Given the sort of laid back mentality and restrained wealth in Venice, it’s a bit of a surprise that no one had gone full-on Tiki lounge in the Westside neighborhood before Belles Beach House, which opened on October 19 at the end of Windward Avenue. Of course classic Venice dive Hinano had some elements of Tiki in its look, but the swankier digs at Belles gives it real “White Lotus” vibes. Belles comes from the Wish You Were Here dining group, which first earned its stripes in the upscale lounge genre with the Eveleigh in Sunset Strip, carrying it over to Kassi Club (which closed and resurfaced in Las Vegas’s Virgin Hotels), and then mastered the recipe with the breezy rooftop of Elephanté in overlooking Santa Monica beach. The formula they try and replicate is: Better food than you would expect, well-executed cocktails, and the ambience to match.
While founder Nick Mathers’s other restaurants leaned on more specific food genres of seasonal American, modern Greek, and Italian-esque (respectively), Belles bills itself as a Hawaiian izakaya, meaning snacky bites like very crisp mochiko karaage chicken nuggets that give way to gravy-filled loco moco spring rolls. A miso maple little gem salad sports crunchy buckwheat and thin jicama slices while a showstopping sushi and sashimi platter would feel right in place at Nobu or Catch (but honestly, prettier here).
Belles takes over the former Larry’s in Venice, a gastropub named after local artist that closed during the pandemic. The quick turnaround has produced an open-feeling space surrounded by teak sliding doors. There are no enclosed walls on three sides, making the entire place feel like an open-air patio, but also requires a ton of overhead electric heaters to keep it comfortable inside. A separate outdoor patio will fit another 60 or so people across the sidewalk.
Chef Thomas Lim’s food isn’t challenging, but it will be satisfying and shareable. He arrays tender, beefy wagyu steak with wasabi cream, melted leeks, and a mound of umami-riddled dried kombu salt. A barbecue coconut chicken conjures teriyaki with juicy breast and thigh meat while grilled sweet corn ‘ribs’ come in a handy munchable shape. The burger says there’s teriyaki in it too, but it tastes like a gussied up Double-Double in all the best ways, with its pillow-soft brioche bun cradling the enmeshed beef and cheese. Manoffee tart served into a fish-bowl-like wine glass amplifies the intricate ingredients of custard and whipped cream topped with shaved chocolate.
On the cocktail front, piña colada slushies and mango-passionfruit-tequila sippers have requisite flower garnishes, while a refreshing kiwi-vodka-pineapple drink comes in a gorgeous clear Tiki mug so you can see that tropical hue of green. The cocktails are the raison d’etre of the place ultimately, an opener to the salty, crunchy, crispy fare that works so well with tropical drinks.
Belles Beach House is open for dinner only for the first few weeks but will eventually serve from Monday to Wednesday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (bar open til 11 p.m.), then until 1 a.m. Thursdays, 2 a.m. on Friday/Saturday, and midnight on Sundays. Reservations here.