Kid Hit Menu Items: Even though chef John Sedlar’s Playa on Beverly is far from a family-friendly restaurant, some visual flourishes at brunch seem designed especially for kids. Sedlar might not be thinking along the lines of chocolate chip smiley faces on pancakes, but a sculptural tower of spun sugar has largely the same impact among young customers. The panqueques platter ($12) was one of the more stunning breakfast dishes I’ve ever seen; luckily for the kid, Playa’s menu describes the dish quite selectively. This turned out to be a sweet breakfast extravaganza, with Nutella slathered between the dense, dark cakes, and even a scoop of ice cream. (And just to think it was the Pedro Jimenez compote that first concerned me most.) I tried to give him bites of egg and savories, but between the pancakes and the incredible firm blue corn muffins with sweet almond-laced butter, it was a losing battle.
Adult Perks: Drinks at Playa are bound to be darn good, since master barman Julian Cox has been an integral part of Rivera Downtown and has set up operations at Playa. We opted for strong plunge pot coffee, skipping Bloody Marys and other tempting brunch cocktails, but the punches and mezcal/tequila-focused drinks I had during dinner at Playa a few months back were indeed expertly crafted. Beyond the liquid perks of Playa brunch, the daytime menu is one of the more surprising interpretations of brunch food you’ll find in L.A. The eggs Benedict ($13) came poached to perfection, with a careful amount of jamon laced through the dish, topped with a rich, golden-hued chipotle béarnaise and a bed of greens to help the muffins soak up the runny textures. For a vegetarian option, the omelet ($13) is plenty substantial enough can with the queso Idiazabal and without chorizo, but with plenty of smoky heft from salsa piquillo. Playa’s signature maize cake template base comes “Jewish” style on the weekends with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, and caper berries. And BTW, we weren’t the only family during brunch, but we definitely also recommend Playa for a date night spot.
Pros: Probably for some older kids, brunch or an early dinner at Playa could be a fun, sophisticated treat. The glossy high-ceiling interior (formerly Grace restaurant) full of patterns and lively reflective surfaces, encourages some degree of frivolous fun. The banquette along one wall is comfortable enough. The shaggy light fixtures look like they might spontaneously start shimmying down from the ceiling, or bust into a cheerleading routine all on their own.
Cons: No high chairs or boosters. Higher chairs grouped around communal table and counters in the bar area definitely won’t work. The many young families who live in the neighborhood probably don’t include Playa on their regular restaurant rounds — which like I’ve said about many other places, is totally fine. I’ll repeat: not everyone needs to nor should cater to us. Plenty of other places along Beverly Boulevard can do that instead. Playa’s artful plates decorated with photographic images and covered with a sheet of protective glass are enough to keep us all away for a few years, other than for all-adult dinners.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: No
Parking and Access: Valet necessary at night. Also available during weekends, but we found our own street parking easily enough. Check neighborhood permit signs very carefully.
Other Tidbits: In the topsy turvy world of contemporary chefs and restaurants, John Rivera Sedlar’s story still stands out. Help trail blaze an entire genre of cooking, then publicly step away from the stoves for years, and return with an ambitious restaurant that showcases academic depth of understanding with a highly skilled practitioner’s passion and vision for Latin and Southwest cuisine. Playa, slightly more casual than Rivera in its décor, atmosphere and menu, is the latest chapter. The light-flooded space has a different kind of drama during the day than at night, when carefully staged lighting makes the dining room warmly sparkle, all the better to help guide guests at the bar stools to put back their bespoke cocktails or shots of obscure mezcal over maize cakes, succulent octopus with hearts of palm, and vaporized tacos. Fortunately, tasting Sedlar’s broad culinary swath that includes parts of the Southwest United States all the way to South America is available during reasonable weekend day hours, and provides another fine example of how just a few bucks more buys you a much more interesting, way above average brunch in this town.
UPDATE: Playa is now edgy upscale taco joint Petty Cash.
7360 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
Cuisine: Latin American, Southwestern
Hours: 6 p.m. – 11 p.m., Daily, plus extended weekend bar hours; weekend brunch 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Saturday & Sunday.