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Jordan Kahn's Vespertine

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Last week I had the opportunity to eat at Jordan Kahn's Vespertine in Culver City, the new restaurant that Jonathan Gold just proclaimed the top in the city. I decided to fly across the country because I have long held that Jordan is the most creative chef in the country in recent years. I'm sure others could make the claim for a number of chefs, and certainly anyone from that opening class of Alinea, but Jordan, to my way of thinking, ups the ante every time. I was so disappointed when I failed to dine at Red Medicine before he closed it that I swore I would not miss his next restaurant. And hence my trip.

 

Plenty has been written already about the spaceship experience, but it all starts with collaboration. Collaboration with ceramic artists. Collaboration with metal smiths. And most importantly the collaboration with the architect who built this amazing space just for Vespertine. 

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I'll note that this is across the street from his daytime restaurant Destroyer, which was the r&d part of my trip related to my own restaurant opening next week. The building is three stories plus a roof space which is enclosed in the grid. First floor - entrance and art installation; Second floor - main dining; Third floor - kitchen; Fourth - roof lounge. There is also a outdoor garden with heated concrete benches surrounded by horsetail plants (you can see a bit on the bottom right of this pic).

 

As would be expected at this price point the team had done its research. As I walked up the street (I was staying at a nearby AirBnB) the valet greeted me by name even before I was on the property calling out, "Good evening Chef Connoley." Just to be clear that means he had researched my face and background. They didn't know who my guest was (who is far more famous and important than me!), but I didn't tell them who I was bringing. After foraged seasoned sparkling wine in the garden they brought us into the first floor where we were sent to the third floor. As the door opened Chef Kahn was waiting for us. Greetings and pleasantries, dietary concerns and preferences, and then he just chatted me up about my upcoming project...He and I have a lot of parallels although in very different realms, but near identical sensibilities and philosophies. He sent us up the stairs to the roof where we were again greeted and sat at a low cushioned bench. Custom furniture everywhere including this table that was pegged for lights and dishes to be placed anywhere...all custom fit of course.

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The manzanita branch held some kelp and seaweed both natural and with superfluous quotes. Then snacks...

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I don't remember everything and you can decypher from the menu at the end of this post. All were delicious. All were intriguing. All were beautiful.

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This one was a cracker set inside a ceramic "bone" that cracked open to reveal the crackers...

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The star of the night was, as often is the case, the most simple - mango encased in sunflower petals.

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My VIP guest for the evening and I enjoying an early buzz while the LA sun sets.

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My spouse Tyler is insanely jealous that he keeps missing out on my LA trips, last year to n/Naka and then this one. Oh well pooker, keep dreaming! 

 

It was down to the dining room next. I was a bit on a budget (I know that makes no sense eating here at $250 per person but that meant I had to go with the cheaper wine pairing ($115 v $185). We saw the wine book...huge and custom designed case and covers.

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Then the courses started coming out (around 10 I believe). Sweet pea stuff:

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Scallop stuff

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I remember this one - some crab dip...not my favorite - a bit boring but still yummy

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The only dud of the night - turkey. Interestingly I've since read other people saying the same thing - I think its time to kill your darlings:

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And then we were done. Staff brought us back to the first floor and out to the garden for housemade liquors on the seated benches with an opportunity to view the stars with a provided telescope. It was too cloudy for us but a neat idea.

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And one final nice touch...a note from the chef. I assume everyone gets one, and maybe they're all personalized as mine was:

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The menu provided via email the next day:

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And a quick comment to say that as much as I loved Vespertine, I equally loved the more casual Destroyer across the street. Superb oatmeal and berry bowl. Interesting take on avocado toast, although a friend screamed, "Deconstructed avocado toast? F&%k off!"

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This last pic is a comparison of Destroyer's avo toast and Sqirl's that I got the next morning.

 

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WOW.  I am so glad I clicked on this.  I had no idea about places such as this.  A table built specifically for the dishes the chef serves?  Amazing.  The sunflower with the scallop is beautiful.  Thank you for taking the time to share with us.  And how cool is it that the chef wrote you a note?!!!

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NTTimes had an article on Vespertine in Wednesday's Food section

 

some of the same dishes pictured here are in that article , by Pete Wells

 

 

 

 

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Good stuff! Menu reads kinda like a grocery shopping list (:P) but the food looks really nice and the building (inside and out) looks pretty amazing.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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16 hours ago, Honkman said:

I am surprised they let you photograph your food - they are normally known for a strict no photo policy

I had heard that too but no one seemed to care, and it wasn't just me as a chef doing research - a table next to ours  was and his flash went off...they immediately stepped over for a chat. I sorta had the sense that he was on the Bieber I'm sorry tour (followiing his handling of the LA reviewer scandal, or maybe just a few harsh reviews)...very humble and very soft-spoken.

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