Why Prada chose a 38-year-old Chinese restaurant for its latest pop-up

REUTERS
REUTERS

Summary

  • Ahead of L.A.’s Frieze Art Fair, Prada brought its traveling members’ club, Prada Mode, to the legendary local eatery Genghis Cohen.

For two days this week, Prada brought its traveling members’ club, Prada Mode, to Los Angeles ahead of the Frieze Art Fair, hosting guests including Jeff Goldblum, Rashida Jones, Storm Reid and Gabrielle Union.

The pop-up club’s members consist of people from various fields including art, design, fashion, music and film. The club has previously touched down in six other cities, taking over venues with distinctive design and emblematic ties to each host city, like Paris’s storied Belle Epoque restaurant Maxim’s and 180 The Strand, a brutalist building and culture center in London. Prada Mode typically lasts for two days and features musical performances, art installations, discussion panels and dining.

The club’s seventh iteration was held in a slightly less likely locale. Genghis Cohen is a 38-year-old New York–style Chinese restaurant, located in West Hollywood strip mall on a stretch of Fairfax Avenue across the street from an urgent care center. Like the surrounding area, its tiled exterior looks fairly nondescript.

Inside, though, dozens of paper lanterns hang from the ceiling, and red leather booths provide cozy old Hollywood appeal. Signature dishes like Queen Chicken and No Name Duck are shared on lazy Susans in the middle of the tables.

“There’s Dan Tana’s and there’s Langer’s and there’s Spago, but the list isn’t that long of restaurants in L.A. that have made it for that long a time," says Jamie Patricof, a movie and TV producer who’s one of Genghis Cohen’s investors.

The artist and L.A. native Martine Syms chose the venue for Prada Mode and created a site-specific installation called HelLA World, a commentary on her love-hate relationship with the city. The piece’s ticker-tape monitors wound around the walls and into the parking lot, telegraphing messages—some of which came from event guests, who messaged them in—on a bright pink background. Syms is a regular at the restaurant, for Sunday dinners and on Christmas, one of its most popular days. “When I was invited to do this project, I had literally just, the day before, said I wanted to throw a party here," she says. “Genghis Cohen is very unassuming, and then you go in and you’re like, This is tight."

In October 1983, music producer Allan Rinde opened Genghis Cohen, with a menu created by Sichuanese chef Shu Hsuan Lin. Later, Rinde added a small stage in an attached, adjacent venue, where James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and many others played. Genghis Cohen was the inspiration for the famous Seinfeld episode “The Chinese Restaurant."

After 25 years, Rinde sold the restaurant to his longtime maître d’, Ray Kiu, and Kiu’s family, who ran the restaurant from 1997 to 2015, then sold it to Call Mom, the hospitality group owned by Marc Rose and Med Abrous. Both are native New Yorkers who loved the restaurant before they thought about making it their own.

When they bought the restaurant, they didn’t change much. “We thought it was a very important thing for Los Angeles to have this style of restaurant," says Abrous. The chicken is now organic, and they’ve added other premium ingredients that weren’t available in the 1980s. Though they did renovations, Rose adds that they never closed the restaurant for a single shift.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

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