Gary Menes (Marché, Palate Food + Wine, Patina) has been working on opening his own place in downtown L.A. since he decamped from Palihouse after a short run. It should not come as a surprise that he's not quite ready to open. It should also not come as a surprise that he's been cooking anyway. The brick-and-mortar restaurant project being a willing suspension of disbelief sometimes as much as a long experiment in location scouting. Menes will be popping up at Fred Eric's Tiara Cafe, starting Thursday, October 13th and running for three nights — Thursday, Friday and Saturday — a week for maybe six weeks, or whenever it suits Menes and Eric not to do it anymore.

Menes will be serving his food at Tiara Cafe's counter, in what will in effect be a 12-seat open kitchen experiment. Eric's restaurant isn't open at night anyway, so both chefs deemed it a fun use of their time and resources, and Fred Eric's hilarious restaurant-as-art-installation space. There won't be reservations: It's first come, first counter stool. Eric is “the godfather of downtown,” says Menes, who has known Eric for years. Menes and his longtime sous chef Wesley Avila will be doing pretty much everything, from cooking to serving to chatting with whomever is sitting at the counter. “I've worked in open kitchens before; I can see what works and what doesn't.” Menes says that the idea he's working on for his own eventual restaurant will be an open counter-y place anyway, so this way “I can try out my concept.”

As for what Menes will be serving, look for a 5 course menu for $45 using very local ingredients, many of which will probably be sourced from an urban farm in Menes' Long Beach neighborhood. Also probably some of the bread that Menes has been baking himself in Eric's deck oven. In other words, whatever strikes Menes as good to cook for you when you sit down at the counter. “It's going to have an omakase feel,” said Menes. The counter will be open from 6 p.m. until 10, or “until the food runs out.”

Gary Menes at Tiara Cafe: 5 courses for $45, October 13th through maybe the end of November, 3 nights a week. No reservations, but check Menes' twitter feed (@garymenes) and his Facebook page for updates.

Fred Eric at his own counter; Credit: A. Scattergood

Fred Eric at his own counter; Credit: A. Scattergood

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