Los Angeles Chef Casey Lane Turns Palisociety Resort Eating places Into Vacation spot Eating places
Marco Polo is a Milan-inspired trattoria.
Jacob N. Layman
You can hear the energy in Los Angeles chef Casey Lane’s voice. He’s amped to be back doing what he does best, creating transporting restaurants that you want to visit again and again. He knows he didn’t have to come back. He knows he could have taken another path inside of returning to an industry and a city where it’s harder and harder to build, launch, operate and thrive.
He had done well in restaurants for more than a decade and invested in Portland cannabis businesses during the pandemic. (He was a chef in Portland before he moved to Los Angeles, and a long-term return to Portland seemed viable.) There was a way forward for him that didn’t involve cooking. But the thing is, he’s still enamored by the romance of the restaurant business. He still enjoys creating and tasting and mentoring and storytelling and making guests happy.
Lane, who opened pioneering Abbot Kinney Boulevard restaurant The Tasting Kitchen in 2009, is now creative director of food and beverage for Palisociety, Avi Brosh’s independent and rapidly expanding hotel collection. Brosh takes food seriously, so he’s started Palisociety Dining Group to develop new restaurants for his hotels.
The portfolio already includes Marco Polo, a Milan-inspired trattoria at the Silver Lake Pool & Inn. Marco Polo is designed to feel like a European getaway. Guests sit on the patio and order spritzes and enjoy leisurely meals with baked clams, panzerotti (like an airier calzone) and world-class pastas. Marco Polo’s creamy tagliatelle Bolognese is at once rustic and refined, which is a good way to encapsulate Lane’s world view and cooking. His food is about marrying luxury with tradition and everyday delights. It’s also about blending cultures, in the way that cultures have already blended around the world, so Marco Polo is an Italian restaurant that’s also a nod to Southern France (where people love clams with breadcrumbs) and Morocco (because why not use yogurt and some of the world’s best spices).
But also: “If some of Milan’s restaurants are like what brasseries are to Paris, that’s the idea,” Lane says. “I personally feel like the most good to great restaurants in any city in Italy are in Milan. Milan’s always a little more fun. There’s always a lot more people, a lot more money. People are out spending, people are out dining.”
Simonette feels like an oasis in Culver City.
Lane is, of course, attracted to this kind of energy. But he’s just as inspired by humble restaurants and the dining habits of people who don’t have limited-edition watches or designer handbags. Yes, his job is to envision diverting and upscale hotel dining experiences. But at Simonette at Palihotel Culver City, he’s taking inspiration from French roadside diners as he serves three different burgers (all with grilled onions and cheese), breakfast radishes, mussels, a bouillabaisse boil and clams with fideos.
And at the new Palihouse West Hollywood, Lane opened a cozy Japanese restaurant last month. Mezzanine Sushi serves nigiri, pressed sushi and izakaya-style bites like bacon-wrapped shimeji mushrooms and luscious yellowtail collars. This is Lane’s first Japanese restaurant, and it wasn’t his idea. But he was up to the challenge. As a reference point, he thought about Sushi Sushi, a restaurant that used to be in Beverly Hills and had a small no-frills space and food that was sophisticated without being over-the-top. Plus, Lane, who not-so-long-ago made the best crudos in Los Angeles at Viale dei Romani, knows his way around raw fish and letting pristine ingredients shine without overcomplicating things. He remembers that the best and biggest flavor bombs at Sushi Sushi usually were made with just three ingredients.
Palihouse West Hollywood is also home to Palihouse Lobby Lounge Café and Bar, which aims to be something like Tower Bar meets South Beverly Grill and has a menu with lobster tacos, cobb salad and steak frites. But Lane is also nodding to Los Angeles fruit carts as he drenches cucumber and coconut in lemon and then adds a pop of spiciness.
Each of these four Los Angeles restaurants is designed to be scalable, although Lane isn’t the type of chef who’s into carbon copies. At the forthcoming Palihouse San Diego that might debut in late spring, Lane will open the St. James French Diner, a restaurant based on the bones of Simonette. Palisociety is also working on hotels in Hollywood, Albuquerque, New Orleans and Tampa. And Lane is excited about Le Petit Pali, a new venture that will reimagine the bed-and-breakfast experience in upscale destinations like Carmel. Three Le Petit Pali properties, which Lane describes as “really curated, borderline theatrical bed-and-breakfast spaces,” are scheduled to open this year.
This beautiful bar is below Mezzanine Sushi at the new Palihouse West Hollywood.
Lane is extremely busy, but he still takes the time to think about why he’s doing this in the first place. When asked about his reasons for joining Palisociety, he says he wants to explain by going ”back about a decade, for the romance of it all.” He remembers Brosh coming to The Tasting Kitchen. He remembers conceptualizing restaurants with Apicii, a firm that develops and operates hospitality venues. Apicii respected Brosh’s work and business sense. Lane heard Brosh’s vision for turning a small hotel group into something formidable, and then he realized years later that Brosh had made it happen.
So now Lane is part of what he calls a “standalone, legit restaurant division” at Palisociety.
“I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to do this again,” he says. “To be totally honest, I was, like, real jaded, which happens to everyone.”
Cooking in a restaurant is about repetition. It’s about manual labor and often about long hours, and it can mean testing the limits of your body and your mind. But there’s a joy in doing something that’s precise and tactile.
Simonette is Casey Lane’s elegant ode to French roadside diners.
Jacob N. Layman
“When we are with our team on-site at a restaurant, we are focused on exactly what’s in my hands,” Lane says. “I found that this is the best way to grow the passion of the team, to grow the knowledge of the team and just make sure that the work we’re doing matters.”