Where Tom went:
Once daring, the spare, organ-oriented Animal now feels like a hit show in its fifth season, with more competition, which shouldn’t stop you from checking out the hamachi tostada garnished with peanuts and avocado or from finishing the uber-rich biscuit topped with melting foie gras.
435 N. Fairfax Ave.
There are few greater pleasures in the city than a table on the patio of Suzanne Goin’s small-plates restaurant in Beverly Grove, surrounded by climbing bougainvillea and serenaded by a fountain. Head for anything originating from the garden or the restaurant’s wood-fired oven. The most reviving mocktail around: the Green Goddess, verdant with green tea, cucumber, arugula, lime juice and jalapeño. Ahhh.
8700 W. Third St.
Peerless raw fish, precise technique and polished service distinguish this slender Japanese dining room from the lot in the San Fernando Valley. Roasted gingko nuts in a bowl of sea salt make a fine snack while you’re waiting for lobster sashimi tricked out with black truffles. Fingers crossed, someone else is paying for the lofty pleasure.
11941 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
A one-stop shop for the cocktail geek in Silver Lake, Bar Keeper stocks seemingly everything you need to mix, stir and serve drinks, from elegant absinthe spoons and shakers shaped like rockets to stemware, coasters and top-shelf spirits.
3910 W. Sunset Blvd.
Ignore the clamor and the challenge of securing a table at prime time. Bestia is one of downtown’s top draws because the warehouse setting is amazing (the chandeliers are wrought from meat hooks) and the Italian-leaning food, from chef Ori Menashe, is some of the most innovative in the city. Home in on veal tartare crostini with tonnato sauce; farro salad tossed with cauliflower, pickled chili, mint and avocado; and slow-roasted lamb neck enlivened with salsa verde.
2121 E. Seventh Pl.
An enticing addition to the scene from Bryant Ng, whose credits include Pizzeria Mozza, this massive Vietnamese-French brasserie combines a bar, a seafood counter, a meat locker, a patio and a menu as big as all that sounds. One of several cross-cultural delights: naanlike pizza strips presented with a bowl of chopped snails, racy with lemon grass and bright with herbs.
1314 Seventh St., Santa Monica
Like it hot? This kitchen delivers, with Sichuan food that numbs the lips but compels a diner to keep returning to, say, a strapping bowl of fire-colored mapo tofu or fish soup afloat with sliced jalapeños and black peppercorns. Not to be missed: squiggles of “toothpick” lamb spiked with cumin.
828 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra
Echo Park’s dream corner market, Cookbook packs a lot into its tiny quarters: fresh herbs, tamarind drinking vinegar, lamb shanks, pie dough in the cooler and sustainable sandwich wrap on the shelf. All this, plus a well-curated selection of cookbooks.
1549 Echo Park Ave.
Plant-based fine dining means an interior dressed to the nines with handcrafted chandeliers, wing chairs and an original Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph plus vegan versions of crab cakes (shaped with hearts of palm) and scaloppini marsala that could win over a dedicated carnivore.
8284 Melrose Ave.
Din Tai Fung
Lines form early outside this dim sum specialist in the San Gabriel Valley, where the Taiwanese thrills run to vinegar-splashed bean curd and seaweed, ginger-sparked mustard greens, and edible purses (shumai) stuffed with shrimp and pork. A glass-enclosed kitchen off the foyer puts the busy cooks on display.
1108 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia
Named for the Prohibition-era trick of hiding booze in laundry baskets, this dim, arched-brick riff on a speak-easy, tucked away beneath an apartment building in Hollywood, pours cocktails including the whiskey-based, absinthe-rinsed High Desert with orange bitters. Among the house rules: No “talk boxes” (cell phones).
1725 N. Hudson Ave.
Grand Central Market
Name your favorite cuisine — Japanese, Mexican, seafood — and it’s apt to be represented by a stall or a counter in this historic downtown food hall, open since 1917 and the recipient of a major makeover last year. Just need some bananas, a juice, some nuts or a veal chop? They’re around, too.
317 S. Broadway
There’s no more festive place to find yourself on a Sunday afternoon, in the company of a live band and potent mezcal, than this Oaxacan standard-bearer in Harvard Heights. Look to the family-packed tables for ordering suggestions; crowd-pleasers include a tortilla-based “pizza” spread with black bean paste, cactus and avocado; and tender chicken in moat of pitch-perfect black mole.
3014 W. Olympic Blvd.
Guerrilla Tacos (Wednesdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Get to the famous food truck late, and it might be out of fresh uni or big-eye tuna for the day. Make do with a two-ply corn taco heaped with sweet potatoes, feta cheese and fried corn, every bit as considered as you’d expect of the chef, Wes Avila, who studied under Alain Ducasse in Paris.
