A pan-Asian restaurant in Los Angeles with Australians at the helm takes off.
When Louis Tikaram, the affable and estimable former chef at Longrain in Sydney, was offered the chance to helm his own restaurant in LA, he had one pressing concern. "Could I source South East Asian ingredients in LA?" On a research trip, he discovered "Thai eggplants, holy basil, turmeric, galangal - everything I needed" at the farmers' markets across the city.
Two years in the making, EP & LP is at last ready to be unveiled. The elaborate new West Hollywood eatery spans two levels: EP (extended play) is the dining room showcasing the chef's appealing pan-Asian fare in dishes such as sweet and sour crisp pork, scallop and mussel curry, and Chiang Mai larb with spiced salmon. LP (long play) is the rooftop lounge with spectacular views, cocktails served in copper pineapples and small bites such as pork skewers and soft-shell crab buns. Just don't label his cooking style "fusion", as some locals have. "It's modern Asian," he says.
But it comes with an antipodean twist. The venture is the brainchild of Australian restaurateurs Grant Smillie and David Combes, who hand-picked the award-winning Tikaram as their executive chef, and enlisted Melbourne's Projects of Imagination as their design firm. They also selected Vittoria coffee. "It's our strategy to cultivate Australian talent in the US," says Combes. Adds Smillie, "EP has a unique location that warranted something special in terms of concept and design." The spiffy interiors are a mix of oak, timber, copper and blackened steel. Antique mirrors, graphic wallpaper and a green onyx marble chef's table enliven the space. From the ground-level entrance, patrons ascend an elevator or staircase to the dining room. Above that is the lounge, swathed in tropical greenery and furnished with a large banquette. "We have one of the most substantial rooftop spaces on this side of LA," says Smillie. "Everyone will want to be here."
The restaurant is attracting plenty of buzz among local food lovers. The menu features snapper and salmon from New Zealand, green-lip abalone and grass-fed wagyu from Australia, king crab from Alaska and sea urchin from Santa Barbara. "I want to cook all kinds of ingredients," Tikaram says. "Even at Longrain I didn't view it as being exclusively Thai." He's particularly jazzed about dishes that evoke his Fijian, Chinese and Indian ancestry: kokoda, say, is a Fijian-style snapper ceviche with coconut milk, lime and chilli. As for dealing with the dietary whims of Angelenos, he says bring it on. "Most of my food is gluten- and dairy-free, and I take it as a challenge to prepare something for a customer with an allergy." That solicitous approach will certainly have broad appeal.
EP & LP, 603 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, Los Angeles