The chef has 14,000 pounds of meat downstairs at his new Hollywood brasserie-steakhouse, and the restaurant’s knives are no less valuable.
Adam Perry Lang hands me a copy of the menu at APL and explains to me that it’s not finished. He still needs to add a line that says a knife is $950. He says he wants to make it as clear as possible that there will be consequences if anybody steals a knife from his 147-seat Hollywood brasserie/steakhouse.
I ask if he’s serious about putting “Knife 950” on the menu at APL, which is opening Thursday in the historic Taft Building at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
“Dead fucking serious,” he says. “If they steal it, it’s $950 because that’s the bare minimum for a felony in the state of California.”
Many restaurants worry about having expensive items stolen. (Before he opened Petit Trois in Sherman Oaks, Ludo Lefebvre posted a picture of his Global knives on Instagram and warned people not to purloin them.) But for Lang, “It’s a little more profound than that.” He made these knives himself.
I’m walking around APL with Lang about a week before the restaurant opens. KC Lund, a master swordsmith who is Lang’s business partner and knifemaking mentor, is hanging 150 knives in the custom-made “knife vault” next to the bar. These are stainless razor-steel knives that Lang forged at both his workshop/test kitchen in Lawndale and a space he has in Wildomar.
“I fucking spent hundreds of hours on these fucking things,” Lang says. “I’m sick of people saying to me, ‘Over/under, how many are going to be stolen?’ That really hurts. So you know what, go ahead and steal it and deal with the consequences.”
Lang smiles as he points out that he’s already made 320 knives and has enough steel to create hundreds more. But he really hopes he doesn’t have to replace any knives. He’s got more than 60 cameras at APL, and his staff will use hand signals to keep tabs on how many knives get dropped at each table.
“The way I look at it, there will probably be somebody who’ll steal one,” Lang says. “I’m not a crook, so I don’t know how it works. But I will tell you this; I’m not going to go down not fucking fighting. You can enjoy a nice thing. If not, I have a standard steakhouse knife for you. But if you’d like to enjoy something nice, you can take responsibility. Too intense?”
Lang is certainly OK with this level of intensity. Later in our conversation, he asks if I have any thoughts about where he should put “Knife $950” on the menu. A couple of days later, Lang returns my call on a busy day where he has to recharge his phone after its power goes down to one percent. He tell me he’s going to put “Knife $950” just above the section of the menu where he lists the steaks. There will be an asterisk with an explanation of why guests should leave the knives in the restaurant.
At APL, the knives will be used to cut steaks that have been dry-aged in the downstairs “environmental chamber,” a room that’s set at 35 degrees and still empty when I take a look at it. The day after I pop by APL, 14,000 pounds of meat are delivered. There’s space for another 8,000 pounds in the room.
Lang, who also has a meat facility in Las Vegas, has been dry-aging beef for his restaurant since January. Along with filets, rib eyes, and tomahawks for two, APL has a dry-aged patty melt. There are two different cuts of New York strip cooked like prime rib. And then, of course, there’s Lang’s signature APL short rib, which is cooked with post oak and pecan wood for nine hours.
On the day I visit, some of his kitchen crew is working on Bolognese sauce with beef tongue, which Lang says is influenced by Massimo Bottura's use of cuts like tongue and cheek in his meat sauce. Lang asks to try the Bolognese and is handed a plastic spoon with some ragù.
“You didn’t cook this enough, just so you know,” Lang says. “It’s got to go back on the fire with a little bit of water because it’s too grainy. I can see it right now. The meat can’t be crumbly. It’s got to be creamy. It’s got to cook like three hours, so get this back in the pan.”
This is just part of the learning process, and Lang’s confident that he has a good team.
“Yesterday was our first day in the kitchen together,” he says. “Today, we break off into teams, and they’re actually getting demos from me on every dish. Then, they have to recreate at least 30 to 40 of these dishes over the next three days. And then, I walk away and these kids are going to get better at these dishes than me.”
Beyond beef, the menu Lang shows me has appetizers like salads, a goat-cheese tartine, shrimp cocktail, thick-cut bacon, tuna tartare, crab gratin, grilled lamb chops, and a cut-to-order seasonal fruit cup with his friend Cesare Casella’s cured ham. There are pastas like linguini with clams and fish dishes like rockfish (from chef Michael Cimarusti’s Dock to Dish program) with lemon, capers, and parsley. Other entrées include chicken paillard, a heritage pork chop, and a lamb T-bone.
