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In Good Faith

With their first Los Angeles restaurant, Faith & Flower, West Coast culinary connoisseurs David Bernahl and Robert Weakley celebrate downtown’s two heydays.
 

Restaurateurs David Bernahl (left) and Robert Weakley

Faith & Flower, the newest addition to David Bernahl and Robert Weakley’s diverse portfolio of venues, embodies the prominent West Coast restaurateurs’ eclectic approach. Says Bernahl, “We’ve advanced ourselves as chefs and restaurateurs to pull from great techniques and great flavors from a lot of different cuisines; it doesn’t have to be any one thing.” Nor do the Coastal Luxury Management duo–who are also behind eateries ranging from casual Cannery Row Brewing Company in Northern California to theatrical supper club Rose. Rabbit. Lie. at The Cosmopolitan in Vegas. And launching food festivals, building charity and catering initiatives, even designing an artful line of glassware, is true evidence of their widespread success and inventive thinking.

“David has the point of view of a consumer, and I have many years of ‘this is how we do things in food and beverage,’” says Weakley, who served as longtime food and beverage director of the Hyatt Carmel Highlands in Big Sur before meeting his cohort at the local luxury apparel store Bernahl opened at age 22. Their combined experiences prompted the devoted epicureans to found the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival in 2008. The first weekend of upscale culinary events attracted 4,000 attendees, and this month will host more than 8,000, including star L.A. chefs Michael Voltaggio and David LeFevre. Next came two Monterey hot spots (Restaurant 1833 earned James Beard recognition); and the wildly popular Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival, now in its fourth year. Faith & Flower marks the team’s first L.A. restaurant, appropriately located within the festival’s downtown environs. “Downtown had such an amazing energy and this renaissance and resurgence of the community getting together and changing it,” says Bernahl, of the recent gentrification which also inspired the 7,000-square-foot former Towne space’s concept.

While the area once culturally thrived, following the Depression, street names changed to reflect the shifting climate, like “Charity” to “Grand,” and “Faith” to “Flower” (at which location both the restaurant and owners, who split their time between L.A., Vegas and Monterey, reside). “So Faith & Flower became this idea of celebrating two renaissance periods of Los Angeles,” says Bernahl. Also worth celebrating are ambitious, worldly dishes (from San Diego halibut carpaccio to Beijingese oxtail agnolotti) by Michael Hung of La Folie, desserts by French Laundry’s Ben Spungin and Prohibition-themed cocktails by mixologist Michael Lay. A dimly lit, leather and velvet-dressed design by AvroKO recalls a glamorous, post-theater cocktail era. Crystal chandeliers that drip down to the table and a wall composed of antique doors (including one from Bob Hope’s dressing room) are certainly unique—though “being known for one thing” has never been Bernahl’s intent. Instead, the prolific innovator would prefer to look back and discover that, “What we ended up creating had a lot of differentiating points [and] ended up being special.” 705 W. 9th St., L.A., 213.239.0642

The restaurant’s San Diego halibut carpaccio, roasted carrot salad and mignardise board