Fia reinvents the former Wilshire space with California sensibilities and a European vibe
By Audrey Cleo Yap
Fia 2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica (310) 586-1707 fiarestaurant.com
Since leaving now-shuttered Westside staple Wilshire in January, chef Brendan Collins has found a new home — in a way. He’s at the helm of the newly opened Fia, which opened last month in Wilshire’s old space. The former Waterloo & City chef (and current executive chef of Larry’s in Venice) had been trying to help sell the space when Fia owner Michael Greco (also of The Bungalow) contacted him about heading up a new venture.
“It was weird, I’ll give you that,” says Collins of setting up a new restaurant at an address he had already been working at for over two years. “I always thought the space was amazing. I always thought it had tons and tons of potential, if the right team came in.”
The famous patio is still in place, though it — and the rest of the restaurant — has been given an open, Euro-infused facelift by M. Winter Design, the same design team behind Gjusta and Manuela. The entrance is now off to the right and down a short alley, creating a more casual, homey feel. The same goes for the menu, which Collins, a native of England, describes as a mix of Californian and Italian coastal cuisine.
“I wanted it to be more of a European vibe. I wanted it to feel like al fresco food,” says Collins. “I took quite a bit of influence from the Italian Riviera, but then also styled it around Californian sensibilities because people do eat differently in California than they do in the rest of the world.”
How’s that? Think lobster Bolognese, rabbit tortellini, and assorted fish crudo, including king salmon scapece. Of course there’s heartier fare, too: stuffed quail, and a protein-packed pièce de résistance in the form of a seven-day beef shank — a dish that took three months to perfect, Collins says. There are colorful surprises, too, like the English pea risotto topped with crispy sweet breads. Echoes of Wilshire’s old menu — patatas bravas, roasted Brussels sprouts and Spanish octopus — also make appearances.
While there are no plans to revive Collins’ signature Sunday roast, a brunch service is in the works. And while he is ostensibly in the same kitchen as he was before, Collins says it feels different now — and not only because there are more people in it.
“What’s really changed is that there’s an excitement in the restaurant. There’s a buzz,” he says.
One thing that sets Fia apart in the area’s increasingly crowded dining scene is that, unlike many dining outposts popping up around town, this one is staffed and helmed by Angelenos. (Collins can count himself as one, too, since he moved here in 2002.)
“It’s not a restaurant being put together by big-time restaurateurs in New York or San Francisco,” he says. “It’s being put together by people who have cut their teeth here. They’re from Los Angeles. They understand the customers of Los Angeles, and have built reputations and their careers here.”