After two long years in sweatpants, a return to old-school Hollywood glamour is a welcome change of pace, and nowhere is the vibe shift more apparent than at Mes Amis, chef Lincoln Carson’s new golden-hued Hollywood comeback. With icy towers of pristine shellfish, brass-plated Champagne carts, and plenty of intricate French desserts, Mes Amis is shaping up as the blockbuster hit of the season.
Carson teamed up with Ten Five Hospitality, the group behind buzzy siblings Ka’Teen and Mother Wolf, to bring a combo of French flair and California nuance to this bustling corridor. After shuttering the acclaimed Bon Temps in Downtown’s Arts District, one of the earliest and biggest closures of hard-hit 2020, Carson sought a new home for inventive brasserie dishes that taste as much of Los Angeles as they do of Paris. Here’s everything to know about Mes Amis before you go.
1. The mood is Tinseltown glitz meets classic French brasserie.
In a town known for movie magic, Mes Amis hits all its cues. Soft lights create a warm glow. The walls are lined with black-and-white photographs that evoke the heyday of midcentury Hollywood. Giant palms and gold-framed mirrors fill the space, with cafe chairs and tawny leather booths surrounding white marble tables. Backed by floor-to-ceiling bottles, the bar is as beautiful as the room, and double glass doors open to a secluded patio that’s framed by leafy foliage.
Thanks to Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, which also created Mother Wolf’s aesthetic, and creative director Bernadette Blanc, Mes Amis can dress up or down, equally appropriate for celebrations as for the average Tuesday night. It’s California airiness mixed with a cosmopolitan European vibe, influenced as much by Lyon as it is by that other scene-stealing French city.
“I think Paris is to France like New York is to America. It’s an amazing place, but it’s not what the rest of the country is really like,” says Carson. “Paris is incredible, but it’s Paris. To me, Lyon has a certain livability in it; it captures that restaurant and cafe culture just being interwoven with your everyday life. The food is simpler in the best way possible, harkening back to a sense of history and place. That’s what I want for this restaurant. It has some weight to it, but it’s meant for every day.”
2. The menu isn’t fussy, but it is far from basic.
Coming out of the pandemic, Carson wanted to avoid anything too precious or fussy. In Southern California, it’s par for the course for seasonal produce to dictate menus, and chefs to lean on their own personal experiences to develop new dishes. “We’re not trying to create a place where you can imagine you’re in another country,” he says. “I want you to feel, in the best way possible, that you’re right here in Hollywood.”
That translates to towering shellfish platters with everything from littleneck clams to dayboat scallops, oysters from both coasts, and blue prawns; crudites from the Hollywood farmers market practically next door; and fresh seasonal salads like chicories with citrus, walnuts, and Fourme D’Ambert. There’s chicken liver mousse Napoleon, duck pâté en croûte, and Maine scallop crudo. For heartier dishes, go big with a black truffle risotto or lamb Wellington, or keep it simple with a great burger and frites. (Although simple is relative: That burger comes topped with raclette, caramelized onions, and creamy Mornay sauce.) “We’re thinking about gathering again, sharing plates, having fun,” Carson says. “Not every meal has to be a celebration, but it can feel that way.”
3. It’s ok to have dessert first. In fact, it might be wise.
Because Carson spent most of his career running pastry programs for chefs like Michael Mina and Daniel Boulud, his desserts are renowned for both their innovation and their sheer, delicious joy. Here, simple creations like chocolate souffle or pavlova with Harry’s Berries strawberries become stars.
Carson is also making his signature gâteau St. Honoré, a gorgeous deconstructed version with layers of pecan mousseline and caramel sided by profiteroles. There’s even a crème brulée, something the chef never thought he’d willingly serve in a restaurant. “It’s kind of a dirty secret that I love crème brulée. Ours isn’t anything new or different — we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s just a classic done really well,” he says.
4. Champagne just tastes better when poured from a tableside cart.
The bar isn’t huge but it’s a stunner, with olive-green leather barstools and a handsomely backlit display. The lounge has a booth facing the room that just might be the best seat in the house. Both spaces are perfect for sipping things like the Le Poodle, a vodka and pamplemousse (pink grapefruit liqueur) number with bubbles, fennel pollen, and sel gris; or a riff on a gin martini with hint of lemon and strawberry that’s named after the Marilyn Monroe classic “Some Like It Hot.”
Starting the night with a glass of Krug, Dom Perignon, or Ruinart is encouraged not just because they’re available, but because they’re brought to your table on a shiny sparkling wine cart that’s wheeled around the room. The extensive wine list, including all those sparklers, is overseen by Matthew Turner, who spent years as Wally’s wine director and retail sommelier.
5. Hollywood table-hopping is back.
The few blocks around Mes Amis have exploded with buzzy restaurants (Mother Wolf, Ka’Teen, Magari) and rooftop bars (Bar Lis, Grandmaster Recorders) as of late, centered by a slew of trendy hotels (Thompson, The Tommie, Mama Shelter, Dream), making for a walkable night of table-hopping fun.
Having so many great places within steps of his own doesn’t worry Carson. He doesn’t see a rivalry; in fact, he says having chefs like Evan Funke and Wes Avila in the same family of restaurants makes all of their places stronger. “It’s like a campus. Having them close creates this gravity of food, beverage, and hospitality in a couple of blocks that was once pretty sparse,” he adds. “The restaurants are different enough to make sure there is synergy, not competition. All of our energy feeds off each other.”