A revolving door of restaurants has occupied the former Le Petit Bistro in West Hollywood, like short-lived places Pacifique and Fellow Traveler. Now, another restaurant has settled in, bringing with it an expanded, multi-faceted room, standalone bar, banquette seating, DJ booth, plush couches, and a familiar name.
Norma, from restaurateur Alican Bayar, who previously operated Mama’s Secret Bakery and Cafe on West Third Street, opened January 9 and touts journeyman chef Jason Fullilove in the kitchen, as well as general manager/cocktail veteran Aidan Demarest at the front-of-house. Though Bayar’s Mama’s Secret was a casual Mediterranean and Turkish cafe, Norma is a full-blown lounge that promises a member’s only vibe without a requisite membership.
While the ambience looks like it would appeal to West Hollywood’s influencer crowd, with places like Catch Steak, E.P. & L.P., Koi, Caviar Kaspia, and the Nice Guy located within walking distance, Bayar hopes the place becomes a reliable third place, a living room where folks can hang out with drinks, music, and food. (It’s interesting that the new restaurant is a block-and-a-half from the iconic Norm’s diner, which could lead to some confusion for visitors, though Norma was likely named for the neighborhood.)
Fullilove’s history in Los Angeles goes back to the Gorbals in Downtown, working as executive chef at the Tar Pit on La Brea, LACMA, and Malibu Pier before opening Barbara Jean on Melrose Avenue in 2017. Fullilove has also been the opening chef of Clifton’s in Downtown and the Magic Castle in Hollywood. Recently Fullilove was a part of Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen.
Demarest’s lengthy career ranges everywhere from Seven Grand, the Edison, and First & Hope in Downtown to the Spare Room in Hollywood, though early on he managed the ultra-hip Skybar at the Mondrian in West Hollywood. Currently, in addition to Norma, he oversees nightlife at the nearby Sofitel, but recalls early years on the Sunset Strip serving colorful ’90s-era cocktails, like a take on a White Russian. He’s also got other drinks that harken back to that time, with the Pornstar, made with passionfruit, vodka, and Prosecco, or an updated Lemon Drop.
The menu at Norma weaves in Southern dishes with a kind of California Mediterranean approach: think flatbread with whipped ricotta sitting alongside buttermilk biscuits with hot honey butter and jam. The market beet salad with ricotta and herbed yogurt and heirloom carrots come with crispy chickpea dukkah that would feel at place at Gjelina. Fullilove likes to wield certain sauces on multiple dishes, like the zhoug on the wagyu strip loin and dry-aged seabass, while aji amarillo mixes with the spicy cilantro sauce to show up again under the charred octopus. Hot honey-laced fried chicken brings back Southern flavors.
A well-constructed fried rice layers in fresh Santa Barbara stone crab, the whole mound covered with a fried egg. For dessert, a light chiffon cake slice balances crisp meringue pieces with pumpkin panna cotta, caramel apple sauce, and coconut gelato. One could say the menu feels genre-less but also versatile enough for anyone to love, with farmers market vegetables and high-quality proteins. The area is already rich with lounge-y spots like Norma, but hopefully, it can attract its own following here for easier reservations and relaxed service.
Norma is located at 631 N. La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., with late-night bar bites available on Fridays and Saturdays until 2 a.m. Sunday brunch runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on Mondays.