All photos courtesy of Ladyhawk

The One Who Keeps the BookLos Angeles

How To Get a Table at Ladyhawk, West Hollywood’s New Mediterranean Stunner


Where do you go after you win Top Chef Middle East/North Africa, and find yourself on Top Chef World All-Stars?

Hollywood, of course. West Hollywood, specifically.

With the opening of Ladyhawk, chef Charbel Hayeks first restaurant, the Top Chef champion is building off his Lebanese roots and pairing it with the incredible bounty of Southern California’s produce. 

Of course, Hayek is no stranger to California — he’s spent his entire professional career in the state, most notably under Josiah Citrin at Mélisse. Now, with Ladyhawk, he’s tying all the threads of his life together. The result is an elegant, delicious feast that encourages communal dining while celebrating the melting pot of Mediterranean flavors. 

But if enjoying wood-grilled prawns with fennel and orange, or a fragrant bowl of fresh tabbouleh salad sounds like your kind of night, you’re not alone. In fact, Ladyhawk has become one of the hardest seats to score in a town notorious for its exclusivity as much as its glamor. Just don’t get discouraged, says Evan Thomas, general manager of the Kimpton La Peer hotel, where Ladyhawk is located.

We spoke with Thomas to get the inside scoop on how to score a table, the best cocktail to try the Middle Eastern spirit arak, and why making it a full date night has its perks.

Ladyhawk has been open for less than three months — how has it been going so far?

It’s been absolutely amazing. We started off with a bang. It’s tough to start a restaurant in the middle of the holidays, but we were full from the beginning. It’s had a great response from the neighborhood, from the hotel, and people traveling to try chef Charbel’s food. A lot of that is from his Top Chef days. 

People are coming in for that reason?

It’s a little bit of everything. We get people that are big Top Chef fans, people that have seen him on the show, people that are fans of other restaurants that he’s worked at in the past, and a lot of chef friends. Then, just the neighborhood itself is really responding to something truly unique and different for West Hollywood. It’s a great atmosphere overall.

Is the clientèle mostly locals? Out of towners? A mix?

As of right now, most people are locals who have heard about the restaurant, mixed in with hotel guests that didn’t know or maybe booked before we announced the restaurant. And then we do actually see a lot of people flying in and traveling in because they’re fans of Charbel’s. 

Dry-aged duck at Ladyhawk
Dry-aged duck with honey and rose.
Dry-aged duck at Ladyhawk
Dry-aged duck with honey and rose.

Pivoting to more nitty-gritty stuff: What time do your reservations hit Resy?

We’re doing 14 days out at noon.

And how quickly do they fill up?

Prime-time does fill up almost immediately. So your key times — that’s 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. — go pretty quick. And depending on the day, especially weekends, obviously, those fill up quite quickly from those central times out. But, we’ve filled the room every single night for the last two months. 

Wow. How many seats does Ladyhawk have?

It’s only 70 seats inside. That includes 10 seats at the bar, and a small semi-private dining room. So 70 total. Not a lot. We are really looking forward to this unusually cold winter going away so we can open up our patio space. That’s going to add another 30. 

Can diners reserve that semi-private dining room? 

We were not making that specific table available at this time. But if you book a table of six or eight, chances are highly likely that you’re going to get that table right now. 

Tuna crudo at Ladyhawk
Tuna crudo with orange blossom and charred cucumber.
Tuna crudo at Ladyhawk
Tuna crudo with orange blossom and charred cucumber.

Do you save any room for walk-ins? Perhaps at the bar? 

A few seats in the dining room. But we mainly hold seats at the bar and lounge areas for walk-ins. I’d definitely go through our Notify list.

How long is your Notify list, normally?

It depends on the night. On the average night we have about 10. But I was looking over the weekend and it was into the 50s and 60s at one point. But, honestly, the best way to do it is to add yourself to the Notify list and then come into the lobby bar in the courtyard of the hotel where you can grab a drink while you’re waiting. We generally get everybody in through the night. There’s also some of chef Charbel’s dishes that are not on the Ladyhawk menu that are only available in the courtyard.

Honestly, the best way to do it is to add yourself to the Notify list and then come into the lobby bar in the courtyard of the hotel where you can grab a drink while you’re waiting.

What night(s) would someone have the best chance at scoring a reservation?

We are going to open up for seven days a week in the next month. When we do that, that will give us Mondays. That’s going to be, I think, the easiest chance. Tuesdays and Wednesdays after that. And then it just slowly [gets busier] into the weekend through Sunday. 

