The dining scene in Southern California will shine a little brighter thanks to actor and musician Evan Ross’ foray into the restaurant industry. Ross and Ryan Phillippe have invested in The Hideaway in Beverly Hills, the brainchild of Jeffrey Best of Best Events. Newcomer Leona’s Sushi House becomes part of the San Fernando Valley with investment by Ross, Former La Loggia owner Frank Leon, and sushi chef Shigenori Fujimoto.
“I don’t know if I would call myself a restauranteur or even if I am inspired to become one,” says Ross. “I love being around people in a social environment. Even when I was young, I loved getting dressed up and going out, especially to dinner. I embrace the energy, and when I was young, I got involved with clubs [Warwick]. I am enjoying being a part of these two restaurants.”
His goal is to be all-inclusive and diverse, including food, beverage, staff, and guest in his two restaurants.
The Hideaway took over a partially hidden, below-street-level space on Rodeo Drive as an elevated Mexican surf-and-turf spot. Alex Moreno (formerly executive chef at Best’s Habana Restaurant in Irvine) and Viet Pham developed their cuisine. Julian Cox (Bestia, Otium) crafted the cocktail offerings, which includes a sweet and sour margarita made with Blanco and reposado tequila. A unique feature of The Hideaway is tableside tequila service, where guests can press a button that signals staff to bring more of the tequila of one’s choice.
“Chef Alex is a wonderful chef, an incredible human being, and he does everything with love,” says Ross.
The menu will include dishes found in small coastal food stands offering handmade tortillas filled with fresh, locally caught fish and other fire-grilled proteins; all topped with a choice of a variety of salsas. Various flavor blends, such as wasabi-guacamole sauce (guacasabi), enhance the unique menu.
For atmosphere, there is the turn-of-a-knob so guests can adjust how loud the music is played in their personal space. There are intimate cabanas and a central fireplace on a large patio with old Hollywood design elements.
Ross says he does not select his collaborators, but it will happen organically. One of them, Sylvain Bitton, is called by many the Master of Entertainment and offers party skills as an art. Growing up in a family of restaurant owners, Bitton was born and bred for his success in the nightlife and restaurant business.
“I have known these people for years, how they run spaces and treat people,” explains Ross. “They are the best part of our team. They treat everyone equally; they want every guest to have fun and be very attentive to detail. I am a huge fan of them.”
His second restaurant, Leona’s Sushi House, began when. “My wife Ashley [Simpson] introduced me to Frank [Leon]. He was what I was doing in other spaces, including Warwick and opening up The Hideaway. Frank approached me about creating something new. During the pandemic, we discovered we had the same idea since my favorite food is Japanese cuisine. I wanted a vibe that me and my friends can go to dinner at night and relax without feeling rushed.”
Other people involved with the creation of Leona’s Sushi House include Rodney Burns, owner of Church Boutique and a fantastic artist and fine art furniture collector. Musician Lenny Kravitz, a close friend of Ross, helped design with Burns.
Leona’s Sushi House features a combination of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine with ceviches and a tiradito de tai with Japanese sea bream, rocoto chile, yuzu, and sea salt. There’s also the albacore with shishito peppers and Fujimoto’s yuzu sauce, in addition to more traditional nigiri, sashimi, and a variety of cut and hand rolls.
“Chef Shigenori is brilliant, and watching him prepare food is like watching someone dance,” laughs Ross. “The dedication, focus, and precision are really incredible. This is truly an experience for Frank and me. I have learned so much, especially discipline. He is truly a culinary star.”
Leona’s Sushi House has also developed a second menu honoring the Italian cuisine served before in the space the restaurant now occupies. This includes dishes such as shimeji mushroom risotto, black rice Peruvian chaufa paella, and an udon carbonara. A full lineup of cocktails features vodka, gin, and whiskey from Japanese producers.
As for future collaborations and expansions in the food and beverage industry, “I am in the process of figuring it all out. I am creating several things right now, and it is a labor of love to create spaces that people enjoy. I want to be inspired with all of my projects,” says Ross.
The Hideaway is located at 421 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills, California. Visit thehideawaybeverlyhills.com and follow on Instagram @ thehideawaybh. Leona’s Sushi House is open at 11814 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, California. Visit leonasla.com and follow on Instagram @Leona.LA.