All Dressed Up in Za'atar
Portland-based chef Jenn Louis is packing up her za'atar and tahini and heading down to SoCal. The Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern owner announced yesterday that she will open a still-to-be-named Israeli restaurant in the Freehand, a boutique hostel headed to Downtown L.A. this fall, which will also host an outlet of Miami's Broken Shaker bar.
"I think [Israeli food] is more of a story than we've gotten to know quite yet," Louis says. "There's a story to tell there. The food of Israel is complex and delicious and so crazy rustic and intense. It's really soulful . . . I'm really excited to cook it."
Louis, who lived on a kibbutz in her 20s, has been experimenting with Israeli-inspired dishes like a garden shakshuka, beet hummus and sabich over the past year (and sharing them on Instagram), so the news isn't too surprising. Much of that cooking followed a trip last spring to Israel with New York chefs Marco Canora of Hearth and Anita Lo of Annisa, led by food writer Adeena Sussman. Louis says she brought back ingredients and started playing around with dishes for staff meal and trying them out on her menus. "The umbrella of what we cook here canhold a lot of different kinds of flavors," she explains.
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As for the food she will be cooking in L.A., nothing's been set quite yet, but Louis says: "One of the things I really want to do is to stay focused and stay very true to the authenticity . . . so I'll be creative, but I really do want to revive and keep authenticness in the food that I do . . . I want to create a story about where this food comes from and why it's Israeli." Authenticity in the cuisine of a country that's not yet 70 years old is hard to put a finger on, but Louis says she plans to "nod to the cultures that the food comes from," including Ethiopian and Moroccan cooking. One thing that is definite—since she is responsible for all of the hotel's food—is an Israeli breakfast.
Louis isn't the only chef working on an Israeli-inflected restaurant project in L.A. Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson of hit falafel shop Madcapra recently inked a deal for their vegetable-forward Middle Eastern restaurant in the former Mother Dough space with Trois Mec's Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, and Bestia's Israeli-born chef Ori Menashe is hunting for a space for his long-awaited Middle Eastern project.
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