BY PATRICIA MORA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY WILLIAM BICHARA
JOHN TESAR AND HIS DESIGN FIRM, BRECKINRIDGETAYLOR, HAVE
CREATED A SPACE THAT’S THRILLING FOR BOTH THE EYE AND THE PALATE.
ohn Tesar’s luxe new restaurant, Knife, has enough decorative
shimmer to operate as performance art. It’s romantically
glamorous and operates deftly with cutting-edge beauty as well
as a nod to a bygone ambiance of upscale dining. Thus, it’s a blend of
exacting, clean lines and floor-to-ceiling curtains the color of dark
steel—not to mention an outré window display of beautifully lit
stacks of meat that (unbelievably) are more reminiscent of artwork
than a space built for cold storage. If restaurants were conferred
musical analogues, Knife would be a combination of Kraftwerk
and a Bach cello concerto. It’s stunning. And it also is a credit to
Tesar’s wisdom that he gave his designers at BreckinridgeTaylor
what they term “pretty much free rein” during the mere seven-day
period they were given to create concept drawings. This proves that
all parties involved are not just talented; they’re brilliant.
Located in the Palomar Hotel at the intersection of Mockingbird
and Central, Tesar’s latest bit of genius is plugged into color and
texture that are devised to make your senses fire on all cylinders.
For example, a dark-and-blond wood design just inside the front
door operates splendidly as a path into what can only be described
as gastronomic nirvana. Breck, of BreckinridgeTaylor, notes, “The
motif on the floor is one my favorite aspects of the design project—
along with the curve of the table legs that matches the curve of
the podium.” The floor design is a brilliantly redefined version of
a chevron pattern punctuated by a jet-black runway carpet that
leads to the hostesses’ podium—and that, too, is an exercise in
brilliantly chosen veneers and seductive shapes. It’s positioned such
that it becomes one of twin lodestars around which the rest of the
The other one, of course, is the kitchen, the space from whence
sheer magic emerges in the form of a selection of charcuterie, crispy
pig’s head, and Niman Ranch rib eyes that have been aged for nearly
Ja year. The latter is sold by the inch and can be coupled with roasted okra, tomato and bacon or French onion soup that will make you feel as if you’ve gotten your Rive Gauche fix for the summer. Again,
the designer effusively calls attention to the tile in the kitchen area.
Breck notes, “I love the green. It really worked well with the overall
look of the restaurant.” He’s right. It flickers with the light from the
cooking area and shimmers with a lovely shade of dark celadon that
is a cool antidote to the orange flare of the stoves.
However, be forewarned. Knife has a fluctuating menu that
morphs with the season and Tesar’s ambitious wizardry. But fear
not. It’s all good—actually, it’s all fastidiously, palate-drenchingly
luscious. And, with the addition of Michael Martensen’s widely
celebrated cocktails, the pre- and post-culinary delights will make
your evening especially spectacular. In fact, his skills at concocting
uniquely perfect “retro” beverages are nothing less than alchemical
Outside, to the right of the front entrance and opposite the
bar, there is a patio featuring a large stone fireplace. It’s a breezy
space with comfy chairs and, of course, is far less formal than the
restaurant proper; however, it still smacks of vacation-spa-chic
overtones. It’s perfect for enjoying a Bloody Mary or, of course,
dining al fresco—at least before the summer heat climbs past the
100-degree mark. Thus, Knife is far more posh than your local
boíte, and the atmosphere is ferociously New York-ish. Not to
mention: The service operates with military precision.
If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can invite friends
or business associates to join you in Knife’s “space within a space”
where you’ll be seated just beyond a heavy line of exquisite drapery
and a broad, circular table punctuated with floral arrangements.
Moreover, thanks to Breckinridge Taylor, there’s not an old-fashioned pelmet in sight. How marvelous is that? P
Chef John Tesar with Charles Taylor and Breck Woolsey of Breckinridge Taylor has redefined the modern steakhouse with sophisticated design elements.