Simone, the long-awaited solo project from Manresa alum Jessica Largey, finally opens tonight. The restaurant, named for musician Nina Simone, promises a lively, multifunctional space complete with a bar and chef’s counter. And, given Largey’s fine dining background, some standout produce-driven food.
Along with managing partner Bruno Bagbeni and partner Joe Russo, the Marvel movie director, Largey is rolling out dinner and drinks in the Arts District space six nights a week. But before Simone makes its long-awaited debut, here are just a few reasons why it’s one of the most exciting restaurants of the season.
1. Jessica Largey is one of the most promising chefs of her generation
Although she got her start working the line at LA fine dining stalwart Providence, Largey is best known for her work at Manresa, the David Kinch restaurant in Los Gatos that’s one of the best in California. As chef de cuisine at Manresa, she really made a name for herself. She was a member of Eater’s 2013 class of Eater Young Guns. The following year, the San Francisco Chronicle named her a rising star chef. And in 2015, she won the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef.
Shortly after winning the James Beard award, Largey left Manresa — with Kinch’s endorsement. “She is one of the most talented natural cooks I have ever encountered, smart, organized, hard working,” he told Inside Scoop at the time. “It’s an unbeatable combination.”
2. Simone is literally years in the making
Largey left Manresa in 2015 after six years at the restaurant, four of those spent as chef de cuisine. Nearly a year later, she announced plans to open Simone in LA. From then on, the restaurant had a name and an Arts District location. The plan at the time was to open in late 2016. Alas, it was delayed — extensively. But even as the date was pushed further and further back thanks to construction issues, media attention grew, and Simone appeared on anticipated openings lists season after season.
3. It’s in America’s most exciting dining city
Los Angeles is by many accounts the creative hotbed for restaurants right now, and Simone is the latest in a series of splashy openings (Bavel, Majordomo, Dialogue) that highlight the bounty and creativity of LA.
Simone is very much an LA restaurant. The menu will take advantage of California’s famously excellent produce in dishes like charred squash with a nectarine, celery root, and macadamia nut salsa; and pole beans with Urfa chile crème fraîche, purple tomatillos, and almonds. And according to Eater LA, the space is meant to call to mind Hollywood decadence, with Art Deco touches inside of the 1920s-era building.
4. It already has some famous fans
According to a photo posted to Simone’s Instagram account, the restaurant’s opening party included actors Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Chris Evans, and Marisa Tomei (all of whom have appeared in movies directed by Simone partner Russo). In fact, the opening was so star-studded that People wrote it up, noting that Community co-stars Gillian Jacobs, Joel McHale, and Yvette Nicole Brown were also there to support the show’s executive producer Russo.
5. The space is gorgeous — and on trend
Designer Deirdre Doherty had three separate spaces to contend with at Simone. As quite a few chefs have done lately, Largey installed a separately named, 25-seat bar at the front. Duello, helmed by Iain McPherson, is set off from the rest of the space with an art-deco tiled floor and warm, burgundy seating. Nearby is a walnut chef’s table for six overlooking the kitchen. In the rest of the space, diners will find concrete flooring, brick-walled nooks, and striking light fixtures.
With these three distinct spaces, Largey wanted to give diners variety. She’ll apply her fine dining experience to a full tasting menu at the chef’s table, but there will be snacks at the bar and a la carte options, including large-format dishes to share, in the dining room. “We’re going to be operating on the high level I’m accustomed to, but the food will cross a whole spectrum of experiences,” she told Eater last year. “I just can’t wait.”