The newly revamped BALEENkitchen at The Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach is quickly becoming one of the South Bay’s hottest spots to dine and imbibe, complete with updated environs overlooking stunning views of the King Harbor and Portofino marinas, as well as new menus, outdoor programming, live entertainment, daily specials and much more.
“The façade of BALEENkitchen recently underwent a refresh, so the management team decided the next step was to update the interiors since it was last done in 2011,” says Duane Rohrbaugh, general manager of the Portofino Hotel & Marina.
The vision was to create a local, fresh beach vibe that was fun, inviting and comfortable.
Restaurant and hotel ownership group Noble House Hotels & Resorts tasked in-house chief creative officer, Scott Colee, and interior designer, Erin Weiner, to bring its vision to reality.
The result? A 3,480-square-foot, relaxed yet refined dining room featuring a nautically-inspired environment, accented by dark wood, shades of cream and blue, crystal chandeliers and a stately fireplace, along with an adjacent waterside patio highlighted by fire pits.
“Upon entering, guests will marvel at the breathtaking waterfront views and elegant design,” says Rohrbaugh. “The style of BALEENkitchen before the renovation was more of a men’s club style of design with darker colors and rich fabrics and leather, while the new design provides a light and airy ambiance and enhances the views.”
As for the culinary offerings, recently appointed Chef de Cuisines Vasili Tavernakis and Paul Dinulescu is now serving a series of new breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner menus showcasing seafood and assorted tapas.
Among the offerings: seafood poke with salmon, shrimp, tuna, avocado, cucumber, wakame salad and soy vinaigrette; yellowtail snapper Hamachi with kohlrabi, Calabrian chile, hazelnut relish and citrus ponzu; and pan-roasted diver scallops with corn-truffle purée, pee wee potato, roasted mushrooms, lardons, blistered cherry tomatoes and jalapeño honey.
A Simply Grilled section showcases fresh shrimp, scallops, sea bass, filet of beef or hanger steak served with baleen steak sauce, chimichurri or caper remoulade. Still, other options include house-made pastries, “Huevos Redondos” and braised duck street tacos.
Also making its debut is the Chefs Table, a back-stage look at dinner service that includes in-depth conversations with BALEEN’s Chefs de Cuisines regarding their dishes and a range of menus starting at $65 per person.
Not to be missed is the lounge, featuring a happy hour and specialty cocktails inspired by Redondo Beach locales.
Think “I’ll Be Your Huckleberry”—with Maker’s Mark bourbon, blackberry, basil, lemon and ginger beer—and “Catch Me If You Can”—with Bombay Sapphire gin, watermelon, passion fruit, hibiscus, and allspice.
The Portofino Hotel & Marina
260 Portofino Way, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
After 35 years in the restaurant business, Michael Franks and Robert Bell are still serving up delicious meals with a side of passion at longstanding Chez Melange. Supplying a unique concept and layout to match, one can dine here according to one’s mood: the location includes the lively Bouzy Gastropub, delightful Oyster Bar, and savory Sea Change eateries under one roof.
Ten years ago, Chez Melange moved from the Palos Verdes Inn to the building at Catalina and Avenue I in Redondo Beach. With the added space and new location, the co-owners were at liberty to explore new concepts that paired well with vibe and clientele of the local village.
“Being a Brit, I always wanted to own a true gastropub like we had back home,” explains Franks. Thus, Bouzy Gastropub was born, with its presence marking the first gastropub in the South Bay. The cozy Bouzy, which hosts weekly live music (a hit with locals), is a place where friends gather for cocktails, craft beer and hearty pub food.
Crowd favorites are the Knife & Fork Pancho Burger piled high with bacon, avocado, chile relleno, and hot sauce; and the New Orleans-inspired Chez’ Famous Fried Chicken Salad, with lettuce Mache, corn, pecans and buttermilk ranch dressing. Bouzy is now open for lunch, Tuesday through Sunday, and every Monday is $5 burger night.
Down the hallway and just off the main dining room of Sea Change, the Oyster Bar is intimate and relaxing. The rustic vibe and ample bar seating makes a great spot to knock back a bit of bubbly while noshing on fresh oysters. This raw bar offers seasonal fresh seafood towers in three sizes and other tasty bits like hamachi sashimi and the Pacific Rim Tostadas with Ahi and Japanese salsa.
