TOP LUNCH SPOTS
10100 Constellation Blvd., Century City
The entrees are very simple in execution, which would be a letdown if they weren’t cooked so perfectly. Craft focuses on seasonal ingredients and at this time the wild Alaskan salmon is at its peak, medium rare at the server’s suggestion, and served with a cucumber vinaigrette. These understated main courses are wisely offered a la carte with the option of ordering from a rotating list of seasonal sides, served family style. The gnocchi is a perfect accompaniment to a lighter dish, but we go all out and pair it with the summer squash. As deals are made and weekend box-office figures are discussed at the next table, you can see that Craft will have an audience for some time built solely on this hip room and the buzz surrounding it. More interesting than this scene is what the second act will bring.
2. PIZZERIA MOZZA
641 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles
The pizzas ah! the pizzas are unlike anything ever called by that name. The toppings are specific and thought out. The long-cooked broccoli and chiles come with caciocavallo, comically translated as “cheese on horseback.” Though it is unforgivably salty, the underlying intent shines through. The crust is neither the thin, crispy flatbread nor the doughy panini-style bread associated with real Italian pizza, but a combination of chewiness and crunchy goodness, full of air pockets and touched occasionally by char. On one pizza, the bitterness of rapini is matched by the sweetness of whole cherry tomatoes; olives and anchovies provide the savory element. The fennel sausage the most popular pie comes with marblesize balls of meat and long shreds of scallion that pack a nice crunch, counteracting the inherent grease. Our favorite is the funghi misti with assorted mushrooms. Sprinkled sparingly with taleggio and fontina, the simplicity allows appreciation for chef Nancy Silverton’s epic crust.
1636 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake
With thick slices of pork belly and a preserved black-bean spread, the popular “Asian” BLT is so rich we can’t possibly finish, but still we try valiantly. Although the meal is excellent, we are anticipating that cup of coffee at the end. We choose the Brazilian blend. Good, but better is the siphon-brewed Onyx blend. The siphon brew is a complicated little contraption done tableside, resembling a high school science experiment. It is quite the show and other diners peer over in curiosity. This place is a rare gem not only for Silver Lake, but for the rest of the city as well. The preciousness of it all could easily veer into pretension, if only the staff wasn’t so delighted by the magic of it all. Lamill is definitely worth the trip.
4. COMME CA
8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood
We split the grilled cheese of the day. The glorious concoction that is served and I fancy myself a connoisseur makes me rethink the entire paradigm on which I judge grilled cheese. The bread is slightly hardened by cooking with the perfect drizzling of butter, the inside is gooey without overdoing it on the sharp cheddar. The slathering of Dijon mustard is a revelation, so much so that I don’t miss the tomato that is supposed to be included. The moules and steak frites are great exactly what you are craving in a place like this. The moules are succulent and the Pernod-infused broth is great for dipping your frites.
11941 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
We start with some finger food. A plate of grilled shishito peppers arrives with a spray of bonito flakes. Though I am suspicious of the strong, smoky flakes, they bring out the flavors of the grill. We forgo the edamame and instead try some roasted ginkgo nuts in sea salt. Not unlike pistachios, they are a good nosh. We are immediately struck by how officious the staff is. Sitting at the bar we are constantly attended to by chefs, servers, runners and bus staff. Every request is met with cheer; when we ask for a knife for our grilled baby barracuda, our server graciously cuts it for us. Though the cooked dishes are good, the true stars at Asanebo are the cold plates of sashimi. Delicately portioned out in thin slices and fanned out on the plate, the presentations are beautiful. The kanpachi (amberjack) sashimi comes with a smidge of sesame miso and is topped with a slice of serrano pepper. The red snapper is adorned only by sea salt and a touch of yuzu, a Japanese citrus, and the simplicity is impeccable.
700 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles
Make no mistake, a large part of Cafe Pinot’s charm resides in its awe-inspiring space. Inhabiting what is essentially a glass box with windows for walls an urban greenhouse of sorts the restaurant capitalizes on the proximity of one of the grandest buildings in historic downtown. With its etched steps and raised pools, Maguire Gardens lends a romantic element to the al fresco dining area, which makes up the bulk of the caf & #233;’s seating. Unobstructed views of the skyline as well as a pedestrian-laden walkway grant additional life, capturing the best of what downtown has to offer.
BEST HOTEL LUNCH
8384 W. Third St., Los Angeles
As always, Gino Angelini has the homemade pastas down cold with none of the overcooked stuff lesser Italian places are prone to turn out. The cappellacci are folded like envelopes and filled with butternut squash. Sage leaves are sprinkled on top of the parmigiano sauce drizzled over the tiny pillows with a light hand. The signature tagliolini is served with pan-roasted shrimp. Though the pasta is achingly fresh and the shrimp exquisitely cooked, the sauce is a bit heavy and the lemon and basil are drowned out. Though the simple meat and fish entrees could be bland and boring in the wrong hands, La Terza’s chefs create magic with their unfettered plates. The sauteed rack of lamb is cooked to medium rare with just the right amount of marbling. The meat is tender and juicy without the addition of a complicated sauce, garnished with just mushrooms and mashed potatoes. The flavorful salmon is deeply colored and dressed with a subtle porcini sauce. The restraint shown is inspiring.
7313 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
A not-unpleasant din filled the room with vitality, but without interrupting the conversation. A few older gentlemen greeted the manager and a chef with hugs and a couple sat down to share an entree, a ritual they seem to have repeated here many times. Quite a few people speak Italian, which is always promising, and diners enjoyed their prosciuttos and burrata with a glass of red wine. The pizza is not to be missed under any circumstances. The salami is hand-cut in thick slices and fanned out across each quadrant of the paper-thin crust. Grease drips onto the plate as I am sated with just half a pie. The pizza bianca is even more intensely filling with nearly translucent shavings of prosciutto and lumps of melted burrata married with the crisp wafer underneath. There are 10 variations on this dish alone and we are already planning future visits in our heads.
PACIFIC DINING CAR
1310 W. Sixth St., Los Angeles
It’s all about the filet mignon. All of our craving is fulfilled. Perfectly cooked to medium rare, the steak is so tender you can cut it with a for and it’s unbelievably juicy, too. This is some of the best steak I have had in Los Angeles and rivals the stuff I had growing up in the Midwest. My many qualms about this place are laid to rest as we continue to eat mostly with our eyes closed, savoring each bite. The Pacific Dining Car lives on as a little slice of Los Angeles’ rich history. The eternally unchanging cuisine is almost endearing, if not for the fact that you are paying some serious coin. That said, the restaurant is often packed to the hilt with downtown’s power players and remains an impressive backdrop for a serious meeting.