The glory days of Jim Morrison and the Laurel Canyon scene won’t ever return, but Bill Chait hopes his new restaurant Tesse goes a little ways toward bringing laid-back cool to the storied Sunset Strip.
Chait has been the business and creative muscle behind notable Los Angeles restaurants like Republique, Bestia, Sotto and Otium, all with high-style design and distinctive food. Some, like Bestia, were located in uncharted territory like the industrial district of downtown L.A.
His latest venture, in partnership with Jordan Ogron, is smack in the middle of the almost too-familiar Sunset Strip. But Chait says Tesse is the area’s most ambitious restaurant in years.
Chait was first approached by CAA, an investor in Fred Segal through Evolution Media Partners, to create a restaurant next to the flagship Sunset Boulevard boutique. The idea was to reference fashion in some way, which Chait says will come naturally through the clientele, the Lautner-meets Ladies of the Canyon design, and possibly from occasional salon discussions facilitated by Decades owner Cameron Silver, another CAA client.
Fred Segal Bakery, located inside the store, will also transition into Tesse Cafe & Bakery later this summer.
Tesse, from the French word délicatesse, is a long way from the old-school starched tablecloths and sole meunière of Le Cirque, where chef Raphael Francois used to cook. The Belgian-born chef is also a veteran of London’s Connaught Hotel, which garnered two Michelin stars under his watch.
Designed by Preen Inc.’s Alexis Readinger, the room fronting on Sunset Boulevard evokes the dusky charcoal tones of the nighttime desert, accented with notes of wood, leather and cork — and plenty of texture, per Chait’s directive.
“The food looks like it belongs in the space,” Chait says, describing the menu as “Rustic, very natural, mixtures of greens and meats.” Housemade sausages, pâté and cured meats — plays a big part of the meat-intensive selection, and diners can choose around 15 varieties of charcuterie ranging from Lyon sausage with pistachios to duck rillettes. All the bread is baked fresh on-site, and Sally Camacho Mueller, formerly of WP24 and Hotel Bel-Air, creates the imaginative desserts.
Ogron will open the adjacent wine shop Boutellier in the next few weeks, where diners can select a bottle of wine and buy it to be served in the restaurant — possibly the only place in L.A. with that option. Wine is served in 3 oz. half-pours, the better to taste a variety of Ogron’s selections. And Ogron is bringing the “name your price” option for dessert wines that he introduced at Rivera, hoping to entice diners to try from among the 200 available.
Tesse’s cocktails are from Julian Cox and Nick Meyer, who previously partnered at Bestia, incorporating local produce into lighthearted drinks like the Melon DeGeneres with cantaloupe, mescal and herbes de Provence.
Chait calls the menu “serious bistronomy” — a mix of ambitious food with a relaxed approach. “That’s the way chefs and the public want to eat,” he says. “They want the food and the wine and the service to be serious, but without the pretense.”
Though the Strip has become known as a heavy-partying area, the hopes are that a different clientele will seek out Tesse.
“There’s a rebirth” to the street, says Chait, referencing the many hotels opening along the boulevard, including the Jeremy, the Pendry, 1 Hotel and Gwyneth Paltrow’s planned Arts Club. Residents at AKA, the high-end extended stay lodgings in the same complex, will get wine in the rooms and room service from Tesse.
(pictured at top: Bill Chait and Raphael Francois)