The adjacent dining room hosts Sea Change, the seafood bistro. The menu changes daily to “keep the food honest, fresh and seasonal,” says Franks. Scrumptious specialties with a kick include Zarzuela, a Spanish mixed seafood stew that includes lobster and a baguette for dipping. Also on the menu are daily fish specials and delights like the decadent Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich or Veal Chop with Chanterelle mushrooms.
“You’re only as good as your last meal, my dad always told me,” shares Franks, who desires to make every guest feel at home in his South Bay institution, a place to savor every last morsel.
“We are all about community here,” he adds. To this end, Chez Melange is also part of the garden co-op Seed to Plate, which educates special needs students who help tend to the restaurant’s vegetable, fruit and herb garden at Valmonte Elementary School.
Its bounty is provisioned to Chez Melange. Evident is Frank and Bell’s appreciation not only for their patrons and staff, but the business as a whole. An attitude as inspiring as the food.
310.540.1222 | chezmelange.com
Written by: Joclene Davey
Photographs: Courtesy of Chez Melange
At 929 S. Broadway, Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles is a destination in itself. Built in 1927, the 13-story Spanish Gothic building honors its past. Once home to the United Artists Theatre designed by C. Howard Crane, the structure now hosts a stylish hotel, which, since early 2014, has been at the intersection of history and creativity.
Last October, the hotel’s signature restaurant, formerly LA Chapter, opened its doors as Best Girl. Following the rest of the hotel’s lead in historical homages, the eatery takes its name from a silent movie starring Mary Pickford—also the first film screened at the theater 90 years ago. Shaped by Los Angeles-based Commune Design, the 132-seat restaurant still features the same casual, inviting and airy atmosphere that characterized its former occupant.
Furnished with Thonet chairs, soft leather banquettes, and custom, brass-top tables that provide a striking contrast to the black-and-white checkerboard floor and original poured concrete ceilings and columns, the space is reminiscent of a Viennese cafe with a nod to late 1920s-era L.A. design.
The change is in the plates. Well-known for seafood and fine cuisine—with restaurants such as Providence and Connie And Ted’s, and seafood market Cape Seafood and Provisions—renowned chef Michael Cimarusti developed a different approach for Best Girl, focusing on his favorite meals made at home for family and friends. Chilaquiles with scrambled eggs, tortilla chips, queso fresco, cilantro and scallions; a tonkatsu-style chicken sandwich with yuzu kosho mayonnaise, creamy miso cabbage and sesame; calamarata pasta with Calabrian pork ragu and locatelli romano; and rock cod with Saltspring mussels, fennel, orange, olive and grilled bread are some of the dishes that express the variety of L.A. cuisine, drawing influence from Mexican to Japanese to Italian sources and more.
Among the selection of desserts made by chef Crisi Echiverri, the Bardstown pudding—sticky, bourbon-scented toffee pudding, crème fraiche ice cream and blackberry compote—and coconut pandan tapioca with calamansi, tropical fruit and macadamia nut crunch are favorites. Finally, is Beverage Director Mary Bartlett’s cocktail, beer and wine offerings. By preserving its legacy and L.A.’s multiculturalism, Best Girl makes for a marquee experience.
Photographs Courtesy of Dylan + Jeni (food + portrait) and Spencer Lowell
Courtesy of Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles and Best Girl (restaurant)
New Hermosa Beach hot spot Radici has, like its namesake family, Italian roots behind it—30 years of restauranteering and Pacentro heritage. Mother and daughter duo Laura Francisco and Lucia Gasbarri are the proprietors of Radici, with Gasbarri, the restaurant’s muse. Family recipes, meanwhile, evoke a sense of home, while the atmosphere is relaxed yet upscale.
After years in the business, this crew still runs a tight ship, while making customers feel at ease, like family. “My mom inspects every plate that leaves the kitchen,” says Francisco. A stickler for quality control, Gasbarri is emphatic about using the best-tasting ingredients, right down to the last tomato for her family-style sugo. Known for creating classic Italian dishes with healthy ingredients like Mary’s free-range chicken and veggies from Wang’s Farms, to the slew of imported Italian products she uses daily, Gasbarri says, “I only use the best olive oil from Italy and rarely cook with butter.” In fact, after Radici’s reputation for healthy food caught the attention of pro volleyballers Bill Kolinske and Miles Evans, they became loyal patrons, and the restaurant is now sponsoring the duo this summer.
