It's been a long wait to get a seat at this counter. But after many months, years really, we can all finally pull up a chair at Le Comptoir, chef Gary Menes' 10-seat restaurant, which opened Friday night.
Le Comptoir — "the counter" in French — is exactly that, a bar counter in the Hotel Normandie building in Koreatown, in a small space that was once the Dragon Lady Bar. It's a concept that Menes has been trying out for a few years now, as a traveling pop-up restaurant. Le Comptoir had incarnations in the Tiara Cafe downtown, the Wine Vault in Glendale, Olive & Thyme in Burbank, among other locations, as Menes worked on his project, always with the goal of opening his own permanent restaurant.
And now he's realized that dream, opening Le Comptoir by himself, without partners. "I own the restaurant outright," Menes says. "That's been my goal since I started on this journey 19 years ago."
This is not just any garden, any more than Menes' counter is a regular counter. The chef leases the entirety of the Gladys Ave Urban Farm, an organic farm in Long Beach that's been farmed organically since 1983. Menes works the farm every day, with a helper who comes in once a week, and with the sometimes help of Joshua Lu, Menes' apprentice and a senior biochemistry major at UCLA, who also works at Le Comptoir.
And it's that produce that you'll find on your plate at Le Comptoir, or rather the series of plates that make up the multi-course tasting menu that Menes presents over the course of the evening. It's a prix-fixe tasting menu, with supplements (of meat and seafood, of truffles) and optional wine and coffee pairings. Menes' small staff includes Lu, Jason Koh (who works at Eggslut during the day), Randy Moles and Alex Guzman (whose day job is at Bar 9 in Culver City).
Menes pairs his courses with wines, mostly from Central California, and finishes the meal with pour-over coffee — which you order at the beginning of the meal — from Bar 9. It's a fitting end to your dinner, as Menes adds coffee grounds to the compost of the dried leaves and "spent veggies" he uses on his organic farm. The term "farm to table" is often used in current cuisine, but here it actually describes the restaurant and its project. Well, OK, farm to counter.
Le Comptoir's menu changes weekly. The six-course menu is $67 per person, with additional fees for optional supplements. The wine pairing is $40; coffee is $7. There's a corkage fee of $25. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday, with two seatings at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.
Le Comptoir, at the Hotel Normandie, 3606 W. 6th St., Koreatown. lecomptoirla.com.