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Eater Inside: XIV

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Here we have XIV (or fourteen for the Roman-numeral challenged), the new "social dining" experiment from partners SBE, chef Michael Mina and designer Philippe Starck. As you can see, the room looks more like a living room complete with black-and-white photos, knickknacks, and paintings hanging over faux fireplace mantels. And, no, no dance floor. What the images don't show is that there aren't really any walls to this room; it's in the center with the long bar and open kitchen around the perimeter. Outside, the patio faces the extremely bustling Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights corner. One day foliage will probably block the lights, but until then, at least the city's worst drivers supply some form of entertainment.

While the decor is pure SBE/Starck whimsy, the menu is straight Mina: Complex but not overwhelming, interesting, seasonal, 35 menu items to choose from with an all-vegetarian menu to match. The trick is everyone at the table has to order the same thing---can be two courses, can be 20---and it's all served in individual plates/portions. And, thus, you have "social dining," where people actually have to talk to each other and discuss what they do and don't like, compromise even. If the experiment works, LA will have Mina back for the long haul; if it doesn't, we'll have another SBE resto/lounge and do we really need another one of those? There's been some Hound chatter, and here's our full XIV tracking.