Gasbarri’s top-secret family recipes and cooking methods define Radici’s food quality and taste. Despite her unwillingness to divulge these confidences, she does say that her Penne Alla Vodka, a recipe typically cooked with Pancetta, calls for good ole bacon to anchor a unique smoky flavor that permeates through the vodka sauce.
Crowd favorites include Pappardelle Bolognese with homemade pasta and authentic ragu, and the Gnocchi Bicolore Gratinati made with spinach and potatoes and topped with gorgonzola sauce. For the carnivore, the Veal Chop Bella Vista in a creamy marinara sauce with fresh tomatoes and bufala mozzarella is satisfying without feeling heavy.
Restaurant manager, Francesca Iacobellis, who recently relocated to the U.S. from Italy, feels right at home at Radici. “The first time I tried Gasbarri’s cooking, I was moved. It was exactly like my grandmother’s,” explains Iacobellis who, as the restaurant’s sommelier, creates the wine pairing program.
“The Italian wines Francesca selects, are always chosen to complement the food,” explains Francisco. The cocktail bar has everything a thirsty patron could desire, and then some. Fans love the house-made Limoncello and a hit-list of classic grappa, including the Grappa Al Cioccolato, which makes the perfect after-dinner drink by combining dessert and a digestif.
Located upstairs just off of Hermosa Avenue, the resto’s chic aesthetic plays well in the open and airy space. Trimmed in windows and topped with soaring ceilings, pops of rose gold amid a sepia tone-meets-flora and fauna palette refine the environment of Radici, which was designed by architect Robert Weimer with finishes by L’Esperance Design of West Hollywood.
An incredible element is a screen-printed feature wall, which serves as a kind of porthole to Pacentro, Italy. “We took a photograph of Lucia’s family home in Pacentro and had the image screen-printed on silver mylar wallpaper to enliven it,” explains Paul L’Esperance. “We always add something dramatic in every space to really personalize.”
Currently, Radici hosts several unique Happy Hours throughout the week, like Wednesday Wine Night, which offers half-off bottled wine and a dinner special of Chicken Parmesan with soup and salad for $19. Parking is easy, with a garage below the restaurant, and forthcoming valet service.
Reservations are recommended ≫ radicihermosabeach.com
Opened in 1927, Santa Monica’s Jonathan Beach Club has served as a private enclave to professional, beach-loving Angelenos through the years. Now the landmark property has an updated look and feel, complete with a Studio Collective-designed restaurant sporting a warm residential style resembling that of an oceanfront Spanish villa.
“With the addition of Little Beach House Malibu (Soho House) and new restaurants like Nobu opening up just down PCH, I think the Jonathan Club management team realized the need for a major renovation to stay relevant with its existing membership, as well as to attract potential new members,” says Adam Goldstein, a founding principle with Christian Schulz and Leslie Kale of L.A.- based interior design firm Studio Collective. “There are just many more options nowadays—both in terms of private clubs, as well as higher-end restaurants and lounges—and the Jonathan Club acknowledged this fact and wanted to give its members a space that was sophisticated yet comfortable.”
The firm chose a picturesque ocean-side Spanish villa as inspiration for the restaurant’s new bar and lounge, dining room, private dining room, and outdoor dining terrace and patio to provide a residential feel for interior spaces to serve as a warm and inviting environment for members’ home away from home. Expect a reimagined floorplan that moves the primary entrance closer to the ocean, with the new dining room marked by passing through two custom arched, blackened steel doors and into a space showcased by soaring wood-beamed ceilings; hand-scraped, wide-plank wood flooring; and a trio of sliding wood-framed glass doors offering ocean views.
A white oak and brushed brass bookshelf topped by a wood planter overflowing with greenery separates the dining room and open-display kitchen, while an intimate bar and lounge space is highlighted by ceilings finished with chevron wood planking; a centerpiece bar fabricated by Eric Beneker using a live-edge walnut slab and custom marble tile; and plush sofas overlooking a freshly re-clad fireplace. A new private dining room features large, book-matched marble slabs, custom upholstered leather wall panels and parquet wood flooring, while two olive trees, a custom green wall and sculptural fireplace give the covered dining terrace a true al fresco feeling reminiscent of a Spanish courtyard.
