When the elevator at the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles lands on the 24th floor, allowing diners to step into the new skyline-high restaurant Sendero, it’s best to take a moment to glance behind the host stand at the enlarged map of the Americas. There’s a bold single line on the map, tracing a journey that starts in Los Angeles and ends at the tip of Argentina.
The map illustrates an adjusted route of the Pan-American Highway, the road network that links through North, Central, and South America. Sendero is meant to trace this journey with its menu, though it deviates slightly from this historic route to follow a more coastal path, outlining chef Kevin Luzande’s travels. Those flavors have now landed at Sendero, which houses his two restaurants and a forthcoming eight-seat chef’s table space, as well as a mezcal library — all tucked into the restaurant spaces that previously housed Wolfgang Puck’s WP24 and Nest at WP24.
Of the four options at the new all-encompassing Sendero, seafood-focused Corteza and Argentine-inspired steakhouse Leña open first, launching tonight, February 23. The Agave Library opens in March as a space to sample rare and small-batch collections of tequila, mezcal, and other agave-based spirits, while Volante — a chef’s table with an open kitchen — starts booking seats at the end of the year. And just like its previous tenant, Sendero boasts a striking north, east, and western view of LA, though the interiors have been completely overhauled by EDG Design.
The journey begins with Corteza, which fills the front end of the sprawling space and tracks through the Sea of Cortez between Baja California and central Mexico. Luzande places emphasis on seafood with a Peruvian tiradito/crudo with Hokkaido scallops, ceviche Nikkei, and a tuna tostada that takes cues from Mexico. For entrees, Luzande prepares a mushroom/huitlacoche tamal with mole negro, and a black truffle preserve. All desserts — including a vegan panna cotta and a chocolate skull Dia De Los Muertos confection that melts in dramatic fashion — are by veteran Bottega Louie and Pendry Hotel pastry chef Francois Behuet.
When walking through Corteza to visit Leña, the future sites for the Agave Library and Volante are nestled directly in the center. Leña has floor-to-ceiling windows, private dining areas, and dark, moody lighting in comparison to the adjacent Corteza. Luzande’s Argentine-native sous chef Pedro Passalacqua developed a menu where some traditional and newer spins are on display, from the Argentine provoleta (grilled provolone) to the seafood platter “macho” filled with crab claws, oysters, lobster, and large shrimp. The corta de gaucho includes a wagyu double tomahawk carved tableside with a choice of four side dishes, including wild mushrooms in Madeira cream sauce and herbs, or a Spanish tortilla with provolone.
Both Corteza and Leña’s cocktail menus are exactly the same. The spirits range from tequilas to rums to Brazilian cachaca, while drinks like the palo santo are made with Bookers Unfiltered bourbon, amaro, bitters, vermouth, and a lot of palo santo smoke. The agave goddess Mayahuel cocktail — named for the Aztec goddess of agave — uses Casamigos Blanco tequila, Banhez mezcal, carrot, Ancho Reyes poblano liqueur, and lemon.
If chef Kevin Luzande sounds familiar, that’s because the chef spent years leading in LA kitchens like Acabar and Playa Restaurant, which now houses Petty Cash Taqueria. He left the industry in late 2019 and took a position in construction building houses, but has returned to cooking as of 2022, though it wasn’t without some thought. In fact, he turned down the Sendero position twice before accepting the job, but ultimately took the job in part because he felt that he could be a mentor for a new kitchen crew.
“I’m trying to build them up and see them work at great restaurants,” says Luzande. “I want to turn dishwashers into cooks, cooks into junior sous [chefs], and sous into great chefs.”
Corteza and Leña are open daily from 5 p.m. to midnight. When it opens next month, the Agave Library will open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight.