Ray Garcia, whose restaurants Broken Spanish and B.S. Taqueria helped change the dining landscape of Los Angeles, will open a restaurant inside the former Patina space at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in January 2022. Garcia, who has stayed busy with a prolonged pop-up at Neuehouse over the spring and summer, as well as an opening at Viva! inside Resorts World in Las Vegas, returns with a full restaurant and bar inside the revered concert hall as part of a series of food and beverage overhauls at Downtown’s Music Center.
The former Patina had occupied the ground floor restaurant space of Walt Disney Concert Hall since 2003, though it closed permanently in June 2020. It was the end of the line for one of LA’s most iconic restaurants, which originally opened in 1989 under Joachim Splichal, who launched a dining empire from it. Patina even earned a Michelin star and rare four-star review from Los Angeles Times critic S. Irene Virbila. But the Patina was always an upscale fine dining establishment expected to serve a well-dressed clientele heading to the concert hall.
Now Garcia and operating partner Levy have different plans for the space. First, don’t expect the yet-unnamed restaurant to resemble what Garcia did with Broken Spanish, the chef’s landmark restaurant just one block away from Staples Center. Second, Garcia hopes the Walt Disney Concert Hall restaurant will be comfortable enough to visit a few days a week, with lunch and dinner service. “One of the goals will be that the food is going to have that common Ray Garcia DNA and style of cooking that I feel is very Angeleno and Californian in approach,” says Garcia. “We’re looking to serve and service the whole neighborhood of Downtown and city of LA, one that we were successful with in Broken Spanish.”
There were challenges with taking over a space inside the Frank Gehry-designed building because of the acoustics of the concert hall, the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra. “We had to be very careful with making any sort of change, so we have the same architects [Belzberg Architects] from the original build-out. The inside will not look the same, as it’s already been under construction for about one-and-a-half months,” says Garcia. Some of those changes mean a greater emphasis on the bar, which will be more of a comfortable, everyday place to spend time, while the kitchen will feature a bit more of an opening to the dining room, which is a clear contrast to the closed-off situation at Patina.
Finally, Garcia says the restaurant will have a bit more of an inside-outside feel that spills out some more energy to the sidewalk and connecting further with the street with an expanded outdoor patio. That change in mentality, with more openness and exchange with the dining room and the street, reflects the dynamic of restaurants in 2021 versus 2003. “Energy will come out onto the street, and from the street into the restaurant,” says Garcia. We’re really looking for something that’s a lot more lively than former iterations. The bar will be a lot more of a visual focal point and experience within the dining room.”
Another difference in the upcoming restaurant is less of a pre-theater focus, which seemed to be when Patina thrived, after which the dining room was almost always whisper-quiet with service carts, sommeliers, and service staff providing the only energy in the room. The idea now is for the restaurant to act as a neighborhood standby, with drinks and bites affordable and approachable enough for regulars to visit every week. As for pre-theater diners, Garcia says they will meet them with good food and something they can enjoy, “but in our own way.”
Asked if this scenario was like a Vegas resort-style licensing deal, Garcia says it’s somewhere in between that and a leasing scenario, where the chef would have total control over the operations. Garcia says he plays to be involved on a day-to-day basis with an executive chef of his appointment. “Levy’s involvement is really going to be minimal, more on the infrastructure in concert with the Music Center. They’re the ones who reached out for a unique but very Angeleno dining experience,” says Garcia.
That detail is encouraging for diners looking for a relatable, enjoyable dining experience despite its location within perhaps the most iconic building in the entire city. While in years past the expectation was to place a fancy white-tablecloth establishment alongside orchestral performances, dining trends have moved toward more casual but still high-level execution with seasonal ingredients. That mentality reflects the style Garcia developed over six years at Fig in Santa Monica and for five years at Broken Spanish and B.S. Taqueria.
Fans of Garcia’s most iconic dish, the crispy pork chicharron, which he continues to serve at Vegas’s Viva!, will be disappointed to know it won’t be available here at Walt Disney Concert Hall. However, there is a silver lining: Garcia says Broken Spanish is still a goal and priority down the road. “You haven’t seen the last of the chicharron,” says Garcia.