Done right, dineL.A. can be a flavorful field trip through the Westside’s food scene

Experience flavors from across the city and around the globe during L.A.’s restaurant week

By Audrey Cleo Yap

Now in its tenth year, dineL.A. is a chance for Angelenos to titillate their taste buds all over the Southland. With over 400 participating establishments — from fast-casual to fine dining — in 70 neighborhoods, the twice-yearly eating extravaganza is now the biggest restaurant week in the country, according to director Stacey Sun.

“It’s 15 days of epic dining,” Sun said of dineL.A.’s summer run, taking place July 13 to 27. The prix fixe menus, set at a range of price points (lunch menus start at $15, dinner menus at $29), also let local foodies tick-off names on their culinary to-do list.

“DineL.A. really is the best time for someone to just go out there and run through their list of places they want to check out,” Sun added.

Here are some Westside gems curated for the discerning palate — and wallet.

Bienvenidos a South Bay

A gem in El Segundo’s quiet beachy downtown, Sausal is named after the Rancho Sausal Redondo farmstead that once encompassed most of the
South Bay.

“Sausal really stands out. It’s casual, but not too casual,” said Sun.

Start with the ceviche mixto followed by arroz con pollo from the two-course lunch menu ($20). But to get the most bang for your buck, opt for the $39 three-course dinner which includes a free margarita and Sausal sampler appetizer. Start your nuevo rancho cuisine journey with a savory shrimp tostada, followed by lamb barbacoa enchiladas and a sampling of Mexican truffles to say adios.

A day trip for your taste buds in Westchester

Tucked inside the Hyatt Regency near LAX, UnityLA (6225 W. Century Blvd.) is a celebration of diversity, with a menu directly inspired by L.A. neighborhoods. The $39 dinner menu is like taking a day trip to the Eastside: start in Koreatown with the charred sticky ribs (soy glaze, kimchee aioli), then travel up the 101 to Thai Town with drunken noodles (rice noodles, Chinese broccoli, Thai basil and fried egg). Head south and east into Boyle Heights for dessert, with a churro-Belgian waffle combo dusted with cinnamon sugar, then topped with Mexican caramel and vanilla gelato.

UnityL.A.’s drunken noodles burst with Thai flavors

California Cool in Mar Vista

The Mar Vista (12249 Venice Blvd.) epitomizes California cool: farmer’s market ingredients, a chef-driven menu and live music to boot, a nod to the space’s former life as bar/night club The Good Hurt. The $39 dinner menu plays into the contradictions of being Californian, a mix of healthy and hedonistic. If you’re the former, go for the carrot hummus starter but know that the Thai chili bacon belly bites do sound delicious. Stay seasonal with the seafood-driven summer boullabaise hot pot (mussels, clams, bass) as a main and the summer fruit cranked bowl (nutella, vanilla, meringue, molasses) for dessert.

Taiwanese soul food spot Little Fatty (just down the street at 3809 Grand View Blvd.) also  serves up local favorites on its lunch and dinner menus ($15; $29). Satiate your inner pudgy child with their dynamite chili wontons, sweet and crispy walnut shrimp and  tastes-like-it’s-homemade orange chicken.

Little Fatty’s orange chicken tastes like home cooking

South Pacific inspiration in Culver City

Chef Roy Choi’s Hawaii-inspired A-Frame (12565 W. Washington Blvd.) is a must-try for anyone craving some ono grinds (that’s good eats in Hawaiian) and aloha spirit. Both are served up in healthy portions on A-Frame’s $29 dinner menu. Tap into Hawaii’s Asian influence with the macadamia nut-topped baby spinach and Asian pear salad, followed by the cracklin’ beer can chicken (a nod to Choi’s Korean-Latin fusion brand), or opt for a local Hawaiian favorite, the loco moco. (That’s rice, Hambagu steak, brown gravy, pickled pearl onions and a sunnyside egg on top.)

The Chu Don’t Know Mang might be the best-named dessert of dineL.A. — and made with pound cake, malted chocolate milk and ice cream — likely the tastiest.

If dining al fresco is more your style, take advantage of the patio area at Lukshon (3239 Helms Ave.), chef Sang Yoon’s Southeast Asian hub. For $25, the lunch menu includes a complimentary glass of wine, beer or soda and your choice of two plates, hot or cold. The lobster roll “banh mi” puts a Maine twist on the Vietnamese sandwich while the Sichuan dumplings come with a spicy ma-la (numbing spice) vinaigrette. Try the cold plate hiramasa (tomato water, malted rice, basil) or smoked duck breast off the $49 dinner menu. And the dandan poutine (kurobuta pork, paneer cheese, Sichuan peppercorns) is a $9 add-on worth springing for.

Lukshon’s lobster roll “banh mi” is a cross-cultural exchange between Maine and Vietnam

The Meditteranean in Playa del Rey

Perched atop the triangular strip where Culver Boulevard and Vista del Mar meet, Bacari PDR (6805 S. Vista Del Mar Lane) has become a happy hour staple in Playa with its delectable assortment of cicchetti, or Italian-style small bites. With most of their small plates priced between $9 and $12 on the regular, the spot is a great place to mix and match flavors. With a $29 prix fixe dinner menu, you can try four tapas-style dishes (that’s about $7.25 per plate.) Any choice will likely be delectable, but the pan seared prawns (buckwheat, pipelchuma, parsley), lamb burger (persian cucumber, shaved radish, kale tahini) and malabi (rosewater custard, shaved coconut, hibiscus flower and ground pistacio) sound like the way to go if you’re seeking an experience that’s almost like traveling to the Aegean.

A dairy-free Bolognese tops off Uovo’s signature tagliatelle al ragu

Worth the wait in Santa Monica

Uovo (1320 2nd St., Ste A) doesn’t hide what makes it work: quick service, quality meals. In fact, you can see it from almost every seat in the house, as pasta dishes go from pulled to tossed to served all from the center island kitchen faster than you can say, “Buon appetito.”

“The speed of service is great and the price point is also great. You just have to go there during off-hours because the lines can be long,” said Sun. For $29, dinner includes the signature tagliatelle al ragu — a Bolognese recipe made without cheese, milk or cream — a side of roasted cauliflower and a glass of wine.

Also notable in the neighborhood: Estate’s (1519 Wilshire Blvd.) $39 dinner options include the filet mignon and yuzu cheesecake. Belcampo (1026 Wilshire Blvd.) has been undergoing a remodel since June, so what better way to experience the meat haven’s new digs than with a $15 two-course lunch of beef tartare and a double fast burger. Hearty new American fare is what Upper West (3321 Pico Blvd.) does best; for dinner, start with the creamy burrata, pan roasted seabass (lentil mujadara, tomato chutney, tahini) as a main and brioche bread pudding (rye whiskey caramel, creme anglaise, berries) for a sweet ending, all for $39.   

Arts & Events Editor Christina Campodonico contributed to this roundup. For full menus and to book reservations visit dinela.com.

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