There are side dishes like beefsteak tomato and onions that’s an “ode to Peter Luger.” Desserts include a maple pot de crème inspired by Lang’s visits to Montreal restaurants like chef Derek Dammann’s Maison Publique. There’s also Lang’s version of what’s known as the Chocolate Nemesis at London’s River Cafe. It’s a flourless chocolate cake, held together by eggs and accompanied by unsweetened whipped cream with a hint of vanilla.
“It’s my favorite interpretation of chocolate in the world,” says Lang, who also paid tribute to this dessert when he was at Barbecoa, the London meatery he opened with Jamie Oliver.
Lang says he learned a lot from Oliver about “room dynamics” and not just catering to deep-pocketed guests. The goal for APL is to be a neighborhood restaurant where young couples can go on a $60-per-person date while another guest splurges on a $100 steak. If anybody who lives in the neighborhood has problems getting a reservation, Lang urges them to walk in and talk to the staff.
APL’s dining room is only open for dinner. But for those who want a quick taste of the kind of meat that made Lang’s barbecue pop-ups in his pal Jimmy Kimmel’s backlot a sensation, APL includes a lunch-only sandwich counter. That 62-square-foot space, which was once a one-chair barbershop, is where Lang will serve beef sandwiches he’s calling Texas toast tacos out of a window. The walk-up window will also have a chili dog featuring chili that’s made with hand-cut chuck and Chimayó chiles from New Mexico. Lang is also planning big, overstuffed $50 beef sandwiches, which you’ll have to pre-order.
Lang can be intense at times, but there’s something sweetly sentimental about APL. Over the door at the restaurant, it says “EST. 1969” because that’s when Lang was born.
“It’s not trying to be cute,” he says.
No, the point Lang is making is that everything he’s done so far, including his classic French training, his fine-dining experience (Le Cirque and Daniel in New York, Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris), and the work he did at Daisy May’s BBQ in New York and Carnevino in Las Vegas, has played a part in the creation of APL.
“So if I go down in flames, this is it,” he says and laughs. “There’s no Plan B on this one.
A lot of what Lang does is about friends, like Sami Hayek and Kathy Delgado, who collaborated on the restaurant’s design. Lang says he was touched when his buddy David Chang started serving an APL-style short rib at Majordomo. The barbecue episode of Chang’s Ugly Delicious Netflix show, which features Lang, gets into the origins of Majordomo’s hybrid of Korean barbecue flavors and Texas barbecue techniques.
Lang, whose APL menu makes a point of shouting out Casella and Peter Luger, likes when chefs pay tribute to other chefs and restaurants.
“I’m honored,” he says of Chang’s APL-style short rib. “He says he was inspired by me. I mean, David Chang’s the fucking dog. He’s an animal. He’s the best. For him to do that for me, I think that’s great. I just really appreciate it.”
Through Chang, Lang became friends with artist David Choe, who also appears on Ugly Delicious and has artwork at Majordomo. Choe painted the mural that’s inside APL’s sandwich counter. Adam Field, another artist Lang connected with through Chang, made two pieces of pottery that flank APL’s entrance and are filled with blossoming fruit branches from Windrose Farm. The pottery’s design is inspired by silhouettes of Lang’s knives. A friend of Lang’s, shoe designer/Uncle Paulie’s deli co-founder Jon Buscemi, contributed to APL’s art collection by giving Lang a Nick Farhi painting.
And on the day I visit APL, I see Portia de Rossi. She’s curating art for APL through her new company, General Public, and is at the restaurant figuring out where to place different pieces.
In the meantime, there’s a lot of art on APL’s floors: everything from an original Dave Eggers painting to a Basquiat print to a painting of lamb chops that was found at a flea market. The Eggers piece, which the prolific writer/artist dedicated to Lang, is a painting of a steer that reads, “He Appointed the Moon For Seasons: The Sun Knoweth His Going Down.” It’s a biblical reference.
Lang is a chef who likes to use the word “intention” a lot. Everything he does at APL, including a printed menu influenced by the look and feel of Balthazar’s menu in New York, has a purpose. For example, he has a nice coffee maker he didn’t have to pay for but still spent $14,000 on a reverse-osmosis, double-boiling machine to ensure that the Coffee Manufactory coffee he’s using comes out perfectly.
And Lang’s friend Jimmy DiResta worked on the custom-made knife vault. The vault, with an antique lock, is a proper showcase for Lang’s handiwork. Just remember that the purpose of the knives is to enhance your meat-eating experience. They’re not for you to take home.
APL, 1680 Vine St, Los Angeles, 323-416-1280