Neal Fraser has defined his own kind of L.A. elegance over the two decades he’s been cooking in his native city. For him, setting up shop in the decommissioned St. Vibiana Cathedral is the perfect opportunity, adding some theatrics to a style that’s as contemporary as it is classically plush. Truffles amid a garnish of lentils transform slices of smoked tofu from wholesome to haute, while lamb belly spins theatrically on a spit in the former rectory. If the interplay of Aleppo pepper and sumac weren’t dramatic enough, a retractable ceiling pulls back to reveal the illuminated bell tower. Together with his wife and business partner, Amy, Fraser has preserved the unique setting. The liturgical is woven into the spirit (sorry) of the place while keeping the atmosphere as playful as the “creamsicle” that sends vanilla ice cream oozing over Murcott tangerines at the tap of a spoon.
The Vibe: A very 2015 version of upscale. Some cushy booth seating, some more casual bistro-style seating, all beneath a retractable roof in a former cathedral. There may be an actual bell tower, but it’s refined without being hushed.
The Crowd: Neal Fraser lures a more mature downtown set—40-somethings on a date, suited executives, and established arts district creative types.
The Must-Have Dishes: The Veal Fraser is not just a clever pun, it’s also a mammoth and delicious duo of veal. Vegetarians will love the smoked tofu on a bed of lentils that’s as savory as anything on the menu. Also, the pot pie.
The Drinks: Tobin Shea is behind the cocktails, which are wildly ambitious and reference recipes as old as 1862. The wine list offers a little something great at every price point.
Getting a Table: Redbird is large enough that reservations aren’t too tough to snag, but they are definitely recommended.
Insider Tip: Don’t skip lunch! The light pouring in through the open roof makes everyone and everything look glorious. And try the cheeseburger: aged-cheddar, primed beef, with a pile of fries on the side. – LBS
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