Just months after the official unveiling of LACMA's new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion comes word of its new culinary work of art, Ray's & Stark Bar, slated to debut on March 4.

The Patina Group, which oversees two other restaurants at LACMA, as well as at many cultural landmarks and venues around town (Disney Concert Hall, Norton Simon Museum, Hollywood Bowl, Descanso Gardens), will operate the splashy new project. But this time Joachim Splichal has tapped Kris Morningstar as executive chef, which means it will probably be more of a destination restaurant, and not just a place to grab a sandwich after looking at a few Hockneys.

This is a huge collaboration and great move for Morningstar, who was mostly recently at District and Mercantile in Hollywood (he left in October). There his venison chile rellenos, among other dishes, caused quite a stir, and were even picked as one of the best dishes of 2010 by GQ.

Expect that same train of thought at Ray's. Morningstar and Splichal's Mediterranean-inspired and seasonal menus will make good use of a wood-burning oven and wood-fired grill. So there might be something like a grilled octopus salad with chickpeas, favas, charred cucumbers and treviso. “Our version of an octopus chopped salad,” says Morningstar. There will be at least three hand-made pastas on the menu daily, perhaps squid ink tonnarelli with calamari, bottarga and mint. From the grill: Cornish game hen with barley salad and dandelion greens.

“I look at this as an evolution of what I've done so far,” says Morningstar. “I thought we would have to play it safe, being here at the museum, but Joachim's greenlighting the big, bld flavors we love. And we're super excited about it.”

Joining Morningstar is pastry chef Josh Graves, who also worked at District, Mercantile and Boule. There will be a separate menu for the Stark Bar, plus seasonal cocktails, a California-centric wine list, and artisanal beers and spirits. Running the front of the house is Sona vet, Ron Carey.

The space, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, will have a mid-century-inspired feel and floor-to-ceiling glass walls that look out over the grounds, plus an indoor and outdoor lounge area.The name pays homage to Ray Stark, the late film producer (Funny Girl and Steel Magnolias are just two of his most famous projects) and former LACMA Trustee.

It's coming together at a fast clip, says Morningstar. “We might even be ahead of schedule,” he boasts. “When has that ever happened?”

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