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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cielo Verde - Playa Restaurant Rooftop Garden - Los Angeles

While dining at Playa Restaurant for the media preview for AltaMed's 7th Annual East LA Meets Napa food and wine event, when Chef John Rivera Sedlar mentioned that all the greens and flowers used in his dishes were grown on his restaurant's rooftop garden, I was amazed.

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Even better was when I found out he was allowing small groups of visitors on the roof to check it out. After climbing the ladder, which you saw in the previous post, I saw this. The view is from the next level up, looking down. The ladder I climbed is just to the right of the green rooftop.

It's not the fancy terrace-like rooftop garden depicted in many a home magazine. What it is, is a functional garden with towers and towers of plants grown in a soil substitute shoved into what space was available on an industrial rooftop in the center of Los Angeles. This was just the herb and starter plant area, the next level up was simply incredible!

Looking below and going clockwise from the left, the watering system.

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Herbs and starter plants.

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The plants get started in little trays just like at any nursery.

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Rau ram (Vietnamese cilantro)! It tastes like culantro, which is popular in some Latin dishes, so it wasn't entirely out of the ballpark to see the herb here, but still a pleasant surprise nonetheless.

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The pansies that are so popular in Chef Sedlar's dishes.

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That was the first level. Climbed another small ladder and I was immediately greeted with this jungle of chives and kale.

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The plants were started in small squares of the soil substitute and then placed in these notches in the towers. There are 35 towers, each about 6 feet tall with 28 individual growing pots. The towers were installed in early March and the first harvest already took place in mid-April.

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I forgot what Chef Sedlar said the soil substitute was made of, or whether they were biodegradable, but I'm assuming so.

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Turning to the far right and going counterclockwise, there's Swiss chard and more kale.

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Tomatoes, more Swiss chard, more kale.

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Close-up of the far wall. Flowering mustard plant? Kale and spinach.

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Zooming back out again. I think this was flowering arugula. The big bases hold water.

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You can see that the plants are regularly harvested. This garden gets lots of use!

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See the tiny basketball hoop on the roof of the school across the street? I can't believe this is in the center of Los Angeles!

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Zooming into the far right corner there's basil and I think squash?

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Even corn can be grown in the towers! And peas too.

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Across the street is Kasirer-Friedman Bais Yaakov High School.

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You can see the back side of Playa's sign.

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Just a little to the left of the front area, Chef Sedlar stands in front of a tower of flowering borage.

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Looking directly toward the back of the rooftop garden.

If you're facing the front of the restaurant, most of the towers of plants are in the left of the building. The right half is full of too much equipment.

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Some more flowering arugula and watercress.

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Green beans too.

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And in case you couldn't tell that we were on a rooftop.

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From the ground, there's no hint of the plants grown on the roof of Playa Restaurant.

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Gardening on a roof in an urban center! In a very limited space. I'm amazed at the sheer amount of greens and herbs and flowers that the garden produces.

Other garden updates.

Playa Restaurant
7360 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323-933-5300

*****
1 year ago today,
2 years ago today, Ca Kho Sot Ca Chua Thi La (Vietnamese Braised Fish with Tomato Dill Sauce).
3 years ago today, mom's chao vit (Vietnamese rice porridge with duck).
4 years ago today, Figs with Bri fundraiser winner.
5 years ago today, Viva! Las Vegas! and the Bellagio Buffet.

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