Le Grand Is Downtown L.A.’s Mediterranean Seafood Restaurant for the Masses
Fine-dining vets Alex and Chris Manos serve perfect Dover sole.
The excellent dessert is a chocolate torte that looks like it’s been cut in half, and it’s resting near the edge of a large plate. There are organic California raspberries four different ways on the plate: fresh raspberries, frozen raspberries that provide a pleasant contrast in temperature and texture, freeze-dried raspberry powder, and raspberry gelée in the pastry cream atop the flourless chocolate cake.
This, like a lot of what executive chef Alex Manos and chef de cuisine Chris Manos serve at Le Grand, would work nicely as part of a fine-dining tasting menu. Le Grand, across from the perpetually packed Bottega Louie and near other destination dining like Q Sushi and The NoMad, is an elegant new a la carte option in a buzzy part of downtown. It’s also a Mediterranean-inspired seafood restaurant that’s driven by California ingredients.
“We like to plate with fruits to add sweetness and floral elements,” Alex says. Hamachi from Japan is paired with local Harry’s Berries strawberries and ras el hanout. The fish and strawberries rest atop a circle of amaranth tabbouleh that, at first glance, looks a bit like tartare.
The Manos brothers like to build surprising flavor combinations and create little visual tricks. They like to put swooshes and swirls on oversized plates, some handmade, from Europe and Asia.
“We think negative space in general gives more room for the food to shine and for the plate to be admired by the guest,” Alex says.
The Manos brothers grew up and went to culinary school in Athens, Greece. Alex previously cooked at L.A. tasting-menu restaurants like Michael Cimarusti’s Providence and Josiah Citrin’s Melisse. Chris cooked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Greece before working at Curtis Stone’s Gwen in Hollywood.
“The inspiration is Mediterranean, Greek, but the techniques are French,” Alex says of the food at Le Grand. “We’ve been living in L.A. for so long that we have California influences, too. It’s a little bit of everything.”
Le Grand’s version of oregano pita is less fluffy than the pita you’ll find in Greece. The Manos brothers make lavash-like bread, but they fold it up to prevent the heat and moisture from escaping, Alex says. The result is a crispy exterior and a softer interior. The fragrant pita is served with whipped local citrus like lime, lemon, and orange, plus a nori-butter crème fraîche. This being California, Alex plans to change up the citrus a lot.
The most showstopping dish at Le Grand is a two-pound Dover sole meunière. The wild-caught Brittany Dover sole is cooked in a classic French way: with no flour, just butter.
The brown butter adds a rich, nutty flavor, and Le Grand amps up the nuttiness by roasting crushed hazelnuts with the Dover sole. A sauce with 30-year-aged balsamic vinegar from Modena and the hazelnuts is poured over the fish tableside. It’s a perfect preparation, simultaneously simple and sophisticated. The fish, firm and sweet, easily feeds two people. At $89, it’s an indulgence, no doubt. But it’s also a bargain compared to the market-price, sold-by-the-pound fish at Greek seafood restaurants like Avra (which recently opened up a Beverly Hills outpost) and Milos, where enjoying a lavish meal might require taking out a second mortgage on your house.
Le Grand, which has also served a one-and-a-half-pound whole sea bream for $55 and a one-pound striped bass filet for $65, is here to straddle the line between a graceful neighborhood spot and an expense-account seafood restaurant. Alex knows that it costs Le Grand a lot of money to buy Dover sole, but he doesn’t want to mark it up the way other restaurants do.
“We want to be approachable,” Alex says. “With a couple items, we know we’re not going to make much money, but we want more people to enjoy it.”
Le Grand, owned by Georgian restaurateur Tamazi Gomiashvili and his sons George and Tamaz, is a nearly 4,000-square-foot space with close to 200 seats. Walk inside and you’ll immediately see a wall with more than 1,000 bottles of wine. The Gomiashvili family has several restaurants in Europe, and they’ve decided to go big at their first restaurant in the United States.
“Obviously, we have a big space,” Alex says. “We’re trying to create something that’s familiar, where guests don’t feel intimidated by the ingredients or the way the menu reads. But when you receive the food, there’s a little bit of a surprise.”
Le Grand, 707 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 323-303-2535