The amount of secrecy surrounding Trois Mec, the new restaurant by Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook (Animal and Son of a Gun) and Ludo Lefebvre ("The Taste" and Ludo Bites) would rival a top-secret CIA mission. The restaurant is hidden away at the back of a shopping center off Highland in the old Raffallo's pizza joint. The three chefs have kept a tight lid on the partnership and the restaurant concept, until now.
On Wednesday afternoon, the core Trois Mec crew, Shook, Dotolo, Lefebvre, Lefebvre's wife Krissy, director of operations Helen Johannesen and chef de cuisine Doug Rankin, were seated around the restaurant's four tables. The restaurant is still at least four weeks from formal opening -- the sign for the former tenant still hangs atop the building and frosted windows hide any clue as to the space inside.
"We had the sign rewired so it lights up," said Shook. "It's not a priority," interjected Lefebvre. "It's more about what's inside."
What's inside is a complete 180 from the restaurant's shopping center neighbors: a Thai restaurant, dry cleaners and a donut shop. It's an intimate space with shiny marble floors. The wall opposite the kitchen is made of mirrors and more marble. Each table is set against the wall with dark wood benches. There is also seating at the kitchen counter and the restaurant can accommodate around 24 people at a time.
"The concept isn't really a restaurant, it's a kitchen," said Lefebvre of the space. "I want every table to feel like a chef's table."
Everyone was still tight-lipped about the menu, but Krissy did reveal it would be influenced by the French "bistronomie" movement, a modern restaurant movement in France featuring haute cuisine at relatively affordable prices. It will be a set menu priced around $70.
The restaurant isn't slated to open to the public for at least four weeks but Mastercard holders can get a special preview. Beginning April 1, Mastercard holders will be able to book a private preview dinner at Trois Mec as part of the Priceless L.A. program. Members can buy a ticket for dinner, which will take place April 2nd and will include five courses and be priced at $69.
The kitchen area is open with exposed pots and pans, a small four-burner stove, deep-fryer and all the essentials. All of the restaurant's rustic, handmade serving plates are stacked out on the counter. They were made by Los Angeles-based potter Adam Silverman, who helped curate four other artists, one from Japan and three local.
"The idea is to get lost in the place and forget the dry cleaners, the donut shop on the corner and the gas station across the street," said Shook. Although Lefebvre did admit that the first month, he frequented the donut shop and "I gained five pounds," he joked.
Trois Mec will be Lefebvre's first brick-and-mortar restaurant of his own. He has a food truck and the Ludo Bites pop-up restaurants but this will be his first kitchen.
"If you sort of look at what Ludo Bites was, we've always sort of partnered up with people so it seemed to make sense to really take advantage of the backend systems that these guys have so brilliantly put in place," explained Lefebvre's wife Krissy.
Johannesen likened the partnership to a triangle, with Shook and Dotolo at the base and Lefebvre at the top. It will be Lefebvre's restaurant, his food, but he'll be partners with Shook and Dotolo and they will be involved in the operations.
"I love their sense, the way they cook for their customers," said Lefebvre. "It would make sense to find a partner for the front of the house, but we are creating a different model of restaurant with chefs opening up a restaurant together to see all the details."
Lefebvre's concept is all about bringing back fine dining and hospitality to the restaurant scene in Los Angeles. He describes it as "fancy, but not frou frou." And as for the name, it was Lefebvre's idea. It's purposely misspelled without the proper "s" on Mec so "people will pronounce it correctly." It's supposed to mean guys, "but more masculine."
"A lot of what we've been talking about is trying to find that spot between Animal and Providence," said Shook.
Trois Mec 716 N. Highland, Los Angeles, CA 90038
[*This post has been updated 3/28/2013 at 9:23 a.m. : An earlier version of this post listed April 2nd as the date Mastercard holders could purchase the Priceless event tickets. The tickets will go on sale April 1.]