The trick at this stylish small-plate spot is narrowing your choices from a menu brimming with good ones. The delicate crab and cucumber salad in a creamy ginger dressing is a must, as is the light, crisp shrimp tempura served with curry dipping sauce and sea salt. Our best advice: Go with a food-loving friend or two and order a bunch of dishes. Just remember what mom said about sharing.
* Crab salad, $9; shrimp tempura, $9. 2006 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A. (310) 268-2212.
We're not aware of too many places where you can choose among fish tacos, Vietnamese spring rolls, seafood paella or our favorite, vegetarian fried rice. But they're all on the menu at this newish entry on the boulevard, a brightly lighted cafe from the hip kids behind Giant Robot magazine.
* Tacos, $7.25; paella, $8.75; fried rice, $7. 2050 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A., (310) 478-3242.
Lunch at this mini-mall sleeper might be one of the best deals in Los Angeles. In addition to the daily specials listed on the blackboard, Chef Hideyo Mitsuno turns out dreamy composed salads. (Prepare to be addicted to his three layer crab salad with just a touch of wasabi heat.) Dinner is excellent as well.
* Crab salad appetizer, $10.95. 2117 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A. (310) 477-1617.
Hurry Curry of Tokyo
Located in the same strip mall as 2117 (also home to a Chinese place, a Japanese do-it-yourself barbecue restaurant and Volcano, the best boba place on the Westside), this casual place serves up hearty and complex Japanese curry, which can be ordered mild, medium or hot. There are many vegetarian options, including a spinach and mushroom combo.
* Spinach and mushroom curry, $7.50 (includes a small salad). 2131 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A. (310) 473-1640.
This diminutive, homey Japanese restaurant specializes in simply grilled fish and pastas accented with ingredients such as spicy pollock caviar. The moist, flavorful meatloaf, made with beef and pork, is also popular.
* Meatloaf, $11.85. 2024 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A. (310) 445-9288.
-- Leslee Komaiko