Scallops with mushrooms and amaranth grains
Scallops with mushrooms and amaranth grains
Danny Liao

NoMad Los Angeles Has Exquisite Food Amid East Coast Ambiance

If you’re in the mood for a trip to New York and want to avoid the travel time, you can check into NoMad Los Angeles for a multilevel experience.

Restaurateur Will Guidara with the Sydell Group, which owns NoMad New York, have meticulously restored the elegant landmark Giannini Building at Seventh and Olive streets downtown, turning it into a 241-room hotel with two stories' worth of drinking and dining possibilities. Swiss chef and co-owner Daniel Humm is also at the helm.

On the ground floor you’ll find a variety of options, including the coffee bar, which is modeled after the 300-year-old Caffe Florian in Venice, Italy. The library is dark and mirrors the energy of its New York sister. There are anterooms and quiet corners to sip and talk, including the low-lit parlor off the library.

The all-day Lobby Restaurant serves new American dishes such as chickpea panisse; it looks like a spot where you might find Hannah and her sisters having lunch. It’s a colorful, French-inspired cross between the Polo Lounge and the Palm Court at the Plaza in New York. Off the side of the main lobby you’ll find the Giannini Bar, named after Bank of Italy founder Amadeo Giannini, who originally commissioned the building for his corporate headquarters in 1922.

The NoMad Los Angeles dining room
The NoMad Los Angeles dining room
Danny Liao

Under the supervision of French architect and designer Jacques Garcia, much of the building’s neoclassical style, such as its Doric columns, ornate golden ceiling and marble floors, have been preserved and incorporated into the new design. The original vault that once housed 12,000 safety deposit boxes behind a 50-ton door have been kept intact, alongside the coffered ceiling and square pilaster columns topped with Corinthian capitals in the lobby and restaurant areas.

Overlooking the bustling and regimented scene on the ground floor, and at eye level of the fully restored intricate gold and blue Italianate ceiling, is the elegant and very sophisticated Mezzanine, which includes a formal dining area and bar.

Foie gras torchon appetizer
Foie gras torchon appetizer
Danny Liao

The food is exquisite. While the ingredients are local, the menu has a definite New York taste (and prices). The foie gras torchon appetizer is surely one of the best this side of the Mississippi and looks more like a dessert, served with pears, red walnuts and black onion ($34). The Le Grand Plateau seafood tower of raw shellfish, which can be shared by the table at $28 per person, includes tuna, Dungeness crab, abalone and Santa Barbara uni. The scallops are topped with California pistachios. The hamachi is marinated with citrus, daikon radish and agretti (an Italian vegetable that chefs are fighting over these days) at $27.

Roast suckling pig
Roast suckling pig
Danny Liao

A wonderful dinner option that would be hard to find on any other local menu is NoMad’s version of roast suckling pig. It's served in a square with no visual hint of its origin, a crispy layer of skin resting on the tender and juicy confit flesh; it's accompanied by persimmons, wild spinach and bacon marmalade ($42). The scallops are perfectly seared and delicate, served with hen of the woods mushrooms, amaranth grains and sorrel ($38).

And what can be more nostalgically Back East than a good old-fashioned baked Alaska, flamed for you right at the table, with fresh macerated strawberries on the side. It’s enough to put Johnny Sack in a good mood.

Baked Alaska, sliced
Baked Alaska, sliced
Danny Liao

Speaking of mood, don’t expect the usual laid-back L.A. experience. There are some fundamentals you should be aware of before you arrive, because the army of three maître d’s at each station has little patience in spelling them out to you when you arrive, which may result in a chilly reception. We arrived a little early around happy hour for an aperitif, not knowing the upstairs bar required reservations, the downstairs bar was full, certain areas were closed and the coffee bar turns into a bar that serves some alcohol.

Opening hours are different for all sections and reservations are a must for the mezzanine restaurant and bar upstairs.

Other than that, there is an abundance of service staff. Between bartenders, wait staff, sommeliers, hosts and hostesses, we counted almost 20 in the mezzanine area and didn’t feel neglected for a moment once we were granted upstairs access. An optional 3 percent charge is applied to your bill to provide health care for the team — just let your server know if you don't want to pay it.

NoMad Los Angeles, 649 S. Olive St., downtown; (213) 358-0000, thenomadhotel.com/los-angeles.

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