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EARLY BIRD

East feeds a need in Hollywood

Nightclub impresario David Judaken is out to nourish the stomach, the soul and the social scene with his latest venture, a sleek small-plates hangout.

October 19, 2009|Jessica Gelt

There comes a point in every forward-thinking person's life when it's time to stop worrying about the party and start eating. That's what happened to nightlife impresario David Judaken when he decided to open East Restaurant & Lounge instead of adding another nightclub to his impressive list of Hollywood properties (MyHouse, Opera/Crimson and Mood).

"I've evolved," says Judaken, 39, with cool confidence. "Nightclubs are dysfunctional for me, I no longer hang out in my own facilities. Restaurants will be my focus from here on out."

If Judaken stays true to his word, that could be a good thing for the dining public. East, a sophisticated Asian- inspired retreat in the heart of Hollywood, was built with the same razzle-dazzle sensibility of a club but without the prowling-for-a-hookup scent of desperation.

Designed by Dodd Mitchell (Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Teddy's, Thompson Beverly Hills Hotel), East is an exercise in texture and shadow. A cross between a Tibetan monastery and the Bat Cave, it features sloping walls of white faux-stone; leafy trees beneath a peaked 65-foot industrial skylight; flickering 4-foot cream-colored candles suspended from the ceiling and recessed booths sheltered by stalactite-like drippings.

The menu was conceived by chef Keven Alan Lee (Lutece in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas). It combines traditional Asian cooking with the occasional dash of French inspiration. Everything on the menu is meant to be shared. Portions are reasonably sized, dishes come out in steady waves, and the service is friendly and informed.

If you're feeling saucy, start with the decadent Kobe beef ensemble featuring barely there carpaccio flecked with salt and topped with a mound of spiced green apple tartar and a cheerful quail's egg. Spread the meat on sweet-potato chips and you won't have to eat much more. Share with friends and move on to the lobster brioche, which is buttery magic on bread drizzled with a delicate garlic hollandaise sauce. Also worth tasting: slow-steamed black cod in a sweet sake glaze; garlic-chili Hawaiian walu; organic soba-noodle salad and "fish sticks" made with sashimi, veggies and somen noodles.

Specialty cocktails veer toward the sweet side, but the bar turns out a smooth martini if you're not a fan of berries, passion fruit juice and Cointreau. There is also a nice list of sake available by the glass or bottle.

Something about the landscape of East makes you want to linger. You can easily spend hours tasting, sipping and talking, and fortunately such luxuriating is encouraged by the staff and Judaken himself.

"I just want to create meaningful experiences for people," he says. Food, as opposed to four shots of Patron and a dance remix, will do that.

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jessica.gelt@latimes.com

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East Restaurant & Lounge

Where: 6611 Hollywood Blvd. L.A.

When: 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays; 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Also, open soon on Sundays, 6 p.m. to midnight.

Price: Raw bar, $13 to $15; small bites, $10 to $12; entrees, $18 to $25; specialty cocktails and sake, $7 to $16.

Contact: (323) 462-3278, www.east-hollywood.com.

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