Immersive hospitality visionaries Mark and Jonnie Houston, in collaboration with Mitchell Hochberg of Lightstone, have launched a first-of-its-kind multilayered concept, Level 8. This dining, drinking, and entertainment experience features eight distinct destinations, occupying the entirety of the eighth floor of the recently launched Moxy & AC Hotel Downtown LA, located directly across the street from Crypto.com Arena and the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Sprawled across 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, Level 8’s story is told through the eyes of its fictional founder, Mr. Wanderlust. This expansive maze of concepts brings together a riot of seemingly disparate global influences held together by their connection to the culture of Downtown LA and by an artful combination of authentic cuisine, performance-driven nightlife, and interactive design.
Level 8 serves as a stage for some of LA’s top culinary talent to create innovative chef-driven concepts. Michelin-starred Chef Joshua Gil transports guests to a French-Teppanyaki experience at Maison Kasai and al fresco oyster and ceviche bar Mother of Pearl. LA native Chef Ray Garcia helms Qué Bárbaro, the South American live fire grill, and The Brown Sheep, a food truck serving “authentically inauthentic” Mexican street food with an Angeleno twist. Joel Robuchon protégé Chef Hisae Stuck heads up Lucky Mizu, inspired by the Japanese art of cooking with water: seiro mushi (steam) and shabu shabu (boil). Combined, under the guidance of Level 8 Executive Chef Richard Archuleta, the culinary concepts of Level 8 will showcase a culinary menagerie of experiences.
“Partnering with nightlife impresarios Jonnie and Mark Houston, the duo behind Los Angeles’ most desirable and exclusive hospitality hotspots, from No Vacancy to Black Rabbit Rose, we’ve conceived a first instance destination that turns a night out into a transportive experience,” says Mitchell Hochberg of Lightstone in a statement. “You can begin the night with a cocktail and live music at Mr. Wanderlust, choose from any of the three unique and innovative restaurants, and end the night with dancing at one of LA’s hottest clubs, Sinners y Santos, and maybe a late-night taco – all designed for the city that’s notoriously difficult to restaurant and bar-hop. Only the Houston Brothers have the curiosity and imagination to create this series of experiences, all threaded together, each epic in its own way.”
“What we have learned in our 20-plus years of opening restaurants and bars around LA is that people want more than just dinner or drinks out. They want to discover something new and come away with a sense that they’ve done something memorable, something different. Level 8 is all about creating opportunities for that kind of immersive discovery – it’s a culmination of our experiences that pays homage to Downtown Los Angeles’ rich heritage and history.” shares Mark Houston.
The heart and soul of Level 8 is Mr. Wanderlust, a lively piano bar and jazz lounge with a theatrical spin where guests begin their journey. Mr. Wanderlust channels the eccentric globetrotting life of its namesake, a fictional adventurer whose collection of books, artifacts — and cocktail recipes — reflect his eclectic tastes. Golden Hour, a Miami meets Copacabana rooftop pool deck complete with a rotating carousel bar, features views of sunsets and the Hollywood Hills. The pool deck transforms as the sun sets to an outdoor lounge with DJs and live entertainment. Finally, Sinners y Santos showcases two decades of Mark & Jonnie Houston’s nightlife virtuosity, transporting revelers to an abandoned 19th-century cathedral which guests enter through a “confessional”.
“Being from LA, we’ve always been immersed in the city’s Latin culture, and embracing the overall culinary diversity of Los Angeles is a beautiful thing,” adds Jonnie Houston. “Our trademark is a trifecta of a unique concept, a great cocktail program, and terrific entertainment, and the neighborhood provides us with so many unique cultural references that we can play off of. We’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to open Downtown and to fill a gap in Los Angeles by providing a pre and post-event destination for Angelenos and travelers alike from not only Crypto.com Arena, but also the nearby SoFi Stadium, Kia Forum, and Banc of California Stadium. With Level 8, we’re really blowing it out of the water.”
