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California Cuisine

November 08, 1987| Compiled by David Pecchia

Nobody seems to know what those two words actually mean when put together, but if you want to do a little research, here are a few places that serve it. We think. AUTHENTIC CAFE (7605 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 939-4626). This stools-only diner, where the eclectic cooking is upscale and the prices are downscale, became an instant hit. The salads are delivered in huge, beautiful mounds--enough to feed two. Great pizzas (all prepared on the spot). A dish to consider: fettuccine with chicken, corn, peppers, onion and chile chipotle cream sauce. The creme brulee tops a collection of marvelous homemade desserts. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. Closed Sunday. No reservations. Street parking only. No checks or credit cards accepted. Takeout and catering also available. Dinner for two, food only, $15-$20.

BERTY'S (11712 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood, (213) 207-6169). The long, narrow room with its salmon-pink walls and soft music will prime you for a leisurely meal. The menu is California contemporary: Start with greens and goat cheese dressed in Zinfandel vinegar; work your way through blue-crab ravioli, a grilled veal chop with red onion marmalade and finish off with three flavors of creme brulee . The desserts are a tad sweet but gorgeous. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat. All major credit cards. Valet parking dinner only. Beer and wine. Dinner for two, food only, $35-$85.

CAIOTI (2100 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 650-2988). The look is country casual but the taste is pure big city. Follow the smell of garlic through the door and you're back in the boonies. Caioti's rich pizzas are courtesy of Ed Ladou, baker of Spago's first pizzas and consultant to California Pizza Kitchen. Try appetizers like bacon-wrapped shrimp with pesto. Experience entrees such as herb-roasted chicken. It's a wonderfully odd little place--and it's practically perfect for the neighborhood. Open for lunch and dinner daily till midnight (delivery and takeout too). Street parking. No alcohol. No credit cards. Dinner for two, food only, $15-$20.

THE CAT AND THE CUSTARD CUP (800 E. Whittier Blvd., La Habra, (714) 992-6496 or (213) 694-3812). It looks like an Old English tavern (waitresses in mobcaps) crossed with a steakhouse (brass railings) but it's owned by a chain of Mexican restaurants! Pancetta and shiitake salad is an appetizer that will grab you: warm, unsmoked bacon mixed with marinated mushrooms in a light vinaigrette on sweet and tender lettuces. Two members of the entree all-star team would be the lamb filet in a mild tomato cream sauce and the filet of beef with crisp, unbreaded fried onions. Exquisite desserts abound. Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner daily. Full bar. Parking in lot. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $40-$65.

MUSE (7360 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 934-4400). Hip and trendy, the spare contemporary dining room is filled with art and plates of pretty food. To begin, you might try a huge serving of blue and yellow corn tortilla nachos with guacamole, salsa and sour cream, or lettuce tacos with spicy chicken and a peanut vinaigrette. For a more elegant way to start a meal, try shrimp with sweet and sour nectarine coulis and deep-fried spaghetti; it looks like a picture in a food magazine. The Caesar salad is generous and fine. Marinated Black Angus filet mignon comes on a hefty bed of chanterelles. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner daily. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $40-$80.

TOSH (1909 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 453-3333). A small new restaurant dominated by a crystal chandelier so massive that it looks like the spaceship in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" coming in for a landing. But the food is earthbound and carefully made. Appetizers include a savory hazelnut wild rice waffle or wildly wonderful lobster ravioli. A gravad lax appetizer is served with points of house-made herb bread. Mushroom soup is a rich, creamy pond stocked with bits of morels and chanterelles. Chicken with achiote sauce, a plump grilled bird, is served in a nicely musty Mexican sauce and accompanied by little golden beets. Lobster comes wrapped in cabbage, veal with a three-citrus sauce. The wine list is small but good and service is pleasant. Lunch Tue.-Fri., dinner Tue.-Sat. Full bar. Valet parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $30-$60.

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