Rumors are swirling in the Los Angeles restaurant world that famed New York Times food critic Pete Wells is back in town, and apparently he’s already been spotted at Vespertine. While that’s unconfirmed (barring a photograph or Wells himself admitting the meal), it certainly would make sense given the high-profile nature of chef Jordan Kahn’s project and the New York Times’ commitment to grow its West Coast fanbase with a series of reviews and trend pieces. So, assuming he’s been in for one of Vespertine’s notorious hours-long meals, what can one assume Wells actually thought of the place?
The not-so-anonymous critic tends to have disdain for gimmicks when it comes to dining (see also: his execution-style review of Guy Fieri’s Times Square restaurant), but then again he’s enjoyed places like Señor Frogs as well. Perhaps the lack of a laser light show and thumping beach tunes at moody Vespertine won’t fit Wells’ mold very well.
As for the food, other critics are already decidedly mixed. Jonathan Gold likened the meal to feeling like he’d eaten on Jupiter, while Besha Rodell (in her final formal review for LA Weekly) came away perplexed and delighted in nearly equal measure. Wells found a lot to like the last time he was in Los Angeles when dining at Cassia, awarding Bryant Ng’s restaurant a cool three stars (out of four), but Vespertine doesn’t follow the same sort of personal culinary heritage at all. If anything, the menu is meant to evoke a time and place that doesn’t even exist.
There’s also a chance that Pete Wells did dine at Vespertine, but simply won’t decide to review the place after all. It’s not a cheap meal to have multiple times over the course of a single trip, and there’s a lot of other great eating to be done in Los Angeles at the moment. Wells has also shown a willingness to come to the West Coast and spend his time dissecting the value of a local cheeseburger place, so really anything’s on the table.