Accomplished chef Bernhard Mairinger is opening a new restaurant called Lustig inside the former La Dijonaise space inside the Helms Bakery complex in Culver City, scheduled to debut in the first quarter of 2023. Back in 2012, the former Patina and Nick & Stef’s chef shook up the stodgy Beverly Hills dining scene with his Austrian-influenced Bierbeisl, an elegant restaurant serving stellar wine and polished central European fare. He received a James Beard Rising Star chef nomination and a positive review from then Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila.
Sadly, that restaurant closed after two years later in 2013, though the Austrian chef took over a space inside the Spring Arcade building and opened Bierbeisl Imbiss, a more everyday bakery and cafe in 2015 before closing a little more than a year later.
In the past seven years, Mairinger has been busy doing private dinners and catering events for loyal fans who often book his services every year for special occasions. “With Lustig, I’m thinking less Imbiss, more of a République except no counter service. This will be full service with a casual lunch for the neighborhood and a nicer place for dinner,” says Mairinger, who was in the middle of breaking down a whole hamachi in preparation for a private dinner. The chef, affable and known for his 6-foot, 8-inches height (which he once used as a promotion tool), gained so many followers from his time in Beverly Hills that those well-heeled clients have been sustaining him after Bierbeisl Imbiss’s closure. However, Mairinger was ready to get back into the restaurant game.
“I’ve always missed having a restaurant, to be honest. There’s something about it, the energy, that routine. I do miss seeing all my customers and loyal clientele,” he says about why he was going back to serving the public. It was all about waiting for the right opportunity, which Mairinger says is here at Culver City’s Helms Bakery, where La Dijonaise served for well over 20 years before shuttering in 2020. “It doesn’t get much better than this, with a great landlord, excellent neighborhood, and already a lot of excellent food around. I want to be known as a place to have a good time and a good meal. I think there are all the key factors that will hopefully allow this restaurant to last much longer,” says Mairinger, perhaps aware that his previous establishments weren’t able to hurdle multiple years of business.
As for the food, he gives some hints about his general approach. A lot of the items will be things he’s been cooking for private clients, like a Nicoise salad with swapped ingredients: “All the components are replaced by something else. Instead of green bean, I’ll do fava or sugar snap or English pea. The egg is a different preparation, like a confetti. Fish will be sashimi grade bluefin or albacore. It’s a Nicoise salad but it will be the lightest and most delicious version you’ve ever had of the classic.”
For dinner, expect to see Mairinger’s famous schnitzel, though with a yuzu cranberry sauce instead of lingonberry. And he’s planning to do a raclette pizza, another traditional German dish but with a twist.
Studio UNLTD, which also helped with the recent Causita and Bar Moruno openings, will design the space, which will have 55 seats inside plus another 30 on the outdoor patio. Early renderings show a colorful, modern interior with big windows and a semi-covered al fresco area.
To help with operations, Mairinger has brought on Martin Riese, who gained fame as the world’s first (and maybe only) water sommelier. The two worked together while at Patina Group, and Mairinger is looking forward to have someone help manage other aspects of the restaurant. Riese has gained a fresh following for his hot takes on bottled and spring water on his prolific TikTok, gaining over two million followers on the social platform. “I’m a water snob as well. I don’t drink tap water. I do events with Martin all the time, and we’ve been working together for so long. It will make my life easier to not worry about every aspects [of the restaurant]” says Mairinger.