Plant-based eatery Avant Garden Bistro was a huge success when it opened in New York City in 2015. Earlier this month, its LA counterpart of the same name opened in West Hollywood.
Avant Garden Bistro is led by Ravi DeRossi. A 2022 James Beard Award Nominee for Outstanding Restaurateur, DeRossi is a co-founder of the influential Death & Co bars in New York City, DTLA’s Arts District, and Denver. Overthrow Hospitality, his restaurant group, is also behind nine much-loved NYC vegan restaurants and bars.
Veganism is a subject close to DeRossi’s heart. “When I was 12, I stopped eating meat,” he told me when I visited his new restaurant. “I wasn’t even sure why.” Years later, DeRossi took an extended leave of absence from his restaurants when his beloved cat Simon became terminally ill.
Nursing his sick feline transformed Ravi. “I was taking care of Simon, but he was also taking care of me.” The deep spiritual bond he felt with Simon changed him. “I saw that all animals — cats, dogs, pigs — were the same as humans. There was no reason we should eat them. I decided to make all my restaurants plant-based.”
Ravi’s deeper relationship with animals continued to change him. “I was the guy who was out at bars till four in the morning and suddenly I wanted to be home early to be with my animals.”
Chef Sarah Stearns is an LA native who has worked in kitchens at Mirame, Vintage Wine + Eats, and Venice’s late, lamented Joe’s Restaurant. At Avant Garden Bistro, Stearns both creates her own dishes and brings favorites from Overthrow Hospitality’s other eateries.
My favorite cold starter features creamy avocado atop sushi rice with carrot ginger dressing, miso, and blistered shishito peppers. The Cremini Toast, with walnut puree, red grapes, and Calabrian chili, is eminently cravable.
The Roasted Carrot entree was more exciting than the name might indicate. A real standout, it’s enhanced with pistachio cremula, spring onion soubise, and blood sorrel. The Banana Split Pudding with cinnamon, ginger, and whipped cream is a sophisticated hybrid of two comforting classics.
The cocktails here defy the expected. You’ll find low-ABV cocktails created by award-winning Master Mixologist Souther Teague. His unique creations, crafted with wine and fortified wines like vermouth, sherry, and pommeau, rival conventional cocktails.
The cocktail I savored on my visit, the Bush Sunflower, was bright and smooth. Anchored by sous vide limoncello that Teague created with lemon and Carpano Bianco vermouth, it also features almonds and Pastiche bitters.
The wine list features natural wines curated by Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman. The beer list, featuring great LA beers and rare European brews, was selected by Certified Cicerone Ramon Hung.
The interior evokes the charm of a classic French bistro, while the patio is reminiscent of an enchanted garden. Laden with a bounty of gorgeous plants and trees, it includes a two-story tree created by Hollywood set designer Andrew Nowling, whose credits include HBO’s “Euphoria” and “Mulan.” Chandeliers float from trees, while small spotlights artfully highlight the lush surroundings.
The location on Melrose Avenue might seem familiar – it used to host a much-loved Italian restaurant. Ravi shared, “This space used to be Caffe Luna. Years ago, I was a busboy at Caffe Luna, then a waiter at Louise’s Trattoria next door.”
Avant Garden Bistro is DeRossi’s first West Coast eatery. Open Wednesdays through Sundays, it’s located at 7469 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. The phone number is 323.622.4746.
Photo Gallery by Karin E. Baker for The LA Beat