It's rare when a restaurant debuts on time in this town; it's even more remarkable when one opens ahead of schedule. But the stars — or perhaps the “Urban Lights” — aligned for Ray's and Stark Bar, the new Patina-owned, Kris Morningstar-helmed machine, which opened at LACMA on Saturday.

Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the glass-box restaurant and open-air bar anchor the courtyard at the main entrance of the museum, in perfect view of Chris Burden's now-iconic light installation. Even if they're shadowed by the Reznick Pavilion and Broad, these will be prime people-watching spots during the day, and secluded, unique spots for cocktails and Morningstar's bold flavors at night. Destination dining at LACMA? It's about time.

Grab a seat at the bar to sip esoteric wines, or maybe a cocktail like the Steel Magnolias — rum, strawberry, lemon and Champagne. We also loved the Italian Stallion, a smooth Scotch concoction made with Cynar, Carpano and preserved, spiced cherries that were made in-house. Cocktailian Michel Dozois, owner of specialty ice company Névé, oversees the bar program, so you'll find a lot of small-production spirits and fresh, seasonal ingredients. (After all, the drinks have to be good enough for that ice.) There are plenty of sleek couches to laze around the patio, and commissioned art flashing on screens behind the bar so you don't forget where you are.

You might recognize the chairs in the Ray's dining room: They're identical (though not the same) as those from Paperfish, the Patina Group's short-lived Beverly Hills restaurant. And the silverware? Tucked into individual drawers at each seat so not to ruin the “flow” of design.The room itself is rather intimate but will surely feel larger once the wall of windows are thrown open, fusing the inside and outside dining areas.

Morningstar's bar menu features chewy, wood-oven flatbreads topped with Taggiasche olives, broccolini and chile; crispy headcheese fritters with picalilli, a mustard-y relish for dipping; and an open-faced burger topped with golden fried egg and creamy béarnaise. It's the kind of hearty food he's known for, with Splichal touches, of course; expect more of the same in the dining room.

Stark Bar opened Saturday, February 26. Ray's opens for dinner tonight, February 28, and adds lunch on March 5. Meanwhile, Pentimento, the museum's longstanding fine-dining restaurant will close for “retooling,” says Patina reps.

Credit: L. Balla

Credit: L. Balla

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