Monday, March 21, 2011

Ray's & Stark Bar: Museum lunching goes modern

The lounge area is outdoors in the museum's breezeway

With Ray's Restaurant and Stark Bar, LACMA finally has a restaurant worthy of the sleek new buildings on its campus. And it's really good news for us Variety staffers, since there's not many good places for business lunches -- or post-work cocktails -- within walking distance of our Wilshire offices. Producer Ray Stark wasn't known as the cuddliest of Hollywood honchos -- Tina Brown called him "the hound from Hell" -- but at least his generous daughter Wendy is livening up LACMA with her donation to launch the restaurant with his name under the Patina Group management. 
House-made bread is ultra-fresh

At lunchtime, the glass-enclosed restaurant is bright and peaceful, half-filled with well-heeled docents and their docile husbands, half with Teva-wearing tourists wondering if a $14 burger is their only option, and even kinda real artists like Mr. Brainwash. There's also plenty of dining on the patio, while the Stark Bar area is completely outside, though well-stocked with heaters. Chef Kris Morningstar has toned down the nose-to-tail urges he pursued at Mercantile and District -- there's no beef deckle, no venison chile rellenos at Ray's. The simple menu hits all the spots this crowd expects -- a perfectly cooked piece of Arctic char ($19 at lunch), a premium burger, hangar steak, flatbreads, along with more modish plates like duck salad, Cornish hen or pork belly.
Arctic char romances its sunchoke costar
Most dishes add to the familiar with more exotic touches -- Greek potato skordalia and nutty sunchokes along with chanterelles are awards-caliber, umami-filled supporting players to the crispy-skinned fish. A small loaf of house-baked bread for each table is irresistible. Looking for your silverware and napkin? You'll find them stowed in a neat drawer under the table -- the cheerful, mid-century design of Ray's, though simple, shows Renzo Piano's touch.
Coffee pudding is rich but not too sweet
Desserts include a deeply-flavored pudding made with LaMill coffee and coffee granita -- though it's a cookie cigarette, not a real one, on top. Ray's might want to add a few more casual dishes to the fairly pricey lunch menu as time goes on, to keep the ladies-who-lunch coming back. But for now, it's already a big improvement on the museum's other Patina-owned restaurant, Pentimento, which is currently closed for renovations.

Ray's and Stark Bar on Urbanspoon


Lily said...

coffee pudding cup. I want it now. yes, at 9am I want to devour that thing.

Cravezy said...

That Arctic Char looks Amazing! said...

I have to try those dishes... They look so flavorful!

The Winos' said...

The set-up is too cute! I want that pudding cup too!