Museum restaurants present art on the plate and off

| January 27, 2022 | 0 Comments

ON THE MENU with Helene Seifer

It’s been said that art feeds the soul, and indeed, entering an exhibit to find a wall full of playful Yayoi Kusama polka-dots or a row of color-saturated David Hockney paintings can make one’s heart leap.

More and more often, museums also aim to feed the stomach with excellent menus in a beautiful space.

This isn’t completely new. The Museum of Modern Art in New York long ago abandoned the serviceable cafeteria for destination dining.

Locally, the last renovation of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) saw the opening of Ray’s and Stark Bar, now part of the Patina Group, serving such delicacies as smoked salmon and potato pizza and a roasted tomato and baby lettuce salad topped with a pound of lobster meat, worth every penny of its $52 price tag.

Ray’s and Stark Bar, LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., 323-857-6180.

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Hauser & Wirth, in the Arts District, feels more like a small museum than the gallery it is. The repurposed warehouse space is arranged around a courtyard containing sculptures, a garden and Manuela, a Southern-inflected indoor / outdoor restaurant. Executive Chef Kris Tominaga oversees artfully-plated salads of persimmons with whipped feta, pistachio and honey vinegar sumac or burrata with trout roe, Urfa vinaigrette and polenta toast. Fresh sweet ocean trout is chopped into a ceviche with red onion, capers and fennel. Cast iron cornbread is scrumptious. Colors are exquisite and arranged perfectly on the plate.

Manuela, Hauser & Wirth, 907 E. Third St., 323-849-0480.

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Lulu is the newest museum restaurant to pop on the scene. A stunning space in the first floor courtyard of the Hammer Museum, lovely orange lanterns sway overhead and are reflected in the mirror lining much of the restaurant’s back wall. Chef and cookbook author David Tannis conceived of the restaurant with the acclaimed food activist Alice Waters. They offer an à la carte menu of such dishes as red lentil soup, eggplant banh mi and grilled chicken breast saltimbocca. There is also a revolving three-course prix fixe menu. The day I went there, I was served a warming, hearty pot au feu of short ribs in broth with a beet salad and olive oil walnut cake for $45. A bit fatty, but delicious.

Lulu, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., 424-999-4870.

FANNY’S is now open for lunch and dinner at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Illustration by Konstantin Kakanias

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Possibly the most highly anticipated museum restaurant opening is Fanny’s at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. They had a slow roll-out, with lunch offerings first, then adding dinner service.

Fanny’s is named for the vaudeville actor and comedian Fanny Brice, who was donor Wendy Stark’s grandmother. Restaurateurs Bill Chait and Carl Shuster wanted the 10,000-square-foot space to harken back to the days of Hollywood glitz and glamour.

In the evening the lights are dimmed, completely changing the atmosphere from the brighter lunch service. Semi-circular booths provide cushy seating reminiscent of the Brown Derby see-and-be-seen seats.

Michelin-starred chef Raphael Francois planned a menu that combines old school charm, classic dining experiences and approachable dishes.

There are a number of special plates listed under the title “Live Performance,” which aim to showcase fancy service. An amazing côte de bœuf is wheeled out on a silver trolley and a thick slab of beef is cut off the bone. Perfectly pink, the $85 steak fed us for five or six meals. A whole orata is beautifully grilled. Cacio e pepe is the classic pasta with a twist: shaved black truffles on top. Famed mixologist Julian Cox designed the cocktail program.

Fanny’s, Academy Museum, 6067 Wilshire Blvd., 323-930-3080.

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Category: Entertainment

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