Phillip Frankland Lee's all-vegetable Studio City restaurant, the Gadarene Swine, just went entirely vegan. Not so you'd notice. The chef, who also owns Scratch Bar in Beverly Hills, says only one dish was left on the menu that wasn't vegan — olives in a honey and lime sauce. But now he's replacing the honey with palm sugar and with that single change, the restaurant is vegan-friendly.
The operative word is "friendly." Lee is into vegetables in all their permutations and many of the dishes feature one element, cauliflower, say, prepared myriad ways. "We don't serve any fake meat or fake cheese," says Lee with an audible shudder. "Right now, less than 15% of our customers are even vegetarians." Say what? He likes to define Gadarene Swine as a fine dining restaurant with a focus on fruit and vegetables. Period. The motto on the website is "vegetables elevated."
"I never want to win the award for best vegan restaurant. I want to win the award for best restaurant," says Lee.
Going full-tilt vegan isn't the only change afoot at the 6-month-old restaurant. He's just finished building an outdoor bar that he's dubbed the Wine Garden, which will open on April 1. There, he'll be offering two beers plus a red, white and sparkling wine at $5 all day every day. The patio has lots of greenery and should be a great place to while away some time over a glass of wine or beer and some small plates from the new a la carte menu.
Starting April 1, he's also going to be doing a brunch/lunch menu all week long, basically from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Every day. He's still working out the details of the menu, but he will reveal that it will include fresh-pressed juices and a peanut butter sandwich made with house-baked bread and cranberry jelly. And then at 5 p.m., he'll start his playful tasting menus, but the a la carte menu will still be available for those who just want a bite or something more casual.
The tasting menu is all chef's choice. When the server rings it in, the order reads just course one, course two. Each menu is custom-tailored to suit customers' likes (or dislikes). For the chef, it's freedom.
In other news, Lee has also promoted his sous chef Marty Shield to the position of chef de cuisine. Until now, Lee has been doing everything himself, going back and forth over the hill between his two restaurants. He says that in two years he's had at most 15 days off, and that's probably an exaggeration.
He and his wife, Margarita, who expedites plates at the restaurants, spent their second anniversary working. "It's kind of funny that's what we do on our anniversary. But what else are we going to do?" he says."It's a beautiful life. I wake up in the morning and go to my restaurants. That's my life and I love it."