A Side of Drama

At Terra Cotta, a glamorous dining room at the Wiltern Theatre, Danny Ye puts a fresh spin on cooking that draws from Korean tradition.

The name of this 150-seat restaurant on the Wiltern’s ground floor is an allusion to the tiles on the landmark building’s exterior but also to glazed cookware and Chinese archaeological figures. Chandeliers dangle from ceilings 20 feet above a communal table as long as a Texas rancher’s runway. In high-backed booths happy groups sip vineyard-designated cab as they sample Danny Ye’s refined yet robust cooking, which draws from Korean tradition without being constrained by it.

The crosscut ribs of the kalbi toban arrive on a mess of stewed onions, while the ají rub on the hamachi collar channels Peru. California-grown tamanishiki rice retains its bite whether draped with uni and salmon egg ikura or boosted with squid ink and kimchi; last-minute, plancha-cooked prawns provide the final grace note to the comforting dish. You might find whelks tossed with scallion at drinking spots along Olympic, but Ye gives the sea snails the escargot treatment. Slicing the mollusks so that they can be picked up with chopsticks, he sautés them in herb butter before deglazing them in sake. He adds the fiery chili paste gochujang—stretched with vinegar—and finishes with dehydrated miso. Quietly creative, the appetizer works beautifully.

The 38-year-old USC grad trained and cooked under Nobu Matsuhisa for eight years before joining Cris Lee, the restaurateur behind 6th Street’s big-volume BBQ depot Kang Ho-dong Baekjeong, and other veteran front-of-the house folks. GM Susie Moon (formerly of Odys + Penelope) brings polish to the service, while beverage director Michael Nemcik (Sotto) good-naturedly takes on an educational role. In a neighborhood of soju and shots, Nemcik parries by suggesting a stout to accompany the mandarin mousse with black sesame, stocking a chilled champagne cart, and, in the spirit of K-Town, pouring until 2 a.m. “At that time,” he asks rhetorically, “where else are you going to get a glass of riesling?”