Top Chef Phillip Frankland Lee opens Woodley Proper in Encino

Chef Phillip Frankland Lee continues his mission to raise the bar on “going out” in Encino, with the chic cocktail lounge, Woodley Proper.

Phillip Frankland Lee’s mom always taught him that anything is possible. And the 30-year-old seems to embody that philosophy, particularly when it comes to his hometown.

In late 2015, the former Top Chef contestant opened the high-end, small plates eatery, Scratch Bar, on the second story of an outdoor mall in Encino, a town with a dispiriting dearth of non-chain restaurants. The space next door to Scratch Bar was also leased. Phillip envisioned the whole floor as home to various eating and drinking establishments. But for more than a year, the second space sat empty. Plans kept changing. A partnership with another chef for a ramen bar didn’t work out; there were also delays in getting a liquor license.

Now Phillip’s dream of creating a culinary mecca at the mall is one step closer to reality, with the opening of Woodley Proper (16101 Ventura Blvd.). And a sliver of a third space—in between Woodley Proper and Scratch Bar—will soon house Frankland’s Crab & Co. (slated to open in May). “It’s a fast food-style crab shack,” according to Phillip. “We’ll have items like fried oysters and lobster rolls.”

While Woodley’s tagline is “The Place for Proper Drinks,” it already is much more. Yes, there are fresh ingredient-infused cocktails (with fun names like “Valley Girl” and “Los Encinos”). And, as with Scratch Bar, Phillip’s dishes are full of tasty surprises and beyond-the-pale presentations. Seafood isn’t just fresh and delicious on the tower; it is meticulously assembled with gorgeous shells and offers home- made cheeses and flavorful charcuterie. Like Scratch Bar, many of the ingredients (breads, condiments, pickles, etc.) are made from scratch. And once again Phillip’s wife, Margarita—a highly skilled pastry chef— proves to be a silver bullet, whipping up crazy tasty desserts like warm donut balls served with lemon-laced whipped cream.

But what makes Woodley Proper really noteworthy are the environs. It’s a cool scene, yep, in Encino. Under the sophisticated eye of interior designer Jordan Olson (who has put his stamp on several swanky West Hollywood eateries), the space is elegant and comfortable in a plush yet understated way.

Reclaimed wood from an old barn lines walls, along with Victorian wallpaper. Patrons can sit at the ample bar or at one of several cozy seating areas with wing chairs and sofas. A mix of lighting fixtures creates the perfect amount of “glow.”

Woodley Proper is more spacious than say Augustine Wine Bar and more welcoming than the short-lived The Fiscal Agent, where a guy with earphones would greet you and then radio inside to see if you’d be “allowed entry.” There’s no pretension here. Heck, Woodley Proper may not even be proper. It’s just a helluva of a fun spot to hang out.