A legendary LA chef comes out of retirement for a new La Brea restaurant

Photo credit: Benedicte Castillo
An ice cream and grapefruit dish at Los Angeles restaurant Zozo

Tucked inside Maison Midi, the quirky furniture and home goods store along South La Brea, is an equally unusual restaurant that opened in early February. Like the shop, which sells goods from southern France, northwest Africa, and Greece, Zozo’s menu is equally wide-ranging with nods to North African, Eastern European, and Latin American cuisines.

Even more exciting is the fact that it marks a return to Los Angeles for chef John Sedlar, who closed his last restaurant in the city—DTLA’s acclaimed Rivera—in 2014 and was dubbed by famed late LA Times critic Jonathan Gold among the most inventive cooks in the world.

Zozo marks a return for chef John Sedlar to LA after a decade. Photo credit: John Troxelle

At Zozo, Sedlar is part of a powerhouse team that includes prolific LA restaurateur Bill Chait (he helped open Bestia, Republique, The Rose, to name a few), chef-partner Raphael Francois (previously the executive chef at French spot Tesse), and Jordan Ogron (a Hakkasan Group alum).

With a menu this unique and the culinary star power on board, Zozo is one of the most exciting debuts in LA in recent months. Read on for all the reasons you should make a booking now.

The food

Zozo’s menu travels the world in dishes like this house-made corn tortilla with avocado butter. Photo credit: Benedicte Castillo

Sedlar has dubbed the menu, which is mostly small plates with a handful of large dishes to share, “the cuisine of the sun.” By that he means foods from warmer parts of the world like the Middle East and regions in the Southern Hemisphere.

You’ll find him in the open kitchen making Jerusalem-style hummus, housemade corn tortillas with avocado butter (tortillas florales), turkey albóndigas in a nutty pumpkin-seed sauce, and snails with jamón Ibérico. “It’s a global menu with global ingredients,” Sedlar says. 

The drinks

Drinks are globe-trotting, too, and include cocktails like the mezcal-based Barbacoa with beef jerky. Photo credit: John Troxelle

Drinks similarly span choices from around the world, and Ogron has created an eclectic wine list that includes bottles from South Africa, Mexico, and Spain, among other places.

Bartender Heidi Wittekind pairs those choices with cocktails that travel the globe, too. Expect a cachaça (a Brazilian sugarcane spirit) drink with coconut and demerara sugar, the mezcal-based Barbacoa with beef jerky, and a tropical creation with passion fruit, pineapple, and yuzu. 

The space

Zozo is tucked inside the South La Brea home goods store Maison Midi. Photo credit: John Troxelle

Zozo sets the mood even before people walk in. A mural at the entrance by local artist T. Mac depicts iconic Mexican chef Patricia Quintana, legendary French chef Jean Bertranou, and the artist Georgia O’Keeffe—all inspirations to Sedlar, but also serving as a little teaser to the broad influences at Zozo.

Eating at the restaurant means sitting among some of the most striking furniture and home goods like chairs, plates, tablecloths, and linens that all surround the comfortable booths and tables in the middle of the space. 

Or you can get even closer to the action by grabbing a seat at the antique wooden bar that overlooks the kitchen. “The store itself participates in the atmosphere,” Francois says. “There’s a real harmony between the dining room and the shop, which gives it an elegant twist.”

When to go

Zozo’s exterior is covered in murals of chefs Sedlar was inspired by, including legendary Mexican chef Patricia Quintana. Photo credit: John Troxelle

It’s an especially exciting time to make your way to Zozo, since it just debuted lunch last week. Head on over in the afternoon from Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 2:30 pm. Or reserve a seat for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday, from 5:30 pm to 10 pm.

Karen Palmer is a pizza- and pasta-obsessed food writer based in Los Angeles. She is the former editorial director of Tasting Table, and her work has appeared in Eater, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and many other publications. Follow her on Instagram at @karenlpalmer.

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