“One of the bigger moves we made was to reorient the bar 90 degrees, so when members were sitting at it they were facing the ocean,” says Goldstein. “In addition, the outdoor dining terrace now is probably the best beach-front spot in all of L.A. to enjoy a meal. The combination of the amazing view along with the lush vegetation create a truly unique experience unmatched along the coastline.”
Written by Wendy Bowman | Photographs: courtesy of Courtesy of Roger Davies
850 Palisades Beach Rd, Santa Monica, CA 90403
In 2016, the first Tocaya Organica opened its doors. The earthy spot on Pacific Avenue in Venice dished up hearty bowls, burritos, and wraps based on traditional Mexican recipes that were tweaked for local, health-conscious tastes. The carne asada in the popular Barrio Style taco, for instance, is free of hormones, steroids, and antibiotics, and the roasted tomato salsa and avocado that tops it are organic. The sea bass is fresh, caught wild, rubbed with chipotle and seared.
Since day one, it’s been a lightning-fast ride for owners Tosh Berman and Amrou Manaseer, who have since opened four new locations—in West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Playa Vista and Century City. A slew of additional local branches are coming, including Westwood and The Point in El Segundo. (Manaseer and Berman also own upscale West Hollywood hotspot Toca Madera, which opened in 2015.) “When we first opened Tocaya Organica two years ago, many thought that taking on the Modern Organic Mexican space and a vegan-forward approach couldn’t be done, but we converted our entire company into this one culinary concept,” says Berman, whose seven-year stint living in Mexico inspired his restaurants. “I learned that true Mexican cuisine is incredibly healthy, simple and fresh.”
The menu is filled with tasty vegan and gluten-free items, from best-sellers like the Fajita Del Rey Bowl, a tasty menagerie of sautéed poblano peppers, Spanish rice, and vegan chipotle crema, and the Tocaya Salad, which has romaine and butter lettuce, sliced jalapeños and tortilla strips. Tocaya even has its own hearty vegan picadillo made from a pea-based protein with carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes. No sodas, but try one of the house-made aguas frescas, such as horchata or cucumber mint limeade. For dessert, there’s a wildly popular Churro Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich, which can be made vegan or non-vegan.
Though the menu stays the same at each location, Tocaya’s look varies from place to place. When you walk in, expect an airy, communal space with plenty of indoor and outdoor places. That and unfussy, minimalist decor, along with natural materials and a neutral palette with occasional splurges of color. “Our signature design elements are decorative mosaic tiles, herringbone planks, and brass accents,” says Berman, the last of which extend to lighting fixtures and iron-grid seating. Painted Mason jars hold cutlery and glass containers contain pretty succulents, adding homespun charm. A showcase of the brand’s “evolution in design,” says Berman, can be found at Tocaya’s new flagship location at Westfield Century City, which features an open floor plan and an open kitchen. The appealing, elevated design of the fast-casual concept will undoubtedly continue to evolve as the number of restaurants grow. “As for new markets we go into,” says Berman, “we like to incorporate a unique design element inspired by the history of each location.” Like the upcoming San Diego Gaslamp location, which will feature classic touches of brick.
The rapid expansion of the brand, premised on serving chef-driven organic Mexican food in an uplifting fast-casual setting, is a sign of the times. One that will, for many, replace the fast-food taco joints of yore. “I think a lot of our success is due to the fact that we bridged the gap for vegans and non-vegans,” points out Berman, “and created a place where they can go to have great tasting food that uses high-quality, organic ingredients without sacrificing flavor.” tocayaorganica.com
Gorgeous baked goods free of dairy, refined sugar, grains and guilt—it would be a dessert lover’s dream were it not reality for Palisades Village, where, later this summer, patrons will get their first taste of Sweet Laurel’s eponymous new cake shop.
Sweet Laurel: Cake, Coffee and Tea is owned by brand founder Lauren Gallucci, who turned to savory whole-foods baking after suffering an autoimmune disorder, and her creative partner, Kitchy Kitchen food blogger Claire Thomas.
“Our food is indulgent yet healthful,” says Thomas. “It’s about loving the food you eat instead of punishing yourself for craving it.”
Before Sweet Laurel, “we had been constantly disappointed by gluten-free or vegan-baked options and were self-described carb snobs,” she adds. “The textures and flavors always seemed a bit off, like a photocopy of a photocopy of the thing they claimed to be.”
Sweet Laurel was different from the start, its winning recipe also free of gums and fillers that create what Thomas calls “sad, drab sweets”—that suspicious photocopy effect.
