Crudo e Nudo, a casual shrine to raw, sustainable fish and seafood on Main Street in Santa Monica, is opening a second restaurant called Isla, and this time the menu will be bigger and fire will be involved. To eat there, though, diners will have to closely watch the company’s brand-new website and Instagram feed.
Co-owners Leena Culhane and chef Brian Bornemann know what they’re going to do, but they’re still working on the where, when, and how of it. They had planned to open in January in the Chez Tex space just blocks south of Crudo as part of a collaboration with that restaurant’s owners, Hayley and Jesse Feldman. But the deal has fallen apart, leaving Crudo’s partners to look for a new home.
The end goal is a permanent brick-and-mortar space, but until they find one they’ll bridge the gap with pop-ups and what Bornemann calls “residencies” at existing restaurants. He and co-owner Leena Culhane are already fielding inquiries all over greater Los Angeles, and as far away as Los Olivos up in Central Coast wine country. “Bornemann and Culhane wouldn’t say precisely why the partnership plan with the Chez Tex team fell through in the midst of planning for a January opening, and the Feldmans from Chez Tex declined to go into detail about the dissolved deal, saying that they “have been abroad the past two weeks seeking inspiration for what is next.”
So now the Crudo team is moving forward with their own inspirations and goals. They had already worked up an expanded, ambitious menu for the Chez Tex space because they were eyeing access to a wood-fire grill, and that’s going to be what they serve at the new place (wherever it eventually is). “Crudo is coastal California cuisine with a raw-menu focus,” says Bornemann. “We’re going to build on our sourcing and flavor profiles and get to the next level, Crudo-with-cooking.” At Isla that will mean a larger array of proteins and slow-roasted vegetables, timeless as ever.
And if for now executing the menu involves more miles on the road and lots of loading and unloading, that’s okay; the partners have been here before. Crudo e Nudo started out as a pop-up in the midst of the most restrictive early days of the pandemic, in July 2020, and stayed that way, at multiple locations, for ten months, until it felt safe to have people sit down at an outdoor table to eat.
“We’re going to take our show on the road while we work into a more permanent space. We know how to do that,” said Bornemann. And finding that space may not take too long the second time around: The partners already have offers at a few Westside locations.