The food and the chef share top billing at Noè, a recent addition to the revitalized downtown Los Angeles dining scene. The restaurant's understated quarters in the Omni Los Angeles Hotel fulfill a less important but crucial role as a chic backdrop. Noè was created to serve patrons of the new Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, which sits adjacent to the hotel. The new restaurant takes over what was most recently tired meeting rooms, before that a shuttered fine dining restaurant.
"We had this basic idea that we wanted to design the space around the chef," says Jim Snow, area managing director for Omni Hotels and general manager of the L.A. property. The chef in this case was Robert Gadsby, who won kudos for his progressive American cuisine at Gadsby's and other Los Angeles restaurants.
Gadsby's signature style combines classical French techniques, Japanese overtones and the freshest ingredients and assembles them on precisely constructed plates that he calls "fooditecture." He is known for assembling ambitious tasting menus based on a single category, such as seafood.
To translate those sensibilities to the interior, the hotel tapped Curtis Schnell, who made his name as a production designer for "Crossing Jordan," "The Wonder Years" and other television shows. Schnell-who had designed dozens of restaurants sets, but never the real thing—chose shades of cobalt blue and tan for the 60-seat Noè. He chose a rich terra cotta paint for the concrete floors and black for the ceiling, which is dotted with art deco lighting and tiny recessed fixtures that give the room a glow.
A wall-sized maple-clad wine storage unit divides the space into two sections. While the front of the restaurant is filled with natural light from huge windows, some patrons prefer the intimate appeal of the smaller rear space.
In a nod to Gadsby's melting pot of influences, Schnell chose to adorn the walls with framed Japanese coats of arms and Gustave Klimt reproductions. Along the back wall of the restaurant, the Noè logoñan Eiffel Tower-is cut out and lit from behind in cobalt blue.
Why an Eiffel Tower? Gadsby-whose middle name is Noè-has adopted a Japanese brushstroke rendering of the Eiffel Tower as a personal symbol. It appears on a copper bracelet that he frequently wears.
"It's all about the chef," Snow says. It's also about the food: Square white and glass plates show off the engineered cuisine to its full effect. White tablecloths, candles, simple seating and Schott Zwiesel stemware complete the picture.
A secondary goal for the design was to set the restaurant apart from the other interior spaces. So, while the hotel's public areas are plush-thick carpet and marble floors, the contrast in tone at Noè is palpable. "It turns out it's very hip-looking," Snow says. "It has drawn a whole new crowd to the hotel."
Work at Noè isn't complete yet. The next step is to install window panels that will open and let the outside in and, combined with the existing 70-seat patio, create a true indoor/outdoor dining space.