Last weekend, Grant Smillie and his team, including Axwell of Swedish House Mafia opened the doors to their multi-level LA restaurant and sprawling rooftop bar E.P. & L.P. Dubbed one of LA's most anticipated restaurant openings by LA Eater, Louis Tikaram, former head chef of Sydney's Longrain heads up the kitchen, serving LA its first taste of the South-East Asian fare all Aussies already know and love.
You've literally just opened the doors. How are you feeling?
Grant Smillie: Ha! That's easy - exhausted! It's been a really long road to get here, but like they say - if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
What did you aim to create with E.P. & L.P. as a venue and experience?
GS: I felt that Asian food 'the Australian way' was not being [represented] in LA. In addition to that, I love rooftop and outdoor venues [Smillie co-owns Melbourne's Ponyfish Island] and wanted to do something that replicated that experience. Our site is pretty significant in scale and I was lucky enough to secure Projects Of Imagination (Chin Chin, Supernormal) to design the space. They've managed to give each location it's own unique feel.
Axwell of Swedish House Mafia is an investor and partner, you are not only a restaurateur but also a DJ, what role does music play in this project?
GS: It certainly plays a part, but it's not the main driver. My goal at L.P. (which is the rooftop) is for people to not necessarily know much of the music at all - it should be there to set a mood and create a texture. You can have a lot of fun with the lobby and the restaurant is a bustling hub that has a lot of French electronica throughout. Of course E.P. stands for 'Extended Play' and L.P. stands for 'Long Play,' referring to vinyl records. And Frankie's, the private bar on the rooftop is named in honour of Frankie Knuckles, so we better get it right!
How did Axwell's involvement come about?
GS: Ax and I go way back. We met when he came to Australia for the first time and we've stayed firm friends. He has a serious passion for food and has a restaurant in Stockholm which he's a partner in. When I told him I was doing this project, he came and saw the space and was instantly on board, which was great.
Are there any discrete music influences at the venue or in the menu?
GS: The copper turntable is a winner, as is the copper microphone in the lobby. The cocktail list also has some cheeky music references to look out for, like 'California Love,' 'Stairway To Heaven,' 'Bittersweet Symphony,' and '99 Problems But A Herb Ain't One!'
Louis Tikaram, former head chef of Sydney's Longrain and recipient of the 2013 Josephine Pignolet Best Young Chef Award heads up the kitchen. Was it important to have an Australian chef on the team?
GS: It's absolutely critical - his DNA is one that replicates our vision for the project. To be able to secure someone of his calibre was a great testament to him understanding what it is that we're looking to achieve here. Equally, having additional Australian partners (living in LA) in Ashley Hart and Buck Palmer means we can really deliver our service model.
Louis, you made the move to LA about six months ago to take this position, what excites you the most about introducing your cuisine to LA?
LT: All the produce I use in my cuisine grows so well in SoCal and it's available from small Filipino, Vietnamese and Thai family farms. I'm excited to promote these exotic, yet locally grown ingredients to the LA locals and bring them a new take on Asian cuisine.
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Which dish on the menu are you most proud of?
LT: Probably my Nama Sea pearls - this was one of the first dishes I learned to cook with my grandma in Fiji and to have it on my menu is so beautiful. Every time I serve it to a customer it seems surreal.
This is completely random - but is it true you went to Mullimbimby High with Iggy Azalea?!
LT: Yeah, LOL... [laughs]
What was she like at school? What inside goss can you give us?
LT: Different! She was quiet and you would have never picked her to become one of the biggest pop sensations of our generation. I think we had the same dream of getting out of the small town and living in the country that inspired us in so many ways - though now she's killing it in the Hollywood Hills with Swaggy P and I'm stuck in the dish pit [laughs].
Grant, this might be a little premature, but what's next for you? Is it true there's talk of another LA venue?
GS: You must have inside info! I did once have the motto of, 'Sleep when you're dead' and yes we're looking at another site. However, I really want to focus on getting E.P. dialed in first.
E.P. & L.P. is located on the corner of Melrose and La Cienega, West Hollywood, eplosangeles.com.