two, $60 to $100.

S. Irene Virbila

*

This year's James Beard award for the country's best restaurant went to Campanile and chef/owners Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton, among the pioneers of California cuisine. Their vibrant California-Mediterranean cooking expresses the seasons and bounty of farmers markets and a network of local purveyors. Go for weekend brunch--the best in the state--for archetypal sandwiches at lunch, for grilled cheese on Thursday night, for family dinners on Mondays, and Mark Peel's Wednesday night tasting menu. And don't forget Nancy Silverton's stunning desserts. Who could? Campanile, 624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (323)938-1447. Entrees, $25 to $40.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Water Grill's pastry chef, Wonyee Tom, does wonderful things with the vanilla bean, the fruit of the orchid vanilla planifolia. The tiny black seeds freckle her heavenly panna cotta, which is ringed with strawberries and flavored with orange-flower water. A warm ginger-berry compote complements her dreamy vanilla creme fra'che cheesecake, and vanilla ice cream plays a starring role in her black-and-white coupe with chocolate sorbet and rum bananas. Water Grill, 544 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 891-0900. Desserts, $7.50 to $10.50.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Koichiro Kikuchi, chef-owner of Bistro 21, the little bistro that could (despite its nondescript mini-mall locale), has a terrific eye for presentation. Steamed lobster shows off its subtle colors, the curl of its tail and its coral-streaked meaty claws against a swath of emerald watercress sauce. Bistro 21, 846 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 967-0021. Steamed lobster, $26. Entrees, $18 to $26.

S. Irene Virbila

*

The minute they arrive in Los Angeles, Italian wine lovers head for Valentino to pore over Piero Selvaggio's treasure trove of Italian vino. Show an interest, and this suave and indefatigable host will ply you with everything from Angelo Gaja's top Barbaresco crus to a bottle made from an obscure indigenous grape. Choose the wine, and then he and longtime chef Angelo Auriana will build a menu of small courses around it. Valentino, 3115 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 829-4313. Menu extravaganza, $85.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Come summer, it's time to abandon the martini, that companion of blustery fall and winter evenings, for the mojito. Owner Xiomara Ardolina calls hers "xiomara's mambo" to differentiate it from the classic, which is sweetened with sugar. She prefers freshly extracted sugar cane juice. Combined with bruised mint leaves, fresh lime juice, a jolt of light rum and a dash of soda water for sparkle, the sugar cane juice gives this mojito a haunting honeyed flavor. Xiomara, 69 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; (626) 796-2520. Xiomara's Mambo, $9.

S. Irene Virbila

*

Usually eaten as tea snacks, the succulent meat-stuffed pasta purses called xiu mai are also beloved by Vietnamese as filling for banh mi, Vietnam's answer to the submarine sandwich. Made with a crunchy French roll, banh mi may be filled with pate, cold cuts or ham, along with Vietnamese-style marinated veggies and a handful of fresh herbs. Nguyen Huong, 9888 Bolsa Ave., Westminster; (714) 531-6273. Banh mi xiu mai, $1.50. Entrees, $1.50 to $3.75.

Linda Burum

*

A cold-resistant citrus with the fragrance of a lime, yuzu grows wild in Tibet and the interior of China and is widely cultivated in Japan, where it is used in all sorts of ways. One of Louis Diaz's best dishes is crisp-skinned black bass in a beautifully modulated yuzu sauce, which he serves with tender, thin-skinned crab dumplings. Chinois on Main, 2709 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 392-9025. Black bass, $27.50. Entrees, $24 to $32.

S. Irene Virbila

*

At Shiro in South Pasadena, the catfish is so popular that owner/chef Hideo Yamashiro, a Les Anges veteran, can't take it off the menu. They come for his Chinese ravioli in shiitake sauce, his lightly smoked scallops and his catfish. Cutting a curve across the platter, it sits in a puddle of yuzu-scented ponzu and tastes of ginger and cilantro. Use your chopsticks to ferret out the prized cheeks and the tasty morsels closest to the bone. Shiro, 1505 Mission St., South Pasadena; (626) 799-4774. Catfish in ponzu, $22 to $25. Entrees, $17 to $25.

S. Irene Virbila

*

The flavor-laden, Shanghai-style zhen chiang cured-pork appetizer served at King's Palace in San Gabriel shows off the two most renowned ingredients of China's Zhejiang province. The chefs simmer fresh ham in rice wine, marinate it overnight, then press it into a loaf that becomes a delicate mosaic of the cured meat suspended in pungent jellied pork juices. It's served thinly sliced as a cold cut, with a dip of the region's famed red vinegar swimming with slivered ginger. King's Palace, 250 W. Valley Blvd., Unit M, San Gabriel; (626) 282-9566. Zhen chiang cured pork, $6.50. Entrees, $7.50 to $23.

Linda Burum

*

Farro is the grain that sustained the globe-trotting Roman armies on their daunting marches. Tuscan cooks still use this ancient form of wheat to make a rustic soup called zuppa di farro, basically pasta fagioli with the farro grains standing in for the pasta. At Celestino Italian Steak House, Celestino Drago studs a delicious bean puree with the chewy grain--a perfect prelude to a hefty bistecca. Celestino Italian Steak House, 8908 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 858-5777. Borlotti bean and farro soup, $6. Entrees, $14 to $32.

S. Irene Virbila

SOURCES

Alto Palato, 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 657-9271.

The Apple Pan, 10801 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 475-3585.

Asian Grill, 24531 Trabuco Road, Lake Forest; (949) 588-0875.

Aubergine, 508 29th St., Newport Beach; (949) 723-4150.

Babita, 1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 288-7265.

Bistro 21, 846 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 967-0021.

Bombay Cafe, 12021 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 473-3388.

Buffalo Club, 1520 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 450-8600.

