It’s not exactly the first time that a trip to Paris motivated change. In the case of Santos Uy, who opened Bacaro LA and Mignon wine bars with Daniel Kronfli, his April visit led to a new restaurant called Papilles. The name, which means “tastebuds” in French, grew from nightly visits to a fresh wave of French bistros that practice bistronomy, an approach that led top chefs to turn their backs on the Michelin star system in favor of seasonal, food-first meals presented in often-simple settings.
Uy was so inspired by the food that he considered attending culinary school and even staged in Los Angeles, but ultimately decided to partner with an executive chef, who’s still cooking at a high-profile L.A. restaurant and hasn’t given his notice yet. Thus, his name will have to wait.
Leading up to the opening, Uy and his chef have been hosting a series of preview dinners at a downtown loft, preparing representative dishes for invited friends, family and writers, including me. The day of our preview – August 18 – Uy signed a lease on the strip mall location of Raffallo’s Pizza at 6221 Franklin Avenue, which will house 24-30 seats. Ana Henton from MASS Architecture is designing Papilles, which Uy predicts should be “up and running before November.”
Uy said using seasonal, farm-to-table ingredients “shouldn’t be a question” at this point, and that technique and whimsy will factor into a three-course menu that changes weekly, “like Chez Panisse, but on a smaller scale.” The cost will be $25 – $40 per night, depending on ingredients. They’ll also offer luxurious supplements like caviar, foie gras torchon and truffles, when they’re in season. Nothing will be vegan, though they will have dishes that allow for vegetarian-friendly exclusions.
Uy, who worked at establishments like Silverlake Wine and AOC before becoming an entrepreneur, said the wine program will be “aggressive” and French heavy, with a lot of natural and orange wines. Diners will be able to pull bottles from the wall, just like in a home cellar.
The chef began by preparing a chilled almond gazpacho with olive oil, figs, Marcona almonds, almond oil and a Parmesan cheese tuile. He followed that up with a play on Nicoise, with seared tuna alternating with red potatoes, a fried quail egg, Kalamata olives, criss-crossed haricot vert and yellow wax beans, fried capers, and dots of arugula-spinach coulis and sherry vinaigrette.