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Animal Attraction

BY Lesley Balla | October 3, 2016 | Feature Features National

Meat in all its primal glory is at the heart of chef Curtis Stone's second local fine dining venue.
ROLLING STONES Brothers Curtis and Luke Stone named Gwen after their maternal grandmother.

We didn’t know what we were about to be served at Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant. After the wine list and menus for cocktails and supplemental meat options were whisked away, my friend and I were left in the hands of chef Curtis Stone and his kitchen crew. But that’s part of the thrill of dining at the new Hollywood restaurant: Your feast is a surprise; your meal a special experience.

Like Maude in Beverly Hills, Curtis’ first L.A. restaurant, Gwen offers only a prix fixe tasting menu of dishes and ingredients that change regularly, mostly dictated by the seasons. Gwen, however, is much larger, built inside a historic art deco shell with a small butcher shop, which welcomes guests as they enter, and two levels for dining with a bar on each. Curtis’ brother, Luke, oversees the daily operations—the two worked in butcher shops when they were growing up in Melbourne, Australia. Although Curtis spends more time in the kitchen, both make rounds greeting guests, which is very much part of the experience of dining here.

This is a glorious meat mecca. Freshly butchered animals hang in a glass-walled locker on one side of the dining room, with tangles of sausages, hams and other cured hunks of meat next to them. It’s gorgeous, but literally and figuratively raw. A large Argentinian-style asador grill is on view behind glass, like an altar, with fire and smoke billowing from the charred coals, lamb shanks dangling along the front, and other meats sizzling over the fire. It’s primal, and kind of sexy.

While the concept is very masculine—man, meat, fire—the room itself is feminine and pretty, thanks to brothers Evan and Oliver Haslegrave of Home Studios. Delicate touches are seen throughout, like pink marble-topped tables and votives; soft velvet banquettes; and chairs with thin legs and sexy curves. Like an ode to Hollywood’s golden age, sparkling chandeliers hang from the high ceilings, with custom-made light fixtures crawling up columns in the middle of the dining room. On this main level, there’s a bar off to the side providing a perfect place to perch pre- or post-dinner. A marble-topped chef’s counter overlooks the action in the kitchen, where Curtis; his executive chef, Gareth Evans; and an army of cooks bustle. Upstairs, there’s a tucked-away wine room that offers a more intimate experience.

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