IT'S tucked away in a practically secret location on Hollywood Boulevard, with an atmosphere that straddles the line between hipster art space and intimate restaurant.
The decor and the geometry of the room -- long and narrow, with a bare brick wall and exposed supports on one side -- make it feel like an artist's loft. Yet the roomful of young patrons, dining to atmospheric, down-tempo music, gives Zero One an almost family vibe, especially when the owners, Peter Lang and his wife, Jane Lang Montiel, are tending to customers.
Call it a ma-and-pa diner for the new millennium -- with the occasional fashion show staged down the center aisle.
Zero One is the quirky brainchild of Lang, a 36-year-old Hollywood native whose previous ventures range from the denim clothing business to Web design. When he decided to open a restaurant, he built one around a daring menu, obscure DJ grooves and the concept that monotony is bad for business.
Every three months, the entire theme of the space changes -- the lighting, the wait staff's uniforms, the art on the walls.
For its first three months, Lang dedicated Zero One to "Hong Kong Cinema," hanging Asian-style paper lanterns from the ceiling and displaying art from chop-socky flicks. On March 15 he switched to " '80s London," adopting a punk rock theme. In July, Lang will dedicate Zero One to comic book superheroes.
"I have ADD -- at least that's what my friends say," Lang says.
Lang is never short on ideas and never shy about staying away from the predictable.
"I'm thinking a late '60s -- or maybe '70s -- groovy lounge, jet set theme," he says, thinking aloud about future incarnations. "Something with the whole Pan Am thing, with the cute little stewardesses."
Little-known DJs are another part of the mix. Lang prefers to embrace risk in his music choices; no Top 40 or dance grooves here. "We do down-tempo rare grooves, trip-hop kinds of things," he says. "Hard-to-find music -- booty-groovy, intimate, conversation music."
Customers who like Lang's atmosphere can even buy a piece of it. All of the furniture and tableware, including the retro, curved plastic chairs, the plates and the chopsticks -- are for sale. Well, actually, Lang explains without a hint of shame, he has nothing in stock; you have to custom-order the pieces. But he's sure people will.
Lang's confidence comes from his myriad other professional lives.
After majoring in business at Cal State L.A., Lang set up a surf and snowboarding equipment shop in the late 1980s. But, he says, "I was hiring artists to work for me, and they weren't grasping my design concepts. The next thing I knew, I was proficient in design."
That led to the founding of Lang's Basement Media, a "lifestyle design" firm, as he puts it, which creates graphics and animation for commercials and music videos using the philosophy of "digital feng shui."
Once that took off, Lang turned to clothing.
"I founded a jeans line because I like women's butts," Lang explains sans irony. The result, Farmer Industry, was so successful that one glossy recently labeled Lang one of L.A.'s hottest new designers.
Finally, Lang turned his whims toward food.
"I spent 15 years or so traveling, and I wanted to introduce something different for the American population," Lang says. "I had always wanted to do a restaurant, but it had to be the right restaurant. I didn't want to jump into Thai food like most of my cousins."
He found a tiny spot at the corner of Hollywood and Serrano, on the edge of Thai Town. Lang buffed the cement floor to a shine and let the industrial-looking brick facade on the restaurant's east wall stay bare. The result was a minimalist space that could shapeshift.
Lang, who is Thai-American, describes the Zero One menu as "collective Asian" -- but that doesn't begin to cover it. The vegetable pizza, for instance, has dabs of wasabi mayonnaise. The Ninja Prawns are stuffed with cheese (not exactly an Asian food), wrapped in seaweed and deep-fried. The signature Zero One pasta? It features eggplant, shiso leaf and bacon.
Oh, and it costs $10.01.
What: "Collective Asian" served in an atmosphere that changes every three months.
Where: 5401 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
When: Sundays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-
11 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-midnight.
Info: (323) 962-8000 or www.01la.com
Leslie Gornstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.