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Get A Taste Of This L.A.-Inspired Pop-Up In A Barbershop Before It Heads To Europe

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Coconut ceviche with striped bass, kalamansi and coconut vinegar will be on the menu at the Barbershop pop-up (Photo courtesy of Barbershop Ristorante)
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A celebrated Italian chef will host one last farewell pop-up in Los Angeles before taking his show on the road. Chef Walter El Nagar has hosted pop-up dinners known as Barbershop Ristorante around L.A. for the past several years, and this time he's bringing the project inside an actual barbershop: Service & Supply in Venice. Just don't show up expecting a trim. Beginning tonight, El Nagar will host his latest rendition of the dinner series, featuring playful new dishes and highlights from past events, all of which draw upon flavors from the diverse array of cuisines found throughout L.A. The five-course pop-up will run Tuesdays and Wednesdays until April 20, after which it will head to Europe for a touring dinner series.

El Nagar tells LAist that his style of cooking has been very much influenced by his time spent here in the city:

We lead with the clear idea that I am an Italian chef, but my cuisine has been influenced by Mexican, by Peruvian, by Korean, by Japanese, by the many cuisines found in Los Angeles. But I would not define it as fusion, it's just the evolution of my style over the past seven years. So, now that I go back to Europe, am I still the Italian chef that I was seven years ago? I don't think so. Now, I can say that I am a Los Angeles chef. And I just realized this now that we are getting ready to leave.

The five-course pop-up will begin with several snacks to start, including a prawns crudo, before diving into a Filipino-inspired coconut ceviche with striped bass with kalamansi citrus. The menu will also include a risotto dish inspired by El Nagar's hometown Milan, featuring asparagus, bacon and egg yolk, as well as an "exploded xiao long bao" with pork jowls, sea urchin and puffed wanton. The feast will conclude with a tart that includes avocado, chocolate and passion fruit. All of the dishes will use locally sourced ingredients and there will be a wine pairing available.

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Shrimp Crudo (Photo courtesy of Barbershop Ristorante)
El Nagar tells us that when he takes the pop-up abroad, he may utilize local ingredients wherever he travels, but the myriad of styles found in L.A. shape how he approaches the dishes, "The lens...I use will transform the ingredients in a very different way," he explains. "One day the lens could be Mexican, one day it could be Korean, but the ingredients will be whatever I find over there."

Prior to his more recent nomadic pop-up projects, El Nagar spent over five years lending his modern Italian sensibilities and training to kitchens around L.A., including the since-closed Il Grano and La Botte. Prior to that, he spent time traveling and cooking around Mexico and previously Europe. In L.A., he ran successful pop-ups at places like Japanese Knife Imports in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Yacht Club and the former AOC space. El Nagar tells LAist that the Barbershop Ristorante was partly inspired by a private dining space at Il Grano that at one time had been an actual barbershop.

Faced with the financial hurdles of opening his own restaurant and not wanting to compromise his culinary vision with the competing interests of investors, El Nagar decided to opt for the more flexible pop-up format. And now, having popped-up all over town, he's decided to expand the vision beyond the city and bring what he's gleaned here to diners across the pond. The dinners will begin in June in Barcelona, followed by Ibiza and ultimately conclude in his hometown after about a six-month sojourn. Following that, he says the dinners could go further. "We may go to Hong Kong or Dubai or Tel Aviv, who knows?" El Nagar tells us. "In a way it's a bit scary, but it's also very exciting."

The five-course prix fixe is $75 per person with an optional $25 wine pairing. Seatings are are available at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Reservations are available 7 days in advance and can be made here.

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The Barbershop Ristorante pop-up will take place at Service & Supply, 436 Lincoln Ave, Venice, California 90291.

Update: The final week of the Barbershop Ristorante pop-up (April 19, 20) will take place at the Wilshire Loft, 700 Wilshire Blvd., Downtown L.A.