Los Angeles is an industry town. Everywhere you look, you’re reminded that this is Hollywood - from the agency bros who take too long to order at your Starbucks every morning, to the filming that regularly shuts down your street right when you leave for work. And then there are the industry restaurants.
These are the restaurants people in entertainment go to because everyone else in entertainment eats there too. They know they’ll see their boss and their boss’s boss and their nemesis, all while doing a deal that will make them look very important. Tesse, a French-ish spot in Sunset Plaza, is absolutely an industry restaurant. So, no matter what we say, people in the industry will come here. But honestly, they really shouldn’t.
The room at Tesse is objectively beautiful, and also objectively soulless. There’s a moodily-lit bar, booths that you can only sit in if you make more than $200K a year, and dark wood on almost every surface. If Laura Dern’s Big Little Lies character had a ski chalet, it would probably look like this. Your boss will like it, and will probably ask for the designer’s number on his way out. He is re-doing the Aspen house after all.
If you stumble in here as a non-industry civilian, Tesse can feel pretty overwhelming, mostly because everyone here knows everyone else. There’s a lot of intra-table interaction, but we suppose when you’re taking a meeting with your archrival’s star client, you want to make sure everyone in town will see it. The good news is that Tesse is a well-run restaurant, so even if you’re a normal person with a normal job, none of the staff will look you up and down and decide you’re not the worth the time investment. They’re nice to everyone, which is more than you can say for Nobu.
But where Tesse really falls down is the food. The menu is extremely long, with 36 dishes, 23 cheese and charcuterie options, and eight desserts. A restaurant can get away with a dissertation-length list of dishes when most of those dishes are good, but this isn’t the case at Tesse. A handful are solid - the beef tartare, whipped potato-topped blue crab, the desserts - but most are boring, and some are just bad. We’ve been actively discouraged from ordering a dish at Tesse - why they wouldn’t just remove it from the menu remains unclear.
What is clear, however, is that no one eating at Tesse really cares whether the food is good or the atmosphere is fun. That’s what makes this the ultimate industry restaurant. And just like you’ve learned to move your car at night to avoid Fresh Off The Boat filming on your street in the morning, you should probably find a different place to eat. Even if you do need an industry restaurant, you can do much better than Tesse.
Tesse makes all their charcuterie in-house, which sounds very impressive. But that also sets expectations pretty high. The pates, sausages, and cured meats here are good, not great.
This is basically a deconstructed Greek salad, and someone at your table will definitely order it with the dressing on the side. It’s fine.
By far the best thing here. A giant crispy cracker comes with chive aioli and tartare on top, and it’s tangy and rich and fantastic. If only there were more dishes like it.
Another highlight. This comes out just looking like mashed potato in a bowl, but dig underneath and you’ll find creamy, tarragony crab. It’s like the inside bits of a crab cake, and you won’t be able to stop eating it.
Turns out, lobster doesn’t belong in sausage. The texture here is truly weird, to the point where your brain won’t really understand what’s happening. The huge duck fat fries that come with it are tasty, though.
This comes out looking very impressive, especially once they pick up the bone on top, scrape the marrow into the bowl, and then use that bone to toss everything together. Somehow, despite all that performance, and some bits of duck prosciutto, it ends up being a pretty flavorless bowl of pasta.
A kind of sauce-less stew, this lamb with barley and greens looks healthy and hearty when it comes out. It’s not a bad dish, but is completely under-seasoned.
Another impressive-looking dish, this is a big metal skewer of beef and sliced red pepper. The beef is rubbed in a delicious spice mix, but the hummus on the side is dry and doesn’t add anything.
All the desserts we’ve had at Tesse have been pretty good, but this deconstructed snickers bar was the best.