10/30/2012 02:12:00 PM

Best Thing We Ate: Grilled Sardines and Frilly Greens at Cortez

Echo Park's new Cortez restaurant feels like the perfect neighborhood bistro you were fortunate to find. Like, stumble upon find, because it's off the beaten path - closer to Dodger Stadium, tucked onto Allison Street just a few feet from Sunset Boulevard. There's no sign, just a bright big window with a view into a sparse space that holds no more than two communal tables, a small bar and an open kitchen. The crowd is young, hipster and knows how to dine next to people in close quarters. Even the kids - and there were a few - were well-behaved.

Cortez is a place for anyone who appreciates uber-seasonal, simply prepared fare like seared Cana de Oveja, a soft ripened cheese, served with beautiful frilly Windrose Farm greens, or roasted delicata squash with brown butter and pecorino. And it especially means anyone who loves grilled fresh Pacific sardines, which are briny and bright, stuffed with a single sage leaf, slightly charred and grilled to lovely preferction. That probably means you, definitely us and apparently Aziz Ansari, who dipped in for a quick bite last night, too.

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