The Valley Guide
Located just over the Hollywood Hills, this area is home to destination-worthy restaurants, from strip mall sushi joints to unbelievable banh mi, plus loads of activities for the kiddos.
Asanebo11941 Ventura Blvd., Studio City | 818.760.3348
This might just take the cake for the least spectacular strip mall exterior: Funny, because it belies the cozy décor and Michelin-starred sushi and small plates inside. It's all exquisite, whether you order from the menu or opt for one of the three omakase menus. "A", "B", and "C", range from expensive to extravagant, but they're all worthwhile treats. It's possible to walk-in (and wait) on a week-night, but reservations are essential on weekends.
Din Tai Fung177 Caruso Ave., Glendale | 818.551.5561
Located in the sprawling Americana mall, this Taipei export is famous for its steamed dumplings—and all the requisite extras like green beans with sauteed garlic, Shanghai rice cakes with shrimp, and noodle soups.
Kiwami11920 Ventura Blvd., Studio City | 818.763.3910
It's a bit of a hike out in the valley, but Kiwami, which comes from the original Katsuya team, has all the appeal of the original Katsuya Studio City location with a bit more atmosphere. Try to snag a reservation for the omakase with Katsuya himself—pricey, but worth it.
Mulberry Street Pizza17040 Ventura Blvd., Encino | 818.906.8881
If you want a slice of New York pizza that is better than most places in New York, look no further: A super-thin crust, and wonderfully tangy sauce set the standard for pies you can eat by the slice or takeout whole. We particularly love the eggplant parm and the white spinach pizzas, but nothing disappoints. There is another location in Sherman Oaks, and there are two in Beverly Hills—in Beverly Hills proper and on Beverly Blvd.
Stout11262 Ventura Blvd., Studio City | 818.505.0076
This place is a welcome refuge for an awesome burger in a cool and clean environment. It's also great to sit outside during the day and enjoy any of their creative beef (ground in-house daily), chicken (the one with smoked mozzarella and artichoke spread is amazing,) or veggie burgers with a cold artisanal draft. The original is in Hollywood, and there's also a location in Santa Monica.
Sushi Nishi-Ya1712 Victory Blvd., Glendale | 818.244.2933
While its location is perfect if you work at the studios (or have just landed at the Burbank airport), an idle weeknight works for a trip here, too. When you arrive, the hostess will tersely explain that this is an omakase only place. "No California Rolls." In case that isn't clear enough, there's a large sign right behind the bar that reiterates: Omakase Only. Once through the gauntlet, an incredibly jovial sushi chef compensates. Sit as close to him as possible, as the restaurant doesn't offer much in the way of ambiance, and he will walk you through your meal, explaining the provenance of the fish, and exactly how to season it. Photo: uchinabaker
Umami Burger12159 Ventura Blvd., Studio City | 818.286.9004
The eponymous burger here warrants the elusive name, which refers to the fifth taste in Japanese. You'll find a sleek interior and fantastic burgers, plus inventive sides and sauces. Not to mention, they grind their own meat, process their own cheese, and pickle their own veggies. Because why not? With multiple locations throughout LA area, you can't, and shouldn't, miss this. Other locations: Arts District, Downtown, Burbank, Hollywood, Los Feliz, Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Thousand Oaks
Sushi Yotsuya18760 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana | 818.708.9675
It may be located in Tarzana, but the unreal omakase at Sushi Yotsuya definitely justifies the drive. Chef Masa’s word-of-mouth reputation has grown steadily over the years and his restaurant is a valley insider’s secret. It’s a no-frills situation down to the TV news blaring in the background, and the sign that states “Sushi” out front. We like to sit at the bar with the chef, who is generally happy to throw back some sake.
Yang Chow6443 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park | 818.347.2610
Named after the province of its founders, Yang Chow serves up authentic Mandarin and Szechuan cuisine in a simple space. Their signature slippery shrimp is worth the trip alone. There are also locations in Pasadena and Downtown.