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Critic's Choice: Restaurants to mark the fall season

Hearty dishes and full-bodied wines are on the menu as autumn descends on Southern California, and these eateries make the most of it.

October 27, 2011
  • Braised pot roast is made with boned short rib at Suzanne Tracht's Jar.
Braised pot roast is made with boned short rib at Suzanne Tracht's… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)

As October glides toward November, the weather skates the edge — one foot in summer, the other in fall. Leaves begin to drift from the trees. Morning brings a cooler edge to the breeze. And every evening the sun sets a little earlier. Time to put away the rosés and lighter reds and bring out the big guns: Cabernet, Bordeaux and Barolo, Chinon and Cahors, Syrah and Sangiovese. Chefs are already anticipating the change of season with heartier dishes. Bring it on, I say.

Here are some restaurants that serve rustic fall dishes and have wine lists replete with extraordinary bottles to drink with them.

Jar: Chef Suzanne Tracht has an entire section on her menu devoted to braises. That would mean, first of all, her signature pot roast with carrots and caramelized onions and served with some of the juices. And also braised oxtail, which makes a luscious stew, and her coq au vin redolent of applewood smoked bacon in a silky red wine sauce. Bring a fuzzy sweater to make believe it's really cold outside and for starters, order a dozen oysters on the half shell with black pepper ponzu, or Tracht's fried Ipswich clams with roasted garlic tartar sauce, the choice of homesick New Englanders.

8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 655-6566, http://www.thejar.com. Entrees, $21 to $49.

Palate Food + Wine: I still remember the braised lamb shoulder I had at Palate Food + Wine when the Glendale bistro opened three years ago. Chef-owner Ottavio Becerra changes the menu often, depending on what he can get in from his farmers. But you can always count on some kind of braised meat dish. If not that lamb shoulder, then lamb shanks with cannellini beans and anchovy butter or pork belly with black rice and pineapple chutney. To start, there's a fine selection of charcuterie, including canning jars of house-made potted lamb or pork, which means you can start right in with the reds. Wine director Steve Gulden has a soft spot for earthy Burgundy, Barolo and the best of California reds. And if you're open to something new, he always has an interesting bottle or two hidden away.

933 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 662.9463, http://www.palatefoodwine.com. Entrees, $20 to $22.

Craft: Tom Colicchio likes his meat unfussy and mostly roasted. At Craft Los Angeles, the kitchen team under chef John Keenan not only buys the best but cooks every cut perfectly. I've had some of the most memorable meat I've had anywhere here — rosy pink roasted lamb sirloin in its own juices, a sampler of roasted and braised Niman Ranch pork (the loin, the belly and cracklings) and a superb veal in sherry sauce. Not to mention dry-aged sirloin for two, complete with a pair of roasted marrow bones. Braised short ribs are on the menu right now, along with that terrific roasted Ellensberg lamb with heirloom beans and Sonoma pork. Vegetable sides are always great too, whether it's hen-of-the-wood mushrooms or potato gratin or beet greens and bacon. The wine list has some bold reds to match. Some require deep pockets, but best buys are found in the eclectic and indigenous red section.

10100 Constellation Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 279-4180, http://www.craftrestaurant.com. Entrees, $29 to $56.

The Tasting Kitchen: Casey Lane and his crew think nothing of breaking down whole animals and using every part for the menu at the Tasting Kitchen. He does his own curing and pickling too. In short, this young chef is game for pretty much anything. And he challenges himself by changing the (short) menu every day. It doesn't give much away with descriptions like "steak. reserve strip" or "lamb. fingerlings. truffles" but you can pretty much trust that meat dishes are on the hearty side. Roast leg of lamb, for example, might be paired with a feta salsa verde and a zucchini gratin topped with bread crumbs. And as for drinking, the resident wine geek goes for what he likes — oddball wines, mostly from small producers such as Nerello Mascarese from Sicily, Gaglioppo from Calabria, and Aglianico from Campania (all in Italy).

1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 392-6644, thetastingkitchen.com. Entrees, $20 to $50.

Lucques: Suzanne Goin is practically the queen of braising, and at Lucques, where she slips in to cook more often than you'd think, she turns out enticing main courses that involve meat. Of course, you'll find her famous braised beef short ribs with horseradish cream and a Niman Ranch club steak for two with luscious "potatoes parisienne." Suckling pig might join the lineup one night (and I wish I'd been there) with slow-cooked Romano beans, peppers, quince and romesco sauce. And any night at the bar, you can order a great bottle of red and steak frites with béarnaise made to order. Co-owner and sommelier Caroline Styne loads on the reds from near and far, and there's always some new find of hers to discover.

8474 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 655-6277, http://www.lucques.com. Entrees, $24 to $36.

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