Photos: How Alma's Ari Taymor Reimagined Food At The Standard Hotel
For a time, chef Ari Taymor's downtown restaurant Alma was at the center of L.A.'s food world: Bon Appétit named it the best new U.S. restaurant of 2013, Taymor received honors from Food and Wine and the James Beard Foundation, and Angelenos jockeyed for a table. All that came to a close in October 2015, when the restaurant shuttered its doors. A few short months later, however, Taymor returned with Alma, which had shape-shifted into pop-up form with a three-month residency at The Standard West Hollywood. That three-month residency soon extended into a six-month stay, and in late July, The Standard announced Taymor and his partner Ashleigh Parsons would be setting up shop at the hotel for good—in a role that would extend far beyond the Alma reincarnation.
This summer, Taymor and Parson took over the entire food and beverage program at The Standard's West Hollywood hotel, spearheading everything from the hotel's restaurants to room service, and, of course, the all day pool menu (our personal favorite). So what does it look like when an acclaimed young chef known for running a small, hands-on restaurant takes over the entire food program for a sizable hotel?
Pretty damn good, as it turns out. Taymor told LAist that one of the first things he did upon taking over was to switch all the sourcing (not just for the restaurants, but also for room service, the pool deck and events) over to his farmers' market sources.
The effects of the switch go beyond the plate, Taymor explained. "All of the money that we're spending on food here is going into local food systems, working with small farmers and small businesses," Taymor told LAist. "That's one of the things we were most excited about, being able to have that kind of impact on the food system."
There are, of course, challenges to altering the scale of a chef's operations so drastically.
"It's about figuring out how to set it up so that [everything] comes out of the kitchen efficiently and consistently. And being able to make food that still has a lot of care and effort put into it, but is also accessible to all different skill levels of cooks. That's the challenge: trying to be really ambitious with the food, but also remember that it's volume, it's consistency, and it's just a different kind of cooking."
"In the restaurant itself [formerly The Standard's diner] we do Alma," Taymor said. "It's a little bit more composed, and the flavor profiles are a little bit less classic. We can do more adventurous things there. It's very much like what we were doing downtown, but in an a la carte format as opposed to a tasting menu."
A number of Alma staples have also carried over from the original downtown Alma, including the seaweed and tofu beignets, and the uni, buratta and caviar english muffins.
"We have a little bit of crossover between the two, but for the most part the restaurant is separate from the all day dining," Taymor said.
The Standard's new all day menu is something close to the platonic ideal of poolside food, albeit a slightly more elevated form. The fare is creative without a whiff of pretension. The cheeseburger and lobster roll are both fantastic.
Other highlights include Taymor's spirited riffs on low-key staples, like the addictive kimchi cashews. Close your eyes and imagine what it would taste like if one of the country's most promising chefs decided to funnel his talent into inventing the world's best bar nuts, fine-tuned to salty, sweet perfection with kimchee fish sauce. The kimchi is made in house before being dehydrated and then ground into a powder.
Equally inventive—and addictive—are Taymor's puffed onions. He describes them as being "like Funyuns," though we'd probably characterize them as being more like the hot, sophisticated older sister of the Frito-Lay favorite. Taymor and his team use onions and tapioca to make a paste which they steam and dehydrate into something vaguely resembling plastic sheets. They then put the whole thing to the fryer where, as the tapioca reacts to the hot oil, they puff up and resemble pork skin chicharrones.
For diners looking for a side of politics, The Standard Hotel will be hosting Standard Votes debate and election screenings starting Monday at both their locations, and yes, you'll be able to order off the all day menu.
The Standard West Hollywood is located at 8300 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood (323) 650-9090.