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Just a kiss of originality at the newest celeb eatery

Times Restaurant Critic

The entrance is so discreet, you may not have noticed the new restaurant at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Street. With its blackened windows, it seems like any other storefront along the boulevard. But come nighttime, watch out as limos and fancy wheels pull up in front of Beso -- “kiss” -- the new restaurant from “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria Parker and Boston chef Todd English.

The actress has got herself a dramatic loft-like space with chandeliers dangling from the high ceilings like diamond earrings and sexy black leather chairs pulled up to the tables. But first there’s the bar, with a luscious still life floating over the backlighted counter showing the fruits that go into Beso’s handcrafted cocktails.

The open kitchen is carved out of the space -- deeper than it is wide -- with whole fish, lobsters and other seafood displayed on ice. Last week, English could be seen training the kitchen staff, but he has too many other ventures to be around all the time.

Parker probably won’t be spending entire evenings there either. Consider the food as a sort of consolation prize. You can taste her recipe for tortilla soup, which is comforting and a little wimpy on the firepower. Or tear into the complimentary flatbread served with a delicious green olive tapenade and a tomato-tinged romesco sauce.

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Guacamole, you’d expect; but maybe not the artichoke heart puree pounded and served in a molcajete with za’tar pita chips. There’s also a yellowtail ceviche in ginger-accented coconut milk and a choice of tacos -- including one made with plantain and black beans for the vegetarians in the house -- or lobster taquitos with corn crema and mango slaw.

Whole grilled fish slides under the steakhouse cuts section of the menu, along with the usual steaks, but here with a choice of chimichurri or Beso barbecue sauce for the meats and harissa or lemon jam for the seafood. Paella makes a big entrance with lobster and shellfish sitting on top of the rather wet saffron rice. Drunken shrimp are drowned in tequila. Skirt steak is revved up with chili and a tortilla fattoush. That’s an Arabic bread salad, usually made with a Middle Eastern flatbread; just one example of the Latin/Middle Eastern/Mediterranean fusion going on in Beso’s kitchen. The teamwork in the kitchen and the dining room could be smoother, but it’s early yet.

Beso already has two things going for it: a swell room and a menu that’s not just a copycat of every other trendy restaurant. And for celebs on the lam from fans or paparazzi: an all but invisible upstairs lounge, which leaves guests guessing who’s up there, or whether there’s anybody there at all.

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virbila@latimes.com

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BESO

WHERE: 6350 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.

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WHEN: Dinner Mon.-Sat.: first seating, 6 p.m.; last seating, 11 p.m.

PRICE: Small dishes, $8 to $16; starters, $10 to $14; steakhouse cuts, $28 to $49; other main courses, $26 to $36; sides, $8; desserts, $8 to $14.

INFO: (323) 467-7991

ON THE WEB: For more photos of Beso, go to latimes.com/beso

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