A prime Hollywood location. An alum from Spago and Cut. And some crazy ass graffiti art. Yep, this is Lexington Social House. The latest addition to the ever-growing, never-ending, economy-defying LA dining scene, the sprawling multi-roomed space officially opened on April 28. Situated just feet away from the intersection of Hollywood & Vine, directly across the street from the Redbury Hotel and its deliciously sceney eatery Cleo, the Lexington is a far cry from the space’s former incarnation: Forbidden City. (Do you know anyone who actually went there? I certainly never did. The name alone was enough to keep me away, but do a Google search and you’ll find that the now defunct “worst nightclub in LA” was often tenderly referred to as Forbidden Shitty.) But I digress.
The first thing I noticed after walking in was how cozy the space seems. The main dining room, all low lights and dark furniture feels sort of living room-ish while the carrara marble bar, not to mention the hidden lounge off to the side, each had their own distinct vibe. Then there’s the rear garden patio, delightfully free of any ceiling (I could see the Capitol Records spire from the booth where I was seated) and comfortably appointed with heat lamps, a fireplace, tree canopies, and its own bar.
As for the food and service, no complaints here. Chef Mette Williams, formerly of Spago and Cut, describes the menu as Rustic Modern American with a global influence. I don’t really get the rustic part, but it’s seasonally driven and quite good. There are small plates (surprise) that get to the table quickly–flatbread, charred onions (more like leeks), and spiced chicken with olive tapenade, all very tasty. Starters include the English pea soup with black trumpet mushrooms (so fresh! get it while it’s in season), hamachi crudo, crab salad with crispy avocado, confit pork belly, and a sweet al dente pea agnolotti with housemade ricotta. The ahi tuna (pictured below) with charred eggplant, artichokes, and salsa verde is beautifully presented and tastes as good as it looks. And then there’s the fried chicken …
At last! My long-suffering search for fried chicken with a rich saturation of color and a supremely crunchy, spicy, thick skin has come to an end. Mette’s fried chicken–served with smashed potatoes, braised kale, and mustard sauce–has achieved the elusive task of making a gourmet version of Pioneer Chicken, far surpassing the original experience while simultaneously taking me back to the days of my childhood when the famed, now near-defunct chain was considered the pinnacle of this comfort food.
As for the decor, I didn’t know what to think of all the crazy Keith Haring-esque, graffiti-style stick figures splashed across the walls and popping up on menus. I figured the gritty-kiddy motif was the work of some celebrated underground street artist. As it turns out, during my visit, I sat next to the restaurant owner’s husband, both of whom happen to be doctors (!) and he informed me that designer Thomas Shoos did it all. “Basically, he came in here, kept a glass of wine handy and just starting painting!”
When I first heard about Lexington Social House, I thought the name was a bit pretentious and presumptuous, but to my surprise, it was quite accurate. I ended up having fun, unexpected conversations with neighbors to either side of my table, even exchanging email addresses, sharing recipes with the staff, and just having a good time. I look forward to going back for more.
More info: www.lexingtonsocialhouse.com