The women behind the Hammer Museum’s new restaurant perfect the art of eating well
Words by S. IRENE VIRBILA
Museum restaurants usually play it too safe. Not so with Audrey at the Hammer, the institution’s exciting new restaurant that combines high design with a fresh, inviting and gutsy menu. Set at the back of the museum’s sprawling contemporary courtyard, the indoor-outdoor affair comprises a cozy dining room that opens out into a patio and lounge area decorated with Cuban-American sculptor Jorge Pardo’s tile wall mural.
Envisioned by Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin and brought to life by restaurateur Soa Davies Forrest and chef Lisa Giffen — both New York transplants — Audrey is a female-driven project. Seventy-five percent of the investors are women and it’s named for museum board member Audrey Irmas. “For me, it makes a huge difference in how things would be run,” Davies Forrest says.
After cooking at New York’s Blue Hill, Prune, and Daniel, and at Brooklyn’s beloved Maison Premiere and its sister restaurant, Sauvage, Giffen wants to celebrate all that California has to offer. “Everything has a story behind it,” says Giffen, who spotlights local ingredients, visiting growers and producers. “It’s a good feeling.”
Her food at Audrey is bright and full of flavor, both graceful and precise. Kampachi crudo comes scribbled with chile oil and scattered with tiny segments of finger lime. A plate of raw vegetables poses as artfully as a 17th-century still life next to a kelp-flecked aioli. Lunchtime offers a burger with some of the best fries in town.
At dinner, served against a backdrop of dozens of Pardo’s glowing lanterns bobbing from a trellis, the more expansive menu offers black cod with puntarelle and sunchoke puree and a big bone-in rib-eye steak — grass-fed, of course. Desserts include a delicate panna cotta topped with passion fruit and a pecan-sesame tuile.
The wine list proposes top Burgundies and other plum bottles for deep-pocketed donors, but few choices under $50 for starving artists. The beautiful thing is that happy hour stretches from 4 to 7:30 p.m., perfect for indulging in a glass of Equipo Navazos manzanilla and a bite before the museum’s many evening events. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 310-443-7037; audreyatthehammer.com.
This story originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of C magazine.