Chef Gary Menes exited Palihouse at the end of 2010, resurfaced months later at Olive & Thyme, and now returns October 13 at Fred Eric’s Tiara Café downtown to helm the kitchen on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through November. Dinner commences at 6PM each evening and runs until about 10PM. Reservations are not accepted.
The pop-up will utilize only Tiara’s 12-seat counter, based on a sushi-bar concept. “It’s like a communal table: you’re being fed and served by the same guy who’s preparing the food,” Menes says. The main dining room of Tiara, which is typically closed at night, will be cordoned off while the pop-up operates.
Tiara's five-course menu, priced at $46, focuses on ultra fresh proteins and “things just out of the ground.” Menes plans to source produce and eggs from the Growing Experience, an outreach program for inner-city youth in Long Beach, as well as community gardens. A flight of four wines can be added for an extra $24.
In addition to Palihouse, Menes has cooked through Patina, Marché, Palate Food + Wine and the French Laundry. His longtime sous-chef, Wesley Avila, will be on hand for the pop-up and Syd Kato will provide pastry and chocolate confections.
So, what's up with the whole counter service thing? Menes is experimenting with this concept in the hopes of opening his own restaurant soon. He says he is scouting locations downtown.
“It’s so expensive to pay back-of-house and front-of-house staff, so how sushi restaurants are able to utilize the best products and manage high food costs is they don’t pay a lot for labor—it’s the sushi chef serving you,” he says. “So I want to try this model out. It’ll enable me to buy the product I’m used to buying and use the techniques I’m used to doing, but not have to pay for the excess labor. Cutting the frills out but keeping the soul.”