Executive Chef Ashley Abodeely and her female culinary team prepare artful American favorites with a wood-fired spin at Arts District Firehouse Restaurant.
I’ve dined twice now at the newer restaurant inside a historic 1927 firehouse. Located on the ground floor of one of the most unique independent boutique hotels in Los Angeles, this restaurant is getting wonderful accolades as its fun bar and dining menu in the Arts District.
There are multiple dining areas including a covered patio running the length of the building, plus an event space on the former handball court used by the fireman. This area seats 28 people for dinner or 60 guests for a standing cocktail party. Off the bar is a comfortable lounge and there is an al fresco sitting area around a blazing outdoor fire pit.
Above the restaurant are nine uniquely designed guest suites available for short and long-term stays. Instead of numbers, the suites are named after colors such as orange, violet and white.
It took three years to restore the charm of the firehouse into a hotel and restaurant. Fire poles that once were anchored to the floor have been removed, however guests enter through the large red firehouse garage doors to reach the lobby, coffee bar and pastry case filled with sweet treats baked by the restaurant’s pastry chef Rose Lawrence, formerly of Rustic Canyon and Manuela.
Chef Abodeely cooked in New York City under Danny Meyer and Union Square Hospitality Group, including Eleven Madison Park, before she was the chef de cuisine for NoMad restaurant and invited to be at the helm of this kitchen.
The first night I dined at the restaurant it was World Martini Day. A group of friends and I joined a group for a special dinner with Plymouth Gin’s Master Distiller Sean Harrison. While sipping a “Rosé Fifty-Fifty” martini, we enjoyed a Caesar salad filled with baby green and purple kale topped with crunchy garlic croutons, a squeeze of preserved Meyer lemon and long and thick shavings of Parmesan cheese. This salad and other dishes were served on beautiful black and white Robert Siegrl Studio tableware.
The martini made with one part Plymouth Gin, one part Lillet Rosé, and a grapefruit twist. It was served with a large ice cube that melted slowly to prevent the botanical flavors from diluting too quickly.
Harrison is one of the most respected distillers in the world, joining Plymouth Gin 25 years ago. He is the current keeper of the coveted 200+ year old Plymouth Gin recipe, that has been passed down verbally to every Master Distiller since 1793. Harrison oversees every step of the production and distilling process, evaluating hundreds of botanical samples and approving all of the line’s bottled products.
When the smoked trout tartine toast topped on thick grilled toast with sliced crisp radish and aromatic dill arrived, Harrison informed us that the character of every gin is defined by the selection of the perfect botanicals. “It’s not just a matter of freshness or size. You have to understand what you are trying to create to understand the finish,” Harrison said as we sipped a Plymouth Aerial with Bergamot, rose and Luxardo bitter Bianco.
Biting into a wood-fired soft Japanese sweet potato topped with salsa verde, yogurt and toasted pine nuts, we learned that a former Lieutenant of the Royal Navy played a pivotal role in developing Plymouth Gin’s original export business, as well as, developing the brand internationally.
Plates of Chef Abodelly’s special crispy fried chicken were served with two moist dill and yogurt biscuits on a light gravy were served with another Plymouth martini. This one was made with Plymouth Gin, vermouth and orange bitters. It went well with plates of Branzino topped with fresh herbs and a crushed squash, zucchini and wood-fired charred scallion puree.
Harrison launched a Plymouth Master Distiller tour that gives visitors a behind-the-scenes private tour of the award-winning distillery. This special experience is hosted by Harrison himself, and offers a first-hand look into the distilling process where each guest gets the opportunity to use their own personal micro gin still.
Our evening ended with bowls of hibiscus granita with rosewater and a scoop of luscious labneh, and a plate of rich chocolate semifreddo with milk jam, saffron and a crunchy glass sugar roof.
The second time I dined, I joined a group of friends from Palm Springs and ordered different dishes to try. We started with three snacks on the menu – homemade focaccia and garlic oil, marinated olives and deviled eggs with crispy prosciutto. Besides cocktails, Arts District Firehouse offers an interesting list of wines by the glass. Noticing one of my favorite wines, I ordered a light orange Jolie Laide skin contact Pinot Gris from Mendocino to pair with two salads. One was a heirloom tomato with sliced grilled peaches and a dollop of creamy burrata. The second salad was a mix of chopped lettuce, tossed with cut grilled corn, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, and small medallions of mozzarella cheese.
A favorite around the table was a tortellini dish topped with grilled maitake mushrooms, a sprinkling of goat cheese, corn and breadcrumbs.
The vegetarians at our table enjoyed the cauliflower steak topped with chopped almonds, parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Meat lovers raved about the New York strip steak served with dijon butter, and rosemary. Sauces for proteins include buttermilk ranch, blistered tomato, black peppercorn jus, salsa verde, garlic Hollandaise or buffalo sauce.
Our evening finished with a celebratory rich chocolate brownie topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, swirl of chocolate sauce and a small carafe filled with rainbow sprinkles to pour on top.
Next time you dine in the Arts District, enjoy wood fired food and drinks in a historic firehouse dwelling.
Arts District Firehouse is open for lunch, brunch and dinner. $$$ 710 S. Santa Fe Ave. (213)947-3010.
This review was featured in the Beverly Press on Oct. 10, 2019