Restaurant Buzz: Award Nominations Revealed, Mikkeller Closes and a New Ramen Haunt Make Up February’s Restaurant News

Chef Luke Reyes and Devin Carlson opened 9th St. Ramen. 

Award Season: It’s about that time of the year when the James Beard Foundation releases its list of nominations for its slate of prestigious awards and of course, Downtown restaurants are well represented. On Wednesday, Feb. 26, the list of semifinalists was released, with Chef Mei Lin’s Nightshade earning a nomination for Best New Restaurant and Lincoln Carson, of the Arts District’s Bon Temps, listed as a semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Downtown had a noticeable impact on the California segment of the Best Chef category as well, with four out of the 20 finalists coming out of the Central City. Lin is a finalist in this category, as is chef Josef Centeno of Orsa & Winston and the Centeno Group empire. Brandon Go of Hayato Go at ROW DTLA and the husband-and-wife team behind Bavel and Bestia in the Arts District, Ori Menasche and Genevieve Gergis also made the cut. The full list of finalists will be released during an event on March 25 in Philadelphia.

Ready to Ramen: Chef Luke Reyes and his business partner Devin Carlson are leveraging their love for ramen at the recently opened 9th St. Ramen. As the name suggests, the restaurant focuses on slippery and savory bowls of Japanese noodles, constructed from house-made ramen and broths. The first day of operation was Monday, Feb. 24. Sharpening his skill in Tokyo, Reyes’ menu consists of a changing slate of dishes, focusing on Reyes’ toasted wheat and rye flour noodles and Japanese black ramen. To drink, 9th St. Ramen also serves wines and sake. The 875-square-foot restaurant borrows a pseudo-futuristic and neon-heavy aesthetic similar to films like Blade Runner and Only God Forgives. Carlson and design partner Nathan Warkentin of the Suplex Agency designed the space. “Our vision with 9th St. Ramen was to create a neighborhood restaurant that has the energetic pace of traditional ramen shops in Japan, but with more of a modern design, menu and beverage program,” Reyes said in a prepared statement. “As downtown residents, Devin and I have seen this neighborhood change and grow so much over the last decade and we are excited to be able to continue it with the opening of 9th St. Ramen.” Hours for 9th St. Ramen are currently 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday.

At 111 W. Ninth St., (213) 628-3404 or 9thstramen.com.

Mediterranean Meals: There is a new Mediterranean fast casual restaurant at Grand Central Market. SAJJ Mediterranean opened its first Los Angeles location at the food hub on Thursday, Feb. 27. If you’ve been to Chipotle, then you’ll be at home at SAJJ. The restaurant focuses on customizable dishes, with customers building their meals in an assembly line fashion with a choice of a sajj wrap, a pita sandwich, grain bowl or salad. Chicken, steak shawarma, pomegranate chicken and falafel are just a few of the available proteins. “We could not be more excited to enter the Los Angeles market with our restaurant in Downtown, and know it will be a welcome addition to the bustling business and residential community,” Zaid Ayoub, founder and CEO said in a prepared statement. SAJJ is open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m to 8 p.m.

At 630 W. Sixth St., unit 110B or sajjstreeteats.com.

Fire Erupts at Hill Grill: It took nearly 30 Los Angeles Fire Department personnel close to 11 minutes to extinguish a blaze within the pocket diner Hill Grill on Sunday, Feb. 23. According to LAFD Public Information Officer Brian Humphrey, the fire at 1061 S. Hill St. erupted inside of the 442-square-foot hamburger restaurant around 5 p.m., however the cause for the fire was not determined. No injuries were reported and nearby vehicles were not impacted by the blaze. The extent of the damage was not immediately available and an investigation into the fire remains ongoing.

Downtown’s Mikkeller Closes: South Park’s craft beer hub Mikkeller has abruptly closed. On Monday, Feb. 24, staff were informed that the restaurant and bar was ceasing operations that day. It remains unclear why the bar closed. The Downtown location at 1000 S. Olive St. was an outpost of the Danish beer company and while not a brewery itself, it carried a variety of on-draft beers from its parent brewer as well as other beer makers. Former staff confirmed the closure, although queries to Mikkeller’s management and owner have not been answered. The space had just celebrated three years of operations on Feb. 22. The restaurant’s separate day-time coffee spot Kaffebaren shut down late last year.

Nicholas Slayton contributed to this report

Have any juicy restaurant news? Send over any tips to sthomas@timespublications.com.