Lulu, the new restaurant helmed by chef and writer David Tanis, opens in the courtyard of UCLA’s Hammer Museum in Westwood on Thursday, November 11. The project was conceived by the legendary Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters and Hammer director Ann Philbin, who together envisioned a unique gathering place for the city’s community of students, artists and farmers.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity to come to L.A. and lead the kitchen team in realizing Alice and Annie’s vision of a new neighborhood restaurant that highlights locally sourced food and regenerative farming practices,” Tanis tells L.A. Weekly. “The connections we have made with local farmers have been quite inspiring. And being able to do this at the Hammer Museum means we can reach a real cross-section of the surrounding community.”
Open for lunch to start, Lulu offers a three-course prix fixe menu, as well as an a la carte menu. Staying true to Tanis’s ethos of “market cooking,” the menus change daily depending on the season. Dishes on the menu include appetizers such as Baked Sonoma Goat Cheese with garden lettuces and golden beets, and California Halibut Carpaccio with Meyer lemon; main dishes like Mediterranean Fish and Shellfish Stew with local rock cod and Dungeness crab, and North African Lamb Tagine with Saffron Couscous; and desserts such as Lemon Tart with Créme Chantilly, and Olive Oil Walnut Cake with pomegranate. Lulu’s a la carte offerings include focaccia sandwiches like Mozzarella and Arugula with Casella’s Prosciutto and a vegetarian Eggplant Banh Mi.
Lulu’s wine list focuses on biodynamic wines, particularly small-production wineries and female winemakers and offers two California Rosés by the glass (with reusable containers), including the first certified regenerative California Rosé from Tablas Creek. The cocktail menu, designed by Rosemary West, is driven by fresh market produce and herbs, and features spirits from small, family-owned producers. Cocktails include Granada Salvia, with Arette Blanco Tequila (made with 100% Blue Agave distilled by a fifth-generation distiller in Tequila, Jalisco) pomegranate and sage; and LULU Daiquiri featuring San Zanj Haitian Rum (a new label from one of the oldest family-owned operating rum distilleries in Haiti), lime juice and Demerara syrup; to share a few examples. There is also a daily rotating menu of non-alcoholic beverages.
Lulu’s bright and expansive indoor-outdoor space in the courtyard of Hammer Museum was designed by artist Christina Kim and set designer Sean Daly with a focus on sustainability, minimizing waste and supporting local makers. The team partnered with Angel City Lumbers to source wood from fallen trees, including a 50-year-old Bunya Bunya tree located two miles from the Hammer, which was used to create the restaurant’s tabletops. The unique wood gives each table its own complex lines and knots, like an abstract work of art.
With half the space being outdoors, the team also focused on landscape design and partnered with Craft Landscape Architects to plant native species such as deer grass, toyon, milfolia, California strawberry and Sierra mint to encourage the propagation of non-invasive Southern California flora. Other key design elements include an iconic Jorge Pardo mosaic wall.