Big news out of downtown: Chef John Sedlar along with Bill Chait (founder of Louise's Trattoira fame, now managing partner of Spark Woodfire Gril) will open Rivera at the Met Lofts on Flower and 11th, a stone's throw from L.A. Live, later this year. The third partner is designer Eddie Sotto, who helped bring Encounter at LAX to life. You see, this is some serious pedigree happening here. Sedlar, who hasn't been on the main dining scene since the 90's, literally wrote the book on modern Southwestern cuisine. He started with the French restaurant St. Estephe, which he opened in Manhattan Beach in the early 80's. It was there that he started introducing Southwestern flavors (he was raised in New Mexico); fusion, yes. But refined fusion. Later he opened Bikini on Fifth Street in Santa Monica, and then changed it to Abuquiu (named after his hometown), which closed within a couple years. We were but babes in the blogosphere womb back then, so we asked Jonathan Gold about Sedlar's impact. It's a total love-fest.
"Bikini was an impeccable pan-Latin place that riffed on the Nicaraguan nacatamal, the Colombian arepa and dozens of other dishes, many of them tamales - a brilliant restaurant and a great wine list. (I still can't believe the amount of Chateau Margaux blanc I managed to put away there.) Abiquiu, in a highly leveraged, impossible space, had very good food, more strictly Mexican fusion by now, but the place was one of the first restaurant/lounge hybrids, and it never seemed really to work.According to the website, Rivera will feature Sedlar's Latin-fusion cuisine but updated: More Spanish than Southwestern, Asian influences, smaller plates, bigger variety. There will be a "Latin Sashimi Bar," handmade tortillas, gourmet tamales, steaks, chops. Not only will the bar have premium tequilas and "John's legendary margaritas," but there will be a custom-designed tequila wall for private label bottles owned by the customer--you buy it, you drink it, you put it back under lock and key until the next time. There's a lounge and dining room, and a "tasting room"---and a very cool video rendering of what's to come. The space is almost 5,000 square feet. Chait told us they're just starting construction now and hope to open in September.
It is hard at this remove to remember a time when there weren't blue corn tortilla chips, when chipotle cream sauces didn't exist, when you didn't see guacamole, chile-rubbed quail, or even corn-kernel garnish at serious restaurants, but he started all that. The legendary Southwest dudes like Stephen Pyles, Mark Miller and Dean Fearing, who all worked more or less the same vein, came later. It is hard to overestimate the importance of St. Estephe, nor of Sedlar's vital role in the history of New American cooking. I am incredibly glad that he is opening a new place, and Los Angeles is the better for it. I've missed his cooking terribly"
· Plywood Report: More and More Downtown Plans [ELA]
· Rivera Restaurant Details Revealed [Angelenic]