Diners frequently make special dietary requests at Michael Mina’s 40-plus restaurants around the country. The asks for something that is gluten-free, dairy-free or plant-based prompted Mina, a Michelin-starred chef, and Michael Mina Group President Patric Yumul to contemplate a restaurant that would showcase healthful food and cater to multiple diets.
“Even at the steakhouses, more and more, they are getting around 10% to 15% requesting particular diets and things of that nature, and people are much more focused on health and wellness,” Mina said. So they launched Indie Superette, a health food-focused market and cafe in San Francisco in January 2020.
But even before Indie Superette, they’d started to focus on healthfulness. Mina and Yumul had been kicking around the concept of a restaurant that looked at classic dishes from around the globe, made using the most mindful, superfood ingredients possible. In 2019, the RSG Group (the company behind multiple fitness and lifestyle brands, including Gold’s Gym) approached them with an opportunity to open a restaurant at a new 75,000-square-foot, five-level fitness club in Hollywood called HEIMAT.
“We really did want to start this in L.A.,” said Mina. “Without a doubt, there are certain cities [where] people are really health-focused, and L.A. is probably at the top of the list.”
Mina and Yumul plan to open Mother Tongue, a sprawling 5,000-square-foot restaurant at HEIMAT, near La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, in early 2022. And they asked David Varley, who worked for the Michael Mina Group for 10 years before leaving for the Canyon Ranch spa in Texas, to run the kitchen.
The bulk of the menu is under development, but Mina did share some of the dishes he and Varley are working on, such as the Cordyceps cacio e pepe. It’s made with hand-rolled trofie pasta in a sauce that features white miso and grass-fed butter. The pasta is tossed with Cordyceps, a fungi linked to purported health benefits such as increased exercise performance, anti-inflammation and mitigation of Type 2 Diabetes.
The goal of the Mother Tongue menu is to eliminate as many over-processed grains, flours and sugars as possible and to swap in what Yumul described as “clean” ingredients like grass-fed butter, coconut oil and avocado oil.
“What’s important is that you feel fully fulfilled when you eat a dish,” Mina said. “It’s not about how do you cut out all of these things and end up with these tiny portions. It’s really about how you take the best dishes and prioritize a health and wellness component from start to finish, from the products to the techniques.”
And while there will be many plant-forward dishes on the menu, don’t expect to see any of the alternative proteins popular at so many of the plant-based restaurants around town.
“Our approach is going to be more towards whole foods rather than a product that’s been synthesized,” Yumul said.
“But we’re not saying this is a plant-based restaurant,” added Yumul. “We will have an amazing grass-fed burger on the menu.”
Mina said his team is working on a menu with dishes for specific diets such as gluten-free, ketogenic or paleo. The plan is to have servers guide diners to dishes 100% in line with their dietary needs or dishes that can achieve that goal with, say, the removal of a single ingredient. He added that tasting menus that follow specific diets are a possibility.
Their intention, Yumul said, is to continue the discussion around health and wellness and various diets. They hope to have a different expert come every month or so to talk to the staff about a diet that they hope will inspire a limited tasting menu and/or specific specials on the menu.
The restaurant is also prioritizing low alcohol by volume and zero-proof cocktails and low-intervention, biodynamic wines with a “keto-friendly” section of the wine list. A cocktail cart will offer “gazoz,” the restaurant’s name for drinks made with macerated and fermented fruit syrups, soda water and aromatics.
“A lot of times you’ll see a martini cart or whiskey cart, but here, we wanted to have fun with low-spirit and no-spirit cocktails,” Yumul said.
Designed by Martin Brudnizki, the space will feature an indoor dining room that seats around 120, a bar with 14 seats, and a 1,500-square-foot patio that can accommodate 67 and another 13 patrons at the bar. And while the restaurant is part of HEIMAT, Mina and Yumul wanted to make sure it was accessible to everyone. There will be certain perks for the fitness club members, but Mother Tongue will be open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
960 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles @mothertonguela