Plan on a fun night out and head over to Magnolia when the clubs turn the lights on you. Magnolia keeps the party going with an assortment of music ranging from the Stones to those ’80s tunes you hate to admit you know the words to.
BEST COCKTAILS: GEISHA HOUSE
6633 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood (323) 460-6300
I must confess. I initially wanted to try Geisha House because of all of the publicity surrounding its opening. Someone had to find out if Ashton’s latest venture would become L.A.’s next ephemeral trend. Verdict: Geisha House’s food is good, but their drinks are awesome and will keep people coming back for more.
The servers get jittery with excitement while explaining the plethora of drinks on their specialty sake menu. You cannot go wrong with a single one. Sip an "Eriage" made with Asian pear sake, kiwi, lemon, orange, midori, and champagne.
Enjoy a "Geisha Kiss" swathed in the light of a glowing fire encased by shining red lacquer. This cocktail is seductive with sake, lychee, chambord, and champagne. Nestled in your own secluded banquet with a Geisha drink in hand, you cannot help but feel like a celebrity.
BEST PIZZA: ABBOT’S PIZZA COMPANY
1407 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice (310) 396-7334
Brothers Richard and Tommy opened Abbot’s Pizza Company nearly 11 years ago, and Angelinos have been going berserk for their slices ever since. Even transplanted New Yorkers give it their stamp of approval.
This local joint attracts pizza-lovers from all over the city with its original bagel crust. Not only are there six varieties of crust, there are also four sauces and about thirty toppings to choose from. A favorite slice is barbequed chicken topped with cilantro, sweet red onions, gouda and mozzarella cheese.
BEST MAKE-YOUR-OWN DESSERT: LUNA PARK
672 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles (323) 934-2110
Luna Park’s s’mores take you right back to those campfire roasting sessions with the Scouts and Brownies. But this time, you’re on La Brea, and there are no mosquitoes buzzing in your ears.
This nostalgic dessert comes with Luna Park’s homemade graham crackers, a pot of melted marshmallows, and of course, gooey milk chocolate. Grab a bunch of friends and retell those spooky tales while huddled over delicious food and innovative drinks like a Crimson Cosmo or a minty Mojito.
BEST INDIAN: PRADEEP’S
1405 Montana Ave., Santa Monica (310) 393-1467
Montana Avenue is home to "Indian Cuisine for Californians." That is Pradeep’s motto, because the savory food is made without butter or cream, traditionally heavy ingredients in Indian dishes. You do not miss a thing while eating at this adorable restaurant.
The flavors are utterly explosive and an array of spices in each preparation adds a new dimension to your taste buds. You cannot go wrong with creamy Bhurta dishes, the curry-infused chicken, lamb, salmon or shrimp with roasted eggplant sauce. Accompanying chutneys are not for the faint of heart: Green pepper makes your eyes water, while sweet mango honey is like baby bear’s bed-just right.
BEST IMPORT: BEARD PAPA’S SWEETS CAFÉ
6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood (323) 462-6100
The latest culinary trend from Japan (they were on the money with "Iron Chef") can be enjoyed in the Hollywood and Highland center. Baked choux pastry shells are stuffed with custard creams made with vanilla beans from Madagascar. The custards are whipped fresh 4-6 times a day, and the shells are filled right before your eyes and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
At $1.50 a pop or $17 for a dozen, these puffs from heaven are a magnificent treat. The friendly staff advises you to eat the cream puffs immediately. Fine, twist my arm!
BEST SUSHI: KATSU-YA
11680 Ventura Blvd., Studio City (818) 985-6976
From practicing proper chopstick technique to shunning soy sauce or wasabi, LA sushi-lovers demand the best. The most discerning sushi connoisseurs have been wooed by Katsu-ya.
The interior is small and nothing to write home about, but that is no reflection on the phenomenal delicacies that are served. Sit at the sushi bar and let the chef go wild as he slices glistening fish with the utmost precision, or sit at an intimate table.
One of the most popular and tastiest items is the spicy tuna atop crispy rice. Now, many restaurants (ahem, Koi) have copied this wonderful fare, but Katsu-ya’s was the original and is definitely superior to all the knock-offs. The sweet rice with hints of vinegar compliments the creamy tuna. Putting soy sauce on this beauty would be like adding concrete to a slip and slide. It’s just perfect as is.
If paparazzi went nuts over food, this dish would be an Oscar-winning celebrity with a front-page picture on US. Everything at Katsu-ya will enlighten your palate and change the way you think about dining forever.
BEST HEALTHY MEAL: M CAFÉ DE CHAYA
7119 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles (323) 525-0588
You want to know the latest food trend that is actually worth the hype? It is M Café de Chaya on Melrose. Lee Gross, Gwyneth Paltrow’s former personal chef, has created a delightfully eclectic menu of all things healthy. Every restaurant offers a version of the California club, but M Cafe’s outshines all others.
Multi-grain bread is adorned with avocado, sprouts, tomato, carrots, and tempeh "bacon." The "bacon" was smoky and added extra flavor and unusual consistency to this most ubiquitous of sandwiches.
Even the macrobiotic desserts by pastry chef, Eric Lechasseur, are guilt-free. They do not contain any refined sugars, eggs, or dairy.
BEST COFFEE: URTH CAFFE
8565 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood (310) 659-0628
Urth Caffe has three locations in L.A., which means three opportunities to get the best cup of joe in town. All of the coffees and teas are organic, and although you might feel energized enough to run a marathon after one small cup, stay and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and attentive service.
The coffee is rich and velvety, and the lattes are individually decorated with a design. Who doesn’t love a heart made of froth? The Melrose outpost’s people watching cannot be beat. With your hands wrapped around a steaming cup of Urth’s coffee, everything is easy like Sunday morning.
BEST TAPAS: AOC
8022 W. 3rd Street, Los Angeles (323) 653-6359
Chef Suzanne Goin is everywhere these days. Her new cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques is sure to become a classic and she happens to be the chef at LA’s most beloved small-plates mecca: AOC.
Currently Zagat Guide’s #1 for most popular restaurant, AOC focuses on the beautiful preparation of each plate. Your dining companions will throw punches over the last parmesan-stuffed date wrapped in crispy bacon. The attention to detail and unique flavors are unprecedented in California cuisine. The sheep’s milk cheesecake with figs is so light and fluffy, you’d think you were consuming the most delicious cloud plucked from the sky.
Make a reservation the next time your parents are in town or when you want to impress a date, because AOC is one of the most innovative and outstanding restaurants in Los Angeles.