Nord-Cal Cuisine

Girasol brings the Noma approach to Studio City

Southern California native C.J. Jacobson pulled an unexpected move after two seasons as a Top Chef contestant. He left the national limelight and jetted away to a three-month apprenticeship at Copenhagen's Noma, widely considered one of the world's best restaurants.

Call it a chef's version of Into the Wild.

Jacobson opened his new Studio City restaurant, Girasol, a few weeks ago, and it was immediately apparent that time spent with Denmark's most famous foragers paid dividends.

With its vaulted metal ceilings and flowing, sunflower-inspired design, Girasol is an ambitious and forward-thinking neighborhood restaurant in a very underrepresented part of suburbia.

Modernist dishes draw inspiration from California's hyper-seasonal, hyper-local flora and fauna: Sweet summer apricots are topped with local burrata, carrot flowers, torn basil and a handful of toasted lentils ($12); skewers of charred onion-smothered pork satay ($10) are rubbed with olive oil and dusted with fennel pollen.

The biggest stunner, though, almost went overlooked. A humble plate of grilled flat iron steak decorated with avocado, watermelon, cherry tomato and pickled watermelon rind vinaigrette ($15) tasted as if it hailed from the greatest backyard cookout in existence.

Echoing the New Nordic empahsis on "time and place," the dish feels like a pitch-perfect evocation of the Angeleno summer–short of Vin Scully's voice on the radio, of course.