Well, it took a long time coming, but it’s finally here! Simone, the new restaurant from James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Jessica Largey (who has spent time on the line at Providence and Manresa) held its debut this week. Focusing on the bounties of California fields and orchards as well as its neighbors to the south, the menu at Simone leans towards vegetables. Is it worth the wait? Well, intrepid @CiaoBob and I ventured forth to find out for ourselves!
RESERVATIONS: Easy. Via online or by phone.
PARKING: Easy. Pay parking lot located across the street. Valet at the front door is also available, if you are feeling particularly flush. On top of that, the infamous Arts District street parking always presents its usual excitement.
DECOR: Artist Nina Simone was the muse and inspiration for this venture. The beautiful new Art Deco-influenced buildout features a foyer/bar area up front, with a long corridor leading to the main dining room. An open kitchen Chef’s Table option will also soon be available. In addition, there is a private banquet room which seats 12.
The ambiance is dark and sultry. (Great for mood, but tough for photography!)
SERVICE: Knowledgeable and cordial. Front of the house is competent and welcoming. The servers were understandably a bit nervous on opening night, but we saw no major missteps. Our questions were adroitly answered. Hospitality seems to be a strength at Simone.
L.A. tap, back-illuminated by the votive…
Kimchi Gibson: Gin, kimchi, dry vermouth… A hint of kimchi up front. This cocktail makes for a fitting aperatif.
Sage Against the Machine: Rye, Kefir soft cider, ginger, sage… I felt sagacious ordering this.
Ewereka Central Coast Creamery sheep milk cheddar, seeded cracker, fig compotes & mustard… I found this to be a delightful few bites!
Pole beans, urfa chili crème fraîche, purple tomatillo, almond… The urfa chili was a revelation. It worked quite well in contrasting the vegetables’ flavor, and texture too.
Kanpachi, crispy rice cake, prity melon ponzu… There’s no denying that raw fish + crispy rice = crowd favorite. Here, Chef Largey’s addition of the prity melon ponzu adds a hint of sweetness which re-invents this most L.A. of combinations.
Avocado, abalone toast, mushrooms, yuzu cucumbers… While I liked the taste of the dish, there was hardly any abalone to be found.
Brown butter, maitake mushroom, turnip, shallot miso… Earthiness goodness galore. For you fungus lovers, do not miss this!
Charred squash, nectarine, macadamia salsa matcha… Daring. A bit of a spicy kick in this presentation adds complexity to this seasonal mix. Must order.
Pork meatballs, New Zealand spinach, chicken Parmesan brodo… The broth and the meatballs would do well alone here, but when added together - Pleasant, but no fireworks, either.
Hoja santa, sturgeon, roasted corn, blistered shishitos… Dense yet tender, this satisfying preparation of sturgeon was outstanding.
Cranberry beans, seared cuttlefish, epazote aioli, celtuce… Epazote takes center stage on this plate. Tentacle are tasty.
There’s a time (and space) for dessert…
Mezcal-guava sabayon, almond, jujube, hibiscus… Drunken cake is always, always good.
Sunflower panna cotta, melon, pickled blueberries… A pretty and neat dessert overall, though I’m not sure blueberries are ever made better by pickling.
Verve Coffee, Seabright House Blend… Muy rico.
Simone shows much promise. A successful first night bodes well for Chef Largey and her team. Service is already top notch. Not every dish was a home run, but I am confident that the kitchen and the mixology program will hit their strides soon. I surely look forward to my return visit.
Arts District, being Arts District…
443 S. Hewitt St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013