FRESH CATCH A yuzu nage is poured over sea bass with radishes and turnips.
On a recent weekday afternoon at Paley, sunlight streamed in through the wall of windows-and bounced off brass, copper and gold accents in the dining room-as I dug into fiery-red steak tartare. Its color comes from gochujang, a Korean fermented chile paste, but the supple meat was less spicy than it was earthy, with an interesting depth of flavor. I sipped a glass of wine, looked around at the incredibly stylish guests chatting at nearby tables, and thought: Toto, we’re not in Hollywood anymore.
Truth is, I was in the heart of a neighborhood that is currently experiencing yet another renaissance, particularly around Sunset and Vine, and Hollywood and Gower. New condos are rapidly populating the skyline, and the streets are crowded with more locals than tourists (unlike the Hollywood and Highland area a couple miles away). Here, offices, retail spots and restaurants are popping up among the movie studios.
Paley is a part of the new developments at Columbia Square; it occupies the former home of The Nestor Film Company, Hollywood’s first movie production facility, as well as the original headquarters of the Columbia Broadcasting System during the Golden Age of Hollywood (the restaurant is named for CBS CEO and visionary William S. Paley). Opposite NeueHouse Hollywood, a private collaborative workspace, the eatery is sexy and chic, with rich brown leather banquettes, dark oak tables, wood columns, gleaming white marble counters surrounding the kitchen and midcentury-modern light fixtures dangling overhead. It’s meant to evoke a time when film execs and creative types would mingle over lunch near the soundstages. But this is no mere throwback—it’s completely of the moment.
Chef Greg Bernhardt is the author of that fiery-red steak tartare, which also has white miso, grapefruit and mint, and is one of the standout dishes here. Having once worked with chefs like Ludo Lefebvre and Neal Fraser, he ties together elements from diverse regions—France, Italy, Southeast Asia, California—to fulfill his culinary vision. That, like the decor, is pretty much the L.A. way right now.
Lunch and dinner share dishes, such as pretty butter lettuces with English peas, creme fraiche, snap peas and furikake (a Japanese seaweed spice); fresh slivers of pink hamachi with shaved fennel, white soy, wasabi and citrus; and a very good wood-roasted chicken, supertender and flavorful, with frisee and truffle jus. The straightforward steak—hanger at lunch, dry-aged strip at dinner—which can sometimes seem like a throwaway to placate the I-only-eat-steak crowd, is both classic and deliciously novel at the same time. With a side of whipped potatoes and charred onions, it’s almost comfort food—only done really, really well.
Things aren’t always what they seem, though. A raviolo comes to the table, plump with a runny egg yolk inside, surrounded by mushrooms, and the server pours a light umami-laced mushroom broth into the bowl. When you pierce the pillow, bright purple Okinawa sweet potatoes ooze out. It’s interesting, but not my go-to dish. I prefer the handmade pappardelle with pork ragout and fennel, offered only at lunch.
About the waitstaff: Parent company Plan Do See, which also owns restaurants in Paris; Osaka, Japan; Bali and Jakarta, Indonesia; New York; and Miami, is founded on the Japanese principle of Omotenashi, loosely translated as warm, respectful and selfless service. Consequently, the hospitality here is gracious and welcoming. But that’s also due to Nicolas Fanucci, the general manager. After all, he’s an alum of The French Laundry, which is also a great reason to ask him for wine suggestions.
Paley is helping to usher a new dining aesthetic into Hollywood. We’ve been here before, with splashy restaurants and haute offerings, but it seems like the neighborhood is ready to make it stick. With new places on the way from celebrity chefs—Curtis Stone and April Bloomfield, among them—these streets will once again be worthy of the spotlight.
6115 Sunset Blvd., L.A., 323.544.9430
Hours: Lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner, Mon.-Sun., 5:30-10pm
Prices: Appetizers, $11-20; entrees, $18-$32; desserts, $6-$9
Stop at the gorgeous bar for snacks like silky foie gras mousse, crispy-braised bacon with apple-horseradish mayonnaise, or a burger with raclette cheese and Worcestershire-grilled onion on brioche. Cocktails are spirit-forward and heady.
On the patio, tables overlook the center’s sculpture plaza with six Dustin Yellin “psychogeographies” (glass and steel collages) on display.
Only a block away from the Pantages, this is a convenient dining spot before catching a show.