EATER INSIDE Inside Nightshade, Mei Lin’s Dream Los Angeles Restaurant

The Eater Young Gun and Top Chef winner is finally ready to open her own place

by Matthew Kang@mattatouille  Dec 20, 2018, 11:41am PSTPhotos by Wonho Frank Lee

Nightshade is finally here from 2014 Eater Young Gun and Top Chef season 12 winner Mei Lin. The former Ink sous chef and Spago Las Vegas alum is bringing her unique brand of Asian-influenced dishes to the bustling Arts District beginning January 2, 2019. 

It’s been a long journey for Lin, who’s been traveling and cooking various pop-ups over the past few years while gestating and developing the menu for her first solo restaurant. She’s partnered with Cyrus Batchan and Francis Miranda of N°8 (Lock & Key in Koreatown) to build out a modern, wood-lined dining room with hanging lamps, lush greenery, and matching banquettes — all very au courant and perhaps a tad behind the design trends that stormed the restaurant world in 2018. Blame the restaurant’s longer than expected turnaround, which was originally anticipated to open this past summer.

The menu draws inspiration from a number of places, including Lin’s family’s Chinese restaurant in Detroit. She worked with Michael Symon at Roast in Detroit before heading to Spago Las Vegas. Her time at Ink helped coalesce her final vision of modern Los Angeles cooking, seamlessly incorporating local flavors in dishes and formats that Angelenos are familiar with.

Ceramic vessels by MATCH stoneware.

Ceramic vessels by MATCH stoneware.

Consider her soon-to-be signature dish of mapo tofu lasagna that’s ingenious and unexpected, hitting on SGV flavors with a nod to LA’s obsession with pasta. Or beef tartare with dollops of egg yolk jam, sesame, and gochugaru for something resembling an elevated Korean yukhoe. Lin’s Szechuan hot quail is served over Japanese milk bread for an Asian-esque ode to Howlin’s Ray’s and Nashville signature chicken. The tom yum bloomin’ onion comes with coconut ranch, transforming a steakhouse chain appetizer into an elegant starter.

The 60-seat dining room designed by Jorge Gracia (with Andres Pompa and Benjamin Huerta) carries a warmth and charm that belies the brick industrial building in which Nightshade resides, tucked away from the street and down a short alley much like Bestia. The open kitchen gives way to walk-in bar seats and a cohesive dining room, one that’s sure to be the Arts District’s most talked-about new restaurant alongside Simone and Bavel

Bay scallops  Ceramic Vessel by MATCH stoneware.

Bay scallops

Ceramic Vessel by MATCH stoneware.

Mango and peppers  Ceramic vessels by MATCH stoneware.

Mango and peppers

Ceramic vessels by MATCH stoneware.

Nightshade will be open 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday, until midnight on weekends, closed Monday, with eventual brunch service. Book a table now on Resy.

Nightshade. 923 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA. (213) 626 8888

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