As the vegan revolution continues to mushroom throughout Los Angeles, few restaurants like Avant Garden Bistro are devoted solely to products that come out of the ground. There’s nothing Beyond or Impossible on the menu, just plain plants celebrated in their elegant purity.
Tucked away up a hidden staircase on Melrose Avenue, you’d never guess that it’s an L.A. offshoot of Overthrow Hospitality’s Ravi DeRossi’s Avant Garden in New York. While it’s meant to evoke a French bistro, the romantic and cozy spot feels like a hideaway you’d find Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles unwinding after a Troubadour gig in the ‘70s. The plant-based bistro only opened a few months ago, but feels like a West Hollywood mainstay.
The outdoor garden resembles a romantic enchanted forest and was designed by Andrew Nowling, a 25-year veteran of exterior set design for film and television including Euphoria, Carnival, Ballers and The Family Man. Indoors, the moody and plush dining room was designed by DeRossi, who is also the co-founder of the Death & Co. bar brand.
“There are five red hanging lamps over the bar, three green ones over the red banquets and one matching green lamp adjacent to the banquets by the window,” DeRossi tells L.A. Weekly. “They supposedly originated in France – I don’t know the designers, as I bought them from an antique auction online. I chose them to match the burgundy velvet curtains made by my mother and the red banquets made by a friend of mine.
“The entire design of the inside with all the profound colors and decadent fabrics was made to look and feel like an old French cabaret,” he says. “And also to create a distinct opposition to the lush greenery of the outdoor garden. I chose these light fixtures specifically because they give very specific pointed light, over the bar or at a table you can feel as though this light gives you the illusion that you are in a private space, that possibly no one is near you and your party, and that maybe you can act as such. They create an intimacy that I loved.”
The tapas-style menu includes a revolving selection of toasts and cold items like avocado served on crispy sushi rice topped with carrot ginger dressing and miso alongside blistered shishito peppers. Other warm perennial items include a black garlic puttanesca with olives, capers and red chili. Another signature dish that is a staple on the New York menu takes the humble and lowly carrot into orbit with a pistachio chermoula and classic French spring onion sauce and blood sorrel leaves.
Strictly beholden to the seasons, Chef Sarah Stearns’ new fall menu was announced this week and includes purple sweet potato toast with cashew ricotta, spiced chutney on warm, freshly baked focaccia, green cavatelli with artichoke, hazelnut and preserved orange. There’s also fried green tomato toast with remoulade, house-made mustard on sourdough, broccolini with turnip cake, spicy peanut vinaigrette, and a crunchy celery salad with apple, wild rice and Koji vinaigrette. Desserts include a devil’s food cake with coffee and cinnamon crumb, and the caramel apple — a tahini blondie with pistachio ice cream.
According to Bloomberg, sales in the plant-based meat category are not just flat but declining, according to data from Information Resources Inc. Beyond Meat announced this month that the fake meat company is reducing its workforce by 19% after a decline in sales. Bloomberg notes a study done by Deloitte Consulting, which surveyed 2,000 consumers, and found a decline in the belief that plant-based meat grown in a lab is healthier and more environmentally sustainable than meat from animals.
“What draws me to vegetables is extremely difficult to explain,” says DeRossi. “If canvas and oil paint did not exist and I told a group of artists I just invented these products, well, the art world would go crazy. That’s how I feel about vegetables, like they were just invented in all their beauty and complexity. We set out to make each individual vegetable become the best version of itself. For generations, vegetables have been shoved to the side, never taken seriously, just something that you must eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle. We want to change the narrative and put the often forgotten vegetable at the center of your plate, much like Jan van Eyck did with oil paint.”
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.