Just as the best music producers have a knack for meshing seemingly disparate rhythms and tempos, so do the best chefs have a skill for commingling diverse flavors and textures — knowing exactly what goes together well and what to pump up, dilute or mute. At E.P. & L.P., the two-level restaurant and bar on La Cienega that opened in May, the analogy is especially fitting.
The name references album lengths. E.P. — which includes the indoor restaurant area — stands for Extended Play, while L.P. —the moniker for the rooftop lounge — stands for Long Play. “We have a few subtle nods to music through the restaurant,” says owner/chef Louis Tikaram. “[We were] inspired by co-founder Grant Smillie’s background as a celebrated DJ alongside one of our partners in the project, Axwell (of Swedish House Mafia fame). Our private rooftop bar, Frankie's, also pays tribute to legendary DJ Frankie Knuckles.”
Though the crowd is fashionable — a smattering of tattoos, wide-brimmed hats and statement jewelry filled the room on a recent Monday night — don’t expect a chaotic clubby atmosphere upstairs or down. In the well-lit, spacious and sleek, copper-accented dining room (or, as they call it, the “Asian eating house”) the focus is on the creative and flavorful amalgamation of Fijian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine served family-style with many smallish plates for sharing.
Starters include the zingy kokoda (Fijian-style ceviche made with coconut cream and cilantro) and abalone on the half shell (concentrated bites with curry paste complementing the chewy meat). The salads and small plates, many of which feature tender or crispy proteins, are balanced by sweet and spicy pastes and toppings. The short rib large plate makes for a filling entree, and Thai vegetables in a sweet eel-type sauce are a nice accompaniment.
The influences here also go beyond Asian. There’s a lot inspired by Tikaram’s native Australia and by California cuisine.
“I love exploring the local food scene, from visiting neighboring farms to late-night taco runs,” says Tikaram, who transplanted to America earlier this year. “Before I moved to Los Angeles, I thought it was a built-up city with not much access to farms like I had in Australia. Now that I’m here, I think it’s very easy to meet farmers who produce amazing products only a few hours from Hollywood.”
Tikaram grew up on his family’s 110-acre farm, where he raised cattle and grew tropical fruits near the coastal town of Mullumbimby in New South Wales. “I developed a keen appreciation early on for the kinship within the tight-knit food community. Today, as a chef in a new country, my mentality remains the same. I’m excited about showcasing the beautiful Californian produce with the flavors and techniques I've learned throughout my career and upbringing, to create something unique to L.A.”
Some of E.P.’s dishes look as distinctive as they taste. The Black Beauty, for example, is presented with a giant ball of homemade white cotton candy on top. Underneath, an exotic parfait of ice cream and black sticky rice provides a velvety cream and crunch.
The drinks by beverage director Alex Strauss, by comparison, are good but lack the same wow factor. Upstairs at L.P., the cocktails seem a little more amped up, which makes sense. The menu there is fun but less complicated, with fewer options and a street-food presentation, with dishes served on fast food–style cardboard trays. With views of Hollywood hills and a lounge-y date-night ambiance, it’s a melodious follow-up to dinner at E.P. and a trendy hot spot on its own — proving Tikaram is no one-hit wonder.
E.P. & L.P., 603 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 855-9955, eplosangeles.com.