There are anticipated openings, and then there is the NoMad Los Angeles. The historic Italian bank-turned-boutique hotel hailing from New York has had Angelenos waiting with bated breath since Daniel Humm and Will Guidara announced their migration west—and with good reason.
The downtown space is bathed in the opulence of a great Italian opera house with neoclassical and baroque nods throughout, including ornately gilded Italianate ceilings, marble floors and floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains pulled back to allow natural light to illuminate the lavish interiors.
From the omniscient view of the NoMad Los Angeles’ signature restaurant, The Mezzanine, two-top tables overlook The Lobby, which acts as an all-day dining destination for casual fare. There’s also an elegant Venetian-inspired cafe with creative takes on croissants and coffees from Devoción and a whopping four bars from Leo Robitschek, winner of both a James Beard Award and a third-place ranking in “The World’s 50 Best.” Oh, and then there’s that boutique hotel.
Needless to say, the NoMad Los Angeles is an ambitious project. Especially in a city that’s grown somewhat skeptical of New York imports.
But Humm and Guidara—owners of the Make It Nice hospitality group responsible for both Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad New York—aren’t taking the task lightly. Over a dozen members of their New York crew have packed up to open the NoMad Los Angeles, while also acquiring local talent from mainstays like Bestia and Republiqué to help infuse native soul into the project.
At The Mezzanine, the hotel’s formal dining room, executive chef Chris Flint—who helped the team win their three Michelin stars at Eleven Madison Park—is reveling in the opportunity to learn more about local California produce.
So while you will find several of the East Coast location’s signature dishes on The Mezzanine’s menu, there is also a distinct California sensibility.
The broccoli, for instance, is a delicious deep dive into the various textures and flavors one can coax out of the cruciferous vegetable. To start, the veg is pureed with tahini, lemon and olive oil, then topped with crispy puffed black rice, shallot and lemon zest, which adds a wonderful crunch and a zing of acid. Grilled broccolini and spigarello are draped around that bed of rice, making a nest for a vibrant-yellow cured egg yolk whose richness is the perfect foil to the acid and char of the other components. It’s thoughtfully adorned with sunshine-colored broccoli flowers—basically California on a plate.
But it’s not just local veggies being showcased here. While many chefs are quick to site the year-round growing season as a draw, the team at the NoMad Los Angeles has thoughtfully noted the bounty of our “meroir,” utilizing unique seafood and coastal sea vegetables in the Fruits de Mer platter. Instead of a seafood tower billowing with bivalves and oversize lobster, the array of amuse-bouche-size morsels includes rich, briny Santa Barbara uni in a savory kombu pear gelée, and sweet crab garnished with mermaid’s hair and sea grapes—both foraged seaweeds from the coast.
You’ll find mainstays from the New York menu too, like the artfully arranged radishes, an upscale take on a rustic French snack dipped like strawberries into a glistening lacquer of butter and sprinkled with flakes of fleur de sel.
And, of course, the showstopping whole-roast chicken for two, which you can’t help but order after ogling as its paraded around the dining room on elegant serving trays.
The bird, stuffed with a bouquet of herbs so pretty it needs its own Pinterest board, is presented to you with such great pomp and circumstance that it’s as if you’re members of the royal court. It’s then whisked away to the kitchen to be carved and brought back in various forms: as a perfectly plated breast, pungent with the flavors of the foie gras and truffles piped under the skin before cooking, as well as a dark meat fricassee in mini cast irons.
Wine Director Ryan Bailey created a locally minded beer pairing to go along with the signature dish, teaming up with Beachwood Brewing for a nutty Belgian brown ale that cuts the richness of the hedonistic feast right down the middle. There’s also a deep list of wines. And, of course, fabulous cocktails from Robitschek.
For dessert, an absolute must-order is the beautifully composed Milk & Honey, made with honey shortbread, brittle, dehydrated milk foam, and ice cream finished with honey and Maldon sea salt, a perfectly balanced desert with a textural crunch that’ll remind you of a Butterfinger in the best way. The baked Alaska is another favorite, with it’s nostalgic flavors and tableside pyrotechnics.
The NoMad Los Angeles has a real way with showmanship, creating an air of opulence and abundance. Dining here is a decadent, theatrical experience that will make you feel like you’re a character in your very own Veronese painting.
It’s the absolute antidote to post-recession eating in L.A., where the touch points of fine-dining service are mostly a distant memory, and even meals that cost a quarter of your mortgage are scarcely so much as coursed out. The team at The Mezzanine revives that hospitality without taking the fun out of things.
The staff works in a well-orchestrated ballet that you’d recognize from Eleven Madison Park or the NYC edition: Napkins are immediately folded and replaced on the table when you excuse yourself; bottle labels are neatly faced inward with each pour; bussers mysteriously pop out of the woodwork to help servers clear in unison, hands behind their backs... they’ll even bring your leftovers to coat check, so you can conveniently grab them on your way out (and so as not to be an eyesore in the looker of a dining room).
It turns out, we did need more New Yorkers in L.A. after all.
649 S. Olive St., L.A., 213.358.0000
Dinner: Sun.-Thu., 5:30-10pm; Fri.-Sat., 5:30-10:30pm
Snacks: $13-$28; appetizers, $18-$34; entrees, $27-$98; dessert, $16-$28