At Native, L.A. culinary darling Nyesha Arrington elevates familiar flavors to great heights
The duck breast arrives in two luxuriously thick slabs, succulent with spices and crackling skin, and garnished with pickled mustard seeds and thin disks of rye. Who would guess the dish—elegant and delicious—was inspired by a simple pastrami sandwich? “Langer’s, of course!” chef Nyesha Arrington says, referring to the iconic Los Angeles deli.
Inside the kitchen of the recently opened Native, Arrington draws on a lifetime of L.A. influences to create a bold menu of seasonal ingredients and global flavors, as well as French and Asian techniques. “It’s a celebration of the terroir and culture of L.A.,” says the chef, who was born in the city and now lives a few blocks from the restaurant in Santa Monica. “Every week, I ride my bike or walk to the market. It’s my story.”
Arrington, who previously helmed Venice’s beloved, now-shuttered, Leona and has cooked in the kitchens of Joël Robuchon, Josiah Citrin, and Raphael Lunetta, personalizes dish after dish: bison tartare is seasoned with “Aisoon sauce,” named for her Korean grandmother. Instead of a basic potato, fluffy crushed rutabaga is topped with cool crème fraîche and crumbled Ethiopian injera, standing in for bacon bits. Grilled Spanish octopus rests on a bed of smoked yogurt with a scattering of crisped hominy and bright splashes of sauce verte.
The vivid flavors are set off by a dining room in soothing shades of gray and a wall-size photo of a sizzling sauté pan commanded by a confident cook’s hand. In the pan are charred cherry tomatoes for that duck breast—the hand is, of course, Arrington’s. 620 Santa Monica Blvd., S.M., 310-458-4427; eatnative.la.
Written by MICHALENE BUSICO.
Photography by JAKE AHLES.