There are few things more civilized than lunch at The Restaurant at this idyllic property. And even when it's chilly outside, the patio is comfy thanks to a heated floor. The crab and cognac bisque is outrageously good. And there's plenty of lighter fare on the "Spa" menu.
* Bisque, $16. 701 Stone Canyon Road, Bel-Air; (310) 472-1211.
The menu at this recently made-over modern bistro, which takes its name from chef-proprietor Zov Karamardian, spans the Mediterranean. There are pastas from Italy and a twist on the classic French nicoise salad, with salmon instead of tuna. But it's the Middle Eastern dishes that keep us coming back: smoky baba ghanouj and hearty lamb shashlik (grilled lamb skewers) to name two.
* Baba ghanouj, $8.25; lamb shashlik, $25.95. 17440 E. 17th St., Tustin; (714) 838-8855.
Lunch at the Pink Palace always feels like a special occasion. But this season it's more festive than ever, with red poinsettias everywhere. The menu reads like a California greatest hits list: tortilla soup, rotisserie chicken, Caesar salad with jumbo shrimp. And if you're looking to wow out-of-towners, the odds of a celebrity spotting are always good.
* Tortilla soup, $10; chicken, $24; Caesar, $22. 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 276-2251.
Too few people know this restaurant does lunch. And in the daytime, when sunlight bathes the front room, it's especially pretty. The menu changes often but always features plenty of delicious options: house-made lamb sausage, for instance, with cilantro yogurt or walnut bread salad with shaved artichoke and feta.
* Sausage, $15; bread salad, $14. 624 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; (323) 938-1447.
230 Forest Avenue
When the weather is fine, and it usually is in these parts, everyone wants a spot on the patio, where the people-watching is choice. The menu features a nice blend of old reliables such as crab cakes and a burger (this one made with Kobe beef) and more eclectic offerings, such as a chopped seafood salad.
* Crab cakes, $13; burger, $12; seafood salad, $17. 230 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach; (949) 494-2545.
-- Leslee Komaiko