As anybody who has ever moved to Los Angeles from pretty much anywhere in the world knows, this overwhelming patchwork metropolis of ours can be a difficult place to navigate and settle. Now land a celebrated Australian chef of Fijian-Chinese-Indian heritage in the middle of L.A. during one of the city’s most exciting culinary moments and see how he figures out the food culture, which is just about as vast, varied, and complex as our freeway system but much tastier.
Hailing from Australia, 29-year-old award-winning chef Louis Tikaram relocated to L.A. only six months ago. But as someone who has traveled extensively in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, Tikaram has taken to the City of Angels like a Prius to the HOV lane.
What the chef, who is about to open his E.P. & L.P restaurant in May, finds the most alluring is our street food scene. And even at this embryonic stage of his eating explorations, Tikaram has discovered some hyper-local gems—one of his faves is the “tire shop taqueria” in South L.A.’s Llantas Usadas El Jarocho parking lot. “I love driving around, exploring, finding food. That’s how I’m learning the city,” Tikaram says.
He also loves the Thai food at Spicy BBQ and cruises to Compton for his barbecue cravings. Another of his favorite restaurants is Bestia: “I like how Ori [Menashe] is putting his Israeli heritage in his food,” Tikaram says.
In May, Tikaram will be helming the new bi-level E.P. & L.P., serving modern Southeast Asian fare from Chiang Mai Larb that features spiced yellowtail to Lou Dogg’s Crispy Skin Chicken, an organic, braised chicken that is fried to order and served with roast chile and black vinegar dressing. Dessert can come in the form of durian wafers.
However, what’s really something to crow about—especially since E.P. & L.P. on La Cienega at Melrose is situated in a pricey restaurant stretch with neighbors like Lucques and Fig & Olive—is the L.P. rooftop deck portion of the restaurant. That will tempt more casual diners with a $10 Asian-night food menu offering affordable selections like Soft Shell Crab Bun, Sweet & Sour Wingdings, Organic Tofu Chips, and Thai-Style Jerky.
You’ll find Tikaram embracing farmers market produce as well as vegetables directly from local farmers. This isn’t just his desire to fit into the Southern California lifestyle but also a sincere expression of his food philosophy harkening back to Tikaram’s childhood on his family’s 110-acre farm, which raised cattle and tropical fruits in Mullumbimby, Australia. “I need to have good relationships with farmers,” Tikaram says.
Tikaram was smitten by the multi-ethnic food cooked by his Fijian-Chinese grandmother, and he began paying his dues at the age of 16—making curry pastes and mixing dry spices for 13 hours a day in a cramped space at the back of a restaurant called Long Grain. He still loves that aspect of the craft. This is also why he loves his new hometown. Los Angeles to him is a “bunch of flavors waiting to be brought together.”
E.P. & L.P., 603 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, 310-856-9955