“Ours are showstoppers, on the table and on your palette.” Sweet Laurel treats are not so much as decorated in the usual sense but adorned. Fresh flowers on a lusciously frosted naked cake. A flourish of farmers’ market herbs. A dash of raspberries. A drizzle of sweet cream.
Now, having fulfilled custom creations for an array of influencers, hosting private classes, and releasing their first eponymous book, Sweet Laurel Cake, Coffee and Tea marks a sort of homecoming for its founding tastemakers who grew up Palisades regulars.
The shop will cultivate a “Malibu meets Mayfair” aesthetic, so old world bones, but with a simple, minimalistic approach—just like our desserts,” says Thomas.
“And of course, lots of fresh flowers.” As tasteful? The menu: classic offerings, new baked goods, nourishing house-made nut and coconut milks, Caffe Luxxe coffee and tea. sweetlaurel.com
Copyright © 2018 by Laurel Gallucci and Claire Thomas. Photography by Claire Thomas. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Logistically, a high-quality, pre-fab greenhouse as the infrastructure of a restaurant set on the second level of a hotel—as cool as it sounds—seems problematic. The acoustics alone. But this is Los Angeles, nothing is impossible—not a conservatory in the sky, not a homegrown kid turned restaurant impresario. This being chef Roy Choi, of course, who, after doing more than probably anyone except social media to revolutionize the gourmet food truck movement in L.A., kept it rolling with a series of stationary eateries en route to Koreatown, where at The LINE LA, he launched his POT concepts, and then Commissary, an aboveground venue with a down-to-earth vibe.
“We wanted it to feel like a working greenhouse, something that’s been around a while and used daily…pretty without being pretty,” says Choi. “Weathered and torn but just born.”
In keeping with this idea, designer Sean Knibb delivered on the garden greenhouse theme built around seeds and plants; open-air so it would feel welcoming and fresh. Organic materials and industrial accents coalesce with streams of sunlight, an earthy palette and a rotation of hanging plants—ferns, ivy, palms, and topiaries—surveying the whole delicious scene from above.
“The end product was way more than I imagined,” says Choi of Commissary, which is communal; a melting pot of mismatched napkins and dishware, and devoid of affectation. Its beautiful sense of utility complements his democratic style of cooking—unfussy but flavored.
The bar is a delightful spot for a cocktail made with farmers’ market ingredients, or as a post on Instagram; its market crates used to stored spirits and barware paired with casual wooden stools compose an easy-chic tableau straight out of a shelter magazine.
The handsome functionality throughout the structure, which is plenty large for a crowd, helps the space achieve an intimacy with more reflective quality than a prism.
The space’s conceptual challenges—namely its lack of private areas that put staff front and center at all times—“don’t hold a candle to the beauty,” says Choi. “So we adapt, because the idea of a greenhouse restaurant is just so tight.” It’s also a fresh take on L.A.’s ubiquitous rooftop scene, which felt due for some rekindling.
At the time Commissary was constructed, Choi had adopted a diet of all fruits and vegetables, hence his description of the venue as “a plant-based restaurant that [isn’t] vegetarian” and a “public country club of sorts where all are welcome.” These paradoxes make perfect sense if one considers that the design story of Commissary is not only one of collaboration and a belief in classic American cooking, but most importantly, inclusion. “Sharing the best designs for all to enjoy and not only for a few who can afford it,” says Choi. Such is just his nature.
WRITTEN BY JENN THORNTON | Photography Courtesy of Audrey Ma/Courtesy of EATATPOT | eatatpot.com
A classic, Southern-style eatery spreads its wings to L.A. with the opening of a new outpost at the Beverly Center
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar is its restaurateur’s personal tribute to classic Southern cuisine, with many of the dishes based on his grandmother’s tried-and-true recipes and updated with modern culinary twists.
Now visitors to his newest L.A. branch of the highly touted eatery can expect to experience what diners in Miami Beach, Las Vegas and Singapore have been privy to for a while, complete with a warm and inviting atmosphere, upscale home-style cooking, an extensive bourbon selection, and of course, homegrown hospitality.
“Southern Cuisine is what I grew up on,” says John Kunkel, CEO of 50 Eggs Inc., who founded the acclaimed restaurant in 2011.
