Mark McDermott

Manhattan Village adds new restaurants

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The 60,000 square foot Village Shops, which includes an outdoor plaza area and represents most of the expansion of the Manhattan Village, which will grow from 573,000 to 648,000 square feet. Photo courtesy JLL

by Mark McDermott

JLL provided a taste of what is to come at Manhattan Village last week, announcing two new restaurants which will be opening as part of the $180 million reimagining of the mall.

Both restaurants, dan by ROC (Republic of China) and edo Little Bites, are new concepts from hip, cutting-edge restaurant groups. ROC, which specializes in dumplings and noodles, has an extremely popular location on Sawtelle Avenue in Los Angeles; edo Little Bites is the creation of Chef Edoardo Baldi of the famed e.baldi in Beverly Hills, who is the son of the even more famed Chef Giorgio Baldi of the celebrity-beloved Giorgio’s in Santa Monica. Both eateries will open in the Fall of 2020.

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JLL senior general manager Don Ziss, who oversees the daily operations of Manhattan Village, said that the two restaurants are indicative of how the company is trying to curate the 18 to 20 new spaces that will be part of the Village Shops, the new 60,000 square foot indoor/outdoor component of the mall which will include a mix of retail and restaurants and a plaza. Restaurants help drive traffic, Ziss said, but these restaurants also fit perfectly into the South Bay’s culinary scene.

“The South Bay, I feel, is this emerging foodie destination,” Ziss said. “It has a high demand for great quality food with a great experience that has yet to be fully recognized. Manhattan Village can help bridge that gap.”

Village Shops will offer chef-driven food costs with a little bit more accessibility in price point —  fine dining, in other words, without the cost often associated with fine dining.

“It’s still attainable, something that won’t do major damage to the wallet,” Ziss said. “These restaurants strike that balance.”

The new Village restaurant lineup has not been fully revealed but is beginning to take shape. In October, JLL announced it signed a lease with restaurant group Cocinas Y Calaveras LLC, which will open Mercado Manhattan Beach, a restaurant that will serve less traditional, more modern Mexican fare (but also offer a margarita-infused happy hour). That month, California Pizza Kitchen also opened its newest prototype, and relocated to the Village Shops. Joey Manhattan Beach and Urban Plates have also signed leases.

The two new restaurant announcements come with considerable buzz. The dan by ROC concept is similar to Din Tai Fung, the dumpling restaurant whose opening in Torrance’s Del Amo Mall two years ago generated an almost dumpling-mania level of popularity locally.

“ROC is kind of like Din Tai Fung,” Ziss said. “It’s specializing in dumplings and noodles but a smaller concept, and you won’t find a two hour wait. The location on Sawtelle really drives the business crowd during lunch, so with the MB Towers nearby, and Skechers and all of the offices on Rosecrans, this restaurant will be a big draw once people learn of it.”

There is probably no restaurant in LA with more buzz than e.baldi. As the restaurant guide Zagat says, “Studio execs, agents with their newly minted starlets, and other heavy hitters come to dine at this Beverly Hills Northern Italian from Giorgio Baldi’s son, Edoardo.”

Giorgio Baldi’s little restaurant in Santa Monica Canyon has for decades been famous for its celebrity draw, with regulars such Dustin Hoffman, Martha Stewart, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift. His son’s restaurant has the same kind of draw, but is also known as more adventurous. Even the LA Times famously terse food writer S. Irene Virbila, though outraged by its prices,  noted that “…Edoardo Baldi’s cooking is often very good, more ambitious and better executed than I ever remember Giorgio Baldi being.”

Baldi’s edo Little Bites in Manhattan Village will be a smaller, more experimental concept, a 642 square foot restaurant located in the plaza area of the new Village shops, right next to an outdoor water feature and in the middle of what Ziss described as “lush landscaping” and near a clocktower architectural feature.

“I’m really excited about our new food offerings,” Ziss said. “Baldi’s is a celebrity hangout, it really draws them, but this will be a little bit of a different concept for them. The only other location is at [developer] Rick Caruso’s new development in Pacific Palisades, and now it’s coming down here. It’s a small, unique gem. You’ll see things like sweet corn ravioli and all kinds of funky gnocchi, but small plate style. The other location has quite a following; I don’t know if the celebrity demographic will be here, but we have our own celebrities.”

Two of the other announced new restaurants are much larger in scale. Joey Manhattan Beach brings a hugely popular chain originally from Canada that describes itself as “the ultimate in casual dining.” The restaurant features a large, diverse menu ranging from sushi to sandwiches to “Bollywood” fried chicken, an extensive happy hour and hand-crafted drinks. It will occupy 9,200 square feet in the center of the Village Shops.

Ziss expects Joey to be a huge hit. The chain just opened up a location in Woodland Hills that he said is doing “Cheesecake Factory” kind of numbers, volume-wise, and will open another location in downtown LA this summer.

“They are kind of upscale, casual, pretty eclectic menu offerings and with an outstanding happy hour —  once people find them, I think they are the perfect fit for Manhattan Beach and the surrounding beach communities,” Ziss said. “Because it’s sophisticated casual, and that is just something that rings these communities…This one is really going to go off.”

Urban Plates, a locally, sustainably sourced farm-to-table concept, will open a 4,264 square foot restaurant adjacent to the Ralph’s grocery on the north part of the Village. This location is significant when trying to envision what the overall rebuild of the place will look like. Ziss says the word “mall” isn’t quite right.

“I think even locals don’t necessarily see this as ‘the mall,’” he said. “I kind of grimace when I hear it, because there is a sort of a community center here.”

Ziss says when you look at the entirety of everything that exists at Manhattan Village, including the row of banks along Sepulveda, Ralph’s grocery store, and CVS drugstore, the area is a fairly comprehensive business district. The newer term in vogue, “lifestyle center,” he said, also feels slightly off the mark.

“The term ‘one stop shop’ is really old, but it is what we want this to be,” Ziss said. “You can get your groceries at Ralphs, do all your banking down the road, work out, get a juice, have lunch, and then pick up a black cocktail dress for your Friday night.”

Call it what you will, Ziss said, so long as it serves local needs.

“At the of the day, if you really are taking care of the South Bay community, good things will happen,” he said. “It’s always about keeping South Bay residents in mind.”

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