Name of restaurant: Hamptons 818. And yes, there's a story behind the name. Massimo De Marco, who is the former VP of operations for SBE Entertainment (which oversees the Bazaar restaurants), was vacationing in Southampton last spring, along with designer Dana Hathaitham. While there, the pair met Rafik and Ramy Louka, owners of Vibe Cafe on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, now occupied by Hamptons 818. While eating lobster rolls and sipping on Prosecco, the four came up with the idea to bring a Hamptons-inspired restaurant to the San Fernando Valley.
Where you are: Just east of Sepulveda Boulevard and the 405 freeway. The entire restaurant is made to feel like you're outside, as it has a semi-open, retractable roof. Sitting at one of the wooden tables, under hanging twinkling lights, surrounded by brick and white-washed wood paneled walls, you're supposed to feel as if you're at a beachside restaurant in the Hamptons, in the middle of summer. It's casual, and that beach vacation vibe is there, but as soon as you call your Uber after dinner, you're right back in the San Fernando Valley.
Must order for brunch: The menu, the result of a collaboration between De Marco and "Food Network" star chef Penny Davidi, leans Meditteranean. So along with the very good cornflake-crusted French toast and lobster eggs Benedict with saffron hollandaise sauce, you can order shakshouka, which arrives at the table bubbling in a cast-iron skillet. The tomato sauce is just a tad sweet, and the eggs, oh, so runny. It's served with a side of hot pita bread for dunking.
Must order any other time of day: The nachos, which are probably not the nachos you're used to, not even a little. Triangles of fried pita — crisp around the edges but slightly chewy in the middle — are piled high on a rectangular plate, topped with a tangy feta cheese sauce, then more feta cheese and kalamata olives. The beef filet kebab with basmati rice can also quell any craving you may have for Persian kebab and cherry rice, only the Hamptons 818 version comes with cranberries.
To drink: The name may be Hamptons 818, but this is still Los Angeles. So if you want a kale, green apple, ginger and lemon juice (called the Hulk on the menu), you can order that with your avocado, burrata and pomegranate toast. Yes, there's a things-on-toast section of the menu. If you're looking for a cocktail that screams I-wish-I-was-in-the-Hamptons-and-not-Sherman-Oaks, try the Ginger Basil Martini (fresh ginger, basil and vodka), or ask for your Hulk spiked with Prosecco.
Because, Nutella: Rather than an ice cream sandwich for dessert, there's a gelato sandwich. A croissant the size of a frisbee is sliced in half, then filled with a couple scoops of gelato, then topped with thick ribbons of Nutella. Need we say more?
After-dinner activity: Around 9 p.m., the hookah masters — young men dressed in black with expertly manicured facial hair — emerge from the back of the restaurant, carrying metal and glass hookahs to almost every table. There's a pretty extensive menu of flavors. If you order one of the glass hookahs, it's smoked on top of the table, and there's a light that changes colors in the middle of the bowl. As you approach 11 p.m., the dining room quickly turns from a beachside Hamptons restaurant into a hazy hookah den somewhere in the Middle East. Or maybe a kind of San Fernando Valley Lebanese restaurant. Either way, you're good.