Adam Perry Lang is perhaps best known in L.A. for setting up his barbecue smoker in the parking lot of his buddy Jimmy Kimmel’s Hollywood Boulevard studio. But soon, he will open APL Restaurant, a different kind of meat-centric experience, down the street in the historic Taft Building on Hollywood and Vine — one that concentrates more exploring the pleasures of dry-aged steak and fine whiskeys.
Between appearances on the Super Bowl episode of “Top Chef” and checking on the restaurant’s progress, Lang is hunkered down in an industrial park in suburban Lawndale, near LAX, honing the craft of knife-making and tinkering with the beef aging process.
Walking into Lang’s man-cave/test kitchen, the first thing you spot is the double-barreled smoker rig that Lang tows to various barbecue events. The next thing is the forge. Glowing at something like 2000 degrees, the renowned pitmaster heats a piece of vaguely knife-shaped raw steel until it glows bright orange, puts it on the anvil and gives it a dozen or so good thwonks with a mallet on the way to making a sharp edge. Making Damascus steel knives by hand is just one of his clutch of obsessions — and APL diners will be able to slice into their aged steaks with Lang’s own carefully-forged blades.
Culinary books of all kind are another obsession, piled in photogenic stacks on an antique oak butcher counter salvaged from a market in Granite City, Illinois. There’s everything from “Jewish Holiday Cooking” to a valuable edition of Brillat Savarin to kitschy ‘60s French treatises on trussing rabbits — plus a menu signed by Salvador Dali.
Despite Lang’s reputation as a barbecue master, don’t expect baked beans or sticky sauces at APL. The concept is high-end steakhouse-meets-brasserie, inspired by Lang’s stint cooking at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris and by his love for dry-aged beef. Lang considered several neighborhoods before he settled on the space just a stone’s throw from Kimmel.
“Hollywood has the kind of energy I’m looking for,” says the man who opened Daisy May’s BBQ in Manhattan, and it doesn’t hurt that the space is just across from the Pantages Theater, a ready source of hungry theater-goers. In the basement, Lang will butcher sides of beef and experiment with dry-aging techniques.
Beef, including his famous short ribs, is the centerpiece of the menu, but there will also be pastas, locally-sourced seafood like vermilion rockfish, and a cocktail program that reinterprets classics with a soupcon of modern creativity, just like the food.
On a recent visit to the workshop, Lang served up one of the 100-day aged steaks, with a smoky, wild-tasting crust encasing a buttery, nearly-bloody center. A simple salad of butter lettuce, a chunk of Lodge bread with whipped butter, and a large dollop of ultra-indulgent pommes aligot enriched with Cantal cheese made a perfect, and very French, lunch.
“Whiskey resets the palate” when you’re eating beef, Lang says, so there will be an extensive selection of brown liquor, plus cocktails that play with the overall theme by using aged vermouth, for one. Beverage director Jonathan Michael McClune shared tastes of drinks like a smoky tequila-ancho chili cocktail topped with flecks of gold leaf, and a bracing, citrusy take on the Corpse Reviver II.
But barbecue will not be completely ignored. Where a tiny one-chair barbershop served customers for 60 years, Lang will install a lunch window offering just a few items: a well-priced basic sandwich and a crazy, indulgent meat orgy of a sandwich that might cost $40 or more.