New Haunt: The Formosa CafeAuthor:Abigail Stone
The Formosa Cafe, an iconic Hollywood watering hole, receives a facelift from 1933 Group that restores it to its former glory…and then some.
Founded in 1925 on the corner of Formosa Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, the legendary 80 year old The Formosa Cafe instantly telegraphs the glamor of old Hollywood. Bobby Green, Dimitri Komarov, and Dima Liberman of 1933 Group knew they were playing with fire when they shouldered its revival.
But the team, who’ve been together for 20 years, has plenty of practice in this genre. Two of their other projects, Highland Park Bowl and Idle Hour, were also long-time neighborhood haunts they’d managed to gracefully update, retaining their storied charm while ushering them into gently into the present.
The Formosa Cafe proved unique in one regard. Because it had only closed in 2016, any changes the group made would need to endure the scrutiny of patrons whose fond memories of the space were still crystal clear.
It was a sentiment shared by Green who has many stories of hanging out at the bar when he first moved to LA. He oversaw a meticulous renovation, restoring the space to the glory of its heyday. Fortuitously, Vince Jung, the grandson of one of the original owners, had managed to salvage much of the original memorabilia before the space had gone through an ill-advised update a decade ago that had the interior industrialized and the walls painted a gloomy steel gray.
Now the walls are back to their original crimson, re-hung with the signed headshots that underline the restaurant’s connection to the Silver Screen. The nooks are once again filled with the pagodas and Foo dog statues that were the hallmark of high design during the restaurant’s heyday. The red booths have been reupholstered, a terrazzo floor channeling that of the nearby Walk of Fame, sparkles underfoot, the Red Car Trolley which forms the foundation of the slender room in the back, has been stripped to showcase the reasons it was once lauded as the backbone of the best transportation system in the country.
Chef David Kuo of Little Fatty developed the Asian-themed menu, updating old skool American-Chinese comfort food (beef and broccoli subs in tender broccolini for its woody cousin, walnut shrimp are lightened with the addition of shaved radish and Kuo brings his General Tso’s cauliflower in lieu of the chicken original). The cocktail menu also channels the restaurant’s glory days, centering on classic concoctions like Mai Tais and Singapore Slings developed from historical recipes.
“I think it’s about caring about and taking that extra step,” says Green, “We’ve been very careful to keep all the ghosts.” Welcome back to a favorite haunt.
The Formosa Cafe, 7156 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90046, Open from 4 pm to 2 am every day