Design Dish: NightshadeAuthor:Abigail Stone
Tucked into an Arts District alley right near Hauser & Wirth, Nightshade is the long-anticipated restaurant from Mei Lin, the season 12 Top Chef winner.
Tijuana-based Gracia Studio has taken the dark space that was Cerveteca, and transformed it into a bright and airy space. The pale wood interior is in sharp contrast to the industrial building’s worn brick and metal ramp exterior. Deep green velvet banquettes march along the restaurant’s perimeter mirroring the lush hanging plants that cluster together in the center of the room. Comfortable upholstered chairs around square white tables shift the focus to the food. Diners who chose to sit at the bar that looks into the open-plan kitchen aren’t given short shrift; upholstered seating lets them settle into the dining experience.
Small rectangular millenial-pink dinner plates and a melange of delicate serving dishes are the first clue that, although Lin cites her family’s Chinese restaurant in Detroit as an influence, other places and experiences have also left their mark. There’s the quail, a nod to Nashville’s hot chicken, and the mole, made from strawberries that marries a dish of sunchokes and seeded granola, that sings of Mexico. An ethereal Tom Yun blooming onion puts the steakhouse original to shame with its coconut ranch dressing. Squid ink bucatini with a cuttlefish bolognese and gochujang and a delicate layered lasagna with tofu cream and prickly ash manage to balance Asian and Italian flavors without sacrficing either influence.
“When pulling the concept together I wanted to find a firm which would be able to match Chef Mei Lin’s creativity and vision,” says Cyrus Batchan, who developed the space alongside Francis Miranda, “I also wanted search outside of Los Angeles as I felt the market needed something fresh. I’ve long admired the work of Gracia Studio and I felt this project was a perfect fit to bring our vision to life. The process of developing a restaurant concept space and menu is extremely creative and I wanted to pull together a strong group of creatives to give Nightshade life. It was also important to me in a climate where some want to build walls we make a statement that much better things can happen when you build bridges!”
“There is a big similarity between the LA culture and Tijuana culture,” adds Jorge Gracia, “For myself as architect, I felt very comfortable in the design process working with the developers in making this experience to feel very grounded in the DTLA culture.”
Nightshade. 923 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA. (213) 626 8888, Tuesday-Thursday 5:30-10:30, and to midnite on weekends.