Downtown restaurant the Exchange at the Freehand Hotel is reopening after nearly 19 months of being dark as a result of the ongoing pandemic. The reemergence of the restaurant is good news for the hotel and Downtown at large, which has only recently begun to regrow its culinary scene on a large scale as tourism and office workers dipped precipitously in 2020. The restaurant will not, however, offer the same menu and chef as before.
Chef and partner Alex Chang is no longer involved with the Exchange in LA, meaning Chang’s Tel Aviv-leaning Israeli menu is also up for some tweaks under new chef Narita Santos. Born in the Philippines and raised in Saudi Arabia and Southern California, Santos has previously spent time everywhere from Simbal to the Lucques group to Bestia. The new menu at Exchange will have Israeli, California, and Filipino touches, including a selection of raw starters like a crudo with blood orange, avocado, and pineapple guava. There will also be a burger and hanger steak with XO broccolini, alongside options like a whole fried fish, duck carnitas, and koji Japanese sweet potato. The opening lunch and dinner menus are below.
Chang opened the Exchange to much acclaim back in 2017. The stylish corner space even attracted the attention of Jonathan Gold, with the late Times food critic praising the Israeli-Mexican-Chinese culinary confluence going on inside. More recently, Chang has been cooking in Miami. Upstairs, meanwhile, the Miami-expat rooftop bar Broken Shaker has been serving up cocktails to poolside drinkers with views overlooking Downtown.
The Exchange is now open once again, keeping hours from lunch (11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday) to dinner (5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday). Downtown, meanwhile, continues to see new (and returning) restaurant arrivals every week, from the recently reopened Bottega Louie to the glossy new Caldo Verde in South Park from partners Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne.