Designing Delicious


Tucked inside a former warehouse in the Los Angeles Arts District, Chef Enrique Olvera's restaurant Damian combines California’s field-fresh produce with reinvented Mexican mainstays.

Years before Netflix turned him into a household name, Chef Enrique Olvera was bringing edible transcendence to his native Mexico City at Pujol—a modernist restaurant he opened in 2000 that’s a member of the illustrious Relais & Châteaux and just checked in at number 13 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Olvera has since written two cookbooks for Phaidon (including Tu Casa Mi Casa) and opened a constellation of 12 restaurants north, south, and even east of the border, including Manhattan’s Cosme—where dishes include lobster al pastor and conch tostadas—and Jerónimo, within The Madrid EDITION hotel.

One of Olvera’s latest boîtes, Damian, is in Los Angeles’ Arts District. Tucked inside a former warehouse, the restaurant combines California’s field-fresh produce with reinvented Mexican mainstays (among them fish tempura tacos with kimchi; dry-aged branzino; and hibiscus meringue for dessert). Helming the kitchen? Chef Jesús “Chuy” Cervantes, formerly of Cosme, turned to Baja California for the menu’s inspiration.

Among Damian’s most beloved dishes is the corn tamale. “We serve it with a corn crema and a little bit of caviar just to give it a little bit of decadence and have a little bit of fun,” Cervantes says. One of their signatures is the duck carnitas dry-aged for a week and served with radishes and salsas de la casa. “It’s super classic Mexican, especially served next to tortillas and salsa so you can prepare your own tacos,” he says. To drink, look no further than the margaritas, which range from the quintessential to the unexpected (the Frozen Yuzu marg is whipped up with Casa Dragones Blanco tequila, cointreau, triple sec, yuzu and agave).

Polished concrete and exposed brick have allowed the space—designed by Alonso de Garay and interior designer Michaela DeBernadi—to keep its industrial roots, but with a twist: lush plantings and serene lighting at every turn. The vibe, Cervantes notes, is equally important as the food. “As we start service earlier in the day, we have a quieter feel. As the sun goes down, we start to turn down the lights and turn up the music. By the end of the night, it turns into a party.”

One we’re definitely RSVP’ing yes to. In the latest installment of Designing Delicious, we visit Damian.

A spread of dishes inspired by Baja California: seafood ceviche, tamale with corn crema and caviar, and duck carnitas.
Damian at night.
Cocktails and duck carnitas.
(From left to right) An outdoor seating area. Chef Jesús “Chuy” Cervantes.

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