Three thousand miles from home, Chef David Lentz has created a little piece of Baltimore in Southern California. The Maryland native and Boys’ Latin alum is the owner of The Hungry Cat, one of L.A.’s top restaurants with locations in Hollywood, Santa Barbara, and Santa Monica, the latter of which appeared on this season’s hit television show Million Dollar Decorators.
From the second you enter the restaurant and read the menu, it’s clear that Baltimore has had an influence; a specialty cocktail called, “The Pimlico” heads off the drinks list, old black and white photos of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Ocean City flank the walls, and, most importantly, the menu is almost all seafood.
As is the case with most Marylanders, Lentz says, “I was exposed to seafood at a young age. I have fond memories of crab feasts, fishing, and generally just having fun in the water. I think my food reflects those experiences.”
Speaking of crab feasts, shortly after opening the original Hollywood location, Lentz introduced Los Angeles to the ultimate Maryland treat with an event he dubbed Crabfest. For $75, guests receive a prix fixe Maryland menu: crabs, crab soup, a crab cake, and assorted dessert. Lentz says that he “wanted to bring a slice of Maryland to Los Angeles. It has been wildly successful.”
In fact, The Hungry Cat overall has been wildly successful, financially and critically. Case in point: Reservations are nearly impossible to come by (we, consequently, ate dinner at 5 o’clock–it was worth it). And Cat has received praise from Town & Country, Bon Appetit, Zagat’s, The Los Angeles Times, and many more. As far as buzz, well, it was just reportedthat Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin recently dined Maryland-style at the Santa Monica location. If Lady Goop approves, you know it’s good.
Lentz is part of an L.A. culinary power couple: his wife, Chef Suzanne Goin, runs the renowned restaurants Lucques and Tavern, where President Obama dined when he was in Los Angeles last spring.
Even though he’s doing just fine in sunny SoCal, Lentz says he loves Maryland and misses it.
“I miss the people…I am a diehard Ravens fan and the Orioles are still my favorite baseball team! Maryland is a great place, blue collar with a big sense of pride… I love to go back and go to sporting events, fish with my cousins and hit the watering holes downtown. I am truly glad I grew up there, it taught me a lot.”
He might miss it, but we’re glad he’s giving Angelenos a taste of what we’re all about.
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