Although it has only been four months since he parted ways with Mercantile and District, it's wonderful to see Kris Morningstar back in the kitchen. The inspired chef has a way of making serious, often offal-intensive cooking communicate in a light-hearted fashion, while turning now ubiquitous plates like flatbreads and ahi tuna into substantial, vital experiences. Last night, LACMA's new restaurant and bar combination, Ray's and Stark Bar, came alive for a first-look opening party, with Morningstar rolling out such creations as uni-topped, scallop-stuffed mushrooms, crab casserole, head cheese cakes, corned beef tongue, and creamy, gooey flatbreads that resembled the pizza at Foliero's more than the stuff trotted out at every other new restaurant in town. The Renzo Piano-designed space is appropriately sleek and industrial, though it feels rather isolated in the shadow of a museum complex (especially when that is closed) while the cooking is quite a few artistic touches beyond what you'd expect at a restaurant attached to a major urban attraction. Check out the space and food in our slide show and get ready for Ray's opening on March 3rd.
Ray's and Stark Bar, 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Mid-City. 323-857-6180.