The design of Mr. T in the Hollywood Media District is industrial, but not sterile, and the 80s and 90s hip-hop playing slaps but isn’t blared at club-level decibels. L.A.’s cool kids are here but it’s also a mixed crowd; one might catch a guy in a skirt or spot some side boob at a table next to self-serious foodies in blue blazers and chic dresses. It’s like the old days, pre-pandemic, and everyone is laughing, flirting, eating, drinking, and air kissing.
Most importantly, it smells delicious—of garlic, rosemary and mysterious herbs, all emanating from Mr. T’s open kitchen. “It comes out of my youth on the streets of Paris,” says owner Guillaume Guedj. “Then I was playing basketball and listening to great music, eating in the market stalls. I wanted something that was all that.”
Guedj’s first venture into the world of restaurants, however, was formal. In 2010, he opened the two Michelin-starred Passages 53 in central Paris. He appreciates such tablecloth formality but tells LAMag he sought to add something hip to his portfolio—so Guedj teamed up with chef Tsuyoshi Miyazaki to create a more casual restaurant. Mr. T is named for Tsuyoshi, who developed the global tastes-inspired menu. When it opened in Le Marais district in the 4th arrondissement, the original Mr. T, sans tablecloths, was a hit—even the stodgiest gourmand was charmed.
Never one to rest on his laurels, the 40-year-old Frenchman decided to take Mr. T to the U.S. He chose Los Angeles for the weather and vibe, signing a lease in 2019 with CIM Group, a developer attracting of-the-moment restaurants to Sycamore Avenue. But the plans for Mr. T Los Angeles went awry when the pandemic hit. Two years later, its debut brought a jammed reservations line.
Small plates and entire entrees are inspired by far-flung cuisines, reimagined by Chef Alisha Vannah. The L.A. native has cooked in some of the best restaurants in town, including Republique, and completed a stint at Mr. T in Paris. Not to be missed on her menu is the croquette monsieur ($18). Guedj wanted the beloved French cheese sandwich on the menu but Vannah did one better, redesigning the classic into an umami explosion filled with mushrooms, Mimolette cheese and lemon crème fraiche. This will undoubtedly find a place on many “last meal on Earth” lists.
Vannah’s Thai tuna crudo ($26) is inspired, she explains, by her family’s trips to the beaches of South Bay. “We would buy the freshest fish and my mother, who is Thai, would prepare it as she did in her homeland,” the young chef says, adding that she brings her own touch with flame grapes and jalapeno oil made in-house. Her menu also includes street food, so it must have a kebab—Mr. T’s is perfectly-cooked lamb with a spicy aioli under four crackers, instead of the usual bread; it’s perfect. Don’t miss the Vermilion rock cod ($38) with a vadouvan crust and miso sabayon sauce—so good it could tempt diners to abandon their manners and lick the plate.
Mr. T may be casual, but every element is considered. A French artist contributed four pieces for its walls; carved in concrete, they depict L.A.’s highways. And the warm-hued wood for its tables and chairs was found in Mexico. So was the pottery. The patio can be refigured with rolling planters of trees that create a small or larger space for parties while the private room seats eight and includes patio space, which opens from the floor to ceiling glass doors. There’s even a turntable and records to spin.
With 50 seats inside and 40 on the patio, this is already a tough reservation to snag. The bar is busy and the seating at the counter never stays empty for long. Most who arrive want a fancy cocktail, many of which have been named for 90s hip-hop tracks, like the Gin and Juice ($17) and Can’t Knock the Hustle ($22).
Whether you come in for a bite and a cocktail, or a full-blown private party, the attitude is the same. As Guedj says of his first stateside venture, “We welcome everyone.”
953 N Sycamore Avenue
Tuesday – Sunday 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
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