Nightshade: Top Chef’s Mei Lin Plants Her Fine Dining Roots in Arts District
There is something about the Arts District in DTLA that keeps attracting award-winning chefs, fine dining cuisine, and elegant decor. Whatever the reasoning is, we’re not complaining about it, as it is turning our neighborhood into a international dining destination. One of the most anticipated restaurants to open in LA comes to us from Top Chef winner Mei Lin and her partners Cyrus Batchan and Francis Miranda.
Nightshade planted its roots in a tucked away Arts District alley, it was the perfect location to house their “hidden gem” as the team put it. They officially opened their doors to the public in early January to greet patrons with a simple but outstanding menu. Chef Lin calls it “comfort food” and while it is delicious yet approachable, it certainly does have that fine dining elevation from her expertise. Chef Lin’s experience from before Top Chef and what followed, is reflected on the menu.
In between opening Nightshade and winning Top Chef, Lin traveled all over the world to gather inspiration from her menu, according to her, “Almost everything on the menu is inspired by a place I have traveled to.” She also takes from one of her cooking idols, Julia Child. The techniques she practices came from her time working at fellow Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio’s ink, but she credits her cooking skills to her time spent at Spago in Las Vegas. The tofu cream lasagna with pork ragu has already received beloved reviews by critics, for me, Lin’s Hokkaido scallops with coconut vinaigrette truly impressed.
Nightshade’s menu is well-rounded and includes unique desserts as well as tea-infused cocktails that use original teas that Lin makes on her own. The creativity doesn’t stop there, soon Nightshade will debut their brunch menu for the weekends.
Chef Lin’s kitchen team has learned under her direction that hard work and dedication will be rewarded, something she was taught growing up in her family’s restaurant back home in Michigan. It was also important for Lin to be surrounded by new faces, with the exception of two sous chefs whom she has worked with in the past, this way everyone has something special to bring to the table. As for Lin, her next travels for inspiration include Lebanon and Israel, but she does hope to visit home more often.
Nightshade has been incredibly busy since it’s opening, the 60-seat dining room designed by Jorge Gracia has plenty of seating including booths decorated with beautiful emerald green cushions and art deco hints. The tall windows provide plenty of natural light for the hanging plants that adorn the center of the wide-open dining space. According to Cyrus and Francis, the idea for the interior design was, “to brighten the industrial space and bring vibrancy into the restaurant providing a canvas where the food could be the art displayed on beautiful ceramics” and they hit the nail on the head.
Everything from the entrance to the plating of the food is a well thought out process at Nightshade. Combined with the passion for simple yet complex flavors that Chef Lin incorporated into her menu, it ties it all up nicely as the latest fine dining gift to the Arts District growing restaurant scene.
Written by Mariana Ramos | Photography by Robiee Ziegler