Chaya Brasserie, Storied Industry Hangout, to Close Dec. 31
"They had a good run," says New Line founder Bob Shaye of the three-decades-old French-Asian restaurant on Robertson Blvd., known in the industry for its close relationship with the studio that was long its next-door neighbor before the company moved in June
Chaya Brasserie, which helped pioneer a blending of French and Japanese culinary techniques later to be widely imitated, codified (and ultimately derided) as "Asian fusion," will close Dec. 31. It had opened three decades ago just off a then still up-and-coming Robertson Blvd. shopping thoroughfare, on a small side street called Alden Dr. that linked to the hulking Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
In the entertainment industry, it was best known for its close ties in the '80s and '90s with its immediate neighbor: the ascendant independent film studio New Line Cinema, for which it served as unofficial commissary and after-work hangout. (There was a house account.) Top executives, including founder Bob Shaye, plus Michael de Luca, Richard Brener, Carolyn Manetti and Jay Stern, held court there for years as it churned out auteur classics like Seven and Boogie Nights.
"The food was good, the service gracious — it was a very commodious place," says Shaye, who now runs Unique Features, and was such a loyal customer that Chaya didn't just send out a cake on his birthday, but regularly took out an ad in The Hollywood Reporter wishing him well. "There were friendly meetings, sometimes adversarial meetings, but always in a very salutary setting. I regret hearing that it's closing down, but as they say about a number of people I know, 'They had a good run.' "
While tourists flocked to see celebrities around the corner on the patio at The Ivy, and locals made a trendy habit out of the organic-oriented fare at the Newsroom across the street (which itself closed earlier this year), the real business got done at Chaya, often between bites of the signature dish — tuna tartare — which has long since become a globally copycatted standby.
Executive chef Shigefumi Tachibe told THR about its origins in 2013: "Five customers came in wanting beef tartare [one night in 1984], but one said, 'I don't eat beef,' " so Tachibe experimented with tuna. "Tuna is kind of dry, so I added avocado. You need egg yolk, green peppercorns, capers, tarragon, chives, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper." The knife he used that day wound up at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Upon hearing news of the closure, a group of about a dozen New Line employees made a pilgrimage to the restaurant on Monday night for farewell drinks after their holiday party nearby. (The company, now best known for its blockbuster Tolkien franchise films, had vacated its Robertson headquarters this past June for the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank. The studios had merged in 2008.)
Among them was New Line's executive vp strategy and operations Carolyn Blackwood, a partisan of the Java chicken salad who notes that she met her husband, the former producer Brad Jensen, at Chaya when the two met to discuss the Hilary Duff film Raise Your Voice. "I'm so sad," she says. "Even when we moved to the WB lot in the summer, we found occasion to get over there if we were having lunch on the Westside. But we weren't there in multitudes on a daily basis, particularly after the downsizing." (New Line's head count is now roughly 50 employees, whereas the Robertson office once housed several hundred.)
Blackwood adds, of the restaurant's Cheers factor, "New Line's always been a very social company, and that was where we went after work to unwind — our watering hole. We'd congregate at the end of the day, three or four times a week. We ruled the roost."
Successor restaurants in Venice and downtown L.A. survive the departing Chaya on Robertson, along with several local outposts of its more casual macrobiotic offshoot brand M Cafe.