Chef Jordan Kahn’s Vespertine in Culver City
When you plunk down $390 ($295.00 plus tax and gratuity) for a meal, it better be worth it. For me, this gastronomical experience was worth it. The experience was unique, and the food looked like works of art, and they were delicious as well. If you thought his tasting menu at Red Medicine was good, wait until you try this one. You will understand why they were awarded 2 Michelin stars.
Architect Eric Owen Moss collaborated with Chef Kahn to bring his vision to life, and he designed and built this 3-story tall building where the ground floor is basically a foyer. The valet/host welcomes guests and directs them through the main entrance and into the foyer. From there, you take the elevator up one flight, where you will be greeted by Chef Kahn after the elevator doors open. He’ll give you a brief run down of the gastronomical experience.
Afterward, you will be directed up the stairs to the next level through the exterior stairway. You will arrive at the top level where the mood is set for your first three courses. Since no printed menu was provided, I’m just posting what I remember of the ingredients and descriptions of the course, which, while focusing on taking photos, were difficult to remember, especially when the server speaks too softly. I was so tempted to record every description and transcribe them later, but it became too cumbersome to move from the camera app to a voice recorder app when you have too many apps!
First Course: You will be seated in front of a table where dried strips of kelp and sea lettuce hang from table display. You are served a cup of hot tea, which will be your palate cleanser for these three courses. In the first bowl is a chickpea puree. This the chef’s version of Chips and Dip.
Second Course: Savory Cookie and Black Currants. Served in a cylindrical vessel that opens up to reveal cookies inside.
Third Course: Milk Bread and King Trumpet Mushrooms – Thin slices of king trumpet mushrooms are layered on top of the piece of milk bread that is attached to the vessel.
After the third course, you will be escorted back to the elevator and take it down to the Mezzanine Level, where the main dining room is. Even the seating and the tables are different. Along with a knife and fork, you are presented a box, which contains your cloth napkin.
Fourth Course: Rose Apple, Bougainvillea Petals – Rose apple covered with bougainvillea petals was sweet, crunchy and refreshing.
Fifth Course: Courgette, Sevruga Caviar, Hazelnut – Hidden underneath the courgette layer is a good-sized portion of sevruga caviar.
Sixth Course: Hokkaido Scallop, Bone Marrow, Umeboshi Plum, Burnt Onion – The dish is hidden under a thick layer of burnt onion which resembles charcoal. Break through the middle of it, and you expose the Hokkaido Scallop place over a sauce made from bone marrow and umeboshi plum.
Seventh Course: Lobster, Quince, Red Orach – Lobster meat covered with a quince and pomegranate, and then covered by red orach leaves. Non-Alcoholic Beverage: The course is served with a glass of beet juice.
Eight Course: Kabocha Pumpkin, Guava, Cyclamen. The non-alcoholic beverage is house made Kombucha. The pumpkin is covered with petals from the flowers of the cyclamen plant.
Ninth Course: King Crab, Buddha’s Hand, Egg Yolk, Oxalis – Lump of king crab meat buried underneath oxalis flowers. So far, I’m enjoying all of the seafood dishes from tonight’s tasting menu.
Tenth Course: Quail, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Juniper Berries – 2 different preparations of the quail. For the first preparation, the bring out fresh plates for you and plate a circle of juniper berries. The quail is brought out on a platter with it’s legs protruding out from under a bed of rosemary (?). Like performing surgery, the server carefully slices it open and then removes both halves of the breast, one for you and the other for the other party. Juniper berry sauce is then drizzled all over. The server then walks off with the rest of the carcass.
Tenth point Five Course: After you’ve finished eating the breast, they will change plates and bring out a rectangular box that resembles a brick. Lift up the cover and expose a barbecued quail leg that has been rolled over a mixture of seasonings. A couple of us noted that the box, and the way the quail leg was presented, resembled a sarcophagus.
Eleventh Course: An overly-ripe plantain was cooked in lamb fat and garnished with leaves of woodruff. It’s served with a unique flatbread. You would wrap the plantain with the flatbread and eat it like a taco.
Twelfth Course: White Asparagus, Almond Butter and Cucumber Milk. Milk flavored with cucumber juice was frozen and the cone-shaped pieces were attached to the sides of the bowl with almond butter. A round disk made of the almond butter (?) was placed on top of white asparagus.
Thirteenth Course: Black Raspberry, Rhubarb, Beet Juice. Rhubarb placed in the vessel and is drenched with beet juice.
After the thirteenth course, you will be led down a flight of stairs and back to the foyer, where you will be presented with a small gift, a black box containing a small cylindrical bottle filled with a fragrance developed by the chef, which perfumed the dining room throughout dinner.
Tea and Dessert in the Garden: After receiving your gift, you will be escorted back out and to the garden area next to the building, with concrete tables and benches where the heat can be switched on to keep guests warm on cold nights. Once seated, you will be presented with a table with more desserts and after dinner bites.
Fresh Snap Pea & Kiwi in a Spruce Lemongrass Custard
Asian Pear with Salted Licorice Caramel
Caramelized Sun-chokes In Birch Syrup with Cream (Creme Fraiche) of Candycap Mushrooms dusted with Dried Raspberries
Dates infused with a Salted Cream and covered with Oxalis Leaves
Organic Raspberries wrapped in a black colored aluminum foil. Not shown: Sparkling Redwood Juice, and Black Licorice (palate cleanser)
You are allowed to take your time to finish this last setting to treats. And that finishes the experience, about 2 hours and 30 minutes worth.