Last week Twenty40, a new neighborhood café in Los Feliz, staged a very hushed opening on Hillhurst Avenue. Signs for the previous restaurant San-Sui remain like camouflage, advertising long-gone sushi and Japanese country cuisine, while two laminated pieces of printer paper announce Twenty40's operating hours and a simple menu of pastries and coffee drinks. Owner Nathan McCall refuses to talk about the project, offering only that he’s still trying to dial things in at the new space.
The baked goods, however, speak for themselves. If you’ve been to McCall’s Meat and Fish Company, you’ve likely noticed the spoils of an ambitious pastry and bread program crammed into a glass case just down from the choice cuts of beef. Behind the spacious L-shaped counter at Twenty40, those same house-baked pastries look even better with the extra room to breathe. And they definitely seem more at home alongside coffee made from 49th Parallel beans.
The pastries almost have more room than the customers. Five tables line the walls inside the café, with a few more tables set up on a patio that's sheltered by a forest of bamboo. There’s no Wi-Fi, so don’t think this is the spot you’ll pretend to finish your first screenplay. Still, a few determined customers have set up laptops, data-linked cellphones and other workday paraphernalia.
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Pay attention and you can scope out a few hints of more things to come. Back in the kitchen, a six-burner range sits idle, but it’s hard to imagine it staying cool for long — not with McCall's nearby butcher shop churning out a never-ending supply of bones and trimmings.
For now the case is stacked with buttery croissants, cookies, brownies, macaroons and other pastries. And then there’s the fougasse. It sits amongst the cinnamon rolls and kouign-amann, looking like just another baked good but packing a whole world of savory. The football-shaped flatbread is heaped with Bellwether Farms ricotta and oven-blistered heirloom tomatoes that pop in red and green bursts of acidity, while the sweet pungency of oven-roasted garlic ties everything together. A café could build a future on these flatbreads alone. Fougasserie, anyone?
Employees working a recent morning shift confirm that more menu items are on the way and that the short business hours (8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday) could expand soon, too. Twenty40 is a work in progress that's open for business, and so far it's delicious.
Twenty40, 2040 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz.