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THE RESTAURANT ISSUE

Stick a Fork in It... ...or a steak knife.

Or a skewer. Or a spoon. Wrap a pair of chopsticks around it. Or plunge in a corkscrew. Because of our wealth of restaurants, we're a multi-utensil town. A primer on what cutlery to use where--and hands are fair game here as well--in restaurants across Southern California.

June 18, 2006|S. Irene Virbila | S. Irene Virbila is The Times' restaurant critic. She has been recognized by the Assn. of Food Journalists and the James Beard Foundation for best restaurant criticism.

SOUP SPOON

Italian wedding soup

Young Hollywood heads to the old Rat Pack hangout Dominick's for comforting dishes such as Italian wedding soup, a rich poultry broth with swatches of emerald greens and shreds of egg bobbing with perfect little meatballs from chef Brandon Boudet. The setting, complete with cozy bar, walls covered in vintage black-and-white photos and a seductive walled patio with an outdoor fireplace, feels like Greenwich Village in the 1950s. Dominick's, 8715 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 652-2335.

Gumbo

Terry Fortia, a refugee from Hurricane Katrina, makes a mean gumbo at Memphis, a new hot spot with bordello red walls, private dining rooms and vintage films projected onto neighboring buildings. The gumbo, laced with shrimp, crawfish, oysters, crab and okra, has a rich, irresistible funk. This summer the outdoor patio in front will come into its own at this late-night scene. Memphis, 6541 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 465-8600.

Green mole soup

Guelaguetza, a modest cafe with oil cloth on the tables and the scent of roasted chiles and nuts wafting out the door, has moles that are made from ingredients brought from Mexico every week. A green mole, fragrant with cilantro and epazote, flavors a delicious soup made from pork bones and chayote squash. Intricately spiced mole negro de Oaxaca flows over chicken like chocolate over an ice cream sundae. Guelaguetza, 11127 Palms Blvd., Palms; (310) 837-1153.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 24, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Restaurant Issue: The phone number for M Cafe de Chaya was incorrectly listed in a review in West magazine's Restaurant Issue (June 18). It is (323) 525-0588.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday June 25, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Magazine restaurant issue: The phone number for M Cafe de Chaya in Los Angeles was incorrectly listed in a review in West magazine's restaurant issue on June 18. It is (323) 525-0588.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 09, 2006 Home Edition West Magazine Part I Page 5 Lat Magazine Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
The phone number for M Cafe de Chaya was incorrectly listed in a review in the Restaurant Issue ("Stick a Fork in It," June 18). It is (323) 525-0588.

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SPOON

Ice cream

The glass display cases at Boule are filled with Sona pastry chef Michelle Myers' exquisite handmade chocolates and fruit gelees, but don't leave without some Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream or apricot-jasmine, chocolate or yuzu buttermilk sorbets. Why stand in line at Berthillon in Paris when you can get ice creams and sorbets this excellent close to home? It's summer. Cool down. Boule, 420 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 289-9977.

Shark fin flan

At Bluefin, sushi chef Takashi Abe knows his sashimi. But the Matsuhisa alum also indulges his creative side with dishes such as shark fin flan, a fragile custard with threads of shark fin on top. Eat it slowly, with the small bamboo spoon, the better to savor its silken texture and delicate flavor. For dessert, try the creme brulee with the haunting taste of green tea. Bluefin, Crystal Cove Promenade, 7952 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Coast; (949) 715-7373.

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FISH FORK

Salt-baked Maine lobster

Baby fennel, braised leeks and chunks of a whole Maine lobster baked under a drift of salt and flooded with a delicate fennel broth make a thoroughly modern dish at Stonehill Tavern, the classy new American restaurant at the St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach. Go for the updated classics like this one, plus silken lobster bisque with Meyer lemon cream or rustic Berkshire pig with caramelized lady apple. Stonehill Tavern, St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach, 1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point; (949) 234-3318.

Crudo

Salvatore Marino of Il Grano is a devotee of crudo--raw, impeccably fresh fish that is the Italian equivalent of sashimi. Whatever he finds at the fish market each morning shows up on that night's selection. It might include a small, perfect Kumamoto oyster, a slice of live Maine scallop, along with the scallop's "lips," or muscle, some wild branzino tartare. Each bite-sized portion is garnished with a thread of delicate green-gold olive oil and a few grains of sea salt, so you can really taste the briny sweetness of the raw fish. Il Grano, 11359 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 477-7886.

Blue and Dungeness crab cake

The tall crab cake at Water Grill, packed with Maryland blue and West Coast Dungeness crabmeat, trumps just about every other one in town. Chef David LeFevre sets it on a mint-perfumed couscous and tunes its flavors with a yogurt-lime-cucumber sauce. Water Grill, 544 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 891-0900.

Santa Barbara spot prawns

Michael Cimarusti is such a genie with fish, you have to wonder if he's sold his soul to the devil of the deep. His tasting menus at Providence dance through species from around the globe. From local waters, Santa Barbara's glorious prawns arrive butterflied, still in their brilliant shells and wearing skeins of coral red roe. One time he might serve them with tiny ochre shimeji mushrooms and a subtle sake sauce. Another time with emerald petits pois dusted with wasabi pea powder and a swirl of pea puree. Providence, 5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 460-4170.

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SALAD FORK

Charred octopus salad

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