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Class A dining comes to Crenshaw

Gregg Reese | 1/18/2012, 5 p.m.

The newly opened Post & Beam has all the ingredients of an intriguing entry into the volatile restaurant culture of Los Angeles. Nestled in the Crenshaw Plaza at the foot of Baldwin Hills, it takes its name from the architectural style gracing the homes in that upscale community. Building upon this motif, design firm Colorola Studios incorporated this name into the logo and signage that make up the brand.

While the clean lines and minimalist color scheme of its décor echo the retro vibe made popular by the television series "Mad Men," the look actually stems from the tastes of principle Brad Johnson, who states flatly that he is "very much a fan of mid-century style."

Celebrity chefs, including Tom Douglas, Nancy Silverton, and Eric Tanaka were consulted in selecting the venues' cooking components, including a wood-burning pizza oven, which radiates heat more evenly to produce flavors unattainable with conventional stoves, and an adjacent herb and vegetable garden to provide the organic, locally grown ingredients associated with the California cuisine of resident Chef Govind Armstrong.

Johnson's resume includes the Roxbury nightclub, BLT Steak, and, in partnership with celebrity investors Norm Nixon and Denzel Washington, the now-defunct upscale soul food hot spot, Georgia.

In the wake of these achievements, Johnson remains committed to what he calls the "instant gratification" of starting a new eatery, explaining his approach thusly: "I consider myself someone who pulls out chairs for a living."

Ken Lombard of Capri Capital Partners, who boasts a long track record of urban redevelopment, lured Johnson to this current project, and he envisions this latest endeavor as an anchor in the revitalization of the Crenshaw strip, and is upbeat about its future.

"This restaurant reflects extremely high-quality in both food and design, and is already attracting restaurant-goers from all over Los Angeles," he notes. "I invite local residents from the surrounding neighborhoods to come check out Post & Beam, and while you're at it, the entire mall. We've just finished a $30-million renovation inside and out, and Post & Beam is an outstanding addition that reflects the quality we are striving to deliver."

Having sampled the menu, Lombard already has his favorites, particularly the Cast Iron Natural Chicken, which is wedged between two cast iron skillets (hence the name) skin side down as it cooks.

Helming the food preparation is celebrity chef Armstrong, who apprenticed with the legendary Wolfgang Puck at the age of 13. Since then he has thrilled the palates of such notables as Elton John, Leonardo DiCaprio and Janet Jackson, and memorably created a sensation by whipping up a grilled cheese sandwich on Oprah.

Presiding over an empire of the now-famous 8oz. Burger Bars (the latest opened in Seattle), native Angeleno Armstrong has come home as the proud father of a newborn baby girl and to set up shop in the community to offer what he terms "good, approachable food."

A hands-on perfectionist who disdains the abrasive tirades of television stars like Gordon Ramsay, Armstrong points out that some of his staff have been with him for more than a decade. Together they engage in such culinary pursuits as curing their own bacon (a seven-day process), and the pursuit of the perfect pork chop.

Post & Beam aims to become a "destination restaurant" to attract customers from outside the neighborhood. It does not aspire to be a soul food or barbeque venue in an area saturated with both, but will nod to local tastes with offerings like greens with smoked ham hocks.

"We try and make each dish as good as we possibly can," Armstrong continues. "We aren't looking to compete with any other restaurants, just make the best experience for our diners each time they join us."

Armstrong also plans to tailor his menu to the preferences of his clientele through the introduction of new dishes (no burgers or grilled cheese just yet). Beer and Wine are served, with a full liquor license pending.

Post & Beam is located at the site of the former Golden Bird franchise at 3767 Santa Rosalia Drive. For more info, go to the website at http://postandbeamla.com.