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Dining is LA is as exciting and varied as the rest of the city's offerings. LA's restaurants cater to every cuisine and budget imaginable, from 12-course feasts with celebrities on the side, to delicious Mexican burritos from a sidewalk café. Apart from the wonderful variety of ethnic food, there is a growing fascination with organic and health foods and many eateries now cater to this market. Another distinctive LA trend is eclectic and experimental food making this city the proud progenitor of the Thai Chicken Pizza as well as its own distinctive style of fusion sushi.
Many top restaurants and their celebrity chefs are clustered on the Westside, while the vintage restaurants are located downtown and in Hollywood. With its year-round mild climate outdoor dining is popular, helping to make power lunches the stuff of ritual among locals.
Tips of 15 to 20% are expected; console yourself with the thought that your generosity may be funding a future Oscar-winning script. Smoking is banned in all restaurants and transgressors may be fined.
Local / 624 South La Brea Avenue (Miracle Mile)
Originally built as the private offices of Charlie Chaplin in 1928, Campanile is a multi-level restaurant with balconies, a lovely courtyard and a central skylight affording views of the bell tower above. The menu consists of a creative blend of Mediterranean flavours and Californian cuisine, including excellent grills and roasts, complemented by homemade bread and pastries, and some of the best desserts in LA - try the strawberry cobbler with fresh cream. Saturday and Sunday brunch should not be missed either. Open for lunch weekdays and dinner Monday to Saturday. Reservations essential.
Spago Beverly Hills
Modern Eclectic / 176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck wows the rich and famous at his flagship restaurant that boasts a reputation as one of the finest in LA. Centred in an outdoor courtyard, the olive tree shaded tables are the most desirable and the place for celebrity sightings. Chefs recreate Puck's classic dishes, including his famous designer pizzas, and Spago classics such as Wolfgang's Original Veal Weinerschnitzel. Creative desserts add a special finish to any meal. Jacket and tie suggested, though not required. Advance reservations essential. Open for lunch from Monday to Saturday, and dinner every day.
Valentino Santa Monica
Italian / 3115 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica
According to the Wine Spectator magazine, this is one of the top Italian restaurants in the country, boasting a wine cellar that ranks as number one, complementing the exquisite modern Italian cuisine. Piero Selvaggio has raked in numerous awards for his flagship restaurant, attracting an elegant clientele. The menu tempts guests with delicious options such as grilled veal chops with garlic and wild mushroom sauce, or honey-spiced pork fillets. Closed on Sundays, open for dinner the rest of the week and lunch on Fridays, reservations essential.
French / 141 S. Grand Avenue, Downtown LA
Patina is the flagship restaurant of chef Joaquim Splichal, whose nouvelle cuisine has long been a favourite with Hollywood stars. The style is understated elegance, with beautifully presented food and superior service. There are three five-course, exquisite seasonal tasting menus including wild game and seafood, as well as garden dishes for vegetarians. Patina is justifiably famous for its mashed potatoes and potato-truffle chips, and there is an outstanding wine list. Reservations essential, closed on Mondays.
Japanese / 129 North La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Hills
Japanese chef/owner Nobuyuki Matsuhisa creates fantastic dishes by blending South American spices and salsas with Japanese cuisine, presenting diners with one of the most creative menus in the city. Tuna filled with black truffles and capped with caviar, or sautéed squid in a garlic and soy sauce are examples of the delicacies available in addition to delicate sushi rolls with garlic, fresh chilli and special sauces. Matsuhisa is popular with celebrities and gourmets, reservations are essential. Open all week for dinner and for lunch Monday to Friday.
Seafood / 544 South Grand Avenue, Downtown
Considered by many to be the best seafood house in LA, Water Grill is always packed with downtown business folk who are joined in the evening by concert and theatre patrnos. It is known particularly for its fish and shellfish, and boasts a great oyster bar, as well as a superb wine cellar. Irresistible desserts include blueberry mascarpone cakes and a mandarin orange creamsicle. Reservations recommended. Open for dinner daily and for lunch on Monday to Friday.
Chinois on Main
Chinese / 2709 Main Street, Santa Monica
This is one of LA's most crowded restaurants and also one of the noisiest, packed with locals, celebrities and visitors who come in awe of Wolfgang Puck's reputation and leave enchanted by the food. The style of cuisine is a mixture of different ethnicities, particularly a fusion of Chinese and French ingredients and technique. The menu includes signature dishes such as the Whole Sizzling Catfish, dramatically presented, as well as seasonal creations that include Shanghai lobster with a spicy ginger-curry sauce or roasted Cantonese duck. Reservations essential. Dinner daily and lunch Wednesday to Friday. Jacket and tie suggested.
Tex-Mex / 1445 Fourth Street, Santa Monica
Border Grill is a trendy, pleasantly raucous and brightly painted eatery whose atmosphere perfectly complements the vibrant flavours and bold, colourful foods of Mexico as presented by celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. The menu features authentic dishes learnt in the homes and markets of Mexico with an added touch of gourmet ingenuity, and ranges from tamales, empanadas and tacos to daily ceviche specials and stuffed tortillas, accompanied by excellent margaritas and fine tequilas. Lunch and dinner daily, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
French / 700 West Fifth Street, Downtown LA
Overlooking the Maguire Gardens, Café Pinot is ideally located for a business lunch or pre-theatre dinner (offering a free shuttle to the Music Centre), with an outdoor terrace shaded by old olive trees. One of the city's most popular restaurants, it is modelled after the top-ranked flagship restaurant, Patina but is designed to be less formal, with lighter bistro-style meals. The tender mustard-crusted rotisserie chicken is superb, and there is also fresh fish, pastas and lamb shank to enjoy. Reservations essential. Lunch Monday to Friday, and dinner daily.
Italian / 617 S. Olive Street, Los Angeles
This luxurious restaurant is set in an Italian Romanesque-styled building, constructed in 1928, which still retains its Art Deco elegance and charm. Its tempting menu offers delicious Italian fare such as asparagus pizza with bresaola (air-dried, salted beef), or smoked chicken ravioli with asparagus. The ahi (yellow fin) tuna with avocado, piquillo peppers and wasabi caviare is also good. Reservations are essential, closed Tuesdays.
American / 113 N Roberston Blvd
The Ivy is a world-famous Los Angeles restaurant, but not for its food. Known as the best place to spot Hollywood celebrities and insiders, the restaurant has fed everyone from Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise to Paris Hilton and Beyonce. The New York-style food and cocktails are good, but be prepared for movie star prices. Reservations are essential, and try to book a table on the sought-after terrace for the best people-watching.
American / 23000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Los Angeles, CA 90265
With great views of the sea and pier in summer, and cosy, warm booths in winter, the Beachcomber Café is a local favourite on the rapidly regenerating Malibu Pier. The service is friendly and attentive, and the eclectic fusion menu is strong on seafood (try the Ahi Tuna burger). Good value wine list, too.
French / 235 North Canon Drive, Beverley Hills, CA 90210
Famed chef Thomas Keller has brought his Le Bouchon French bistro concept to LA. The food is inventive, decadent and delicious, and the extensive wine list is tempered by a recent offering of in-house artisanal beers. Reservations recommended.