Jessica Koslow, the chef of Sqirl in East Hollywood, and Gabriela Cámara, best known as the chef of Mexico City fixture Contramar, will open Onda in June at the Proper Hotel in Santa Monica.
While there’s only so much stock to put in a name — squirrels having, at best, regional gastronomic appeal, and Contramar meaning “against the sea” even though the restaurant is one of Mexico City’s premier seafood restaurants — the duo says Onda, which means “wave” in Spanish, references their new restaurant’s proximity to the Pacific and is also a nod to the friends “being on the same wavelength,” Koslow said.
“We have a similar approach even if our restaurants are very different — but a similar approach to how it should feel,” she said in a phone interview.
The opening of Onda will bring Koslow to the Westside after plans for her second restaurant, Tel, fell apart last year. It will also be her first time running a full-scale operation with a dining room and dinner service.
The menu at Onda is still in the planning stages.
“Will we do chilaquiles? An open fish? A tostada?” said Koslow, referencing a number of the menu staples of Contramar. “Yes. There’s no way we can just reiterate Contramar dishes, but there will be homages, and then we’ll figure out how Sqirl fits in. Probably in our severe dedication to the market, texture stuff, adding layers of fermented flavors to salsas.”
This will be the first SoCal restaurant for Cámara, who also runs Cala in San Francisco and Entremar in Mexico City.
“I look forward to the intervention of it,” she said, “to these waves of influence coming over it.”
The two have cooked together before, including a formative pop-up at Contramar in May. Cámara said she was excited to find another cook who shared her views — and even the same birthday.
“We are on the same frequencies about many important things about food and hospitality,” Cámara said. “Our food came together nicely, and Jessica had this offer from the Proper people and she just popped the question.”
The Proper Hotel is scheduled to open in May; Onda is slated to open the third week of June. The restaurant will be at 710 Wilshire Blvd. in the Santa Monica Professional Building, built in 1928 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.
Onda will be connected to the hotel’s lobby by an outdoor walkway. It will seat 26 outside and 115 inside, in a space with a big open kitchen outfitted with a grill and a dining room designed by Kelly Wearstler, who oversees design for the hotel group, in collaboration with Scott Barry, one of the partners in Sqirl.
Separately, Koslow is debuting Sqirl Away — a quick-service version of her breakfast-and-lunch spot — at the Frieze Los Angeles art fair Friday through Sunday at Paramount Pictures.