After two years of hibernation and careful menu planning, celebrated chef Aitor Zabala is reopening his lauded two-Michelin-star restaurant Somni in summer 2023 in a new West Hollywood location. The former tasting menu restaurant opened inside the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills back in 2018, featuring just 10 seats per night and backed by José Andrés’s former ThinkFoodGroup (now José Andrés Group). As first reported by the Los Angeles Times, Zabala’s remake of the restaurant will feature an expanded menu and space, and is no longer under the Andrés umbrella at all. Somni (which means dream in Catalan) and its sister restaurant the Bazaar closed during the pandemic, likely due to the overall difficulties of operating at the time, but potentially also because of a change in ownership of the hotel.
The new Somni goes into a former clothing retail space in West Hollywood at 9045 Nemo Street and will feature a spacious tree-lined patio for diners to take in appetizers and welcome drinks before settling into their dinner seats. Though before Somni offered ticketed seating for up to 20 diners a night, this new version will have just 14 seats and a single service, though a private dining area will accommodate an additional six diners per evening. Expect an ambitious Spanish-inflected tasting menu with nods to California and America, told through the lens of both avant-garde and traditional preparations. Dishes as simple as a perfectly grilled spot prawn or trompe l’oeil pan con tomate illustrate Zabala’s cerebral but playful approach to food.
Before coming to the U.S., Zabala trained at Alkimia, Abac, Akelarre, and El Bullí, all top-flight Spanish tasting menu restaurants, eventually coming to Las Vegas to work under José Andrés. In 2018, Zabala was named Eater LA Chef of the Year for establishing Somni as one of the city’s preeminent dining destinations. Zabala told Eater in an interview that he saw no reason why Los Angeles couldn’t reach the global notoriety of the world’s great food cities given its talent and access to ingredients.
Zabala is already busy creating custom touchpoints from glassworkers, millworkers, and ceramicists, all hallmarks of high-end tasting menu restaurants. Juli Capella, who designed the original restaurant, will handle the interior of the West Hollywood space.
For Angelenos and visitors who were able to enjoy Somni, the restaurant’s reopening signals a sustained interest in upscale tasting menus despite the pandemic, inflation, and a potential economic downturn. Diners can find similar world-class experiences at the likes of N/Naka, Mélisse, Providence, and Hayato. In the meantime, Vespertine, whose former workers gave accounts of physically and emotionally taxing work, has remained closed. It’s unclear if the worker and service model will reflect the original, but Somni was one of the first LA fine dining restaurants to list every staff member on the menu, giving credit to each worker’s role like a movie or television show.