Los Angeles’ dining scene is in perpetual motion. The flavors of our city stew, blend and evolve to become something that’s at once entirely new, comfortingly familiar and unequivocally L.A.
New restaurants are constantly emerging across the cityscape, joining stalwarts that have stood the test of time. These are our picks for classics that have become essential to L.A. dining.
Asanebo’s easy versatility is the key to its 28 years of success among the competitive klatch of Studio City sushi bars. Swinging by after work for a bowl of edamame, a spicy tuna roll and a few grilled chicken wings marinated in miso? Warm smiles all around from the staff. Or make it a more lavish night out with omakase, priced in three tiers, where house-made tofu with snow crab may precede plates of nigiri and, at the higher end, Hokkaido scallops gilded with shaved truffles. — B.A.
11941 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 760-3348, asanebo-restaurant.com
Attari Sandwich Shop
This Persian Square cafe is a trove of excellent Iranian home-style cooking. The thick kuku sabzi is a savory herb-green omelet tucked into a soft French-style roll. We love the beef tongue sandwich, a meaty, voluptuous muddle of tender beef, crisp lettuce and piquant pickles. Pair any sandwich with the garlicky spinach-lentil soup called osh. On Fridays, try the braised lamb dish ab-goosht, served with a split yellow pea mash, warm flatbread, pickles and fresh herbs. Scooping up meat with the bread, garnishing it with veggies, herbs and pickles, turns a prosaic lunch hour into ceremony. — P.I.E.
1388 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 441-5488, atarisandwiches.info
The beef taquitos dispensed at this historic Olvera Street food stand are thrilling as ever: freshly rolled and immaculately fried; audibly crisp; dolloped with a silky, bright avocado sauce that was engineered to harmonize with the plump succulence of the beef (the sauce is so popular it’s now sold by the gallon).
It’s easy to forget that Cielito Lindo also sells bean and cheese burritos drowning in red sauce; cheese-clotted chiles rellenos; and meat-free soy tacos. But few things are as gratifying as a paper boat stacked with those taquitos. — P.I.E.
E-23 Olvera St., Los Angeles, (213) 687-4391
Vicente and Connie Cossio founded Coni’Seafood in the late 1980s in the backyard of their Inglewood home, eventually growing the small marisqueria into what would become Coni’Seafood, a restaurant that probably has done more than any other to popularize classic Nayarit-style coastal cooking in Los Angeles.
Bring friends and order the pescado zarandeado, crisp-edged, slow-grilled snook marinated with fresh citrus, chiles and mayonnaise. If you favor bold flavors, the aguachile — big, head-on shrimp marinated in a spicy citrus marinade — is excellent.
For pure comfort, try the snacky fried tacos stuffed with smoked marlin, or the tostaditos, mini tostadas paved with a marlin pâté and layers of minced shrimp and octopus. — P.I.E.
3544 W. Imperial Hwy., Inglewood, coniseafood.com
Dal Rae opened in Pico Rivera in the 1950s, and the wood-paneled dining room transports you back to the post-WWII boom. Baked brie with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes is about as avant-garde as its menu of Continental classics swings. You’re here for tableside action: the Caesar salad tossed in a giant wooden bowl and steak Diane complete with a dramatic glug of brandy set ablaze. Dessert is a pouty Grand Marnier or chocolate soufflé. L.A. is blessed with many throwback restaurants; Dal Rae’s savoir faire and exuberance distinguish it from the pack. — B.A.
9023 Washington Blvd., Pico Rivera, dalrae.com
Ham Ji Park
Ham Ji Park is famously home to one of Koreatown’s most enduring hangover remedies: the scarlet-red pork neck and potato stew called gamjatang. The broth has a lovely milky richness that’s offset by a hammering of Korean chile paste and chile flakes. Altogether its effect is soothing yet invigorating, the perfect Sunday morning meal.
There are also excellent pork spare ribs, meaty and sticky-sweet. Kimchi rice, seething and crackling in a black stone pot, is every shade of sweet, spicy and tangy. Portions are delightfully enormous — you will want to bring friends. — P.I.E.
3407 W. 6th St. #101, Los Angeles, hamjiparklosangeles.com
Musso & Frank Grill
Tinseltown’s landmark restaurant turned 100 years old in September, on the heels of its latest star turn in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.” The film’s title is an apt billing for Musso’s, as everyone calls it, since time is a malleable concept within its smoke-stained walls. Immortal servers glide past rows of red leather booths, delivering shivery martinis, stirred and never shaken, to screen legends, literary giants and the rest of us. How are the grilled lamb chops, the rib-eyes, the Welsh rarebit? Good enough. What’s most important is the existence of the restaurant itself, classy and immutable. — B.A.
6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, mussoandfrank.com
Newport Seafood Restaurant
Wendy Lam and Ly Hua graft their Cambodian-Cantonese culinary roots with Vietnamese and Thai flavors for the sprawling menus at their two SGV restaurants. The union is best showcased in their famous spicy lobster, flamed in a wok’s inferno with garlic, ginger, jalapeños, green onions and black pepper. Their bo luc lac (Vietnam’s “shaking beef”) and steamed spot prawns are flawless in their simplicity. Go early or late, especially on weekends, to avoid long lines. — B.A.
518 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 289-5998; 18441 E. Colima Road, Rowland Heights, (626) 839-1239; ewportseafood.com
Sapp Coffee Shop
This cash-only Thai cafe rewards repeat visitors with a dizzying selection of a la carte options, but the thing to get at least once is the savory boat noodle beef soup with everything: The cloudy stew, thick with offal bits and buzzing with chile heat, is profoundly meaty. A dish of jade noodles tossed with crab meat and slices of roasted duck and barbecued pork is layered with sweet, salty flavor. Fried egg with pork belly is less nuanced but it makes a good breakfast, as does the ground pork omelet over rice. For a caffeine lift, order a frosty Mason jar of strong Thai iced coffee. — P.I.E.
5183 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 665-1035, sapp.menutoeat.com
Power, celebrity, a sense of occasion, late 20th century glamour, smoked salmon pizza: Few restaurants need less of an introduction than Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills flagship. Vie for a table in the energized main dining room. Indulge in corn-filled agnolotti and crispy-scaled black bass with rich sauce Americaine (and order a pizza while you’re at it). The pièce de résistance is pastry chef Della Gossett’s kardinal schnitte, a cathedral of a dessert built on sponge cake, meringue, layers of custardy strawberry-white chocolate crème and the ripest Harry’s Berries strawberries. Spago pioneered casual fine dining in L.A. It will always have its audience. — B.A.
176 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, (310) 385-0880, wolfgangpuck.com