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LA's Most Well-Designed New Restaurants

By Kathryn Romeyn | September 7, 2018 | Food & Drink

A trio of very personal, new LA restaurants prize aesthetics as much as flavor.

freedmans.jpgFrom scrumptious bakery bites to perfect pours, Freedman’s offers up a one-of-a-kind, “grandma-gone-chic” menu.

In the City of Angels, looks are everything. No one seems to understand that better than a slew of restaurateurs—two veterans and one young upstart—whose latest concepts illustrate total-package approaches to the fickle industry. The design of Nick Mathers’ (the mastermind behind Eveleigh, Goldie’s and Little Ruby) chilled-out rooftop perch, Élephante Beach House—postcard-perfect with its palm-fringed Pacific view in Santa Monica—is so integral to its Mediterranean concept that there would be no point if the effort didn’t include a droolworthy gypset collection of evocative decor.

elephante-2.jpgÉlephante’s sublime oceanside view guarantees guests stay for another round.

Mathers’ years-in-the-making Élephante drew inspiration from his favorite hot spots in Mykonos, Marrakech and Pantelleria, plus the Aeolian Islands. To bring those wanderlust-y influences to life in equally sun-drenched Southern California, he used an abundance of tiger wood, terrazzo, cacti and stone, complemented by rustic woven and ceramic elements, rattan-studded Bali-made furniture by George Gorrow and bespoke copper beer taps. Custom-made imports from Zimbabwe, Morocco, Bali, Jalisco, Ibiza and Turkey are thanks to his “extensive traveling and friendship network around the world,” Mathers says, adding that the exhaustive research, shipping and customs efforts made the process extra-difficult, but completely worth it. “The ethos of Élephante is to take care in the details, and we have tried to match the design to this.”

tesse.jpgTesse conjurs up Laurel Canyon’s funky-chill heyday.

Quite opposite in palette but equally as conscientious is Tesse, serial restaurateur Bill Chait’s (of Bestia, Republique and Otium) rustic-meets- sensual ode to Laurel Canyon via plenty of organic, sustainable materials such as wood and cork. It’s dark and wild, with a facade made of the California earth. Next door to Fred Segal, the Sunset Strip eatery serving Michelin-starred chef Raphael Francois’ fresh takes on European classics was designed by Preen principal-owner Alexis Readinger, who says she “wanted to recall a little bit of the warmth I imagine of the Laurel Canyon music era, a nod to a John Lautner aesthetic and an earthy, midcentury, peace-loving, psychedelic moment—as seen through my rose-colored lenses.” Sunset’s rock ’n’ roll past shows up in the mirrored ceiling. Ultimately, says Readinger, “the design is inseparable from Tesse. The deeper game is to engage people, to get them out of their heads and into their true, playful selves.”

freedmans-2.jpgSipping on a martini is a multisensory moment at Freedman’s thanks to the rich, layered decor.

Freedman’s owner Jonah Freedman, 25, also looked inward to design his “Jewish-ish” deli and bar in Silverlake, “counter to the now-typical LA restaurant—light, bright and airy.” Together with his partner, the Toronto native with a fine art and fashion background strove to “set the stage” for a dining experience toeing the line between deli, diner, steakhouse, bar, country club and cafe. “We gave ourselves the challenge of building a space that felt like an instant classic,” says Freedman, who looked to spots cemented in time a la Musso & Frank Grill and Dan Tana’s, as well as Toronto’s Victorian homes and Boca Raton, Fla. “It’s as if a bunch of twenty-somethings inherited their grandma’s house and turned it into a bar,” he says. There are bird-on–palm-tree lamps from the Long Beach Antique Market flanking the bar, hypercolored bathrooms and six different wallpapers, meant “to create a kind of visual noise we didn’t see in LA restaurants,” says Freedman of the heavily textured, rich environs that blends nostalgia with humor. “We wanted to create a space that didn’t feel like every other.” Done. Élephante Beach House, 1332 Second St., Santa Monica, 424-320-2384,; Tesse, 8500 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 310-360-3866,; Freedman’s, 2619 Sunset Blvd., LA, 213-568-3754,