TWELVE and Highland

Manhattan Beach

The black-and-white movie projections and the IKEA-inspired decor may reek of trying too hard, but the exertions in the kitchen pay off. Chef Armando Martinez (formerly of Water Grill) favors robust dishes like a Kobe burger, mussels with cumin-spiced fries, and jidori chicken on cucumber couscous. Presentation steals the show: Even the rough pile of angel-hair pasta makes a statement. Service could use the same attention, and the bar is sharper than its cocktails. » 304 12th St., Manhattan Beach (310-545-1881 or L-D daily. Full bar. New American   $$$