The news that Enrique Olvera, the master of modern Mexican food who practically turned mole making into an artform, would open a restaurant in LA has since made fans ravenous for every last detail. Eater’s already confirmed the location, which is Downtown in Arts District, across from Bestia. Then came word of a takeaway taco window for lunch. Now, Eater has managed to meet up with the Mexican chef at his Cabo restaurant, Manta, inside The Cape hotel, to get even more intel on his Los Angeles debut.
Between cooking up sea urchin tostadas and later taking to the DJ booth in the hotel’s lobby, here are ten things to know about Olvera’s upcoming plans in LA:
On Olvera’s soft spot for LA: As for why the Pujol and Cosme chef chose LA for his next restaurant, he says, “I always like to work in cities that I have a connection to and where I enjoy spending time; LA is that. Also, I think there’s a Mexican cuisine that happens in Los Angeles that doesn’t happen anywhere else. There are influences from Asia...there’s a mix between Korean-Mexican and Japanese-Mexican and I’m interested in being part of that.”
On how LA and Mexico City are kindred spirits: Olvera also chose LA for its similarities to his hometown. He says, “Like Mexico City, LA is kind of hidden...it’s not an open city; it’s really a place for locals. I also think both are the same in their laid-back nature. New York is more about performance, whereas in California it’s more about enjoying yourself and quality of life. I mean, maybe we’re a little more laid back than we should be in Mexico. We’re always like, eh, don’t worry about it.”
On Mexican architect Alonso de Garay’s design plans for the restaurant: Olvera has once again teamed up with de Garay, who created the clean, modern aesthetic at both Cosme and Atla in New York. His plans for the LA outpost will accommodate 160 seats.
On the menu’s focus on botanicals and seafood: “We’re doing lots of plants,” says Olvera. “It’s very Mexican to have a household collection of plants. My grandmother even named hers, which is kind of crazy.” Cooking-wise, he adds, “We want food that’s extremely light, vegetable-driven and seafood-focused. Often when people think about Mexican food, they think of heavier, spicy food, but we like very light dishes.”
On Yana Volfson’s West Coast beverage situation: As with the architecture, Olvera is tapping talent from his New York ventures to shape the cocktail menu in California. No word yet on what’s in store drink-wise for LA, but Volfson, who is the beverage director at Cosme and Atla, is known for getting creative with mezcal.
On Olvera’s inspiration from his Cabo restaurant, Manta: As previously reported, Olvera says his LA eatery will meld elements from Pujol (the garden vibes) and Cosme (an a la carte menu). He now adds that inspiration also comes from Cabo. “Manta is seafood driven and it’s on the Pacific Coast,” he says. “The LA restaurant will have a similar profile.”
On how Olvera hopes to make this his last restaurant: The LA restaurant makes 15 total for the chef, and he says that’s enough. “I think we’re at the point of being very happy with what we’re doing and most of our goals have been met. There’s this idea of continuous growth, but you need to stop somewhere.” After waiting a beat, he adds, “We might do another restaurant in LA, but definitely not another city. I have a good life, you know? I don’t want to screw it up.”
The opening date has likely been pushed to July 2019: Due to design changes to the space and the resulting wait for city approval, Olvera says they’re now looking at an opening date of June or July 2019.
On Olvera’s new Netflix gig, The Final Table, which airs in November: Olvera will appear on Netflix’s new culinary competition show The Final Table, starting November 20. About the show, in which Olvera serves as a judge, he says, “It was very impressive to see the quality of the chefs competing…that was the coolest part about it, even more so than who the judges are.” But the possibility that Olvera will build on his small-screen presence once he lands in LA is unlikely. “I don’t have a TV personality,” he says. “I’m more of an introvert. I like my own space and the silence in the kitchen.”
Expect DJ Enrique on the decks in LA. Olvera, who personally creates the playlists for all his restaurants, calls music his “other passion.” As for whether or not he’ll take to the turntables in LA, he says simply, “Most probably.”
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