Welcome to The Gatekeepers, a monthly feature in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite tough-to-get tables.
Elizabeth Daniels 12/11
The Tasting Kitchen is Abbot Kinney's two and a half year old farm-to-table earthy establishment which abruptly overtook the underwhelming, short lived AK. Slowly but surely Portland chef Casey Lane grew the menu from those original handwritten cursive eight to 10 dish cards to include pasta and larger plates, all the while tweaking the dining room with added foliage and amping up the bar program to Abbot Kinney's best. And just for the record, the Tasting Kitchen's head bartender, Justin Pike, this year won LA's Best Best Bartender in Table 20's second-annual competition. So it's likely you'll want a seat at the bar, or a seat in the dining room. And to help out with that is GM and Sommelier François Renaud. He's the one who will greet you up front, assess the seating situation, and eventually show you to your table.
What's the busiest time of the week? It is busy all the time, but Friday nights are particularly electric.
What's the wait for two people on a Friday night? Let’s round it up to two hours. But it’s also all about timing. And we always try to work something out. Really.
Is there anything I can do to make my wait shorter? Come early, have one of [Justin] Pike’s cocktails at the bar and we should be able to ease you to a table upstairs or in the dining room. Communal seats are also fairly easy to score.
How many seats are in the dining room? 38 seats in the dining room, 30 upstairs (1/3rd communal) plus twenty communal in the bar, which we reserve for walk-ins.
How do you deal with a VIP when there are no tables left to give? There’s always that magical table. And then we are both out of luck.
How would you describe your clientele? Urban eclectic with a well-seasoned palate.
You have a no modifications menu policy. How have customers reacted to this? Most guests understand the protocol and are ready to roll with us. It’s all about the dish, right, so why would you want to experience something we do not do? We always try to be kind to health related issues, but obviously the Tasting Kitchen is not the place to go to if all you want is grilled tilapia.
The Tasting Kitchen and nearby Gjelina have a similar menu philosophy. Do you share customers? I beg to differ. Gjelina is certainly more small plate oriented, our menu is constructed in such fashion that you can have three dishes or build a seven courses Italian meal. So while we do share some guests, they do not come for the same reasons.
Not too long ago you launched brunch, how's that going? It is building up strongly, and the word of mouth has been fantastic.
When you're not at the Tasting Kitchen, where are you eating? I tend to cook a lot when I’m off. Otherwise, Mozza which feels like family to me, Angelini, Bar Covell, Picca, and recently Cooks County. And for brunch, the Tasting Kitchen, I can’t get enough of fried chicken and waffles (on top of that my wife would not go anywhere else for brunch).
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