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20 Questions That Explain Vespertine, LA’s Trippy New Tasting Menu Destination

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Get ready for "a dinner experience in four acts"

Maybe you’ll get to eat this?
Courtesy of Vespertine

After months of eager anticipation, today’s the day that LA chef Jordan Kahn will invite the world (or, more specifically, Tock reservation ticket holders) into his latest restaurant creation, Vespertine. Maybe you’ve heard about how it has its own gravity. Maybe you’ve read its critical theory term paper of a press release. Maybe you still have no idea what it all means.

That’s okay. It’s a lot to take in. Here now, everything you need to know about Vespertine:

1. What is it?

A restaurant poised to disrupt the space-time continuum, a self-described “place of shadows and whispers,” “a spirit between two worlds,” Vespertine is, according to its website, “from a time that is yet to be.” Therefore Vespertine is... um... a land of contrasts.

2. What is Vespertine really, though?

Vepertine is the new 22-seat tasting menu restaurant from LA chef Jordan Kahn.

3. Who is Jordan Kahn?

Jordan Kahn made his name in the LA dining scene first as a pastry chef at Michael Mina's XIV, and then at the helm of the Red Medicine kitchen. That restaurant, a former member of the Eater LA 38 famous for its modernist approach to Vietnamese cuisine (and also for refusing to serve LA Times critic S. Irene Virbila), closed in late 2014. In September 2016, Kahn opened Destroyer, the intense and intensely Instagrammable Culver City restaurant with super-fancy breakfast bowls and extremely un-sloppy daytime mains. Kahn was named a Food & Wine best new chef this year.

4. Where is Vespertine?

The restaurant is in Culver City's Hayden Tract, across the street from Destroyer

5. How much does dinner cost?

$250 per person. Eater LA points out that the Tock language does not indicate that the $250 is inclusive of a 20 percent service charge or tax, putting the price at $646 for dinner for two, not including beverage.

6. How many courses does that get me?

The booking information on Tock says that buyers get “a dinner experience in four acts.” A June press release from the restaurant revealed the menu would comprise 18 or more courses.

7. What can I expect from the food?

Per the website, Kahn will be “exploring a dimension of cuisine that is neither rooted in tradition nor culture.” A scan through the restaurant’s Instagram doesn’t reveal much either, but as Eater LA notes, there’s plenty there that’s food adjacent, like something that looks like a fish spine and a white liquid that is maybe a sauce.

8. Has Kahn said anything about specific dishes that I can latch onto here?

Not really.

He told the LA Times there would be “no puréed dots, no crumbles, no nasturtium leaves, and absolutely no rampant fermentation.”

A dish of white curls is made from white asparagus, macadamia nuts, and squid, according to GQ. A black circle that maybe is an activated-charcoal sponge is actually “bastard halibut underneath plums.” He told the magazine, “[The food] doesn’t come from local — it comes from a place that doesn’t exist.”

9. What does Vespertine look like?

Per a press release, Vespertine is “a two-story structure, separated into four levels of which there are no traditional walls supporting the building.” The exterior of Vespertine looks like a curvy glass building with a red steel grid on top of it. Apparently that steel is actually “an architectural skin.”

Per GQ, inside there will be acrylic-topped tables (“legs are made of pipes that are crushed and then cut open”) and a “steel-and-wool banquette.”

There’s also a patio with concrete benches and plants, and guests do go outdoors (weather permitting) during the meal.

Courtesy of Vespertine

10. Who designed it?

Architect Eric Owen Moss designed the building, and is responsible for many of the buildings in the Hayden Tract area of Culver City.

11. Are any other designers involved in Vespertine?

Publicity materials list Jona Sees, the clothing designer of the avant-garde label Inaisce, as a “collaborator.” So is ceramicist Ryota Aoki.

12. What about music?

The whole dinner is set to an original “score” by the band This Will Destroy You. Soundtracks are in their wheelhouse: The musicians scored movies like Room and World War Z. Kahn told GQ, “The music might be the most important part of the whole experience... The sound and the space [are] the transportive mechanism."

13. Is there perhaps a video I could watch to get me in the mood?

You better believe it.

14. Okay so I heard it’s a spaceship. Is that true?

It’s true if you believe.

15. Has anyone gone inside yet?

Yes. A lucky few have visited Vespertine during what looks like a standard friends and family period.

16. What have the people who have actually entered said so far?

In an Instagram post, chef Dave Beran (who is opening his own tasting menu restaurant, Dialogue, in LA this year) wrote: “Last night I saw Jordan Kahn. I saw inside his mind, I felt what he felt. I’ve known him for years, and in one evening I felt as though I knew him better than I ever had before.”

Chicago chef David Posey (Elske) Instagrammed too, saying: “I have never felt so many feelings about a meal. Such a beautiful, thoughtful, and surreal meal @vespertine.la You guys are going to change the game.”

A bowl!
Courtesy of Vespertine

17. Are there any reservations available for opening night tonight?

As of publishing, there are not reservations available for dinner on Tock — and walk-ins are not permitted. However, there are plenty of reservations still available for other dates in July and August.

18. Are there any RULES I should be aware of?

There’s a pretty non-invasive dress code. (“We ask that gentlemen refrain from wearing t-shirts, sleeveless shirts, shorts, and flip flops.”) No children under 12 can dine at Vespertine (probably for the best, tbh), and tweens will be served the full tasting menu and must “refrain from using electronics at the table.”

19. But I thought fine dining wasn’t a thing in LA. Is that wrong?

Yeah, that’s wrong. It’s true that white tablecloth dining isn’t a big part of the LA food scene (Providence, a beacon of LA fine dining, is a notable exception, as is Melisse), but there’s plenty of fine and expensive food to be had in LA. There’s an amazing array of high-end sushi omakases in LA, like Urasawa and Sushi Zo. There’s plenty of restaurants serving European-style tasting menus, too, like Curtis Stone’s Maude, Ludo Lefebvre’s Trois Mec, and, soon, Dave Beran’s Dialgoue.

Still, LA Weekly’s Besha Rodell believes that Vespertine has the chance to cut a new path in LA dining.

“Why would we need or want an insanely expensive, highly conceptual restaurant that seats only 22 people? Because while Los Angeles has been on the forefront of many international trends — the amazing-food-in-casual-locations trend being one of them — we have not had a landmark fine-dining restaurant, one that's truly unique, in a very long time. Our cutting-edge food tends to happen at ground level; our upscale restaurants are mostly fairly traditional, with only a handful of exceptions. As a result, we've been eclipsed in international and national competitions such as the World's 50 Best Restaurants. Michelin came to L.A. for a few years and then left. The dominant narrative is that L.A. is very good at food and not very good at high-end dining. Vespertine could change all that.”

20. Do Eater editors want to go?

This Eater editor definitely does, when time and money allow it. Vespertine promises to be, if nothing else, a totally unique dining experience.

Vespertine [Official site]

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