Year of the Ox

There's nothing lazy about this Little Tokyo gastropub

Little Tokyo is no longer just home to off-the-radar sushi spots and Japanese bakeries–it's a virtual melting pot of good eating. And now there's the Lazy Ox Canteen, where pub food gets a passport.

Housed in a new apartment complex, the small, woodsy space is the last place you'd expect to find bold Mediterranean, Japanese and Spanish flavors colliding, courtesy of chef Josef Centeno. But there he is in the open kitchen, creating dishes that are literally all over the map.

Look for some of the chef's greatest hits on the chalkboard menu, which changes regularly. Boquerones give just enough bite beneath a shroud of crisp, puffy tempura batter ($5), and lemon and parsley add zing to fresh, juicy razor clams grilled a la plancha ($10).

Centeno's signature bӓco makes a comeback, too. Sort of a cross between a taco and a gyro, the grilled flatbread overflows with crispy pork belly, arugula and a heady poblano sauce ($10).

On the regular menu, thin slices of Morrocan-spiced beef jerky top a runny fried egg and toast ($10), and brick-oven-roasted mussels swimming in a white-wine sauce spiked with house-made sriracha ($17) are worthy contenders.

To wash it all down, look for some of the unique imports, like Ozeno Yukidoke IPA, a Japanese brew that isn't widely available in the States.

Lazy Ox Canteen, 241 S. San Pedro St., Little Tokyo; 213-626-5299 or lazyoxcanteen.com