Musician Moby on His Latest Project: a Vegan Restaurant in L.A.
Why open another vegan restaurant in an area that’s full of them already?
Oddly enough, most existing spots tend to go very upscale. There’s Crossroads [full disclosure: Moby is an investor here], which is wonderful, but it’s expensive and quite fancy. Then there are those places that are run by wonderful old punk rockers and have that dusty old punk rock quality. The one thing I can’t find—not just in Los Angeles, but in most places in the world—is a place that feels like a beautiful, normal restaurant that just happens to be vegan. That’s what I’m hoping to do. It’ll be a vegan bistro that opens at 7 a.m. and closes at midnight, the sort of relaxed, neighborhood place you can bring your family to.
What is your vision for the design of the restaurant?
Aesthetically, the building is really bizarre. It looks kind of like a tiny Art Deco battle ship and is idiosyncratic in a wonderful way. Inside, there will be a Scandinavian, Mid-century aesthetic that doesn’t take itself too seriously—clean, modern, and unassuming. In terms of materials, there will be a lot of natural wood.
Any menu highlights you can share?
I have absurd aspirations with the menu that are possibly unachievable, but it’s what I’m going for. I want it to be almost a vegan version of Chez Panisse. I think Alice Waters’ approach to food and produce is really inspiring, and I am using that as a guiding principle. It’ll be really lovely California-meets-Mediterranean organic vegan food that hopefully is as unpretentious as possible. You won’t need a doctorate degree to read the menu.
Will you be using only local ingredients?
I’d much rather be supporting a local organic farmer than an organic farmer 6,000 miles away. Having said that, if there’s something we need that can only be sourced from 6,000 miles away, that’s what we’ll have to use. If something calls for turmeric, it has to come from Hawaii—that’s the only place that grows organic turmeric.
What are your hopes for Little Pine?
It goes without saying that nobody opens an organic vegan restaurant with the hopes of making millions of dollars. I wanted to open a place that satisfied my interest in vegan food, health, community, and organic farming. If it’s a place that is beautiful, serves wonderful food, supports local farmers, and breaks even, I’ll be happy.
What are some of your favorite vegan restaurants around the world?
Since the mid 1980’s, I’ve been going to Le Grenier de Notre Dame in Paris. It’s an adorable vegetarian restaurant and I don’t think it’s changed in about 40 years. There was a time when I was touring I’d find myself in Paris 10 times a year, and every single time I would go there. They have a vegan cassoulet that is one of my favorite things on the planet.
In London, I love Manna in Primrose Hill. What’s been interesting is watching the way it’s evolved over the last 28 years. It was this British hippie restaurant where you’d get lentils and mashed yeast and barley water, and now it’s this really sophisticated organic vegan restaurant. Every time I’m there it’s just rammed with people.
What is your perfect day of eating in Los Angeles?
For breakfast, I’d go to a place in Highland Park called Kitchen Mouse. It’s vegan but also eggs occasionally. I’d probably go simple and get pancakes and hibiscus-ginger ice tea. The rice quinoa millet croquettes that are really good.
Lunch would be at Sage in Echo Park. I would get this really great avocado-tempeh burger with red onions and arugula, and a vegan ice cream called KindKreme. There’s this one chocolate-coconut based ice cream that’s filled with super foods like goji berries and cacao. The texture and flavor combined is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
I’d also have a mid-afternoon juice. Ten years ago it was pretty challenging to find organic fresh juice and now it’s ubiquitous. Every corner in L.A. has a new organic juice place. I don’t know how they stay in business, but I hope they do. My favorite is the Punch Bowl in Los Feliz.
If I were being a glutton, I would get an early dinner at Flore on sunset. The burrito is really remarkable and so full of stuff—black beans, tempeh bacon, pico de gallo, hot sauce.
For dessert, I’d go to Café Gratitude on Larchmont. Pretty much everything they have is amazing, but the thing I like most right now is the strawberry shortcake. They also make this turmeric latte, with fresh turmeric, cinnamon, almond milk, and honey. That’s my one non-vegan exception, occasionally eating honey from local producers.