A chic, sophisticated new addition has popped up on La Brea – KASS Wine Bar + Restaurant – courtesy of Michelin starred and world-renowned Chef Christophe Émé, who is offering an approachable French dinner menu and unparalleled wine list.
A 40-seat dining room with an open kitchen to watch the culinary team work their artistic magic sits adjacent to a classy intimate bar stripped of pretention. Enter into a streetside minimalist cozy lounge patio with woven rattan nest chairs and low tables to sip a bottle of vino and mingle pre-dinner. This place immediately feels grown up, as we watch a refined crowd sprinkle in and fill up the restaurant by 7:30 PM.
The wine menu enthralls me immediately as red, white, sparkling (Champagne and Not “Champagne”), and rose wines are categorized by flavor profiles like fruity, energetic, muscular, bright, juicy, plush, or earthy. After sampling a few reds with dinner, the earthy wine from the Loire Valley from Domaine Fillatreau wins over my taste buds. Wine Consultant Taylor Parsons curated the wine list to provide pleasure and not intimidation to match the neighborhood and dishes. Seventy percent of the menu consists of French wines (with an emphasis on the chef’s home region, the Loire Valley) while the other varietals come from California and Europe.
After twenty-five years as a powerhouse in the fine dining industry, you may know Chef Christophe Émé from former Michelin Star Ortolan on W. 3rd St. Regardless of the stars, we were wowed all evening as the few-months-old restaurant delivered an array of artistically presented courses on museum-worthy plates. Food was elegantly displayed on dishware featuring patterns in nature or glassware filled with sand, while the table nearby was presented with a mini Japanese charcoal grill.
Our wine-paired dinner included a menu of exquisitely concocted plates where various ingredients were hiding, like roasted turbo mingled with black truffle risotto, clams and morel mushrooms sprinkled in a petite liquid cream pea pot donned with herbs, and unexpected truffle oil drizzled over tuna sashimi. A “surprise, that’s a beet, too” appeared with a multi-color beet salad atop black lentils showcased on an oval glass plate filled with sand, almost too colorful and pretty to eat.
Heartier stand-out concoctions included the simple potato gnocchi with asparagus and shaved truffle, not masked by a sauce, and a tender braised beef cheek atop braised cabbage. Other reasons to return include the Croque Monsieur, homemade lobster ravioli, tortellini, and classic scrambled eggs caviar. Not staying for dinner? Pop into the Wine Bar for cheese, charcuterie, and oysters to accompany your wine selections.
The desserts were even more memorable, which made me think a wine nightcap with dessert at KASS Wine Bar makes an excellent grand date finale. A rice-type pudding hidden under caramel gelato made a close first tie win with the panne cotta topped with a syrupy strawberry glaze where you could expertly select a bite with fractional parts of your choice for each ingredient.
Another rich and silky pannacotta (Italian custard) floated like an island in a round bowl covered with tangerines creating a flavorful blend of sweet and sour. If you wish to keep with French tradition, a chocolate mousse paired with chocolate gelato on a bed of chocolate cookie crumbs with berries may warm your lover’s heart OR stomach.
If you have spent time in France, you may recognize that French culinary expertise that Chef Christophe Émé brings forth. He grew up in the Loire Valley and learned the joy of cooking at an early age. At the age of sixteen, Émé began an apprenticeship at the Hôtel de France in Angers before embarking on a journey that has propelled him across the globe, sharpening his skills at some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants. From Auberge des Templiers, to Auberge de l’Eridan in the French Alps, to the opulent Taillevent, Émé has worked with such culinary legends as Gerard Rabaey, Marc Veyrat, Michel Rostang, Philippe Braun, and Philippe Legendre.
Arriving in the United States in 2001, Émé made his way to Los Angeles as Executive Chef at the highly revered L’Orangerie where he challenged perceptions and French cooking technique by renouncing cream and butter sauces in favor of complexly layered emulsions and natural jus.
Kass Wine Bar and Restaurant is a welcome addition to bustling La Brea’s evergrowing food scene. “KASS is an involved experience; I want guests to come in for the atmosphere as much for the wine and the food,” says Émé.
320 South La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036