Making Last Minute Valentine’s Day Plans? Museum Dining Has Arrived

World-renowned chefs are opening new spots in world-class museums and cultural institutions across town.

It’s a wonderful L.A. pursuit to view art from Rembrandt to Rauschenberg and even Dorothy’s iconic ruby red slippers, but you might need a Michelin-level meal after all that culture and contemplation.

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino was ahead of the curve, currently undergoing a $7.5 million renovation that will expand the historic Rose Garden Tea Room. Set to be completed in 2022, it will include a new pavilion and outdoor patio amid the Shakespeare Garden. The institution also recently hosted a pop-up with acclaimed chef David Chang and American Express Platinum on the mansion grounds to keep patrons satiated.

In the Miracle Mile, the Drago Bros. have been serving their Italian family recipes at the Petersen Automotive Museum for the past five years and Ray’s and Stark Bar (operated by Patina Restaurant Group) remains across the street at LACMA, but the Academy Museum next door has opened Fanny’s with chef Raphael Francois (Tesse in West Hollywood and Le Cirque in New York) at the helm.

The partnership was slowly hatched with restaurateur Bill Chait (who opened Otium adjacent to The Broad) and Carl Schuster (former Wolfgang Puck catering president) after joining forces for Eli Broad’s 80th birthday at Sony Studios in 2013.

For this dream team, it was important to build a Hollywood restaurant that evokes a feeling of a special occasion, as though you’ve stepped into another era. Think the Brown Derby, Chasen’s, and The Bistro Garden. “The big reveal when you walked in was a large part of what made those restaurants so amazing,” says Chait, “along with great service, which is still arguably the best product of the restaurant business.”

Translating that to the modern world meant that it had to be chef driven as well. Chef Francois had worked at Michelin-star restaurants but was interested in crafting more approachable food. “He had the stature but also the flexibility and breadth of menu,” Chait says.

With tableside presentations for the dinner service, the team will bring back something that had been lost. The layered rollout menu will include seafood from a woodburning grill, côte de boeuf, tableside-prepared Dover sole, and flambe crêpe suzette. A partnership with Wolfgang Puck Catering will serve larger-scale museum events.

Cocktails by Julian Cox also have retro representation and are named after film characters, and art by cartoonist Konstantin Kakanias gracing the Commune-designed interiors.

In the former Patina space occupied by acclaimed chef Joachim Splichal, whose restaurant group still operates an indoor-outdoor café at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, chef Ray Garcia has taken over the kitchen at Walt Disney Concert Hall with operating partner Levy.

Over at UCLA’s Hammer Museum in Westwood, iconic food activist Alice Waters has opened her first L.A. restaurant, Lulu, along with chef and writer David Tanis (Chez Panisse in Berkeley) and Hammer Director Ann Philbin. The market-driven courtyard eatery advocates for school-supported agriculture; former First Lady Michelle Obama has already been a guest for the rotating three-course prix fixe menu. You can also view an iconic Jorge Pardo mosaic wall while eating off plates and bowls made by ceramicist Shoshi Watanabe, so it’s an art-filled meal from any perch.