One thing you don't expect to get in a museum is an aged beef burger topped with a farm-fresh egg and béarnaise sauce. Or a chile relleno stuffed with sweet-savory chorizo and dates. Or even a really good Manhattan. But that's what you'll find at Ray's and Stark Bar, LACMA's new restaurant and adjacent lounge. It's just what the Miracle Mile needed.
When the Patina Group had the opportunity to open a new restaurant at the museum, and one designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano, they wanted to do something new and bold. So Joachim Splichal picked chef Kris Morningstar to run the show.
Over the years, Morningstar has won accolades for his adventurous cuisine at places like District, Mercantile and Blue Velvet. He's known for adding big flavors and unique twists to classics, and getting the best out of seasonal ingredients like roasting whole fava beans in a wood-burning oven.
It's the perfect fit for a restaurant that centers the main entrance of the museum, adjacent to the Reznik Pavilion with the Urban Lights just an eye-shot away. Stark Bar, an outdoor lounge that has some of the best cocktails on this strip of Wilshire, is open during the day and well into the night. A Champagne cocktail like the Steel Magnolia (rum, freshly squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, strawberry, basil) is perfect on this patio.
The dining room is filled with clean, simple lines and style, with little finds in unexpected places, like your silverware tucked into hidden drawers at each table. Morningstar's menu is equally clever.
One of his best dishes is the chorizo-stuffed chile relleno. Not only does it exemplify the kind of food Morningstar is known for, but it's a personal favorite of the chef's. "When I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a fancied up chile relleno at a restaurant near where we grew up," says Morningstar. "It wasn't a Mexican place at all, but that dish really blew me away. It's one of the first times I thought about being a chef."
He's done different versions over the years, but this time it's a blend of Spanish and African flavors, especially with the dates and sweetness in the stuffing. The best part is the homemade chorizo, which has just a hint of cinnamon. It's very easy to make, and here's the recipe:
6 Anaheim chiles
1 pound ground pork
5 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons diced onion
8 ounces goat cheese
4 pitted medjool, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 ½ tablespoons diced garlic
1 bay leaf
½ cup sherry wine
2 cups cream
½ cup toasted almonds, chopped
1. Heat the oven to 500°. On a sheet pan, roast the whole chiles until blistered. Put the chiles in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Peel the skins and carefully remove the stem and seeds, creating a hole at the top of the pepper.
2. In a large bowl, mix the pork with the smoked paprika, paprika, cayenne, salt and cinnamon until well blended. In a large pan, cook the pork mixture until browned, then add ½ cup of onions and cook until soft. Take off the burner and fold in the goat cheese and chopped dates. Set aside to cool. Once cool, stuff into chiles through the hole at the top and refrigerate.
3. In a pan, sweat the garlic and the remaining onions in the butter. Add the bay leaf and sherry and simmer until reduced by half. Add the cream and toasted almond and strain through fine sieve. Set aside.
4. In a 350° degree oven, warm the chiles until hot all the way through, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chiles and serve immediately.
The photo on this post is compliments of Ray's and Stark Bar.