Jar may stand for 'Just another restaurant', but in the eight years since it opened, Suzanne Tracht's modern chophouse has garnered much acclaim for its laidback setting and ludicrously good steaks and sides, not to mention its near-legendary pot roast (for the recipe, check back tomorrow). Yet, despite being at the helm of a busy LA restaurant, Tracht still finds time to lend her support to two food charities, take part in Top Chef Masters and run a household that includes two kids and three dogs.
2010 is set to be even busier for the Phoenix-born chef, with not one but two new ventures: a 'comfort food concept' at LAX, plus Suzpree (pronounced 'Soo-pree'). Century City was the rumored location for the Bangkok-inspired oyster bar and noodle house, but at the start of our interview Tracht revealed that it's likely to be in the very same neighborhood as Jar. (For those of you too eager to wait until it opens, Suzpree Little Bites are available at the bar at Jar on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.)
Squid Ink: First of all, could you tell us a bit about Suzpree?
Suzanne Tracht: Well, I'm still looking at different spaces around here, close to Jar, between Beverly and Third. I did have a space for a lease but I had to let it go because there are so many other better options. So I'm just looking for the exact right space, where it feels good and where there can be a really great bar area and a vibe that's fun and happening and a bit loud. And communal.
SI: So when that happens it'll be 'all systems go,' presumably?
SI: And it'll be an oyster bar and noodle house?
ST: Yeah, with a lot of fresh seafood, a lot of really fresh broths and different types of noodles. Little bites. We're really going towards Pacific flavors. California Pacific flavors.
SI: So when did the concept of Suzpree come up? Is it something that's been building for a while?
ST: My partner in the kitchen, Preech Narkthong, he's from Bangkok. We've worked together for about the past 15 years. We've always had this idea about what we've wanted to do: Playing with different kinds of fresh noodles–rice noodles, potato noodles, really incorporating fresh broths, whether it's a great mushroom broth or an oxtail broth or a star anise broth. And taking advantage of the great spices we have, and the different kinds of herbs as well, to really bring the flavor out. It's really clean food.
SI: So food that's not too fussy?
ST: Right. You don't feel good when you eat [fussy food].
SI: So you have been on trips to Thailand, for research?
ST: Yes, I've been on a couple of trips.
SI: I also read something about a place at LAX you might be opening?
ST: Yes. I'm currently trying to get in. They're doing a big renovation at LAX. I'm trying to put in a Jar concept–a 'comfort' concept. I think, whether you're going home, or you're going to a familiar place or you're going on vacation or on business, you need something comforting before you get on that plane, something good. We definitely need that at LAX right now. It's going to be a huge, huge plus for the city.
SI: Right. There's not much there at the moment.
ST: No. Especially compared to so many other airports in the world.
SI: Exactly. At Heathrow you could literally go just for the food. Good food before you get on the plane is what we need.
ST: Right. Especially now as you have to be at the airport so early. You definitely need to have a bite before you get on the plane.
SI: So, the LAX concept–what's the time frame for that?
ST: We're waiting to hear. Probably in another month we'll know more about what's going on about the bidding, the different companies, what they're going to put in there. We're definitely going to open a restaurant in there, even if we start off really small at first. It'll be a great addition. It'll definitely take some time to build out. It's a very costly thing, to be redoing an airport in Los Angeles. They're obviously not getting enough parking tickets!