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LA Weekly Critic Tries to Unpack the Paradox of Vespertine

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All the LA critics have now weighed in

Vespertine Matthew Kang

Just under two weeks after Jonathan Gold dropped his much anticipated Vespertine review, LA Weekly’s Besha Rodell followed suit and released her own analysis of the most talked about restaurant in the city, and echoes many of the notes in Gold’s review. The Goldster describes the feeling of being “ill at ease, that is probably the point.” B-Rod elaborates on “how some of the meal felt quite like torture:”

The food was impressive in its approximation of what it might mean to eat on another planet, and not necessarily in a good way. There was a repetitive quality to the meal — many dishes had some kind of gel, a frozen thing and a dusting of bitter green powder. And there was so much of it all, dish after dish after dish. I felt trapped and full two hours before the meal ended. [LAW]

The Weekly critic also mentions some pretty icy service:

The service was so blank and stark and cold: waiters in black sacks shuffling toward you, laying down a dish and whispering preciously, "egg yolk and osha," then backing away slowly, never breaking cyborg character. [LAW]

However, one month later, slight changes improved the overall experience:

The service was almost imperceptibly warmer, but it was enough to humanize the experience — which as a result was less alien, the spell of the performance broken. But it also was less silly and more comfortable and ... better. There was less food, fewer courses, smaller portions. [LAW]

The food is still weird as hell, but that’s okay:

One of the strangest and most disconcerting dishes has not gone anywhere: a bowl lacquered with a black, grainy, skinlike layer that feels like a membrane against your knife and your teeth, and that gives way to a layer of raw halibut with green strawberries. But its weirdness is interesting rather than nefarious when it's followed by a series of dishes designed for beauty and pleasure. [LAW]

Besha discusses the pickle Kahn has put himself in:

Kahn might be in a bit of a bind: Either Vespertine is not weird enough, or it's so weird that it ceases to be fun. Does dinner need to be fun? I'd say so. There will always be an audience for truly revolutionary art, including art that isn't wholly comfortable or pleasant. [LAW]

The critic concludes with a pretty clear summation of her experiences:

If I judge it without any expectation of radical disruption, Vespertine, as it is today, emerges in a clearer light: as a flawed but thrilling meal, as a stunning act of creativity and as a singular Los Angeles experience. [LAW]

Vespertine scores a coveted four stars out of five.


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