The Eat Sheet: Sadie Restaurant's Faris Simon on Replacing Legendary Hollywood Hotspot Les Deux
The twentysomething behind the just-opened New American restaurant talks about building on the legacy first created at the address by Michele Lamy — and moving past the notoriety later brought to bear by the Dolce Group.
Faris Simon, a 24-year-old with a degree in animal science, grew up on a cattle ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. He now runs slick Sadie, the several-week-old restaurant and bar in Hollywood that’s quickly gaining attention for its menu of straightforward classics like duck confit salad and pan-roasted Idaho trout by chef Dave Schmit (the Polo Lounge, the Hotel Bel-Air) and mixology-oriented drinks by spirits director Giovanni Martinez (Fig & Olive, the Buffalo Club). Located at 1638 N. Las Palmas Ave. on land long owned by Simon’s family, it was formerly celebrity-strewn hotspot Les Deux.
Not so long ago Simon was still at Texas A&M, watching Lauren Conrad, Kristin Cavallari, Brody Jenner and the rest of the sun-stoked wastrels on MTV’s The Hills cavort at Les Deux during its middle-period velvet-rope era under the reign of Dolce Group nightlife barons Lonnie Moore and Mike “Boogie” Malin. “It was a little surreal to know that it was my family’s property that they were hanging out at,” says Simon, who grew up occasionally traveling downstate with his parents to visit the original incarnation, known as Les Deux Cafés, during its far more louche-glam late 1990s heyday as a buzzed-about boite, when it was legendarily helmed by the Simons’ earlier tenant, Michelle Lamy. (Regulars on the patio during this time included Madonna.)
“I remember coming and hating the French food because I was 10 years old — I just wanted a piece of pizza,” he says. “But Michele came up to the ranch to visit us fairly often, along with her boyfriend, [fashion designer] Rick Owens. She was an eccentric, intriguing lady. When you grow up in a rural community you don’t find very many people like her.” Lamy was the one who first envisioned the commercial property’s distinctive residential house-and-courtyard set-up: The clapboard Craftsman home was moved by big-rig under her direction from a parcel at Selma Ave. and Las Palmas, 75 yards south from where it currently stands.
Simon’s family has been accumulating property interests in the neighborhood since the late 1940s — the restaurant is named after his grandmother, Sadie, who opened Simon Candy & Nut Shop in 1935 — and after graduation he arrived in L.A. to directly manage some of them, including Les Deux. “[Moore and Malin] wanted a renewal on the lease, but when I went over there, it didn’t seem right,” he says. “It became apparent that Dolce was running a pretty shoddy operation.” When asked to elaborate, he points to police and press reports of underage drinking, violent assaults and even shootings at the club and its adjacent parking lot. “I’ve been yelled at by the neighbors for what they did. It’s no secret that they pissed the town off.”
The LAPD shut down the Dolce Group’s Les Deux in July 2010, and the family terminated the lease the following day. Simon chose to reopen as a gastropub that November under the same name (his family owns not just the property but the moniker). It didn’t click and closed the following March.
“That name, Les Deux, was so powerful when Michele left,” he says. Lamy moved to Paris with Owens, now her husband, in 2003. “My family trademarked it, and Dolce used it under a licensing agreement,” he says. “We didn’t know how cancerous it had become when we took the space over—that the brand identity was shot. Nobody wanted to come.”
Simon, bummed about the closing (“If you want to talk about something that bruises your ego, there you go”), thought about leasing the building again, but ultimately chose to give it another try, this time with a new name, more fully realized concept and thoroughly renovated decor. “If we leased it out again we ran the risk of having it turn into another nightclub,” he says. “We’re property owners in the neighborhood and we can’t afford to have it happen again. It’s this simple: I don’t want people peeing in my bushes. It’s not good for the quality of life around here.”