February 3, 2016
Just landed back in L.A., which may be why I’m finding these old menus so interestingly nostalgic. They’re from two of the chefs who made eating here in the eighties so exciting.
I’ve admired John Sedlar since I first tasted his food at St. Estephe in 1981. Classically trained (like so many of the city’s best young chefs of that time, he worked with Jean Betranou), his Manhattan Beach restaurant started out serving French food with a California twist. But Sedlar was restless, and before long he began looking to his roots in Abiqui New Mexico, experimenting with American ingredients and American ideas. He was the chef who introduced me to American caviar, and I’ll never forget his salmon painted dessert, which owed something to Georgia O’Keefe. He recreated that – along with other St. Estephe dishes a few years ago at Rivera (which is, alas, no longer with us).
But Sedlar went farther, offering a menu of traditional foods within the modern Southwestern menu. At the time it was very brave: posole in a fancy restaurant with a French name?
These days, if you want to taste Sedlar’s food you have to leave L.A. and head for Eloisa in Santa Fe.
Joachim Splichal was another chef who made eating interesting in Los Angeles. He came to California as chef at the Regency Club in 1981, and I heard so much about the place that I managed to wangle an invitation to lunch. (My host, a friend of the publisher of the magazine I was then working for, was H.R. Bob Haldeman. I was ashamed that I accepted, but I was so curious about the chef…)
I went back one more time, for a dinner Splichal cooked with the late Jean-Louis Palladin. It was a most amazing meal. Among other things, I remember gooseneck barnacles; I’ll bet it was the first time they were ever served in California. Splichal moved on, eventually opening the spectacular Max au Triangle in Beverly Hills. I’ll try to find the original menu for the restaurant which was, when it opened in 1984, one of the most impressive (and luxurious) restaurants in the country.
Splichal went on to open Patina – a much smaller restaurant – on the eastern end of Melrose in 1989. His sous chef was Traci des Jardins (who now owns a number of wonderful restaurants in San Francisco, like Jardiniere).
This is an early menu.
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