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Special Restaurant Issue | Lotus Land

The Dining Guide

June 19, 2005

From The Times' critics, a survey of more than 250 Southern California restaurants. For those restaurants that were reviewed and received a star rating in The Times, we have included that rating and the review date here. The rating is based on food, service and ambience, with price taken into account in relation to quality. : Outstanding on every level. : Excellent. : Very good. : Good. No star: Poor to satisfactory. Keep in mind, though, that many restaurants have no star rating -- not because they were rated "no star" but because they were not reviewed under the star system.

BEVERLY HILLS

The Belvedere offers well-crafted French-California cuisine with Asian touches in the Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel's elegant dining room. An innovative brunch and a splendid high tea are served in the "Living Room." Specialty: bluefin tuna "lollipops." Entrees, $28 to $34. 9882 Little Santa Monica Blvd.; (310) 788-2306. New American.

Cafe Talesai offers, in addition to the usual Thai dishes, many with a northern influence. The food is spirited in flavor and presented attractively. Specialties: Southern Thai border beef, corn fritters, spicy rib-eye salad, Panang curry. Entrees, $9 to $21. 9198 W. Olympic Blvd.; (310) 271-9345. Thai.

Enoteca Drago, Celestino Drago's wine bar and ristorante, has spaghetti cacio pepe tossed with good pecorino and freshly ground black pepper. It outshines more elaborate dishes. **. Reviewed May 19, 2004. Pastas, $13.50 to $18. 410 N. Canon Drive; (310) 786-8236. Italian.

Fogo de Chao, which means "fire on the ground" in Portuguese, is a new churrascaria. * 1/2. Reviewed June 8, 2005. Specialties: filet mignon, top sirloin, beef ribs, leg of lamb, pork ribs, pork loin. Fixed-price dinner, $48.50. 133 N. La Cienega Blvd.; (310) 289-7755. Brazilian.

Customers line the counter at the Fountain Coffee Shop, where both updated and retro classics are on the menu. It's popular with hotel guests, but also with people from the neighborhood who bring their kids for the fountain's classic milkshakes and malts, tuna melts and triple-decker club sandwiches. Entrees, $7 to $13. 9641 Sunset Blvd. at the Beverly Hills Hotel; (310) 276-2251. American.

The Grill on the Alley is the kind of classy retro joint that Nick and Nora from "The Thin Man" films would have loved. Ingredients here are top-notch, and the service is the best in town. Specialties: Cobb salad, Caesar salad, double-cut lamb chops, prime New York steak, classic martini. Entrees, $20 to $35. 9560 Dayton Way; (310) 276-0615. American.

At Gyu-Kaku, a chain of Japanese-style Korean barbecues, everyone can get into the act of grilling veggies and chicken, shrimp and kalbi (marinated boneless ribs) over hardwood coals set into tables. Try the bibimba--rice cooked and served in a sizzling stone bowl. Dessert is grilled too, either classic s'mores or Chiclet-size mochi. Foods for grilling, $5 to $15. 163 N. La Cienega Blvd.; (310) 659-5760. Japanese. Also in West Los Angeles and the South Bay.

Kate Mantilini gets a late-night crowd, especially after a film showing at the nearby Writers Guild. It features a dramatic contemporary setting for basic diner fare. Specialties: eggs, oysters, burgers, steaks, omelets, meatloaf. Entrees, $7 to $35. 9101 Wilshire Blvd.; (310) 278-3699. American. Also in the San Fernando Valley.

La Dolce Vita recalls an era when Frank and his pals savored Italian favorites in a friendly, clubby setting. **. Reviewed Sept. 1, 2004. Specialties: scampi, roasted pepper with anchovies, baked clams oreganata, mozzarella marinara, stracciatella soup, fettuccine Alfredo, rigatoni Bolognese, steak Sinatra, broiled sausage with peppers. Entrees, $20 to $36. 9785 Santa Monica Blvd.; (310) 278-1845. Italian.

Lawry's the Prime Rib has the dining experience down to a science. The menu is as streamlined as they come. Specialties: spinning bowl salad, Lawry's cut, Diamond Jim Brady cut, hot fudge sundae, coconut banana cream pie. Entrees, $25 to $40. 100 N. La Cienega Blvd.; (310) 652-2827. American.

Mako has a fresh, contemporary design with the feel of an informal cafe. The food is Asian fusion from the former chef at Chinois on Main. Specialties: crispy oysters, diver scallops, baked uni, whole lobster with black bean sauce, yuzu tart. Entrees, $5 to $23. 225 S. Beverly Drive; (310) 288-8338. Asian fusion.

Eric Klein, the talented young chef who brought Maple Drive back from the near-dead, has decamped to Las Vegas. His replacement is another Spago alum, Vincent Manna. Specialties: foie gras spring rolls, upside-down pineapple cake. Entrees, $15 to $42. 345 N. Maple Drive; (310) 274-9800. California American.

Mastro's Steakhouse touts itself as the steakhouse with a personality. Portions are huge, the steaks are aged prime, but the sides need work. Specialties: Kansas City strip, veal porterhouse, fried onions, au gratin potatoes. Entrees, $25 to $60 (18-ounce lobster tail). 246 N. Canon Drive; (310) 888-8782. American.

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