HOLLYWOOD — It seems even domestic pets are not immune to the charms of California cuisine. Certainly not the two cats belonging to husband and wife chefs David Lentz, who made his mark at Opaline, and Suzanne Goin, owner of the critically acclaimed A.O.C. and Lucques. “They were strays when we got them,” says Lentz. “And now they’re always hungry.”
So when a friend suggested they name their new Hollywood seafood restaurant after their ravenous felines, calling it the The Hungry Cat seemed the perfect choice.
The couple’s first venture together came about one night after Lentz learned his plan for a downtown restaurant had fallen through. “We were sitting around, having a glass of wine,” Lentz recalls, “when suddenly Suzanne had this idea for an oyster bar.” They imagined a friendly place, open late, where people could enjoy simple, fresh shellfish with a bottle of rose.
The result is a 70-seat, indoor-outdoor space in the Sunset + Vine loft-retail complex with a concise menu — 15 dishes plus several daily specials. Aside from a market salad and the blue cheese-slathered “Pug” burger (named after their other pet), the offerings are nearly all seafood.
Two of the most in-demand dishes result from Lentz’s Maryland upbringing — his mother gave him a 100-year-old recipe for Baltimore crab cakes, while the lobster roll is an East Coast staple. Other dishes, such as the chorizo with clams, are influenced by Lentz and Goin’s love of Moroccan and Spanish cuisine.
Despite the mall-like location, Lentz is encouraged by the diverse, packed house he cooks for nightly. “We get everyone here — Eastsiders, Westsiders and the Hollywood crowd.” Having the Arclight Cinema across the street doesn’t hurt either, especially since the kitchen serves until midnight, and the bar is open until 1 a.m. For the weekend brunch, Lentz takes advantage of the neighboring Hollywood Farmers Market.
Fruit from that market also finds its way into the cocktails that mirror Lentz and Goin’s cooking philosophy — seasonal, clean and simple.