“I spent countless hours in the kitchen by my grandmother’s side, learning and watching her make all the amazing dishes of my youth. When I was developing the Yardbird brand, I noticed there was a lack of upscale Southern restaurants. Yardird is a unique experience; while you can come in and have the Southern classics my grandmother made, you can also have an amazing glass of wine or a rare bourbon.”
Situated on the ground level of the newly re-imagined Beverly Center on La Cienega—amid a lineup of other chef-driven restaurants by Michael Mina and Nathan Peitso—Yardbird’s warm and welcoming atmosphere features the same elements of reclaimed wood, white brick and industrial accents for which all of the eateries are known.
But also expect a definite L.A. flair, including a living wall, plates that are handmade locally, vintage silverware and custom-branded leather menu covers.
As for the menu, the restaurant is most known for its Lewellyn’s Fine Fried Chicken—a 100-year-old family recipe prepped for 27-hours and dredged in cayenne-spiced flour before hitting the fryer—but Corporate Executive Chef Patrick Rebholz and two-time James Beard-nominated Executive Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith will offer diners a wide range of seafood dishes, salads and desserts as well. Among the highlights: chicken ‘n’ watermelon ‘n’ waffles, deviled eggs and house-made buttermilk biscuits.
“Yardbird will bring the perfect mix of fine dining and classic Southern cuisine to L.A.,” says Kunkel. Going forward, he adds, look for the brand to expand to even more locales in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; New York; and Dallas, just to name a few.
8500 Beverly Blvd suite 112, Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 250-8034 | runchickenrun.com
[cs_dropcap column_size=”1/1″ dropcap_style=”box” dropcap_size=”0″ dropcap_color=”#ffffff” dropcap_bg_color=”#d7df21″]Since opening in 2011, Jeffrey Faust and Woogene Lee’s intimate restaurant fundamental LA has emerged as a beloved Westwood institution thanks to its casual counter-service lunch, refined full-service dinner and eclectic wine selection. Now Faust and Lee have expanded their concept with fundamental DTLA, complete with the addition of breakfast service featuring a wide selection of pastries and baked goods crafted in-house, plus a bar that’s destined to become the area’s next go-to gathering spot.[/cs_dropcap]
“We decided to open downtown because we wanted to be early adopters of the new-age renaissance happening that is attracting a lot of businesses and expanding the L.A. food scene,” says Lee. “[f]undamental DTLA is a place where people can come at any time of the day for good drinks and high-quality food in a casual neighborhood environment.”
Situated along Grand Avenue—on the ground floor of the Eight & Grand apartments—fundamental DTLA features light and airy surroundings designed by Lucinda Pacé of Concept XL, with a main dining room that seats 40, bar with room for six and patio that accommodates 16 diners. Expect a welcoming neighborhood atmosphere punctuated with macramé planters overflowing with plants and greenery, cozy wood and brushed brass banquettes, marble countertops and a tiled bar in deep teal blue.
Executive Chef Andy Lee helms the kitchen, where he serves up a menu of seasonal comfort fare with an international flair. Among the highlights is the chicken sausage breakfast burrito; avocado toast; free-range fried chicken and turkey breast sandwiches; spot prawns; branzino; and pork belly “Bo Ssam” (with oyster kimchi, shiso, baby gems, leek and miso).
Diners also will find a collection of small-producer and natural wines, a diverse beer list, and signature cocktails such as the Earl Grey (goat milk washed Scotch, amaretto, honey, peat) and Matcha Tea (Pisco, peach calpico, sparkling sake, absinthe, salt), as well as riffs on classics. Newly launched is a daily power hour (happy hour) from 4-7 p.m. offering the signature fundamental burger and free-range kung pao chicken wings, along with wine, beer and cocktails.
213.935.8180 | fundamental-dtla.com
A reinvention of the corner store, hyper-local Hi-Lo Liquor is just the tonic for Culver City
The traditional liquor store has never held much appeal. A generally low-margin, commoditized business, the prevailing impression it offers is that of a dark labyrinth of long, narrow aisles with dusty, disorganized shelves and an indiscriminate approach to inventory. A place to run in and run out. Maybe leave the car running.
