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A DIFFERENCE OF TASTES VALLEY EATERIES OFFER VARIETY OF CUISINES.

Byline: - Larry Lipson

Choosing the best dishes of the year only from restaurants reviewed during 2005 might seem limiting, but it allows newcomers a touch of additional, deserved spotlight.

Again, it has been a year when many of the most enjoyable dishes have been familiar ones, sometimes with a novel twist, other times presented so well that they begged for recognition. My top picks of the year run the gamut from the relatively inexpensive sandwich, salad or appetizer to the signature-entree offering.

But don't hurry over to the named restaurant without making sure that the chosen item is actually available as described. Restaurants invariably drop menu listings or change their recipes from one day to the next.

The top 20 dishes of the year

BIRDCAGE

Address: 11282 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

Phone: (818) 980-0099.

Cuisine: International fusion.

Dish of the year: An architectural triumph as well as great tasting is the smoked fish trio, an elaborate tower of smoked salmon, smoked escolar and smoked halibut topped with osetra caviar and smelt eggs, perched on a crisp potato pancake and ringed with ribbons of creme fraiche.

BISTRO PROVENCE

Address: 345 N. Pass Ave., Burbank.

Phone: (818) 840-9050.

Cuisine: Bistro French.

Dish of the year: Unexpected, nonstewlike beef bourguignon arrangement of tender cubed beef, mushrooms and celery on a bed of horseradish-flavored mashed potatoes.

BISTRO VERDU

Address: 3459 N. Verdugo Road, Montrose.

Phone: (818) 541-1532.

Cuisine: New American.

Dish of the year: Appetizer of sauteed sweet clams in an herbal sauce paired with spicy Merguez Moroccan-style sausage and chickpeas.

BONEYARD BISTRO

Address: 13539 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Phone: (818) 906-7427.

Cuisine: American.

Dish of the year: Thick, juicy, two-part whiskey-brined pork chop with a fruit relish, a mix of sweet potato and mashed pecans, and a pulled pork and collard greens-stuffed egg roll.

CEDAR HOUSE CAFE

Address: 4805 Whitsett Ave., Valley Village.

Phone: (818) 769-9994.

Cuisine: Mediterranean.

Dish of the year: Thick, juicy, half-pound hamburger on a firm sesame seed bun with mayo, tomato, dill pickle, onion, cheese and shredded cabbage, accompanied by fries.

CHADAKA THAI

Address: 310 N. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank.

Phone: (818) 848-8520.

Cuisine: Thai.

Dish of the year: Starter plate dubbed ``beef waterfall'' of tender pieces of charbroiled meat flavor-boosted with chile, lime, basil, rice powder and red onion.

CHAPTER 8

Address: 29020 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills.

Phone: (818) 889-2088.

Cuisine: Steaks and chops.

Dish of the year: Kurobuta double-thick pork chop paired with port-soaked plum and fig chutney.

JOSE ANTONIO

Address: 20951 Devonshire St., Chatsworth.

Phone: (818) 717-8900.

Cuisine: Peruvian.

Dish of the year: Texture-perfect seafood and fish ``mixto'' ceviche featuring calamari.

LA MARIA

Address: 10516 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood.

Phone: (818) 755-8811.

Cuisine: Colombian.

Dish of the year: A marvelously satisfying rendition of cazuela de mariscos, a sort of creamy seafood stew of shrimp, red snapper and calamari in a brimful bowl.

LE PETIT RESTAURANT

Address: 13360 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Phone: (818) 501-7999.

Cuisine: Bistro French.

Dish of the year: Entree-size order of black mussels poulette (plump mussels in shell) in a white wine and shallot broth served with pommes frites.

LOS CHILENOS

Address: 8408 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park.

Phone: (818) 716-4169.

Cuisine: Chilean.

Dish of the year: Traditional pastel de choclo, a kind of crustless meat pie topped with freshly ground sweet corn accompanied by a cilantro-enhanced tomato and onion salad.

MADELEINE BISTRO

Address: 18621 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana.

Phone: (818) 758-6971.

Cuisine: Natural/organic vegan.

Dish of the year: An appetizer creation called red beet tartare aesthetically presented with cucumber and warm tofu.

MASA SUSHI

Address: 6010 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood.

Phone: (818) 761-1754.

Cuisine: Japanese.

Dish of the year: Generously portioned bowl of crunchy fried calamari garnished with gobu (burdock) on a green salad.

MAXIMILIANS

Address: 11330 Weddington St., North Hollywood.

Phone: (818) 980-6294.

Cuisine: French.

Dish of the year: A croustillant of wild mushrooms made with filo pastry nestled on a puree of celeriac and sauced in a port wine reduction.

OHANA BBQ

Address: 11269 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

Phone: (818) 508-3192.

Cuisine: Hawaiian-Korean barbecue.

Dish of the year: Simply titled cold noodle salad, it arrives topped with barbecued chicken strips and julienned cucumbers. Underneath is a heap of thin, cold somen noodles resting on a bed of fresh greens tossed in an avocado dressing mixed with olive oil and Japanese mustard.

OUT TAKE BISTRO

Address: 11929 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

Phone:(818) 769-0822.

Cuisine: International.

Dish of the year: Warm Asian chicken and vegetable salad is almost entree-size and presents moist, grilled chicken breast with cabocha squash, eggplant and bok choy in a soy-ginger sauce plus a crown of julienned carrots and a sesame-tomato dressing.

RIVIERA BISTRO

Address: 23683 Calabasas Road, Calabasas.

Phone: (818) 224-2163.

Cuisine: Euro-Mediterranean.

Dish of the year: Neatly formed roasted eggplant and Spanish manchego cheese souffle in a tomato marjoram sauce.

SIMON'S CAFE

Address: 4515 Sepulveda Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Phone: (818) 783-6698.

Cuisine: Moroccan.

Dish of the year: Exotically seasoned lamb tagine with dry fruits, fresh apples and cinnamon.

SOL Y LUNA

Address: 19601 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana.

Phone: (818) 343-8488.

Cuisine: Mexican.

Dish of the year: Molcajetes, enough for two in a black stone pot, with steak, chicken, shrimp, nopales (cactus) and panela cheese.

SPRINGBOK BAR & GRILL

Address: 16153 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys.

Phone: (818) 988-9786.

Cuisine: South African.

Dish of the year: House-produced boerewors sausage in a crusty roll with ``train smash'' (tomato and onion mixed in the fiery peri-peri sauce).

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

(color) At Birdcage, from left, Audley Byngs, sous chef; Edvin Ashurov, maitre d'; Peter Bellasalma, executive chef; and Sabin Rasulov, president and owner, present the restaurant's specialties.

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer

Box:

The top 20 dishes of the year (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Restaurant review
Date:Mar 29, 2006
Words:953
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