Lotería Grill opens for business in Studio City today. This is chef-owner Jimmy Shaw's third location. Shaw opened his first Lotería as a small taqueria in the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax next to the Grove; his second, a much larger Loteria on Hollywood Boulevard, opened in 2008.
The new Loteria looks much the same as the Hollywood Lotería, with lofty ceilings featuring sky lights, alternating white and dark red walls, and Shaw's signature Lotería playing cards above the bar. Speaking of the bar, Shaw's liquor license is still pending, so you'll have to make do with freshly made aguas frescas until the tequila show begins. ("Soon," says Shaw.) Seating will also spill outside onto the second floor patio, where Shaw plans to put in about 40 seats, as well as some more of the same tall potted trees that grace the inside of the restaurant. And if the restaurant looks about the same, the menu does too. It's a carbon copy of the menu at the Hollywood Lotería. "That you can duplicate it isn't a bad thing," said Shaw last night, during the final evening of a quiet soft opening.
This Lotería is in the former Gaucho Grill space, in the mall overlooking the busy intersection of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Boulevard. "I'm happy to be in the valley; it's very family oriented," said Shaw, noting that it's a "world apart" from his digs on Hollywood Boulevard. Just like he does at his other two locations, Shaw plans on working plenty of farmers market produce into his menu. The busy Studio City farmers market operates just a few blocks away from the restaurant on Sundays.
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Shaw says that the crew at the new Lotería is the same crew who opened the Hollywood restaurant; he and his staff rotate between all three locations. In the last year the Hollywood location has functioned as the main base of operations for all of Shaw's restaurant and catering work: the principle salsas and moles are all made there. Shaw's previous central or commissary kitchen, on Pico and Crenshaw, burnt down last year due to an electrical fire. Shaw is currently rebuilding and hopes to move back into that space in the next month. "Thank God I overbuilt," says Shaw of his massive Hollywood space. "When I started at the Farmers Market, there was nowhere to cook," says Shaw of the need for a large commercial kitchen. As to why he won't simply keep his base of operations in Hollywood, the chef says he needs "different toys." Lucky for us.
Lotería Studio City: 12050 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 508-5300.