One of West Hollywood’s most popular restaurants, E.P., reopens tonight after nearly 14 months offline. The menu has been completely overhauled with help from Botanical Hospitality Group’s (S.O.L.) culinary director, Monty Koludrovic and wife/pastry chef Jaci Koludrovic, who hail from Australia with acclaim and years of experience. Nicholas Russo (previously chef at Nightshade and Ink) is the new head chef, while they’ve brought on sommelier Richard Hargreave (Majordomo/Momofuku) to finishing laying out the new E.P. as we know it. That means the Southeast Asian menu from opening chef Louis Tikaram and subsequent chef Sabel Braganza has been replaced with something the restaurant is calling calling “modern American fare.”
“We’re not shutting out Asia,” says Monty Koludrovic, who says Australia has imbued Pacific Rim and Asian flavors throughout its cuisine. “We’re influenced by it, taking inspiration from the great American culture throughout the modern era,” he continues. Russo brings along experience as a working alongside Mei Lin and the heavily East Asian menu at Nightshade, but the effort on the outset feels like a step toward more familiar ground than the more experimental and ultimately personal space that Tikaram and Braganza dwelt in.
Instead of an Asian cuisine focus, the new E.P. team has a sort of producer/ingredient focus using Alto olive oil or gray salt from Queensland or local produce served dishes like the dry-aged Baja tuna crudo with pickled melon and kumquat dressing, or buffalo milk burrata with eggplant relish and herb salad. Niman Ranch pork schnitzel or grilled branzino with spring peas also hover in the modern American flavor context. And while that perspective feels less compelling on paper, it will no doubt reach a wider audience than former E.P.’s Fijian and Thai inflections.
So the menu commences with sensible apps like fresh oysters or charcuterie, or a chopped salad or Bub & Grandma’s sourdough bread with cultured butter. The bill of fare wouldn’t be out of place in Downtown LA or Silver Lake or Santa Monica or even San Fransisco now, which isn’t a bad thing though it takes something away from the specialness of E.P., with its quirky 80’s pink neon-laden dining room and electric energy. It’s less WeHo and more SoHo. The main space now looks a hell of a lot darker (like, so much black, everywhere), and just a few splashes of color on the fringes. The main dishes boast a “butchers selection” steak listed at market price (as one does), grilled tri-tip with smoky maitake mushrooms (sounds damn tasty), and spicy twice-cooked chicken (gotta have chicken), all things LA diners will likely order in droves.
And those diners might want to keep stomach room open for Jaci Koludrovic’s very enticing-sounding desserts, like a Basque cheesecake with goatsmilk, fresh honeycomb, and passionfruit; or the chocolate mousse with sorbet and golden peanut brittle. The new E.P. hopes to play a new album of dishes that carries with it a comforting, more established tune from restaurateurs Grant Smillie and David Combes.
Bringing on a totally new team, with a completely different menu, is certainly a way to come out of a pandemic, one that has devastated the restaurant industry and the people working in it. It’s probably a smart business move, too, though one wonders if anyone will long for the sticky pork ribs, or chicken inisal, or sticky black rice dessert from years past. Maybe a spoonful of pink grapefruit sorbet with olive oil gelato, compressed melon balls, blueberry, and whipped yogurt chantilly will help the longtime E.P. fans forget about what was on the menu before March 2020.
- All E.P. Coverage [ELA]