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SOMETHING TO CHEW ON BEST DISHES OF THE YEAR COVER A WIDE SPECTRUM OF TASTES.

Byline: - Larry Lipson

To come up with the best 20 dishes of 2004 from well over 1,000 experienced in restaurants during the course of the year isn't particularly easy.

To do this, I went back to my reviews and looked for hints of outstanding dish efforts while picturing the visits. In some cases, there were several obvious candidates, but because I wanted to restrict the list to one dish per restaurant, I passed up several possibilities that might have otherwise survived the cut.

Mandaloun, the Lebanese restaurant in Glendale, is a good example. Despite its many meritorious kitchen efforts, it's the fabulous freshly baked pita bread, the best I've ever eaten, that sticks in my mind. I could make an entire meal of it.

It can be a simple or complex dish, one that's familiar or not, innovative or traditional, even a grouping from which choices are made.

One note of caution: These items were sampled throughout the year, which allows plenty of time for a restaurant to discard a dish or change the recipe, as sometimes happens. Those who wish to sample any of the 20 dishes picked should call in advance to make sure it's available on the day or evening of a planned visit.

So from tidbit to appetizer to main course to dessert, here are the top 20 dishes of 2004.

ANGELINO

Address: 11929 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

Phone: (818) 769-0822.

Cuisine: Italian.

Dish of the year: Grilled calamari on arugula. Not the ubiquitous deep- fried, chewy bits of squid, but lightly cooked calamari tails and rings, simply effective, sprinkled with quality olive oil.

BEACON

Address: 3280 Helms Ave., Culver City.

Phone: (310) 838-7500.

Cuisine: Asian.

Dish of the year: ``Kaki fry'' of crispy oysters with yuzu tartar sauce, feathery light and heavenly. Easily the best fried oysters ever tasted.

CAFE 14

Address: 30315 Canwood St., Agoura Hills.

Phone: (818) 991-9560.

Cuisine: New American.

Dish of the year: Moroccan-style chicken, bone-in, moist, aromatically spiced, boosted with preserved lemon, prunes and green olives.

CORRIENTES 3-4-8

Address: 6113 Reseda Blvd., Tarzana.

Phone: (818) 609-0793.

Cuisine: Argentine.

Dish of the year: A satisfying portion of simply cooked mollejas (sweetbreads) paired with buttery-rich mashed potatoes.

GINJA LIONS

Address: 11320 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills.

Phone: (818) 763-8100.

Cuisine: Jamaican.

Dish of the year: Escoveitch of whole red snapper colorfully topped with pickled onion strips, sweet red peppers and carrots.

GOCHI

Address: 17979 Ventura Blvd., Encino.

Phone: (818) 774-9621.

Cuisine: Japanese yakiniku (grilled meat).

Dish of the year: Meal-size bowl of spicy yookejang soup crammed with egg, beef and vegetables. Delicious.

GORIKEE

Address: 21799 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills.

Phone: (818) 932-9149.

Cuisine: Cal-Asian fusion.

Dish of the year: Bargain-priced, flavorful, tender, expensive Kobe beef on baby arugula with crumbled blue cheese, sweet Maui onion, and orange muscat grape-aged balsamic vinaigrette. Wow!

GOURMET PIZZA CAFE

Address: 18707 Devonshire St., Northridge.

Phone: (818) 363-9797.

Cuisine: Pizzas, salads, pastas.

Dish of the year: Topped with cream cheese, the fire-roasted apple and cinnamon pizza presented with a side of chocolate sauce is an absolute dessert triumph.

ICE

Address: 3575 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Universal City area.

Phone: (323) 882-6568.

Cuisine: Cajun-Creole.

Dish of the year: The creamy crawfish bisque is superbly rich, a gratifying rendition of a soup rarely found in these parts.

LA HUARESITA

Address: Plaza Del Valle, 8610 Van Nuys Blvd., Panorama City.

Phone: (818) 830-1722.

Cuisine: Michoacan Mexican.

Dish of the year: Six types of gorditas, marvelously puffy, locally famous in this area of the San Fernando Valley.

A TORTILLA LOCO

Address: 18134 Sherman Way, Reseda.

Phone: (818) 344-3510.

Cuisine: Mexican.

Dish of the year: Aguachile (spicy lime juice-soaked shrimp with onion, cucumber and avocado) is a sort of shrimp ceviche recipe that is especially refreshing on a hot summer day.

MANDALOUN

Address: 141 S. Maryland Ave., Glendale.

Phone: (818) 507-1900.

Cuisine: Lebanese.

Dish of the year: Made from scratch, premises-baked, fresh pita rounds arrive at the table puffed and warm, direct from Mandaloun's oven. They're absolutely addictive.

MINIBAR

Address: 3413 Cahuenga Blvd. W., near Universal City.

Phone: (323) 882-6965.

Cuisine: New American.

Dish of the year: Tender, roasted filet of venison arrives at the table reddened with a flavorful port-cranberry sauce, one of the restaurant's many small plates to be shared.

OCEANVIEW BAR & GRILL

Address: 1826 Ocean View Blvd., Montrose.

Phone: (818) 248-2722.

Cuisine: American/Italian.

Dish of the year: A bowl of seafood goodness, the cioppino is big enough to dive into, filled to the brim with king crab, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and salmon.

PANERA BAKERY-CAFE

Address: 12131 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

Phone: (818) 762-2226.

Cuisine: Italian/American.

Dish of the year: Alluringly green-toned, intensely flavored asparagus- chicken Florentine soup filled with moist chicken pieces and a scattering of torn spinach leaves.

PANZANELLA

Address: 14928 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Phone: (818) 784-4400.

Cuisine: Italian.

Dish of the year: Wide, flat, al dente malfatti pasta coated in a seasoned, garbanzo bean puree and adorned with Eastern black mussels.

POMODORO CUCINA ITALIANA

Address: 21600 Victory Blvd., Woodland Hills.

Phone: (818) 340-2400.

Cuisine: Italian.

Dish of the year: Also for the pasta fancier. Half-inch-wide mafaldine ribbon pasta is tossed with shrimp and asparagus cuttings in a garlicky white wine sauce flecked with tomato.

PUNJAB CAFE

Address: 18621 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana.

Phone: (818) 758-6971.

Cuisine: Indian.

Dish of the year: Lajawab champain translates into a plateful of juicy, meaty, yogurt- and spice-marinated, tandoor-roasted lamb chops.

TUFAAN

Address: 4523 Sepulveda Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Phone: (818) 986-8555.

Cuisine: Nouvelle Indian. Dish of the year: Thick, sweet, perfectly poached scallops swathed in a mild, creamy coconut and mustard seed curry sauce, served atop rice and lentil flour patties (idlis).

WOODLANDS

Address: 9840 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Chatsworth.

Phone: (818) 998-3031.

Cuisine: Southern Indian.

Dish of the year: Dosai and uthappam (Southern Indian crepes/pancakes) have various vegetable fillings and/or toppings of varied spiciness, such as potato and onion mixtures or a combination of tomato, peas, carrots, chiles and onion.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) Ken Davitian shows off heaping sandwiches at The Dip in Sherman Oaks.

John McCoy
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 24, 2005
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