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Glam to the Bone

The art deco–style dining room at Gwen (gwenla.com) in Hollywood sparkles with chandeliers and stars, a showplace beneath a proscenium arch that leads all eyes toward the open kitchen—chef Curtis Stone’s main stage. Stone, the Australian celebrity chef whose tiny restaurant Maude is among Los Angeles’s best, has partnered with his brother Luke on this glamorous new venture and filled it with surprises, starting with a serious butcher shop up front (selling Australia’s luscious Blackmore wagyu), a curing and aging room, and behind a glass wall, a mini inferno containing an Argentine asador grill. Stone’s epiphany is that while many restaurants offer live-fire cooking, none are exploring how to fuse it with modern techniques. And so the shoulder of Stemple Creek Ranch lamb is first slowly smoked, then finished sous vide. The five-course menu ($190 for two) is also a revelatory hybrid of rustic dining and formal prix fixe, with a flurry of dishes starting with slivers of leek ash and porcini salami and ribbons of duck speck, and continuing with a strip of fresh sardine briefly smoked atop glowing almond wood, and a delicate salad that hearkens to the steak house with dabs of buttermilk dressing. The main course is lamb three ways—merguez sausage, brined and smoked ribs, and that succulent shoulder. There is more, yes, but at this point you may break into applause.