Tomorrow, Los Angeles marks the arrival of Alice Waters, a food luminary and international culinary icon known for her genre-defining Bay Area restaurant Chez Panisse and her tireless work promoting sustainability, regenerative agriculture, and modern American — and specifically Californian — foodways. Her new restaurant Lulu opens inside the Hammer Museum on Thursday, November 11.
The highly anticipated Lulu is, like any Waters project, meant to act — much like the museum itself does — as a showcase, a place for the artistry of local farmers and purveyors to be put on full display for a paying audience. Waters’ oeuvre, of course, is in restaurants, creating places for people to come together over lightly manipulated dishes that highlight the sum of their ingredients; think a simple bowl of perfectly in-season fruit or (as with the new Lulu) a baked Sonoma goat cheese starter with golden beets and lettuce. The restaurant will begin with a prix-fixe three-course lunch offering and a la carte options, spread across a market menu that changes daily to reflect whatever has come in from local growers. That might mean a halibut carpaccio one day, lamb tagine with saffron couscous another, and olive oil walnut cake with pomegranate for dessert.
While Waters is the spiritual signpost for the new Lulu, she’s certainly not alone in making the day-to-day of the restaurant happen. David Tanis, a longtime food writer and Waters collaborator, is on as chef to run the restaurant, while Rosemary West leads the beverage side with a focus on female winemakers and small, biodynamic vineyards. The entire project was conceived in conjunction with Ann Philbin, Hammer director, and the restaurant’s director of operations is Jesse McBride, formerly of Chateau Marmont and the Standard hotel group. The operation’s CEO is Chez Panisse’s own Jaemie Ballesteros Altman.
As for the space itself, Lulu is a colorful pop of creativity, outfitted by designers Christina Kim and Sean Daly who pull in yellow, light red, and jewel tones everywhere. There are long, curving olive banquettes, scalloped ceilings, and ample open-air atrium spaces for upscale but unfussy indoor-outdoor dining. There are no white tablecloths at Lulu, only hanging lanterns, warm daylight floating in from above, and small touches like rough-edged wooden tables and backlit bar shelving that reveal whimsical woven cloth patterns. Southern California native plants define the space, and on each table are bowls from ceramicist Shoshi Watanabe and plates from 111-year-old LA pottery company Bauer.
Lulu opens Thursday, November 11 at the Hammer Museum in Westwood at 10899 Wilshire Boulevard. The restaurant is open for lunch only to start, with hours from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, for a prix-fixe sit-down menu and a la carte sandwiches, soups, and salads; dinner hours are still to come, and reservations can be made via Resy.