Next time you’re on America’s west coast, you might hear some familiar names being bandied about.
Longrain’s former head chef, Louis Tikaram, has teamed up with venue owner and DJ Grant Smilie (also behind Melbourne's Ponyfish Island and last summer’s Royal Croquet Club) and David Combes to open E.P & L.P. – a hugely anticipated restaurant in West Hollywood that opened in May of this year.
Tikaram has created a family-style dining experience that’s in line with the modern-Asian cooking that saw him crowned 2014 Young Chef of the Year. Taking fresh Californian produce and then drawing from Chinese, Vietnamese and Fijian influences, E.P. & L. P. is a restaurant and rooftop bar designed to be enjoyed without regional boundaries.
“It’s a new way of eating here,” Smillie says. “We really have to stand our ground at times explaining the way that we like to eat.”
Those dishes include kokoda (pronounced “ko-kon-dah”), a Fijian-style shrimp ceviche submerged in a coconut milk, lime and chilli, baby green-lip abalone that’s smoky from the wood grill and spiced with curry paste and Thai aromatics. There’s also a sweet-yet-tart persimmon and heirloom tomato salad, and a rich, turmeric-infused curry embellished with perfectly cooked medallions of scallops, an abundance of mussels and threads of kaffir lime. It’s flavourful and fresh, striking a complex spice trail of sweet, sour, salty and spicy.
Designed by Projects of Imagination (responsible for some of Melbourne’s most popular venues including Chin Chin, Supernormal, Yo-Chi), it’s also notable that this is the design studio’s first undertaking in America. “Their involvement was pretty much a no-brainer for us,” says Smillie. “We wanted them to execute the kind of project that we would do in Australia. We wanted to meet the market but also not have the same aesthetic of an American project.”
The level of detail starts with the restaurant’s signature wallpaper – emblazoned with a wonky macaroni design floating across it – which stretches from the entrance, up the stairwell, all the way to the staff’s custom-print T-shirts. There’s a huge open kitchen at one end of the dining room, floor-to-ceiling windows all the way down and polished copper tabletops. And from its location at the corner of Melrose and La Cienaga, the rooftop bar offers bubble-tea cocktails, a fire pit and a stunning view of the Hollywood hills.
“The restaurant and rooftop have been exceedingly challenging and rewarding in equal parts,” Smillie says. “It’s an ever-evolving place that is certainly a bigger project than I first envisaged, however, it seems to be finding its feet quickly here in LA, and people are really enjoying the space, the food and the ambience of the rooftop.”
They’ve certainly tapped into something that works, but they aren’t taking it easy yet. “We’ve just started to look at other sites,” says Smillie. “The location is the king. We have a great spot [and we’re] looking to replicate E.P. & L. P. if the site is right. We also have another concept that we want to execute here and when the time is right we will push the button on that, too.” He adds, “I’m a sucker for punishment.”
The future it seems, is as bright as the neon sign that reads “Young And Free” and hangs in pride of place inside the restaurant. “I love living here in LA,” Smillie says. “The weather is great, the opportunity is limitless and it’s a positive environment to operate in.”
E.P. & L.P.
603 North La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood