Thanks for the recs. Following is a quick report on some of my meals, which were somewhat limited due to travel with two young kids and time.
Ate a Junior's Deli on the way out from LAX (needed something close to the 405) - good chicken soup and above-average pastrami, served with a potato-like knish that was a pleasant surprise. Service was pretty bad though, even for a deli (and it was not even crowded).
Dined for lunch at Spago. Good food, but I don't know that the prices are justified. Had the scallops with pad thai. Sat near Sidney Poitier, who is apparently a regular, which was a plus.
Also ate at Neptune's Net in Malibu. Prior posts correctly state that counter service is rude. Fried oysters were good, but not great (I think it is tough to butcher fried oysters, so that's not saying too much). Fries were mediocre, as were the fried clams. Pleasant views outside though.
Also ate at Pleasure Cove for lunch. Food was mediocre at best, but again the beach setting was terrific for our young daughter, who loved it.