Hot NYC Restaurateur Bringing Haute Japanese Cuisine to LA’s Chateau Marmont

Jakob N. Layman
From left: one of Hanare's two distinct dining rooms and the main dining area.

Reika Alexander, whose EN Japanese Brasserie in the West Village counts fans from Questlove to Martha Stewart, should lure more A-listers to her first west coast spot, Chateau Hanare, opening mid-May.

In an era of L.A. dining when it seems like the clock reckons each second until the next NYC luminary sets up shop here, the prelude to Reika Alexander's Chateau Hanare has been unusually quiet.

It's not for a lack of pedigree. The Tokyo-born restaurateur has been a mainstay of Manhattan nightlife since opening the West Village's EN Japanese Brasserie in 2004. "It's the best seasonal Japanese food in the city — and as far as I've tried, the best regular kaiseki [a traditional multicourse meal] outside of Japan," says Cary Fukunaga of EN. "Reika's not just an owner of a restaurant but a hub of a community."

And her follow-up, designed by Tokyo firm AGE and bowing mid-May, lands her right at the hub of Hollywood's community: Hanare, which roughly translates to "cottage set apart," occupies a former residential building on the eastern edge of Chateau Marmont's Sunset compound.

The 135-seat spot will offer two seasonal kaiseki menus (one vegan) from executive chef Abe Hiroki, along with sashimi and several izakaya plates. "When I opened the restaurant in New York, people thought Japanese food was sushi or tempura and that's it," Alexander says over breakfast at Chateau Marmont, her second home for much of the spring. "We were voted one of the best fried chickens in the city, and the people coming in didn't realize Japan even had fried chicken."

Fried chicken ($16 on the EN menu) makes an appearance at Hanare, as does zuke (marinated sashimi) and another EN favorite — freshly scooped tofu. It's one of the dishes that earned Alexander (nee Yo) a following that includes Questlove, Snoop Dogg, Martha Stewart, Helena Christensen and Chateau Marmont owner and EN regular Andre Balazs, who spent five years courting Alexander.

A stone's throw up Selma off Sunset, the restaurant offers two private tatami rooms, a cozy bar (heavy on the Japanese whiskeys) and a sprawling garden area. And while the al fresco option might seem vulnerable to looky-loos, a perimeter shield of bamboo is growing thicker every day.

This story first appeared in the May 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.