Ace Hotel’s LA Chapter has become Best Girl.Photo: Courtesy of Best Girl at Ace Hotel Los Angeles
Tomorrow night, diners at Downtown LA’s Ace Hotel are in for a surprise: They will not be eating dinner at the three-year-old brasserie LA Chapter, but instead, at Best Girl, an entirely new restaurant helmed by one of the city’s best chefs, Michael Cimarusti. Here, the seafood virtuoso behind Providence, Connie & Teds, and Cape Seafood and Provisions will shift his sights away from fish and toward veggie-forward menu that reflects the kind of food that he and his wife, pastry chef and partner Crisi Echiverri, cook at home. “Pretty much everything that’s on the menu is something you can trace to either myself or my wife. This is kind of like Sunday suppers,” says Cimarusti of the “really delicious, simple to prepare” dishes that boast “lots of depth of flavor and real ingredients.”
That Cimarusti is doing anything new is major news for foodies, but even non-connoisseurs should take note of the way the news is being released. It has been kept a tight secret since Cimarusti’s first meetings with the team at the Ace last year. No teaser on Instagram, no press circuit, and no "coming soon" sign in sight. Instead, Cimarusti and his team have been covertly slipping in and out of the DTLA mainstay, holding meetings at a long wooden dining table in the mezzanine hovering above the buzzing brasserie, and introducing new recipes in the kitchen, one by one. The new dishes have slowly made their way onto tables, so diners have been eating some of Cimarusti’s food for the past month without any knowledge of it. The Halloween reveal is one that the team at the Ace internally calls their “Beyoncé Drop,” referring to the pop star’s ability to stoke feverish responses from her fans and the media by releasing albums replete with music videos without warning. Lemonade was the highest selling album of 2016 following the success of her self-titled album, which she released minutes before midnight in December 2013. Within the first three days it sold 617,000 copies in the US and 828,773 copies worldwide, making it the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes Store.
The surprise drop, of course, is not a Beyoncé invention. It originated in Japan in the 90s, where streetwear brands, including Nigo’s A Bathing Ape, would introduce small batches of new product regularly to stoke a steady consumer response—while under supplying demand to ensure a hunger for more goods and also earn street credit for those who had reacted quickly enough to take home especially rare items from their favorite labels. The technique was then popularized and perfected by Supreme, the Manhattan-based skate-inspired clothing line that has so successfully refined the drop over the past two decades that every Thursday, no matter the weather, customers line up around the block waiting for its stores to open, and the brand's e-commerce site sees a reported spike of as much as 16,800 percent on the first drop day of a season.
Spreading from streetwear to sneakers to music to now nearly anything marketable and consumable, the drop has become a failsafe marketing tool for creating hype and inflating sales. Kylie Jenner’s eponymous makeup line earns her a reported $10 million dollars, and uses Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook to tease undisclosed new items with video snaps of Jenner herself applying the new product before exclusively releasing it on her own website in limited time frames while the stock lasts—which, on average, is less than a minute. Using social media to keep a secret is an ironic call and response. The drop is also a reprieve from the current oversaturation of information. In an age of Instagram feeds where you can "like it to know it" and tap to buy, it’s only human to crave surprise, and better yet, desire something rare and hard won. The drop will allow the Ace and Cimarusti to undoubtedly enjoy an influx of customers who, knowing next to nothing about one of the buzziest new restaurants in town, will need to simply come in and experience it themselves—the sooner, the better.
“It was a way for us to be playful,” says Ace Chief Brand Officer Kelly Sawdon. “We’ve [had surprise] events in the lobby [and] surprise guests with music, but we’ve never done it for changing out a restaurant.” The secret shift has also had its pragmatic benefits: it gave Cimarusti and Chef de Cuisine Adam Walker the ease of training the kitchen in each new dinner, lunch, and breakfast item over time rather than shutting down the restaurant for a week of intense training. The duo were able to live test items like the Tonkatsu Chicken Sandwich, a lunch standout based on the Japanese-style pork that Echiverri often produces by request for her son, only “we’re making it with chicken and putting it on a sandwich,” served with thinly sliced, creamy miso cabbage and yuzu kosju mayo. Vegetables like the Roasted Carrots with a lemon-spiked chickpea puree, fennel pollen, and black olive tapenade and salads including the Frisee Au Sable will feature produce from The Garden Of, which Cimarusti calls “the most beautiful farm ever. Everything is always perfect.” Burgers will be thin and straightforward, on a potato bun, and the seafood—a local rock cod served over a bed of mussels and roasted vegetables is above all else, “simple.” From morning to midnight, the food will be “exactly what I’d do at home,” meeting the new definition of comfort food: easy to eat and easy on the body. In other words, for the restaurant world’s first foray into the drop, Best Girl is the right food, the right chef, the right restaurant, at the right time. Get your reservation while you can.