While the “farm-to-table” movement has hit its apex, some LA establishments endeavor to bring back the elements of surprise and escapism through clever architectural and interior designs that complement the food. The season’s best bets are not just products of innovative chefs but collaborations of designers, artists, and conceptualists.
Sometimes it takes an ambitious young couple to shake up our understanding of what makes a “mom-and-pop” more inviting than other restaurants. The people behind the food and the look of Bestia have accomplished just that, and with a palpable ferocity. While several establishments among L.A.’s current crop of “contemporary” Italian restaurants reconcile clean, futuristic Italian design with zesty reinventions of regional Italian dishes, architect Osvaldo Maiozzi and designer Studio Unltd instead set out to provide a splendid canvas for the husband-and-wife culinary powerhouse of executive chef Ori Menashe and pastry chef Genevieve Gergis. In the process, they provided an effective visual context for culinary trends currently taking shape in Italy.
Throughout Italy, restaurants are built into centuries-old structures and personalized, modernized, and made inviting through artful uses of tile, steel, marble, wood, and vivid pops of color. In Los Angeles, Studio Unltd and Maiozzi’s translation of this aesthetic earned them an AIA 2014 Restaurant Design Award for their innovative interior. Distinctive hallmarks include bold meat-hook chandeliers suspended from steel tracks, rough-hewn bathroom tile work, tulip pendant lighting, and booth seating that appears to defy gravity. A copper bar top provides a stunning backdrop for the Bestia’s rotating roster of artisanal cocktails.
Menashe and Gergis deliver upon the promise of a memorable culinary experience made through the restaurant’s highly textured and provocative setting. Menashe’s starting point is his noteworthy house-cured meats program with over 60 different forms of charcuterie, an encyclopedic selection of house-made pastas, and piping-hot bread derived from his own yeast culture.
On the dolci side of the menu, Chef Gergis offers an equally inspired selection of desserts made from scratch. Her signatures include an al dente acquarello rice pudding blended with ripened in-season fruit, and earthy chestnut flour zeppole served with house-made coffee gelato and cream.
2121 E. 7th Place
Los Angeles, CA
There’s something to be said for the fine dining restaurant that can successfully marry together an innovative and original fine dining menu with the approachability and comfort of a seaside inn. The rustically elegant feel of the original 1930s cabin that Hector Gomez purchased in 1992 provides a lovely contrast for such signature dishes including the Kobe-beef based Executive Burger, an “Aglio & Olio” (garlic and oil) New York Strip Steak, a Fettuccine Seafood Curry pasta and a lush Lobster with Sweet Corn starter and Slow-Roasted Boar Shank. This, in turn, is topped off with a nicely curated wine cellar stocked with products of local boutique vintners as well as Sonoma and Napa Valley’s finest selections.
1095 E. Thompson Boulevard
Tar & Roses
Some chefs are recognized through their sauces, while others are noted for their use of herbs and spices. Wunderkind chef Andrew Kirschner, meanwhile, expresses himself through smoky, woody, roasty flavors that bring fresh dimension to even the most familiar fine-dining and gastro-pub staples. The intimate, dark hardwood covered space is offset by large windows, striking iron wine storage, and a whimsically designed menu, creating an overall mood of hearth-generated warmth and conviviality.
While Kirschner’s kitchen has the advantage of having fresh, diverse produce all year round, he likes to focus on specific seasonal items, and notes practically everything is enhanced by the “lick of the flame and the heat of the coals.” Persimmons will find their way to the fall menu, as will savory roasted winter squash as season progresses. Sunchokes are also a favorite in this kitchen this time of year, and their creamy earthiness, when roasted, play into a delightful side dish with lemon vinaigrette, goat cheese, and hazelnuts.
602 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA
Brunch: The Most Comfortable Meal Of The Week
Combine Parisian sophistication with the hearty charm of simple, honest French country cooking and you get Brunch at Maison Giraud. While internationally acclaimed chef Alain Giraud made discerning LA diners swoon through Lavande, Bastide, and Anisette, his weekend morning staples are equally impressive. They run the gamut from flaky croissants and baked goods rendered by head baker Noubar Yessayan to covetable quiches, the iconic “Grandma Omelet,” French Toast, Croque Monsieur, and Steak & Eggs. Special offerings include Chef Giraud’s ever-changing, seasonal selections from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.
The setting is equal parts Provence, France, and SoCal Farmer’s Market, from rustic flooring and stonework in the patio to lavender field paintings adorning the walls. This makes perfect sense, as his materials are sourced from nearby farmer’s markets in Santa Monica and the Palisades. The stone patio is lined with shrubs and fresh herbs, while the tone is set inside with a calming pale green and beige color scheme, colorful French linens, and French bistro chairs. The “oh-la-la” completing the picture is Lavender Blue, a home goods boutique operated by Giraud’s wife, Catherine, which also sources Provence-made design accents and accessories for the restaurant.
1032 Swarthmore Avenue
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Brunch: 8am – 2:30pm, Sa-Su