Prominent Westside chef Raphael Lunetta has a new gig: running a members-only restaurant inside a new hotel on Ocean Avenue. The Santa Monica property north of Wilshire is called Oceana, and is coming back to life in May following a $25 million overhaul.
Unlike other hotel restaurants, Oceana will aim to serve exclusively its overnight guests and their invitees. The restaurant will offer dining options from breakfast through dinner, as well as in-room dining, and the New American menus will all come from Lunetta, though it’s unclear so far what any of those dishes may end up looking like.
The jump to an upscale, private hotel restaurant is surprising for one of the Westside’s most well-known chefs. Lunetta was for years a stalwart chef with a well-heeled restaurant, JiRaffe, under his belt, but that closed in 2014. Lunetta went on to open a pair of side-by-side restaurants in Santa Monica in 2017 that bear his name, and has spent time crafting hotel menus in his off time, but the jump to something private feels entirely new.
Of course, Lunetta is not alone in moving somewhat in-house with a brand that can offer a steady paycheck. Former Terrine chef Kris Morningstar is cooking at a private club space in Hollywood, and Mirko Paderno is now doing the same in Beverly Hills. Meanwhile, Jessica Koslow of Sqirl is partnering up with Gabriela Camara of Mexico City’s Contramar for her own (open to the public) hotel restaurant project further south in Santa Monica, set to open this summer.
Oceana. 898 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA.