For our last night in Los Angeles, we had dinner at Vespertine. I told myself we were done with the creative tweezer food restaurants where you are eating masterpieces from the chef’s brain vs a real meal. Yet, when Jonathan Gold deems this spot LA’s best new restaurant, I just have to partake in the experience even though it is several hours and many many courses.
The building that Vespertine is housed in, and it is the only thing in this building, is this strange modern glass steel building that looks as if was in the midst of a dance before locking itself into place. You know that you are at the right place not because of the random water pool in front or the heated white concrete benches randomly placed inside green plantings but the spa music setting the stage for what it is to come.
This evening is a journey as you dine on different floors, including a drink outside before and after. Upon entering the elevator there is a sweet coconut aroma that connects to the continuous spa music in the background. We are greeted by Jordan Kahn, the Willy Wonka chef who has orchestrated the evening. He is delighted to have new guests. His kitchen is killer.
Our first tastes happen in the mezzanine where there are couches and beautiful wooden tables that work wonderfully with the black lava-like serving dishes that we will continue to see throughout the meal. They retain heat for each dish in ways that I wish my serving dishes at home did.
Here we ate kelp and salted plum chips that were placed just perfectly in a petrified tree branch served alongside a dipping sauce.
This next dish was one of the most memorable. Enclosed in a lava structure is a savory burnt onion cookie stuffed with a blackcurrant jam. A very sophisticated PB&J sandwich to start.
After our appetizers overlooking LA from Culver City peering out over large glass windows, we went down to the main dining room. The room is extremely quiet and serene. The round glass tables are set in between the Richard Sera”esque” booths that surround each table.
We went with the light pairing with each course. I particularly liked that. Each pairing be it alcohol, wine or juice was just enough to enjoy the drink but not enough to get drunk. Extremely smart. This is a rice pudding under the floral leaves and a trout roe is the foundation of this dish. Each dish is extremely well thought out from the visual to the taste.
This turkey came wrapped in herbs that it was roasted in. Cut at the table and then served to each of us on the plate that included that crazy knife that is reminiscent of something out of the dark ages.
A beautiful dessert, one of the few, is photo worthy.
I give huge kudos to the creative genius of the entire evening yet I felt a bit like I was in a cult’s dining room. The servers were all dressed in black and if I closed my eyes, I could have sworn that they were alien zombies. I was hoping that there would have been more of an ode to LA here just as Noma was certainly an ode to the region it was set in or French Laundry is an ode to farm to table California newfangled cuisine but at Vespertine the food and the location did not jibe. It felt that it would have been more fitting to be in a cabin in the middle of a snow-packed woods with bear furs around our shoulders.
Perhaps it was just getting me prepared to get back to NYC where the chill is still a little bit in the air.