Any tips or tricks to get a reservation you can suggest?

Stay at the hotel. Make it a full date night. There’s actually tables for hotel guests and we’ll be able to get you in.

What if I DM’d you on Instagram?

That won’t help [laughs]. 

Ladyhawk cocktails
A selection of Ladyhawk cocktails.
Ladyhawk cocktails
A selection of Ladyhawk cocktails.

What does a busy Friday night normally look like at Ladyhawk?

We start off with a bang. We have a line out the door, so we fill the bar and lounge pretty quick with walk-ins. People are hoping to get a seat, but as I said, they tend to stay at the bar all night because it’s such a great atmosphere. The banquettes fill pretty quickly. Generally the larger tables, and the private dining room, fill up around 7. And right about 7:30, 8:00, every seat is full, the music’s turned up a little bit louder, the wood fire is going, and it’s a really exciting atmosphere. 

What do you think is the best seat in the house?

I think that the go-to for a lot of people is the row of banquettes along the big open-air kitchen with a great view, but personally I love bar seat number one. It’s the best spot to not only have a great view of the bar and the amazing cocktails that are coming out of there, but it has an unobstructed view of our wood-fired grill. It’s a great little sneak peek of what’s to come.

Do guests treat the bar as a separate entity, or are most people coming for both drinks and a meal?

The full menu is available at the bar, so I love going out there and seeing the full mezze platter, which is massive, sitting on top of the bar. People are really enjoying the full menu. I think people maybe have plans to go out somewhere else, but they grab a cocktail and the food and then just lock in their seat and stay all night. 

What’s a highlight of the bar menu? 

There’s not a lot of cocktails in Middle Eastern cultures. But we did find some highlights. Actually, our house gin is a Lebanese gin [Jun Lebanese Gin], and you can find that in the Gibran’s Philosophy, which is our take on a gimlet with chartreuse. And we’re using arak for our drinks, which is not a very common spirit here in the States. It’s a great distilled beverage, and we use it in a couple of cocktails. In the Mamara & Black, arak is the featured spirit, but we tone it down for us Californians with some Turkish coffee. And then we also have it in our take on the Sazerac. We actually wash the glass in arak before we make the traditional cocktail. 

How does chef Charbal bring his own flair to his first restaurant? 

Ladyhawk is a modern Eastern Mediterranean restaurant. So he’s taking from his roots, and his time in Lebanon, but also really expanding from that to the entire region’s cuisine. Also, chef’s entire professional career has been in California, so he’s been putting his California upscale flair on some of his mom’s recipes, who was also a chef. Ladyhawk is really a great combination of both. 

Any dishes you think are not to be missed?

A couple of my favorites: the ahi tuna crudo is fantastic. It’s an interpretation of the dish he won Top Chef Middle East, the championship, with. It’s just so bright and fresh and amazing. It has the flavors of the eastern Mediterranean, but it’s a very California dish. Another favorite is the za’atar man’oushe. That is what we like to call our bread and butter. It’s made with a 48-hour-fermented dough. It’s also a dish that was inspired by his last appearance on Top Chef All Stars. On the dish itself, there’s a red pepper sauce, a mint sauce, and a garlic labneh sauce. Those colors resemble the Lebanese flag, which is where he’s from.  

And you mentioned some dishes are inspired by chef’s mother?

Yes. My favorite recipe of hers is the tabbouleh salad. It’s amazingly fresh and vibrant. Chef likes to say his mother thinks he over-dresses the tabbouleh [laughs]. So, that’s his take on her original recipe. 

How often does the menu change?

It’s going to be seasonal. Chef’s actually working on some new dishes right now. We’re also excited to launch our brunch menu, which is coming out, and it’s going to be available to people especially on the patio, which is our poolside deck. We’re going to have brunch Saturdays and Sundays starting in the spring.

Anything else about the dining experience at Ladyhawk we should know?

Every Wednesday we do Wine Wednesday, and a winemaker will come out, do a tasting of their wines, and it’s a great opportunity to try something new and different. Then bottles are 50% off. Our wine list definitely leans Old World, but we still have California favorites and some French and Italian, but we really aim more towards Lebanese wines. We also have a wine from Georgia, one from Bethlehem — it’s a pretty extensive list.

Oren Peleg is a screenwriter and journalist based in Los Angeles. His work appears in Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest, The Hollywood Reporter, Eater, and more. Subscribe to his newsletter here. And you can follow him here. While you’re at it, follow Resy, too.