[cs_dropcap column_size=”1/1″ dropcap_style=”box” dropcap_size=”0″ dropcap_color=”#ffffff” dropcap_bg_color=”#d7df21″]Not so at Hi-Lo Liquor, which, at the end of 2016, became the new kid on the block in Culver City, upending the liquor store stereotype as a clean, well-curated, cleverly branded space designed by L.A.-based collective Project M Plus. Of modest size, the highly conceptualized store serves a spectrum of judiciously considered beer, wine and spirits, along with a miscellany of unique goods. Product sits high on shelves and is easy to see. The interior is unfussy and the storefront fun and Euro feeling. In effect, it’s the opposite of just about every other liquor store out there. Run in and run out? Unlikely. But still welcome.[/cs_dropcap]
Hi-Lo Liquor is a credit to its co-owners Chris Harris and Talmadge Lowe (founder of L.A.’s custom cocktail catering service Pharmacie). After having been approached about possibly overhauling another such neighborhood haunt in Highland Park, they took one look at the place and knew they could do better, launching Hi-Lo not long after. Bespoke retailing in a big-box world seems, at minimum, a gutsy move, but to Harris and Lowe, it simply made sense. The market was void of anything else even remotely like it. Plus, they’d considered just about everything else—a coffee shop and bar hybrid, a wine enterprise. Nothing hit like Hi-Lo.
“Every liquor store carries the exact same thing,” explains Harris. “So we thought, let’s carry an amazing selection of beer, an awesome selection of whiskey, and sell some great regional and local wines and really show people some interesting stuff, but in a local liquor store format that’s light, bright and friendly. Then, let’s have some fun tastings with vendors to pour some good beers and wine.”
Consumers come to Hi-Lo and get exactly that—a store somewhere in the middle. One finds some marble finishes, but also Downey-made Mulholland, an everyday American whiskey one can sip neat or use to mix drinks, a score at under $35 a bottle. There’s craft brews and tallboys too. The connoisseur to the construction worker—all are catered too, guided by knowledgeable staff. “That’s the concept,” explains Harris. “We don’t do a lot of high and we don’t do a lot of low. We didn’t want to go so high-end that we weren’t serving the neighborhood. We’re community based. But we also want to show people more interesting things, but without judgment. Just try it, you’ll like it.”
Now, having recently acquired its instructional license, Hi-Lo is elevating its drinking game with the aforementioned beer and wine tastings. Harris and Lowe also are looking to franchise the brand, bringing it to other cities beyond its current location, each in the spirit of its neighborhood.
A clever take on seafood izakaya and sushi has come to South Bay, with the owners of West L.A.’s popular Hamasaku restaurant opening Umi by Hamasaku in El Segundo this past October. Expect the same creative Japanese fare for which the flagship has long been known—an affordable Omakase—all served in a casual yet stylish environment showcasing contemporary artwork, a raw bar and open kitchen.
We wanted to bring our passion for sushi to the area; we also felt that the area is booming and in need of a good neighborhood sushi spot.”
“We chose El Segundo because Yoya and I are both local boys of the South Bay,” says General Manager Jesse Duron, who operates both establishments with partners Michael Ovitz and Executive Chef Yoya Takahashi. “Yoya moved to South Bay when he first came to the states from Japan, and I was born and raised in Torrance. We wanted to bring our passion for sushi to the area; we also felt that the area is booming and in need of a good neighborhood sushi spot.”
Found at The Point—an outdoor shopping and dining development at the intersection of Rosecrans Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard that also houses eateries such as Superba Food & Bread, and Smitten Ice Cream—Umi by Hamasaku features a 56-seat dining room, with space for four people at the raw bar and a patio that accommodates 28. The restaurant’s décor nods to its sibling’s Japanese aesthetic via blonde wood accents, but expect some modern updates as well: a large, bright white-tiled open kitchen; artwork from Ovitz’s personal collection; and curtains imported from Japan.
As for the culinary offerings, chef Takahashi has crafted a menu of unique twists on Japanese classics for lunch and dinner, including seasonal shared plates; a traditional and modern izakaya offering; various sushi preparations; and an omakase featuring a starter, duo of sashimi courses, 10-piece nigiri course and handroll. Among the most popular items (all prepared using fresh, local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients) is the chef’s riff on spicy tuna crispy rice (with crispy rice tots and diced spicy Hawaiian tuna); toro tartare (Kiwami toro, apple, yamaimo, quail egg, yakiniku sauce and micro red shiso); roasted cauliflower (with creme fraiche mentaiko); and ceviche maki (Maine lobster ceviche and asparagus wrapped in soy paper and avocado).