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First Impressions: Ray's @ LACMA


Restaurants & Bars Los Angeles Area

First Impressions: Ray's @ LACMA

aching | | Mar 28, 2011 08:36 AM

Hubby and I visited LACMA on Saturday and had lunch at the new restaurant there, Ray's. Full disclosure - I've done some work at LACMA and really love it there, so I was definitely predisposed to like Ray's. Even so, I'm pleased to report that my expectations were exceeded.

It's located in a little glass box that was built on the east side of the new plaza (BP Grand Entrance Pavilion, according to the map). Ray's is the restaurant, and Stark Bar, which is an open-air patio, is right next to it. Despite being a very chilly afternoon, Stark Bar was packed - but we opted for Ray's. I loved the space as soon as we walked in - although it is brand new, it has a very mid-century modern feeling, with a bright red and white color scheme and three walls of full-height glass windows and doors. The fourth wall is masonry and mostly covered by colorful fabric panels (wow, acoustical design in a restaurant - how novel!). On this wall were two glass vitrines that had teacups in them, from the namesake Ray Stark's personal collection, according to the menu. The furniture was also MCM; the tables had Saarinen-esque tulip bases but with plywood tops. The tops had a little drawer at each seat that contained the place-setting - totally unnecessary, but rather charming nonetheless.

The menu was a fascinating read - the executive chef is Kris Morningstar, who I think is a very creative talent, and it was refreshing not to see the same old California cuisine on the menu. We started with warm bread and butter for the table, which was absolutely delicious (is anything better than warm bread on a cold day?), then moved on to an appetizer called "Chile", which is described as "Wood roasted chile, chorizo, dates, local goat cheese, almond sauce" and was delectable - I would order it again in a heartbeat. For my entree, I got "Bacon", which is "Wood grilled Benton’s bacon, wilted chicory, grain mustard, buttered bread, sunny egg, pickled onion." I wanted to love this dish, but I have to admit, it defeated me. I love salt, fat, and strong flavors - but this dish, which was not a large portion, had too much of all three for me. The first three bites were great - I think it would have worked better as a much smaller appetizer. But you know how sometimes you don't love a dish and it makes you completely lose interest in the restaurant? This was not the case at all for me here - I can't wait to go back and try something else. We finished with a rhubarb crisp with vanilla ice cream, which was fantastic.

Service was well-intentioned but a little confused - since they've been open less than a month, I imagine they're still working out the kinks.

Overall, I found Ray's to be delightfully different. I've been to a lot of museums and eaten at a lot of museum cafes, and this one really stands out (and eating at LACMA was always so depressing before, so that makes it even better).

Information and menus here:

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