The design and conceptualization of Level 8 was led by Mark and Jonnie Houston in collaboration with Lightstone Design Studio, Undisclosable, and Basile Studio. Together, the team created a maze of venues featuring theatrical moments at every turn, from a 40-foot Earth Harp stretched across the ceiling of Lucky Mizu to a trapeze artist descending from a chandelier in Mr. Wanderlust.
“Whether you’re coming from out of town or down the street, you can have a very different experience every time you visit,” says Hochberg. “Anticipation is a very powerful emotion: People are passionate about encountering something they’ve never seen, tasted, or experienced before. It’s the same urge that sent Alice down the rabbit hole. Together, Level 8 and Moxy & AC Hotel Downtown LA promise a multitude of new discoveries. Whichever adventure you choose, it’s guaranteed to be captivating and unforgettable.”
The Level 8 journey commences at Mr. Wanderlust, a piano bar, and jazz lounge exuding the adventurous spirit of its fictional namesake, the globetrotter extraordinaire. This lounge has two intimate and atmospheric rooms, inviting all to embark on an exploration through his musical and worldly delights.
As guests step into Mr. Wanderlust, they are welcomed into a library adorned with intricate wood paneling and bookshelves showcasing Mr. Wanderlust’s cherished experiences. A dark oak host stand serves as the centerpiece welcoming guests into the world of his adventures, while above, aerialists will gracefully swing from a chandelier, setting the stage for captivating performances throughout. The library also serves as a treasure trove of mementos featuring globally inspired rugs, collectibles, paintings, and black and white photos—each a prized souvenir echoing Mr. Wanderlust’s travels.
Entering through a hidden passageway, the public may venture deeper into Mr. Wanderlust’s home, where serpentine booths are upholstered in patterned fabrics, and intricate oak detailing adorns the walls. The lounge features a stage where Grammy-award winning artists will perform throughout the night, whilst silhouettes of mysterious performers can be seen on either side. As the evening unfolds, the stage is revealed, and a pianist or performer begins a show.
Indulge in a journey through Mr. Wanderlust’s global cocktail menu at the hands of Devon Espinosa. The wine program at Mr. Wanderlust is a curated selection by sommelier, Eric Railsback. The selection of cocktails is the result of a collaboration with mixologists from around the world, including Julian Cox, Alex Day, and Dave Kaplan, Christian “Suzu” Suzuki-Orellana of Wildhawk and Kagano in San Francisco, Kate Gerwin of Happy Accidents in Albuquerque, among others. Each beverage is crafted to showcase the spirits and flavors of their respective regions. Accompanying these libations, Level 8 Executive Chef, Richard Archuleta presents a globally-inspired omakase-style selection of small bites, ranging from the exquisite Caviar Toad in the Hole to the Braised Wagyu Beef “Cigarettes,” and Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup. Espinosa additionally offers an omakase-like capsule experience, thoughtfully blending craft cocktails with select small plates by Archuleta.
From Mr. Wanderlust, guests can embark on their culinary voyage through one of two secret speakeasy entrances. The first entrance leads to Maison Kasai, the French-Japanese teppanyaki restaurant helmed by Chef Joshua Gil. The second entrance entices guests to Lucky Mizu, a seiro mushi restaurant, crafted by Chef Hisae Stuck.
Maison Kasai is open Wednesday and Sunday: 5:30pm – 12am, Thursday – Saturday: 5:30pm – Late and Monday and Tuesday: closed.
Accessed through a secret corridor, guests are welcomed to Lucky Mizu, a Japanese restaurant anchored in the art of cooking with water – featuring shabu-shabu (boil) and seiro-mushi (steam). At the helm of Lucky Mizu, is Chef Hisae Stuck, a native of Kobe, Japan, who worked alongside French Chef, Joël Robuchon.
