Philip Camino has brought the bustle back to the heart of Westwood with Fellow, in the beautifully restored and redesigned nearly century-old building that was once home to the popular late-night hangout Mustache Cafe and the legendary Jurgensen’s market that opened in the building in the 1930s.
The 1929 space has been meticulously restored and transformed into an exhilarating venue that caters to all the senses. The ceilings have been hand-painted and adorned with tartan patterned panels and the concrete floor tiles have been diamond ground to the original finish. The only way to enter the elegant restaurant is through the world-class art gallery curated by Regina Peris, and the art that fills the walls matches Chef Chris Flint’s Michelin-level art on a plate. Flint is formerly from Eleven Madison Park, Maude and Nomad.
The concise menu is a reflection of Flint’s travels through Europe and Camino’s passion for dessert. Entrees include a perfectly seared duck breast with tender beets and a raspberry mousse as well as roasted carrots with mushrooms on top of forbidden rice and a miso puree that mimics the stained glass walls of European cathedrals. The pistachio cake comes with fresh market cherries and is shingled with a delicate brittle and the oozy chocolate butter mochi is accompanied by a dulce de leche ice cream and topped with sesame brittle.
Scott Lester, formerly of Eleven Madison Park and The French Laundry, oversees the wine program and an equal amount of reverence has been given to the water menu curated by self-proclaimed leading water sommelier and YouTube sensation, Martin Riese.
Riese’s selection includes seven carefully chosen still choices and five sparkling varieties from around the world including France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. They are listed in order of TDS (total dissolved solids, meaning the amount of minerals and salts). Hildon, the official water of Buckingham Palace, is on top of the list and makes a good both-sides-of-the-pond match for the Fellows Reina Picante margarita (are you reading this Sussexes?).
“Art is just an extension of the natural beauty of this space,” Camino tells L.A. Weekly on a crowded opening night over dessert. “Our chefs are artists and we want to blend that culinary artistry with visual artistry. I look at the entire space as a hub of creativity. The gallery is the nicest compliment to a restaurant that I can imagine. You enter the restaurant through the gallery, which really hasn’t been done anywhere. You can come in, see world-class artwork with a glass of wine and get your mind into a creative and artistic frame of mind before you even sit at the table. The gallery is where we keep our wine cellar. You’re then primed for the Michelin-level dining experience. We want to tantalize all the senses including the taste buds.”
With things heating up in Westwood on the arts and culinary scenes – including a rumor that the Hammer Museum is bringing on Alice Waters to their dining space in the fall – Camino has high hopes for the return of fine dining on the westside. He has teamed up with Sushi maestro David Schlosser from Shibumi and chef Derek Wilcox from New York to open Imari in Brentwood, which will be hyper-focused on high-end traditional Japanese cuisine. He has also gutted and is rebuilding The Hudson in West Hollywood, which will go from 2,300 square feet to 4,400 square feet with indoor and outdoor spaces featuring different menus, reopening in 2022.
“I think the moment we’re in currently is one of excitement with people coming out of hibernation,” says Camino, who plans to bring back his take on the nostalgic Mustache Cafe tableside chocolate souffle. “I think what you’re getting in the market right now is a little overheating with that exuberance. People have stimulus checks in their pockets and there’s a lot of government funding out there, so people have money. Some have saved it over the past year and are eager to get out and have some experiences and spend it. We’re seeing check averages significantly higher than what we saw before. I think it will cool off a little in three to six months. We’re creating experiences that are tough to replicate, a world-class art gallery and Michelin-level restaurant. I think we’ll be well-positioned because experiences are going to be at a premium.”