Nuevo Fine Dining
An eclectic, globally infused selection of small plates and inventive house-created cocktails makes for a casually luxurious night out
Twenty-first-century men care about food well beyond the stereotypical meat and potatoes. They are interested in sourcing, preparation and discovering culturally diverse and creative cuisine. Food has become a hobby for some of them. Others now share life in the kitchen, and some have taken over the family meals altogether. It’s the dawning of the age of male-centric dining, and for Father’s Day, we suggest you try Raphael in Studio City, on that stretch of Ventura where interesting places to eat have started cropping up between the ubiquitous sushi bars. It will make every man happy.
Raphael opened three years ago in a small room with a lovely bar and a menu inspired by owner Arnon Raphael’s interest in food and flavors from around the world. The space, designed by his wife, Terry, was elegant and welcoming, beautiful and modern, but comfortable and unfussy.
Eight months later, Arnon had the opportunity to expand into a neighboring shop. He and Terry designed a new bar and dining space that is as inventive as their menu. It is a sophisticated version of midcentury modern, with cool blues and golds, glass and wood. In the dining room, the traditional banquettes and free-standing tables are spaced so that patrons can enjoy dinner without having to talk over a neighbor’s conversation.
There are also several excellent nooks, almost like private rooms, created by the unusual configuration of the space and a curved wood and glass divider. One of these is perfect for a party of eight or so — a round table built into its own space with its own lovely chandelier. An ingenious sound-wall lined with succulents and herbs separates the building from the street and in summer creates a cozy, sidewalk seating area.
Chef Adam Horton, formerly of Saddle Peak Lodge and Melisse, has known the Raphael family since he and Alon Raphael, the son of owner Arnon, were hyper-energetic fifth-graders. Alon went into physics (although he advises his father on the restaurant’s extensive wine list), and Horton focused his curiosity and abundant energy on cooking.
Horton had just returned from a month-long eating adventure in Southeast Asia when Arnon called to get recommendations for a chef who might take on the expanded Raphael. To Arnon’s delight, Horton said he was looking for exactly this kind of challenge. He also brought along mixologist Chris Parke, whose infusions and inventions inspire a constantly changing array of interesting cocktails at the newly upgraded bar. Daughter Shoshana Raphael took over the front of the house after she graduated from UC Berkeley, putting off grad school for the moment to be part of the family’s lively enterprise.
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