Get ready for some fascinating new flavors from the Arts District’s neighborhood French bistro tomorrow. Camphor, from Lock & Key owner Cyrus Batchan, brings two veteran chefs that deliver ample pastry experience, classic French training, and a passion for reimagining familiar dishes in the former Nightshade space.
Those chefs are Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George, who met while working at Bangkok’s famed Michelin-starred restaurant Blue by Alain Ducasse. Boonthanakit’s CV includes time at José Andrés’s the Bazaar, and also received the 2019 Eater Young Gun (now the Eater New Guard) while serving as Nightshade’s pastry chef. George recently moved to Los Angeles — his first time living in the United States — and the pair collaborated on Camphor’s menu. One glance and it reads classic French, but there’s something else at play in the kitchen. The duo rework dishes by bringing in brighter ingredients while borrowing from their Southeast Asian backgrounds and lengthy kitchen experience.
Take the amuse-bouche, a palate-cleansing lentil puff similar to an Indian panipuri with stewed green chickpeas, mint, parsley, basil, and aquafaba. To be clear, Camphor’s menu is not a mashup of Southeast Asian and French flavors. But there is the gunpowder baby shrimp that packs a subtle heat.
Look farther down the page and find a traditional beef tartare with a side of herb tempura, or a lobster that’s delicately prepared with a coral bisque. Boonthanakit and George chose to remove the mussel shells for diners, serving it with a side of frites; meanwhile, the delicate chicken with thyme and jus will easily satisfy. Those aware of Boonthanakit’s legendary desserts will be eager to try his new creations like the boozy savarin with chocolate hazelnut meringue, and the refreshing marzipan meyer lemon ice.
For the cocktails, former Lock & Key barman Andrew Paniagua prepares showstoppers like the $30 Provence martini, a generous combination of Mulholland vodka, infused with French olive oil and herbs de provence, pear eau de vie, Dolin Blanc vermouth, and saline with a sidecar of olives, goat cheese, Peruvian drop pepper, and cippolini onion. Hawaiian-born wine director Kalani Lau curated Camphor’s collection that includes bottles not found on any other list in Southern California. (Note: Lau has an obsession with white Burgundy and secured some limited vintages.) And in a nice old-school touch, Camphor will showcase a roving after-dinner drink cart.
Camphor is open Wednesday through Monday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Secure a table via Resy.