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

THE RESTAURANT ISSUE

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.

Finally, a modern Greek restaurant with a beach-town address. At Petros, chef Yianni Koufodontis plies guests with Greek meze: a smoky eggplant dip, an elegant Greek salad, shrimp with feta and a squirt of lemon or spanakopita made with hand-rolled phyllo dough. But most irresistible is the octopus salad, which shows up sometimes as a special. The tender charred octopus tentacles are slick with olive oil and fragrant with lemon and herbs. Petros Greek Restaurant and Lounge, 451 Manhattan Beach Blvd., No. B110, Manhattan Beach; (310) 545-4100.

Smoked tofu and green beans

Beacon's Kazuto Matsusaka, Chinois' original chef, turns out light, beautifully focused Asian dishes. One of my favorites is his green bean salad showered with julienned smoked tofu in a sesame oil dressing cut with Banyuls vinegar made from the famous sweet wine of French Catalonia. His avocado salad has an appealing purity: creamy, perfectly ripe avocado, sliced and strewn with Japanese scallions, cilantro leaves and sesame seeds. Beacon, 3280 Helms Ave., Culver City; (310) 838-7500.

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.

Little gem salad with soft egg and anchovy

At Lucques, Suzanne Goin turns out beguiling salads in every season. Lately, I've been taken with her Little Gem lettuce--similar to a crisp, sweet cos or romaine--with all the goodness of greens plucked from the garden, embellished simply with salt-cured anchovies and soft eggs, their deep-gold yolks the texture of custard. Lightly dressed with a garlic-and-lemon-drenched vinaigrette, it is summer on a plate. Lucques, 8474 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (323) 655-6277.

Bean salad with bottarga

Pecorino stands out along Brentwood's Italian restaurant row with a more quirky regional menu from an Abruzzese chef. First courses ditch the cliche with salads such as mixed beans with wild arugula, pecorino and briny bottarga (dried, pressed mullet roe), or one of firm green beans, cherry tomatoes and their own tuna put up in oil and sprinkled with oregano. Pecorino, 11604 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; (310) 571-3800.

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DINNER FORK

Stinco di vitello

It's hard not to feel smug at Angelini Osteria as all eyes swivel to follow the stinco to your table, where a server slices off the beautiful roasted veal shank finished in the wood-burning oven. The meat is so tender, you almost don't need a knife to cut it. Served with potato puree, it's a meal in itself. Finish with a perfect cup of espresso or an affogato-vanilla gelato "drowned" in espresso. Angelini Osteria, 7313 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 297-0070.

Arroz negro

A.O.C., 3rd Street's sophisticated wine and food bar, is packed every night with folks feasting on Suzanne Goin's pretty salads, top-notch charcuterie and perfectly ripe cheeses. Bring friends and order a slew of the tempting little dishes and wines by the glass. Don't forget something from the wood-burning oven such as the arroz negro, a cazuela of rice stained black with squid ink and served with a garlicky saffron aioli. It tastes like something you'd eat at a restaurant on the Mediterranean coast. A.O.C., 8022 W. 3rd Street, Los Angeles; (323) 653-6359.

Agnolotti with osso buco

Gino Angelini has the touch. His agnolotti at La Terza are the size of postage stamps--the way they make them in Piedmont--and stuffed with shredded veal osso buco, Swiss chard, ricotta and a pinch of marjoram. Lightly napped in melted butter, they're as good as they get in this country. Fresh tagliolini with squid ink and sea urchin, and a summery spaghetti with string beans, tomatoes and ricotta salata are delicious too. La Terza, 8384 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles; (323) 782-8384.

Seafood in parchment

The menu at Biggs, a lively Mediterranean restaurant in Belmont Shore, is full of surprises: steamed clams with paprika-streaked chorizo in a spicy broth, wild shrimp with a decisively garlicky aioli or the gratineed salumi meatballs. It's also one of the few places that cooks seafood in real parchment. You get to unwrap the packet, to find a medley of shrimp, scallops, fish and herbs inside, just one course in the evening's parade of dishes at this dynamic exotic. Biggs, 4722 E. 2nd St., Belmont Shore; (562) 434-1313.

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SKEWERS

Picanha

Serious beef eaters are high-tailing it to Fogo de Chao, a glitzy churrascuria, where servers in gaucho costumes parade by with sword-like skewers threaded with some 15 cuts of meat. Each one is expertly cooked--filet mignon, top or bottom sirloin, leg of lamb, ribs. The best is the picanha, a choice section of top sirloin seasoned with sea salt and cooked just like the gauchos do it along Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul. Fogo de Chao, 133 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 289-7755.

Sizzling shrimp

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