Looks like Los Angeles has its hands on a first true review of Vespertine, Jordan Kahn’s ethereal new spaceship restaurant inside Hayden Tract in Culver City. The Hollywood Reporter files their take just 11 days after the restaurant first opened its doors, and they have some less-than-kind words to impart.
Right from the start, writer Gary Baum calls the restaurant “intentionally joyless” and rails against the attitude of ownership in making diners feel less than cared for. It is, in short, a restaurant for the “moneyed cognoscenti,” he argues. And then there’s the rest:
On the funky ceramics: “You accept hors d’oeuvres like a glistening, refreshing bit of crystalline ice plant with lime mist presented on or in minimalist ceramic sculptured dishware by Japanese potter Ryota Aoki, whose baffling forms — such as hollowed-out tire shapes filled with artful shmears of sustenance — call to mind well-meaning and unreturnable house gifts from the aliens in Arrival.”
On the small dining room: “It’s a regrettable arrangement, the eight booths clustered too close together and facing inward in a panopticon that minimizes privacy, views and general serenity...”
How’s the food? Baum does take to the drink pairings (even the non-alcoholic ones) though, and says that Kahn’s cooking can be a mixed bag with lots of highs and equal lows.
“Nearly every dish is, as can be expected from Kahn, otherworldly beautiful, delicate in its layered structural composition. But he trips himself up by relentlessly straining to impress his black-belt-foodie audience through the employment of the most obscure ingredients possible...”
Interestingly enough, Baum chose to review Vespertine after dining only once, and on just the fourth night of service. Baum even says in the piece that Kahn was downplaying the meal from the start as little more than a work still in progress, but there were no discounts given for the expensive meal on that account. Reached for comment at the Hollywood Reporter, Baum had this to say to Eater:
My editors and I believe Vespertine is worthy of a serious review -- and, more importantly, potential patrons should have the service of a serious review -- as early as possible. Not just due to its significantly high price and locked-in ticketing (although those are factors) but because its concept alludes to that of a performance. Stage reviews are timed to opening night and screen reviews to premieres. Consumers should be informed now, not weeks or months from now.
I would add that from the first night of service Vespertine has charged full price. Therefore consumers can and should expect it to operate at its full ability.
The old "gentleman's agreement" to wait to review a restaurant benefits chefs and their investors. It doesn't benefit diners. In the age of the Internet it's time for that to change.
It’s an interesting take for Baum, and one that certainly deserves a fair look in the era of big, pre-paid restaurant openings around Los Angeles. As Baum notes, he paid a hair under $1,000 for two people for dinner, regardless of whether Kahn felt his kitchen was firing on all cylinders. Now to wait and see what the rest of the restaurant critic world thinks.