Chef-driven restaurants subscribe to the auteur theory of culinary creativity: the menu should first and foremost be a reflection of a talented toque’s personal creative vision. So when a new cook fires up the stoves, it shouldn’t be a surprise when the menu board is often wiped mostly, or even entirely, clean. These three L.A. dining dens are some of the latest in town to transform themselves under new leadership.
VERTICAL WINE BISTRO
French chef Laurent Quenioux, who made his reputation at Bistro K in Pasadena and then Bistro LQ in West Hollywood, spent last year drawing blogosphere buzz with his decidedly avant-garde LQ@SK pop-up dinners downtown. At this second-floor restaurant in Old Town Pasadena owned by producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead), he’s cooking vino-friendly vittles with a sense of high-end humor, like a riff on “chicken and waffles” served with horseradish-maple syrup spread and zucchini flower. THE MUST-ORDER DISH: A coffee- and cocoa-crusted barramundi plated beside banana mashed potatoes.
LEXINGTON SOCIAL HOUSE
Tattooed toque Jared Simons — a then-rising talent at the long-since-shuttered Westside boite Violet who went on to run the show at nightspot Bardot and collaborate at Cobras & Matadors — has taken over at this dramatically decorated den near the corner of Hollywood and Vine. His pared-down menu of classic Americana offerings includes fried chicken with bacon-braised greens and crispy calamari with lemon Tabasco aioli. THE MUST-ORDER DISH: A steak tartare starter that incorporates pickled fennel, root beer "caviar" and French fries.
Sunset Strip standby Mirabelle, long a favorite of its loyal customer base but certainly not on the foodie map, has become relevant again under the helm of Michael Bryant, who was mentored by the legendary Norman Van Aken (he helped open the departed Norman’s on Sunset as chef de cuisine before going on to cook at Bin 8945). Most recently, Bryant was working the brasserie beat at The Hall at Palihouse, but here he’s charting a fresh path through the well-worn charcuterie genre by developing an array of seafood selections, from monkfish with brandy pickled blueberries and an octopus terrine with Tunisian chilies to swordfish with pickled kumquats. THE MUST-ORDER DISH: An appetizer of salmon-pastrami on rye, drizzled with horseradish sauce.