Centered around a u-shaped dining bar, seating 30 on blue and green upholstered stools, diners will have an interactive experience of cooking their meals at the table. The restaurant also features booths under arched trellises adorned with cherry blossoms and circular infinity mirrors depicting thousands of butterflies. The culinary journey begins with “zensai” snacks and raw dishes, followed by a choice of seiro mushi or shabu shabu set entrée. Each set includes Japanese A5 wagyu, Kurobuta pork, seasonal seafood, or organic farmer’s market vegetables, along with a variety of broths. Specialty libations, including rice-based spirits and umeshu, complete the experience with a nod to the vibrant drinking culture of Osaka and Tokyo.
The restaurant features a wall adorned with 777 traditional golden “lucky cat” figurines. Above the bar, on a platform, musicians will perform on a 40-foot Earth Harp that stretches diagonally from one corner of the room to the other — the creation of musician and Grammy Award-winning artist William Close — and on drums, giving the impression of dining in a music box.
Lucky Mizu is open Wednesday – Sunday: 5:30pm – 10pm and is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
The journey into the world of Maison Kasai (“House of Fire”) begins in the confines of Mr. Wanderlust where guests will be guided into the restaurant through a secret entryway. This passageway unveils a French-Japanese teppanyaki offering, envisioned and curated by Michelin-starred chef, Joshua Gil. At the heart of Maison Kasai sit bespoke teppanyaki tables serving as captivating platforms where skilled chefs will prepare each course.
Where live cooking becomes an art form, Chef Gil has crafted a menu that blends Japanese flavors with French culinary techniques. Here, diners explore a teppanyaki culinary experience featuring an array of entrees, with a dinner experience featuring à la carte items or a teppanyaki dinner menu. Highlights include lobster (with kosho corn custard, miyoga drawn butter); wagyu dumplings (shiitake consommé, fresh wasabi); omega azul kampachi (nasu dengaku, miso boulliabase); or the renowned Japanese A5 Wagyu – each dish is accompanied by traditional French sauces. Indulge in the flavors of Wakame Shiitake Tare, Kizami Au Poivre, and Sauce à l’Americaine that complement grilled delicacies. Complementing each dish, Maison Kasai offers a curated selection of premium sake, shōchūs, and craft cocktails.
Drawing inspiration from Japanese expressionism in Art Deco, the restaurant’s ambiance is a blend of elegance and creativity. Custom-designed Japanese Art Deco-style wallpaper, envisioned by artist Candice Kaye, adorns the walls, presenting a mesmerizing geometric collage of abstracted faces and silhouettes. With two private dining spaces, the walls at Maison Kasai are adorned with rich, warm wood tones and are embellished with starburst patterns.
Maison Kasai is open Wednesday – Sunday: 5:30pm – 10pm and closed on Monday – Tuesday.
Guests can discover the diversity of South American cuisine through the tradition of live fire cooking at Qué Barbaro. Crafted by Chef Ray Garcia, this open and airy restaurant showcases live wood-fire cooking with meats, seafood, and creative vegetarian dishes, all infused with bold, refined flavors, prepared on a wood-fired open grill in the center of the space. Menu highlights include Provoleta (provolone picante, san marzano tomato, chimichurri, baguette); Anticucho de Hongo (oyster mushroom, black garlic, cambray onion); Dorada a la Parrilla (dorade, romesco, baby fennel, calabrian chili); and the large format Costilla Gaucha – a 30 oz prime, bone-in short rib meant for sharing (with leaf lettuces, sweet potato, ensalada rusa, chimichurri). The cocktail menu includes twists on classic South American drinks like the caipirinha, and riffs on the pisco sour, and a play on the batida.
For those seeking an alfresco dining experience, an outdoor bar offers views of the restaurant. The restaurant design draws inspiration from South American architecture and is adorned with lush greenery on the ceiling. Tropical-toned fabrics in various shades of deep greens adorn the booths and banquettes, while the wallpaper showcases a lively scene of birds, monkeys, and other wildlife frolicking amidst a vibrant jungle backdrop. Wood paneling and colorful tiles, along with the sparkling glow of brass sconces, create an ambiance reminiscent of a private garden oasis. Custom light fixtures resembling wooden trellises are adorned with lush greenery.