6114 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City (Cognoscenti Coffee)
Guerrilla Tacos (Thursdays and Fridays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Guerrilla Tacos (Thursdays 5-9 p.m.)
Guerrilla Tacos (Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
What might be the finest tacos in Los Angeles begin in Echo Park, in an open kitchen where the corn tortillas take shape, and are best enjoyed as a sampler of six ($7) on the rear patio, dressed up with colorful murals and a fountain. The stewy fillings run from pork rinds with chili verde to shredded chicken with nutty mole.
1261 W. Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood Farmers Market
One of the best places to catch chefs outside their restaurants, the Sunday morning attraction near the Hollywood and Vine Metro stop will make you fall in love with Southern California. The vendors include oyster shuckers, makers of vegan mole and raspberry-rose sorbet, and growers of world-class produce. Looking for chrysanthemum leaves? Hollywood has them, plus live music.
Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Avenue, Hollywood
Jon & Vinny's
The two chefs who also own the nearby Animal trumpet pastas from scratch and pies that dare you to leave pizza bones behind. The Flower Child pie pretty much sums up California cuisine with its toppings of local crescenza cheese, nasturtium flowers, arugula and sea salt.
412 N. Fairfax Ave.
Musso & Frank Grill
Time stands still at Musso & Frank Grill, where waiters in retro tuxedo jackets deliver chicken potpies and old-fashioned cocktails, and the best place to land is at the curvy wooden bar near a cook flipping flannel cakes on the grill. The scenery trumps the food, but who cares? You’re devouring a Hollywood classic.
6667 Hollywood Blvd.
A simple bungalow with wasabi-colored walls serves as the stage for a rare female Japanese chef, Niki Nakayama, whose epic contemporary kaiseki (multi-course meal) might feature roseate kanpachi arranged with dots of jalapeño jelly and avocado sauce; fried sea bass gilded with uni butter; and spaghettini accessorized with abalone and Burgundy truffles.
3455 Overland Ave.
Night + Market Song
Ask for the best barbecue in Koreatown, and “Park’s” is the inevitable reply. The meats — prime short ribs, Kobe-style beef, pork belly --- are first-rate, and so is the service. Be sure to find room for the lush steak tartare, fruity with pear in its mix, and expect to smell of smoke when you exit the industrial-chic dining room, smiling.
955 South Vermont Ave.
Can’t get into Trois Mec, the white-hot tasting menu concept from star chef Ludovic Lefebvre that requires you to buy tickets online? Take solace in its sibling next door, a slender bistro serving textbook versions of French classics — escargots, omelets, wild sole meunière — by cooks who perform mere feet in front of you. The Big Mec is fast food at its finest.
718 North Highland Ave.
Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen
Jeremy Fox made a name for himself at Ubuntu in Napa Valley, the best vegetarian restaurant in the country before it closed in 2012. Rustic Canyon finds the chef doing luscious things with liver sauce, an accent for pork, and bone marrow, graced with seaweed pistou. If you get only one dish at this warm-hearted salute to the farmers market, make it the vivid pozole verde with clams: hominy heaven.
1119 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s trailblazing restaurant shows no sign of aging, as evinced by the stars that still alight for dinner and a smoked salmon pizza that continues to dazzle, decades after it ushered in a national trend.
176 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills
Begun four years ago as a preserves maker in East Hollywood, this tiny place went on to serve breakfast and lunch, with a focus on what the owner calls “California comfort food": avocado toast, crispy rice salad with lemon grass and mint, and a romesco sandwich slathered with house-made ricotta.
720 N. Virgil Ave. #4
Browsing the displays feels like turning the pages of a luxury magazine. One moment you’re admiring handmade bronze bowls by an artist in Brazil, the next you’re coveting an English tea set circa 1890. Can’t find what you want? The shop will design it for you. Restaurant clients include Providence in L.A. and Quince in San Francisco.
8024 Melrose Ave.
Ensconced in the Art Deco Sunset Tower Hotel and outfitted with walnut-paneled walls and rosy lighting, Tower Bar might be the most luxe lounge in the city. Enjoy a Tower Smash — tequila, basil, lemon and ginger — therein, or on the adjoining terrace, featuring a pool and stunning views of L.A.
8358 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
A mindful market with a mission to source locally, Urban Radish refers to itself as a “21st century Mom and Pop community food store.” From the in-house butcher come free-range chicken and pasture-raised lamb, while the wine department focuses on small producers and biodynamic wines. Jazz Wednesday finds a grill party outside.
661 Imperial St.
Wally’s Wine Shop
Trophy wines abound at one of the state’s premiere retailers, the flagship of which sits in West Los Angeles. Among the treasures: a 1902 Armagnac, yours for $4,000. Wally’s neighbor is also a sibling, the Cheese Box, a source for charcuterie, crackers and other companions for wine.
2107 Westwood Blvd.