Opening a restaurant is always a gamble, but one without a permanent chef to hang its name on? That's just ballsy. At Fifty Seven, which opened Downtown around the corner from Bestia, the kitchen is all about change. For three months, a Chef in Residence will take over the restaurant, showcasing his talents, experimenting with new dishes, and introducing his cooking style to hungry Angelenos. Then, just like that, another chef will take his place. It is daring, to be sure, but when it works it can give both chefs and patrons a palatable thrill.
The first chef to take up residency was the talented David Nayfeld, formerly with Eleven Madison Park. The menu at Fifty Seven changes more often than the chefs—sometimes daily—but on a recent night there were starters and entrées and desserts that demonstrated exactly why Eleven Madison Park received three Michelin stars under Nayfeld's direction. An ethereal plate of La Tur ($12) came with thinly sliced apples and leaves of radicchio, the aerated cheese dissolving with every blissful bite. Deviled eggs ($8) were bumped up a notch with refreshing celery relish and spicy mustard, and for diners craving a more tart experience, the pickled garden ($12) featured simple vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, beets, squash) with a kick. But it was the meat and fish here that really left an impression: a lamb loin ($22) cooked to perfection was served with bok choy in a simple black garlic purée; a pork chop ($24) with roasted beets avoided the fate of so many overcooked white meats; Maine scallops and red snapper from New Zealand were phenomenal seafood options to choose from.
"I believe in telling a narrative from beginning to end," says Nayfeld, and his desserts—an olive oil palm cake with strawberry ice cream, a take on a pineapple upside-down cake, a beautiful Meyer lemon cake (all $12)—segued so well from his savory dishes. Whether the next chef is able to do the same, time will tell (three months, to be exact).
*The current Chef in Residence at Fifty Seven is Josh Drew.