Qué Barbaro is open Wednesday – Sunday: 5:30pm – 10pm and is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Qué Barbaro spills out onto Golden Hour, a Miami-meets-Copacabana rooftop pool deck presenting an urban oasis eight stories above Downtown LA. Bathed in the warm glow of the sun stands a carousel bar with rotating top strung with chandeliers, embellished with golden pineapples.
The cocktail menu draws inspiration from classic tiki culture with a rotating selection of granitas, “painkiller-coladas,” and more, whisking guests to an island getaway.
Golden Hour’s large rotating carousel bar is visible from the street. The color palette evokes the magical hues of golden hour, with radiant golden tones dancing alongside the lush greens of the tropics and the alluring oranges and pinks of the setting sun. Golden Hour has private cabanas, swing seats, convertible lounge chairs, and Copacabana-style patterned tiles surrounding two swimming pools.
Golden Hour is open Wednesday – Sunday: 5:30 pm – 11pm and is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Found on Level 8’s outdoor terrace, The Brown Sheep by Chef Ray Garcia presents takes on a casual menu of comfort foods, showcasing Garcia’s “authentically inauthentic” approach to cooking. Menu highlights include Panilocos (pani puri, pickled wood ear mushroom, Japanese peanut, cucumber, tamarind chutney); Hot Chicken Tacos (guajillo fried chicken, slaw, habanero comeback sauce, flour tortilla); and Lengua Cheesesteak (beef tongue, rajas, provolone, crispy shallot, chile morita, flour tortilla).
The Brown Sheep is open Wednesday – Saturday: 5:30pm – late and is closed on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
Modeled after a classic street eats vehicle, the “vintage” truck invites guests to place orders at the fixed counter, replicating a genuine street food experience. Surrounded by Talavera tiles, the terrace beckons guests to indulge in a variety of colors and textures. Wood-and-leather Equipale chairs provide comfortable seating, while wrought iron furniture, adorned with upholstery in bold stripes of saturated pink, orange, green, and blue, adds a vibrant touch. As the sun sets, the terrace comes alive DJs spin.
The Vintage is open Wednesday – Saturday: 5:30pm – late and closed on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
Beyond a wall adorned with vibrant pink bougainvillea and wrought iron gates lies Mother of Pearl, a champagne & oyster bar from Chef Joshua Gil. Also located at Level 8’s outdoor terrace, Mother of Pearl showcases locally sourced ingredients. Dishes include seafood towers, Crab Bouillabaisse with saffron rice crisps, Lobster Egg Salad Tea Sandwich topped with caviar, and Chilled Shrimp and Octopus Tom Yum – all dishes showcase the love of tradition reinterpreted through contemporary technique. Libations spotlight champagnes, Old and New World wines, cocktails created with fresh-pressed juices, and martinis complete with caviar bumps.
Designed as a Spanish Colonial gazebo, an intricately curved wrought iron and glass overhang frames the bar below, which is faced with hand-troweled stucco inlaid with Talavera tile of cobalt blue borders and blue, yellow, and white florals.
Mother of Pearl is open Thursday – Sunday: 5:30pm-10pm and is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
As revelers step into the realm of Sinners y Santos, they encounter a journey that begins with a “confessional booth”. Here, a moment of reflection awaits, as those who enter must confess their sins to unlock the world beyond. A nightclub, Sinners y Santos celebrates El Santo, the Mexican luchador and folk hero. While drinking agave cocktails served in chalices, clubbers will enjoy performances that pay tribute to El Santo’s career during the 1950s and 60s.
The venue showcases walls adorned in Venetian plaster, revealing patches of original brick beneath, alongside wrought iron chandeliers and distressed oak millwork. Dripping prayer candles surround the stained-glass bar whilst a cleverly disguised DJ booth, fashioned as a pipe organ, hides within arched, barrel-vaulted ceilings.
Sinners y Santos is open Thursday – Saturday: 10pm – 2am and is closed Sunday – Wednesday.
Level 8 is located at 1254 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90015.