Seven months ago, Matt Molina, who holds the title Best Chef Pacific from the James Beard Foundation, left Osteria Mozza, where he was executive chef. What’s he been doing since? Planning a new bar — with food — in the downtown Arts District with Randy Clement of Silver Lake Wine.
It’s called E.R.B., short for Everson Royce Bar, and it’s right next door to the new Silver Lake Wine shop on the southwest corner of 7th and Mateo.
Clement and Molina were hired within a couple of days of each other at Campanile in 1998 or 1999 (they can’t quite remember). Clement later peeled off to open Silver Lake Wine with his wife, April Langford, and George Cossette, another Campanile alum.
“I joke with Randy,” says Molina, “that he’s coming out of retirement.” After a decade of selling wine, Clement wants to get back to the business of hospitality. Not as a server, exactly, but as proprietor of a neighborhood bar where, as he puts it, people have a drink while we’re standing next to them.
The team he’s put together is formidable. There’s Molina. And also Chris Ojeda, who started the Varnish in 2009 with Eric Alperin and was most recently, Creative Global Bar Director for Soho House. (Great title.) He knows Molina from Osteria Mozza, where he opened the bar and created the bar menu with Alperin.
Then there’s Joe Capella, one of Silver Lake Wine’s first customers, who made 360 out of 370 of the tastings there in a row. He got so intrigued with wine that one day he came in and asked Clement for some advice about changing careers. The conversation didn’t get very far before Clement said, “Why don’t we just open something together?” That something is Everson Royce, a wine shop in Pasadena. The two are partners in ERB as well.
The location at 7th and Mateo has been a bar for at least 100 years, says Capella. The ERB folks haven’t done much to the long narrow space since they got it six months ago — just cleaned it up and painted a little. Working with designer Rachel Hill, they did take out the booths that ran along one wall and put in a long tufted blue banquette with small wooden tables in front. The 40-foot stretch of marble-topped bar has been there forever. So has the back patio.
“We’re not going to try too hard,” says Clement. “We’re not trying to show off we have this kind of glassware or this fancy $82-million stove. We just want a good place that we can all be proud of. “
First of all, ERB is a bar. And Chris Ojedo will be behind the bar, not just consulting.
“Matt told me this is going to be the bar for the people, and so we’re going to let the people decide what it will be,” Ojeda says. “We’re not coming in with the notion that this is going to be a whisky bar or a wine bar or that we’re going to specialize in a certain style of cocktail, like tiki or amaro-driven. We’re going to have a little bit of everything.”
The cocktail list will be small, just 8 to 10 cocktails, but the bartenders will be able to make everything. “This is the bar where you can get any drink well made,” says Ojeda. “We’ll have good ingredients. We’ll have great spirits. All our juices will be fresh.”
Clement, of course, is taking care of the wine, which will include eight wines on draft to match the eight beers on tap. He has no idea how big the wine list will be, maybe 50 bottles to start. The important thing, he says, is that every wine on it will be something they’re excited about and want to share with people.
And the food? The kitchen is small, furnished with just a six-burner stove, a convection oven, a griddle and some fryers. But that doesn’t seem to faze Molina a bit. "This is lo-fi. No showing off.”
If you ask about dishes, Molina grins and says he’s enjoyed the time off between projects when he could cook anything on his mind. And that’s sort of what he plans to do here.
“I don’t want to make fancy food,” he says, “I’ve been there, done that.” When pressed for specifics, he comes back with really good prosciutto instead of a charcuterie plate. Warm biscuits. Maybe gougères, but they take a little long to bake. He mentions pork and shrimp dumplings, pork buns — or baked clams.
“The kind of things that’d you’d want to eat with your hands,” he says. "Baked clams! Served with a bottle of Tabasco and some Muscadet. Just stuff like that.”
They all insist the neighborhood will tell them what it wants. “There’ll be no eyebrows raised here,” says Ojeda.
Everson Royce Bar, 1936 E. 7th Street, Los Angeles, (213) 335-6166, no website yet. Open 5 p.m to 2 a.m. seven days a week starting Friday.
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