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Ten Best L.A. Bistros in 2006

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A bistro is a café that serves simple meals in a relaxed setting, the kind of place you can go where you don’t have to worry about meeting anyone’s expectations for relative fame or fashionable dress. My favorite places in L.A. this year generally fit this definition.

1. Pazzo Gelato (my review)

Many of my friends look at the dessert menu before they even consider a main course, so let’s start there. After lunch or dinner anywhere in Los Feliz and Silverlake, I recommend a stop at Pazzo Gelato. A broad range of sometimes-unexpected flavors, all smooth, not too sweet, and delicious.

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Pazzo Gelato, 3827 W. Sunset Boulevard, Silverlake
323-662-1410

2. Barney Greengrass (my review)

Okay, you’re saying, this is a highfalutin’ deli and power luncheonette straight from New York, not a bistro. Au contraire; Barney Greengrass, at the top of Barney’s in Beverly Hills, is the place to sample superior smoked fish in an haute atmosphere that doesn’t get in your face. There are days when a girl needs a plate of sable (for you Nobu fans, that’s what they used to do with black cod before miso came to America) and a glass of champagne, and this is the only place to do it. Please note that in deference to L.A.’s delicate sensibilities, at this location the Sturgeon King does not offer the tongue omelet, otherwise known as a heart attack on a plate.

Barney Greengrass, top floor of Barney’s, 9570 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills 90212, 310-777-5877

3. 25 Degrees (my review)

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Hollywood Boulevard is a difficult place to negotiate when mealtime comes around, especially when you happen to be west of Highland in an endless tourist zone. Taking the place of the Roosevelt Hotel’s long-gone coffee shop, 25 Degrees (apparently the measure between medium rare and well-done) offers a fine beef and an excellent turkey burger which can be ordered already dressed in 3 preset combinations or can be accessorized to your liking with a full list of cheeses, sauces, and other extras. The big burger buns are brioche; the fries are skinny, good, and served in Chinese takeout boxes. The Goth coffee-shop atmosphere and the terrific wine list make it easy to linger…and 25 Degrees is open late, until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, making it a welcome oasis.

25 Degrees, 7000 Hollywood Boulevard inside the Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood 90028; 323-785-7244
http://www.25degreesrestaurant.com/index.html

4. Tiara Café (my review)

Tiara, open only for lunch, is Fred “62” Eric’s latest venture, a stylish room downtown in the New Market building that offers a varied and original menu. The “fresh’wich” (term and questionable punctuation straight from the menu) is a wrap made with an edible rice paper that’s perfect for the oh-so-skinny fashionistas that frequent this place—or for the reasonable person who wants to leave room for the luscious dessert pastries. One outstanding sandwich was essentially a media noche made with two kinds of duck, roasted and pastrami; it was rich and delicious.

Tiara Café, 127 East 9th Street, Los Angeles 90015
213-623-3663
http://www.tiara-cafe.com

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5. Gingergrass

Silverlake’s Vietnamese-ish lunch/dinner place offers pho that will satisfy on breezy days (or, with the addition of hot sauce, cure your cold) and cool noodle bowls for hot days. At night, the lights are low and entrees like Shaking Beef are spiced right and are generous enough to share. Well-priced wine selections make it possible for two people to eat and drink well, with a bottle of wine, for $40 to 60, and the coconut-mango tea is astonishingly good, if you’re not in the mood for dessert.

Gingergrass, 2396 Glendale Boulevard, Silverlake 90039
323-644-1600
http://www.gingergrass.com