Like New York nightlife in the 1980s or the hemlines at Topshop on any given Tuesday, Hollywood restaurants are subject to the kind of whims of fashion that you'd need a stopwatch to keep track of. Predictably the "next big thing" in dining out can become yesterday's news before the entrée is over and done with. And while every waitress may be a "resting" actress, behind the scenes, most of the restaurateurs are Oscar nominee hopefuls.
The hottest restaurant opening of recent months was Central, backed by Madonna's money and designed by her brother Christopher Ciccione. Tucked away off the Strip and accessed by a discreet glass elevator, you could be guaranteed of at least three or four A-list sightings over your plate of asparagus. Or at the very least, Tori Spelling. It was unbookable, even though its interior was suggestive of an ever so slightly swanky convention-centre canteen and the quality of the cuisine only ever soared to the level of "so so". Then, as quickly as it rose to greatness, it fell. Credits rolled. Its doors closed. The crowd moved on. In Hollywood you're only as hot as your last film - or the last meal you served.
Imagine there's no sushi
Blowfish Sushi to Die For 9229 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, tel: 00 1 310 887 3848 The original Blowfish remains one of the most visually and aurally arresting restaurants in San Francisco - all techno, Manga video screens and interior twists. This LA offshoot is less funky, though it still pumps anime into your eyeline via banks of television screens, and the whole operation comes with Julian Lennon as a backer and a Sunset Boulevard milieu.
Dead good food
Gozar 8498 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, tel: 00 1 310 855 7560 In the heart of gay LA, this new tapas bar rocks as much for the menu that actress Justina Machado has put together as its proximity to queer-chic bar, The Abbey. Sangria and tapas are at the forefront of Machado's menu and, while Justina may not quite be up there with Paltrow and Blanchett, her ongoing role as the on-screen wife of Frederico, the mortician in Six Feet Under, at least makes her a pop culture icon along the lines of, "Isn't she the one off...?"
Tom Cruise has nice (beef-burger) buns
Hard Rock Cafe, Beverly Centre Mall, 8600 Beverly Blvd, West Hollywood, tel: 00 1 310 276 7605 In all its franchised-up, merchandised-out glory, the Hard Rock Cafe is borderline heinous but, in the 1980s, this was the star turn on LA's hip dining scene. It was virtually a clubhouse for the Brat Pack. These days Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson don't pop in for burger and fries as much as they used to, but investors still include Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise.
You're justified in liking Justin's dumplings
Chi 8401 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, tel: 00 1 323 848 3884 Justin Timberlake went from Mickey Mouse Club brat to "the new Michael Jackson" via one dodgy boy band, several dodgier barnets and a high-profile tryst with Britney Spears. Now all the stars can have a taste of his dumplings. Chi is Timberlake's post-modern dim sum restaurant, tacked on to the front of the rock'n'roll pedigree Hyatt hotel on Sunset Strip. The experience is an Asian fusion kind of a thing and, yes, Timberlake's beau, Cameron Diaz, is a regular.
Sisters are doing it for themselves
Rika 8590 Sunset Blvd, tel: 00 1 310 657 9500 At Rika, the whole enterprise of celebrity endorsements gets a little tenuous. It's here that Melanie Griffiths' sister, Tracy, can be seen carving up the sashimi. This is a super-sleek Japanese restaurant with a twist: breakfast-bacon sushi rolls anyone? Unfortunately Hollywood's diners seem averse to anything other than ground-floor level and on a particularly bad night a bomb could go off in this upstairs dining-room without hurting any sentient being that hasn't already been sliced up for nigiri.
Aykroyd blows his own trumpet
The Porch at the House of Blues 8430 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, tel: 00 1 323 848 5100 It's all about big name live acts at Dan Aykroyd's legendary ramshackle-looking supper-club restaurant, and anyone who's anyone has played here, including Bill Clinton. With branches across the US, it's a franchised-to-death Hard Rock kind of an operation. In fact, Hard Rock co-founder Isaac Tigret is Aykroyd's financial co-star. Along with having been here, seen it, and tasted the Cajun cuisine, it's definitely all about buying the T-shirt.
I'll have a stud muffin please
Dolce Enoteca 8284 Melrose Ave, tel: 00 1 323 852 7174 With a steakhouse in the pipeline and his Blade Runner-esque Japanese restaurant Geisha Lounge remaining a magnet for the A-list and the social X-rays, Ashton Kutcher is becoming better known for his posh chow than his screen performances. Demi Moore's stud muffin scored his first foodie hit here with Dolce, a pared-down Italian offering rustic peasant cuisine at decidedly monied prices.
Meet the foodies (aka The Beer Hunters)
Ago 8478 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, tel: 00 1 323 655 6333 Robert De Niro's understated, overtly classic Italian restaurant has wood-burning ovens and comes with additional investment from Ridley Scott and the Weinstein brothers, all legends in their own lunchtimes. The kitchen is the main feature, open-plan and framed from the dining-room by ornate marble, while celebrity regulars include Christopher Walken and various Sopranos. The food, especially the ahi tuna tartar, gets rave reviews.
Ready Trek with a twist
Ortolan 8338 West Third St, tel: 00 1 323 653 3300 The name Jeri Ryan may not set the celebrity antennae twitching but a sighting of the actress better known as Seven of Nine on Star Trek Voyager is enough to get any sci-fi geek whispering over their foie gras. At Ortolan, which opened in February, Trekkie-turned-restaurateur Ryan works the room most nights. The space is drenched in Starck-style, supremely knowing, post-modern Louis XVI trappings.
J-Lo a go-go
La Boca del Conga Room 5364 Wilshire Blvd, tel: 00 1 323 938 1696 You ignored the film career, switched off the album and turned your nose up at the fragrance. Could it be the Argentinian fillet of beef that represents Jennifer Lopez's real talent? Jenny from the Block is behind La Boca, this salsa-crazed theme restaurant where, on a good night, the dancing in the adjacent Conga Room gets as spicy as the menu.