HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Los Angeles County restaurants are currently allowed to welcome customers inside at 50% capacity.
According to OpenTable, the number of seated diners from reservations went down 100% in 2019. Now, from the beginning of May, 2021, the website has reported a 60% improvement.
Many new restaurants are opening as well, including Nancy Silverton’s The Barish inside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It honors her family, while bringing the glamour of Tinseltown and the details of fine dining. But why did this James Beard Award-winning chef open her first new restaurant since 2013 right after a global pandemic?
"The money was spent," said Silverton. "There was no turning back for us. It wasn’t a choice."
This elevated steakhouse was ready to go in March of 2020 — but when indoor dining halted, so did the grand opening. But the pandemic not only impacted The Barish, it ultimately stopped fine dining in its tracks. Many are wondering if it will ever go back to the way it used to be.
Being a veteran in the industry, Silverton is optimistic.
"There’s many facets," she said. "Maybe people won’t go back as much. Maybe people really enjoyed this last year and a half honing their own cooking skills at home and maybe enjoy eating at home. Maybe people enjoy the convenience of takeout and enjoy eating at home. I certainly think indoor dining will get back to where it was before, but I think it’s going to take some time."
Silverton added that people will still want to go out for special occasions and experience high-end service — like the flair and elegance seen in her hand painted plates, specifically designed uniforms and a wood-fired oven you can see from your table.
“If you aren’t inside to see that, you are missing half the experience,” she said.
In terms of when or how, that’s still up for discussion. The Barish has actually been sold out every night for the last three weeks since opening at 50% capacity. But when restaurants can increase that to 100%, Silverton is wary.
"It still has taken a toll on our confidence," she said. "There’s a lot of smaller restaurants that really cram people in and I am wondering how the public will feel about sitting shoulder to shoulder with somebody. I think that will take some time."
But if we remain on track to fully open in June, Silverton is ready to give Angelenos that normalcy they desire.
“There’s all sorts of the unknown, right? But with all of my restaurants, including obviously here, people are just happy to be back."
So if you ask this chef who has helped shape both LA and the country’s cuisine, fine dining is here to stay.