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A Lauded Chef From Panama Is Taking Over Venice’s Iconic James Beach Space

The Central American restaurant from Panamanian chef José Olmedo Carles Rojas will open in September

James Beach restaurant front with a neon sign in Venice Beach, California.
Exterior of the now-closed James Beach in Venice.
James Beach
Cathy Chaplin is a senior editor at Eater LA, a James Beard Award–nominated journalist, and the author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Los Angeles.

The restaurateurs behind Hatchet Hall in Culver City, Louie and Netty Ryan, are teaming up with acclaimed Panamanian chef José Olmedo Carles Rojas to open a Central American restaurant in the former James Beach space. Located at 60 N. Venice Boulevard, Si! Mon is expected to open in September.

Carles linked up with the Ryans in 2021 through mutual acquaintances and together they dreamed up Si! Mon, which translates to “right on,” “yeah,” or “cool,” the chef tells Eater. “It’s basically like a very Latin way, used a lot in Mexico and northern parts of Central America, too, which means just ‘Yes.’”

Portrait of chef José Olmedo Carles Rojas of Si! Mon.
Chef José Olmedo Carles Rojas.
Fonda Lo Que Hay

Carles is the chef-owner behind the award-winning restaurant Fonda Lo Que Hay, which is in Panama City, Panama and is currently ranked number 57 on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. He previously operated a 12-seat tasting menu restaurant in Panama City called Donde José that opened in 2014 and was forced to close during the pandemic. The Ryans currently own and operate Townhouse in Venice and Menotti’s coffee shop (multiple locations) in addition to Hatchet Hall. The chef plans on dividing his time between Los Angeles and Panama City.

Si! Mon’s Central American menu will have heavy Panamanian influences with an emphasis on seafood. “How does a Central American seafood restaurant look in LA and what does it mean to be in LA and be Central American?” says Carles. “More than define a restaurant with an answer, I like to define it with questions because it’s a consistent exploration, you know?” While exact details on the food are still under development, Carles reveals that a “big part” of the menu includes raw seafood preparations. “My biggest mission is to spread the Panamanian or Central American food gospel all over,” he says. Christian Truong, formerly of Manuela in Downtown, will serve as chef de cuisine

The former James Beach space will be reconfigured for Si! Mon’s debut and ultimately seat more than 100 diners across the main dining room and outdoor patio. Carles promises that the vibe will be welcoming to all, much like its beloved and long-running predecessor, which catered to and created a safe haven for the Westside’s queer community for 26 years.

James' Beach

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