Not only are the presentations absolutely stunning and exotic at these recently reviewed Franco-Japanese restaurants, the food tastes terrific. Cafe Blanc (3706 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 380-2829). The basic thing about Cafe Blanc is the gentle atmosphere of pleasure--it's the kind of place that makes you catch your breath. An appetizer plate comes out with little pastel fragments floating on a pale film of olive oil: Quartered raw green squash, tiny carrot strings, daikon sprouts, shreds of dried apricot. The lobster, removed from its shell and dressed in a sauce of lobster coral, or the halibut with three sauces are both winners but the flag-waver is a ravishing duck in orange sauce--a sauce with plenty of orange flavor but not overly sweet--and enlivened with mint. For lunch it would be hard to top the grilled salmon in a little pool of cream sauce served with pasta marinated in rice-wine vinegar with basil and shreds of carrot. For dessert you might like the green tea mousse or a delicious coffee jelly topped with vanilla ice cream. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Fri., dinner only Sat. MasterCard and Visa. No liquor. Street parking. Diner for two, including tea or coffee, $52-$62.
Chabuya (3360 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, (213) 487-2904). Lyon's former site has been given a face-lift, renamed Chabuya and reopened under new ownership. Chabuya has a feel that is more hamburger than haute , although there isn't a floorboard or a light fixture that has not been carefully thought out. The caviar-topped raw scallop salad--marinated in olive oil and saffron, with ratatouille, crayfish and mushroom toasts in a balsamic herb vinaigrette--works wonderfully. And sweetbreads--sauteed until crisp and served with browned leek, julienned red peppers, crayfish, and a light tomato concasse --are electrifying. For dessert you can't go wrong with the chestnut mousse in a yellow sponge cake. Dinner Mon.-Sat. MasterCard and Visa. Beer and wine. Street parking. Dinner for two, food only, $40-$80. Lyon (1065 E. Green St., Pasadena, (818) 449-4519). Special attention has been shown everywhere at Lyon, from the smallest detail of the flower arrangements to the carefully selected wall treatments, and the choice of design and furnishings. The food is just as thought out. The escargots appetizer with garlic butter sauce or the ris de veau au feuillete (sweetbreads in puff pastry) are both good starting points. The restaurant has a terrific touch with fish and sauces--you'll find the scallops with a tomato-butter sauce and the halibut or salmon with white-wine sauce grand. And you can't go wrong with the duck with orange sauce, or the lamb chops with white pepper, or for that matter, the fricasee of veal with white sauce. Be sure to give the desserts a try--the cheesecake has a lightness that makes you feel as if you are eating air. Lunch Tue.-Fri., dinner Tue.-Sun. MasterCard, Visa. Beer and wine. Parking in rear. Dinner for two, food only, $35-$60. Restaurant Shiro (1505 Mission St., South Pasadena, (818) 799-4774). This restaurant may not be much to look at--the room is simply painted and sparsely decorated--but its minimalist decor allows you to focus on the open kitchen in the back. The service is pleasant and the good food will keep you coming back. The seafood salad is stunning, packed with portions of mussels, clams, shrimps and octopus lightly tossed with a fresh herb dressing. The whole catfish is a generous and appealing dish; the fish is scored and then gently deep-fried so the flesh is still delicate and creamy, and served with a Japanese ponzu sauce. Since this is light food and accompaniments are sparse (and entirely vegetarian: a few circles of carrot, a couple of squiggles of squash and no starch), you will definitely have room for dessert. Order the raspberry creme brulee and you won't be disappointed. Dinner Tue.-Sun. MasterCard and Visa. Beer and Wine. Street parking. Dinner for two, food only, $30-$45.