In a blow to fine dining in Los Angeles, Hatfield’s, the 8-year-old restaurant from chef-owners Karen and Quinn Hatfield, will close its doors at the end of December. Just down the street from the rollicking scene at the complex of Mozza restaurants and Trois Mec and Petit Trois, the cool, minimalist haute cuisine restaurant has struggled to find an audience in recent years, despite Quinn Hatfield's intricate but accessible dishes and Karen Hatfield’s beautifully crafted desserts.
In a phone conversation, Karen Hatfield told me that the two of them were really passionate about that kind of restaurant for years; the first half of their careers was spent working in fine dining restaurants.
"For a long time that's all we thought about. We spent our free time eating in the best restaurants wherever we lived or traveled. And we were very focused on creating a fine dining restaurant," she said. Happy with what they've achieved with Hatfield's, now the couple wants to go on to something different.
Hatfield's started out on Beverly Boulevard in 2006 in the space that became Eva Restaurant and is now Open Sesame. Four years later they moved into grander digs in the former Citrus space. And it was so old school, or traditional, at the time that cooks wore tall toques in the glassed-in kitchen.
In a 2010 review after Hatfield's move to Melrose Avenue, I wrote: “While everybody else is running as fast as they can for the food truck, pop-up restaurant or small-plates dive, here's one heroic and hardworking chef who is standing his ground and going for fine dining. I, for one, am cheering for Hatfield's all the way.”
Hatfield’s may be going away, but the Hatfields aren’t leaving the restaurant business. The Sycamore Kitchen, their bakery and cafe on La Brea Avenue, is alive and well, serving up Karen Hatfield’s chocolate croissants and almond-scented brioche, blueberry financiers and walnut galettes, along with classic and inventive salads and sandwiches. Surprisingly, neither of them had ever worked in a restaurant like that and it felt liberating, she says.
The married couple also plans to open a more casual churrasco and grill concept called Odys & Penelope, just a few doors down from Sycamore Kitchen, a few days after Hatfield's closes. (They didn't plan it that way.) The menu will focus on Quinn Hatfield’s recent obsessions — grilling and smoking. "I think we like to be challenged," Karen Hatfield said. The huge wood-fired grill and smoker they're installing at the new restaurant will certainly be a challenge. She added: "There's no fun in doing what you know how to do for a million years."
"It's like how to get over an old boyfriend," Karen Hatfield said of closing the fine dining restaurant. "Get a new one."
During its tenure, Hatfield's earned three stars from the Los Angeles Times, four from Los Angeles magazine and a Michelin star from the one (and only) Michelin Guide Los Angeles. In 2010, Bon Appetit dubbed it one of the 10 best new restaurants in America.
And so it goes, as Angelenos opt for more casual dining.
Meanwhile, I’m very much looking forward to the debut of Odys & Penelope. So what’s in the name? Says Karen Hatfield: "Corinthian columns inherited from the space's original tenant, a printing press, sparked the inspiration for the restaurant's name, which pays tribute to the legendary couple Odysseus and Penelope of Homer's Greek epic, 'The Odyssey'."
Wonder if there will be anything Greek on the menu?
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