Cafe Talesai, 9198 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 271-9345.

Campanile, 624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (323)938-1447.

Carousel, 304 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 246-7775.

Cayo, 39 S. El Molino, Pasadena; (626) 396-1800.

Celestino Italian Steak House, 8908 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 858-5777.

Chadwick, 267 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 205-9424.

Chameau, 2520 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 953-1973.

Chinois on Main, 2709 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 392-9025.

Din Tai Fung, 1108 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia; (626) 574-7068.

5 Dudley, 5 Dudley Ave., Venice; (310) 399-6678.

Figaro Brasserie, 1802 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 662-1587.

Gina Lee's Bistro, 211 Palos Verdes Blvd., Redondo Beach;

(310) 375-4462.

Ginza Sushiko, 218 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 247-8939.

Go Chau, 9856 Bolsa Ave., Westminster; (714) 839-4218.

Granita, 23725 W. Malibu Road, Malibu; (310) 456-0488.

Guelaguetza, 11127 Palms Blvd., Palms; (310) 837-1153.

Gustaf Anders, South Coast Plaza Village, Santa Ana; (714) 668-1737.

Har Lam Kee, 150 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park; (626) 288-7299.

Hortobagy, 11138 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 980-2273.

Hotel Bel-Air, 701 Stone Canyon Road, Bel-Air; (310) 472-1211.

The House, 5750 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; (323) 462-4687.

Il Ristorante di Giorgio Baldi, 114 W. Channel Road, Santa Monica; (310) 573-1660.

Indo Cafe, 10428 1/2 National Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 815-1290.

Irie Jamaican Restaurant, 9062 Valley View St., Cypress; (714) 484-0661.

James' Beach, 60 N. Venice Blvd., Venice; (310) 823-5396.

JiRaffe, 502 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 917-6671.

Joe's Restaurant, 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 399-5811.

Josie Restaurant, 2424 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 581-9888.

Jozu, 8360 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 655-5600.

J.R.'s Bar-B-Que, 3055 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; (310) 837-6838.

Julienne, 2649 Mission St., San Marino; (626) 441-2299.

King's Palace, 250 W. Valley Blvd., Unit M, San Gabriel; (626) 282-9566.

Kyoto Restaurant, Wilshire Grand Hotel, 930 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 896-3812.

La Brea Bakery, 624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 939-6813.

La Serenata de Garibaldi, 1842 E. 1st St., Boyle Heights;

(323) 265-2887.

La Serenata Gourmet, 10924 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles;

(310) 441-9667.

La Super-Rica, 622 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara; (805) 963-4940.

Langer's Deli, 704 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles; (213) 483-8050.

Lilly's French Cafe & Wine Bar, 1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 314-0004.

L'Orangerie, 903 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 652-9770.

Mako Restaurant, 225 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 288-8338.

Malvasia, 5316 E. 2nd St., Long Beach; (562) 433-5005.

Mamounia, 132 N. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 360-7535.

Matsuhisa, 129 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 659-9639.

Melisse, 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 395-0881.

Mille Fleurs, 6009 Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe; (858) 756-3085.

Mimosa, 8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 655-8895.

Ms. Saigon Cafe, 18537 Western Ave., Torrance; (310) 532-0999.

Musso & Frank Grill, 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood;

(323) 467-7788.

Nguyen Huong, 9888 Bolsa Ave., Westminster; (714) 531-6273.

Olio e Limone, 17 W. Victoria St., Santa Barbara; (805) 899-2699.

Osaka Kappo, 13681 Newport Ave., Tustin; (714) 730-7051.

Patina, 5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 467-1108.

Pink's Famous Chili Dogs, 709 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles;

(323) 931-7594.

Pinot Bistro, 12969 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 990-0500.

Pinot Hollywood, 1448 N. Gower St., Hollywood; (323) 461-8800.

Posto, 14928 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 784-4400.

Restaurant Devon, 109 E. Lemon Ave., Monrovia; (626) 305-0013.

The Restaurant at the Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive,

Los Angeles; (310) 440-7300.

Rockenwagner, 2435 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 399-6504.

Shiang Garden, 111 N. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park; (626) 458-4508.

Shiro, 1505 Mission St., South Pasadena; (626) 799-4774.

Spago Beverly Hills, 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills;

(310) 385-0880.

The Standard, 8300 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 650-9090.

Sunnin, 1779 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 477-2358.

Sushi Wasabi, 14460 Newport Ave., Suite F, Tustin; (714) 505-3496.

Tacos Tumbras a Tomas, Stall A-5, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles;

(213) 620-0477.

Temple, 14 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 360-9460.

Trattoria Tre Venezie, 119 Green St., Pasadena; (626) 795-4455.

Troquet, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa; (714) 708-6865.

Tsukiji, 1745 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena; (310) 323-4077.

Ubon, ground floor, Beverly Center, 8530 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles;

(310) 854-1115.

Udupi Palace, 18635 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia; (562) 860-1950.

Uncle Darrow's Cajun Creole Eatery, 2560 S. Lincoln Blvd.,

Marina del Rey; (310) 306-GUMBO.

Valentino, 3115 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 829-4313.

Vermont, 1714 Vermont Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 661-6163.

Vertical Wine Bar, 234 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach;(949) 494-0990.

Vincenti, 11930 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; (310) 207-0127.

Water Grill, 544 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 891-0900.

Xiomara, 69 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; (626) 796-2520.

Yujean Kang's, 8826 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (310) 288-0806;

also at 67 N. Raymond St., Pasadena; (626) 585-0855.

Zax, 11604 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; (310) 571-3800.

Zov's Bistro, 17440 E. 17th St., Tustin; (714) 838-8855.

Shiro's Chinese ravioli in shiitake sauce.

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