It’s been a couple of years since Leka first put up construction fencing at the corner of 6th and Flower at the base of the 18-story Pacific Financial Center. Replacing what used to be a small outdoor cafe and a Cathay Bank branch that closed down in 2009, the future of Leka seemed to be uncertain as the site remained relatively dormant over the years. Many downtowners wondered when or if Leka would ever open, so it should be exciting for many to learn that Leka is, indeed, nearing the finish line and should open within the next month, finally.
The co-owner of Leka, Michael Kwan (Marcus Kwan and Kerry Moy are also co-owners) — who also owns the famous Wockano chain — gave me a tour of the space this week, which looks to be about 95% complete. A few more finishing touches and this place is ready to shine. Tables and chairs have been delivered, the open kitchen is ready to cook, and the towering glass-enclosed wine cellar will be stocked with a diverse selection of wine soon.
When Leka was first introduced, the menu was supposed to consist of a French-Asian fusion. However, with a new chef consultant on board named Remi, the menu has shifted to a New American approach that will incorporate ingredients and cooking from a variety of cultures represented in Los Angeles (which basically could be any culture on earth).
“We will combine a different variety of cuisine, taking the very best of them,” Remi explains. “All the different ethnic variety in Los Angeles — the Asian and Latino influences that have become so much of what LA is about — is a very good match for us here at Leka.”
One of the features that will stand out about this restaurant is how large the outdoor dining area will be. The indoor portion of the restaurant, which took over the Cathay Bank branch, is 6,000 square feet, but the outdoor area itself is almost 2,500 square feet with two fireplaces wrapped by an exterior “rustic metal” fencing with numerous rectangular holes punched through to provide a balance of privacy and transparency. Tag Front Architecture was the firm hired to design the space who also designed the Boa chain as well as Takami in Downtown LA.
I asked Kwan why it took so long for Leka to finally move forward, and not surprisingly, it had everything to do with timing. According to Kwan, there were two reasons for the delay: 1) They needed to wait for the office building to finish their own remodeling work that entailed updating the lobby and common areas that was completed in July 2011, and 2) Kwan decided to change the concept, which then needed some time to redevelop.
Leka is now shooting for a mid-to-late August 2012 grand opening. Hours include Thu – Sat from 11AM to 4AM (yes 4AM!), and Sun – Wed from 11AM to 2AM. The late hours of operation are sure to make a lot of people very happy as Downtown LA becomes more of a 24-hour urban center.