Recently I had a chance to sit down and chat with Chef Eric Greenspan about his new concept Maré hidden behind the Melrose Umbrella Company on the old patio of the Foundry that’s accessed through Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese. What’s follows is a transcript of our dialogue that discusses the concept, the inspiration, the food and the meaning of the restaurant’s name.
LAC: Briefly describe the concept and the food concept if they are one and the same or different?
EG: The best way to describe it is a Coastal European seafood joint with outdoor patio dining at its best. That’s what we’re trying to do. We want to focus on the same imaginative bowls that people are used to from me, but in a more rustic setting.
LAC: What was the inspiration?
EG: The inspiration was the space itself. We operated that patio a long time on Melrose. With the Foundry instead of being a patio, the space was more of a dining room without a roof. This time we wanted more to embrace the space. We wanted the space to do what the space should be so we designed what we feel is a phenomenal patio. We wanted to be a fully thought out restaurant where the food is appropriate to the setting and the whole thing.
LAC: How does that fit with the neighborhood?
EG: Placing it I the neighborhood, number one was the pricing. We wanted to make it really accessible and affordable as possible. We want to be there for a really long time. We want to give you really great food at the right price. At the same time too, we’re not taking reservations so everyone knows they can walk in and get in. We have a great little waiting salon area for people to chill and relax while they wait for their table. Or they can just go sit in the Melrose Umbrella Company and get a drink or get an appetizer at Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese or something like that. We wanted to make sure that we stayed accessible and focused on taking care of people in the neighborhood.
LAC: Is it more of a fit for the neighborhood, or do you view it as more a fit for LA in general?
EG: I think it is probably a little bit of both. It is definitely a fit for LA in that LA is known for its patio dining and we’ve created one of the most refreshing relaxing beautiful patios in Los Angeles. If you’re going to eat on a patio then rustic food and family style feasting is the way to go. For me, if I’m going to cook rustic it is going to have that coastal European flair to it. It all just seems to make sense.
We didn’t want to force a square peg through a circular hole…not like this is what we’re going to do. Rather what makes sense for the space, the community, city, everything. Plus what is the best way to channel the way I feel about food to stay true to the overarching experience.
LAC: With the menu structure, it’s basically organized around the shellfish?
EG: The shellfish is the signature for sure. That’s where we get really fun with different kinds of broths, different kinds of shellfish, the spaghetti, egg and a lemon. All that makes for a really sensual tactile experience. It gets you involved with the food. Plus it’s a style of cuisine that I don’t believe anybody else is doing. It’s a very subtle way to be original and be creative. On top of that with the steak, fish and vegetables, everything all ties together. I think the shellfish is the sun in the center of our universe, and then we have a lot of great planets.
LAC: Does the pasta come with all of the shellfish dishes or just some of the shellfish dishes?
EG: Every bowl of shellfish comes with spaghetti and an egg.
LAC: Can you tell me a little more about some of the shellfish broths like the vadouvan and the pistou broths?
EG: The pistou is basically a pesto without cheese that’s a classic French style. It’s basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil. It’s everything except for the cheese. Cheese and shellfish really doesn’t work well together. Plus we have enough cheese in Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese to last a lifetime so you won’t find any cheese on the Maré menu. The vadouvan is a way of doing something exotic and creative but still speaks true to the region we’re trying to focus on because vadouvan is a Southern French version of a curry.
LAC: What’s in the vadouvan?
EG: One of our purveyors has given us a great spice mix. It’s a curry but then it has a lot of citrus and strong herbs in it. So it’s a very intense curry but has a typical French style. It has its subtleties and nuances
LAC: Are the broths simmered at low heat for a long time?
EG: Basically what I do is I make really intense bases. So I make a really intense curry vadouvan base, tomato fennel base, romesco base. Then we have the madre which is our mother broth which has seaweed, a touch of vinegar, a lot of fennel and beet greens, garlic and stuff like that. We simmer the madre an hour or two. So we steam all the shellfish in the madre and then dial in each broth with the base and garnishes. This gives us a chance to control the broth and make sure it is delicious and powerful.
LAC: Where are you getting your shellfish from?
EG: Right now I’m using LA Seafood, but anybody who has good quality shellfish, I’m open to.
LAC: You’re also doing specials?
EG: Yes, we’ve been running specials including an olive oil poached pork belly with an anchovy gremulata, and a yellow tail crudo with kohlrabi, grapefruit and saffron. We also ran a morcilla and nectarine broth for the shellfish plus a softshell crab dish.
A significant portion of our menu is something you can come back for every week. You know what’s going to be there and it’s going to be great. And for everyone who wants to mix it up a little bit, we’ll always be running some specials. That keeps up being creative, inventive and fresh.
LAC: Are those going to be nightly specials or are you going to switch them up?
EG: Whenever I feel like it. Also depends how they sell. So the faster somebody comes in and buys the specials, the faster I’ll change.
LAC: The restaurant’s name Maré is a play on a word?
EG: Yes, el mar is sea in Spanish. Mare is sea in Italian, and mer in French. But we didn’t want to call it mare because first it is not an Italian restaurant, so we didn’t want to have a strictly Italian word. The restaurant is not specific country focused, so we didn’t want to focus on a specific word. And, at the same time, if you name your restaurant mare, people think you named your restaurant after a female horse which doesn’t really evoke shellfish.
LAC: Okay, thanks for your time.
EG: You’re welcome. I appreciate your support.
Maré is located at 7465 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles behind the Melrose Umbrella Company. You enter through Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese at at 7461 Melrose Ave walking all the way to the rear of the space past the three bowl sink up some stairs and out through the rear door. The restaurant is open seven days a week Monday through Thursday (5pm-11pm), Friday (5pm-12am), Saturday (3pm-12am) and Sunday (3pm-11pm). Reservations are taken for parties larger than six guests.
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