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A new fashion plate

The new 24-hour restaurant Mode never sleeps -- because even the fashion-conscious have to eat sometime.

December 23, 2007|Adam Tschorn | Times Staff Writer

A plate of steak frites arrives via a 40-foot catwalk that glows an eerie blue. Fashion show footage loops endlessly on an enormous screen, while couples huddle in white vinyl banquettes. The clang of pans from an open kitchen mixes with the indistinguishable thump of trance music.

It may sound like Kate Moss' reoccurring case of night terrors, but it's actually the first Friday night at a new fashion-themed restaurant in downtown L.A. After a few hiccups, Mode finally opened its doors at 916 S. Olive St. this month, hoping to become the fashion flock's equivalent of a sports bar. And there is a surreal appeal to scoring osso buco in the Fashion District at 3 a.m. while catching footage of last season's Victoria's Secret fashion show.

The centerpiece of the 24-hour restaurant is a lighted plexiglass catwalk, and much of the fun is watching the unintentional fashion show unfold. One minute a black-clad waiter traverses the runway, balancing dinner for two on his outstretched arms like must-have accessories. The next minute the hostess leads a posse of denim and leather jacket-clad guys the other direction, each unaware of their supermodel star turn until it's too late.

Mode is the brainchild of Anthony Jones, the restaurateur behind Royale in the mid-Wilshire district, and he hopes it will draw the fashion flock from nearby FIDM and the California Market Center.

The neighborhood seems ready for it, with bars sprouting all over downtown and night life heating up. Of course, the idea of a fashion-themed restaurant has been tried at least once before: the ill-fated Fashion Cafe at Rockefeller Center in New York. It opened in 1995, with its own public runway and more than a few jokes about models not eating. It closed three years later.

Jones is going for something more substantial. He's working on a plan to stream the New York runway shows live during fashion week and has positioned Mode as a venue for fashion events (even before it officially opened, it hosted after-parties for designer Eduardo Lucero and the L.A. Fashion Awards). Fashion shoots can be done in the upstairs VIP room, which includes a curved background wall called a cyclorama, a cavernous unisex bathroom and a marble-walled steam shower big enough to hold the cast of "Project Runway." Beyond that is another marble room with a 10-person Jacuzzi. "Even if it never gets used, the point is made," Jones said. "I wanted something that people would look at and go: 'What the . . .' "

Executive chef Eric Ernest, who also helms the kitchen at Royale, has assembled a French-influenced comfort food menu that includes steak frites with green peppercorn sauce ($24), skirt steak panini with Gorgonzola ($9) and a warm potato cake with creme fraiche and salmon roe ($16) until 3 a.m. -- after which the kitchen switches to breakfast with choices such as sour cream and hazelnut waffles served with a Nutella sidecar ($10).

Because models love that Nutella.


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