Kismet is nestled in the newly posh stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between Vermont and Virgil avenues. A few doors down, crowds sip lattes at Go Get Em Tiger while others wait in line for breakfast tacos at HomeState. Despite the booming business on the block, Kismet is a welcome and needed addition to the neighborhood. In fact, Los Feliz, nor any neighborhood in L.A., has anything quite like it.
“It’s Middle East–inspired,” says chef Sara Kramer of Kismet's menu, her latest collaboration with chef Sarah Hymanson. “It’s definitely not traditional,” the two say in unison. This could be why the breakfast menu offers what they call "Turkish-'ish' Breakfast."
Located in the space that once housed L.A.’s beloved Mother Dough pizza, Hymanson and Kramer show off the thoughtful, elevated, vegetable-forward Middle Eastern cooking they are capable of. “It’s referential and inspired,” they explain.
Both women worked with chef Dan Barber from Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate New York, and their similar reverence for local seasonal produce is apparent. For many of the dishes at Kismet, vegetables are the star. Persian cucumbers come tossed in citrus, rosewater labneh (strained yogurt), parsley seed and za’atar. The “magic myrna potatoes” from Weiser Farms are topped with fennel, Meyer lemon, Aleppo pepper and dill.
The "Daytime" menu features baked goods, salads, brunchlike main dishes, sides and flaky bread, the thing Kismet is perhaps best known for. The bread is available with a savory presentation of labneh, eggs, tomatoes and spice or with honey and preserved lemon. It is only available à la carte during lunch. During dinner it comes only with the $80 “Rabbit for Two” extravaganza.
Though Kramer and Hymanson established themselves in L.A. by opening Madcapra Falafel three years ago in Grand Central Market, the buzz surrounding the duo has made the opening of their first brick-and-mortar much anticipated. In 2013, Kramer won Eater’s Chef of the Year award for her work at Glasserie in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where she first put this style of cuisine on the table. Shortly after, Hymanson (who also worked at Glasserie at the time) and Kramer moved to L.A. and another local pair of chefs, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, got wind of it.
“They are our operational partners,” Kramer explains. “We’re so happy to be working with them.”
The space, designed by Jeff Guga, is clean, bright and minimalist, similar to his design of Jon and Vinny’s on Fairfax. But this room has delicate feminine touches that reflect Kramer and Hymanson’s aesthetic. Pink cloth napkins designed by their artist friend Claire Hungerford dot the tables, and ceramic light fixtures dangle from the tall airy ceiling.
“We have amazing ladies behind almost everything,” says Hymanson of the design.
“Not only ladies. But we definitely want to celebrate the ladies,” Kramer chimes in. “The lamps and a lot of our ceramics were designed by [Brooklyn artist] Helen Levi, who is a college friend of Sarah’s,” she adds.
During lunch service, the two young women can be seen in the open kitchen. Occasionally they come out to say hello to guests in the dining room. Maybe it is because the restaurant is still in its infancy, but it seems that the small room is full of friends and fans of the chefs (along with a celebrity or two). Kismet is open from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily, allowing Kramer and Hymanson no time off. Despite this, the two look clear-eyed, fresh and full of energy. And their dedication seems to be paying off. They mention that there has been a steady flow of diners day and night.
“We’re just working a lot. We’re just here constantly. But that’s also great. It’s what it needs to be for right now. We’re happy to dedicate ourselves to this project. We’ve got a really good team, so that makes it a lot easier,” Hymanson says. “[We're] incredibly grateful for that. I don’t know what we would do without them."
Though both women worked at Blue Hill, their stints did not overlap. Hymanson and Kramer met during a brief overlap of working at a butcher shop and kitchen store, the Meat Hook in the Brooklyn Kitchen.
“It was kind of just a time that both of us were kind of figuring stuff out. Like, ‘do we even want to cook at all?’” Kramer says. “I think we’ve both come up against that question a lot.” But when asked why they continue to face the grueling hours that the restaurant industry demands, Kramer shrugs. “Couldn’t stop, I guess.”
"That really is the way it is. Literally the first day I walked into a kitchen, the chef said, 'You don’t want to be a part of this industry. Get out while you can!' But he just opened up another restaurant, that same chef. It’s just this addictive industry,” Hymanson says.
Hymanson, who realized her calling while cooking for hundreds of students in a communal cooperative at Oberlin College, hasn’t always been on the culinary path. “I used to do acrobatics. I was never in a traveling circus. But I would perform at various shows,” she says. As for Kramer, "I was in Mamma Mia," she says, referring to her pre-restaurant chef career as a Broadway actress in New York City.
“She’s very talented,” Hymanson says of her colleague's theater days.
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It is an understatement of both of them.
4648 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz. (323) 409-0404, kismetlosangeles.com.