It is rated by AFAR as “One of the best Museum Restaurants around the globe”. Conspicuously nestled in the LACMA’s main outdoor foyer, Ray’s | Stark Bar catches attention with its design and bustle. It’s 30/70 indoor-outdoor setting is casual and inviting, and taking a glance at what each patron is having is a visual appetizer, totally enticing for passerbyers. Museeum was excited to experience this famous spot for ourselves.
Its mid-century modern esthetic with rich metal accents and bright pops of colors on iconic furniture is a visual feast against its monochromatic backdrop. Each piece of furniture is immediately recognizable for any design enthusiast. The Jacobsen Egg Chairs, Knoll Bertoia barstools, Diamond chairs, and the Eames Molded Fiberglas chairs are highlighted in reds, yellows, greys and blues. A gorgeous symphony of colors and good design.
The restaurant features a California fresh globally inspired menu, with an emphasis on farm to table and seasonal cuisine. It also boasts “California’s healthiest cocktails” rated by Forbes Travel Guide. We were delighted to know that they house a wood fire oven, and a garden behind the kitchens from which they harvest for the fare. LACMA members get 10% discount year round for dinner.
We started with Levitation as we sat down, a mixture of gin, mescal, maraschino, lime and jalapeno. It is one of their most unique and popular cocktails. It was as beautiful as it was unexpected. The generous quantity gin was not at all concealed by the strikingly strong spicy and tangy hints. The sangria was fragrant and sweet.
Our excellent server informed us that the restaurant is known to have LA’s most extensive water menu. The general manager and the world’s foremost water sommelier, Martin Reise, put together a 45-page water booklet that features a 20 item water list from 10 countries to provide unique water experiences. We tried Iskilde, upon his recommendation, a Danish brand from a remote artesian spring containing a high content of oxygen. The bubbling effect upon opening the bottle was distinctive, and the flavor was crisp and airy. Even the smell could transport you high into the glacial mountains. The difference sipping back on the tap water was enormous, as the tap water suddenly tasted incredibly metallic and even felt slimy. We also tried New Zealand’s Antipodes, which is the first water in the world to be carbon neutral from a 300-year-old filtration. The refreshingly earthy flavor was recognizably different from the Iskilde, but it was equally as pure. It was so hydrating that it felt as though I had not had water in months.
The restaurant is known to have LA’s most extensive water menu. The general manager and the world’s foremost water sommelier, Martin Reise, put together a 45-page water booklet that features a 20 item water list from 10 countries to provide unique water experiences.
The hand cut Frites with sriracha aioli was a perfect pairing with our main courses, so we ordered it twice. The wood fired Neapolitan style Margherita Pizza was perfect, the sauce not overwhelming and the crust chewy with some char. It served perfectly as an appetizer to share. The Scottish Cured Salmon on Toast with avocado and hard boiled eggs was as visually exquisite as its flavors. The colors of the salmon, separated egg, greens and sprinkling of edible flowers was a beautiful collage of colors.
The pork belly sandwich was probably one of the best of its kind I’ve tasted, with certainly the most fall-apart-melt-in-your-mouth meat I’ve had. The sauce was not overpowering. The fatty pork flavor, certainly one of the best flavors that exist in the world, was on full display. The short rib sandwich was robust. A bit too familiar tasting, it was good but not great. The pickles that came paired with all of our items was divine. Fresh, sweet and just slightly sour, they were the perfect palette cleanser and crunch that were needed.
The “kids table” menu was short and simple, and came with some crayons on the side. It would have been nice to have slightly more creative options than plain noodles and cheese pizza considering its location and frequent pint sized guests I’ve seen sitting in these seats. Nevertheless, my kids were definitely satisfied with the mac and cheese to share and bites from all the orders. They also preferred to drink out of the specialty water glasses in lieu of the plain tap water, especially my 2-year-old. I suppose kid’s palettes are more sensitive than we may imagine.
Ray’s | Stark Bar is one of those amazing restaurants which straddle between fine and casual dining. It’s a perfect dining experience for a leisurely meal after a long afternoon of museum viewing on museum row. I can’t help but imagine it being even enjoyable for happy hour at the bar with their exceptional drinks and some plates and laughs to share.