Lynn Hummel column: Smoked bone marrow in a spaceship
Are you a snob? Do you have too much money? Do you enjoy "fine dining?" Do you enjoy bragging? If your answer is YES to all four questions, let me suggest a perfect event for you.
Los Angeles has a restaurant named Vespertine, just opened in July of 2017, that is intended to be unique and non-traditional in every way possible. For starters (not appetizers, but starters as in first impressions), I'd call the place an event center rather than a restaurant, because the eating experience is more event than meal. It takes place in a four story building that looks like a cross between a spaceship and a waffle.
After you arrive, things will be planned for you and your party on three floors: the garden, the kitchen and the dining room.
You will get a fragrance to apply when you arrive: anise, fennel, black pepper, woody spice, licorice or coriander. In the bathroom, you will have a choice of mouthwashes: cloves, fennel, and witch hazel. Don't ask me how this all makes sense — I'm just reporting what I read. I certainly haven't been there.
You're curious about what it will cost you. Of course you are, even if you just admitted you have too much money. The 18- to 20-plus course tasting menu starts at $250 per person.
If you plan to take your sweetheart there for his or her birthday, here's how it will work. That would be $500 for both of you, PLUS a mandatory tip, PLUS tax, PLUS wine, PLUS after-dinner coffee, PLUS liqueurs in the garden, PLUS parking your car, PLUS, PLUS, PLUS.
Before you get out of there, which could be five or six hours later, it will probably cost more than $1,000 for the two of you. But don't worry, you said you have too much money.
The servers, by the way, will remind you of monks running a monastic retreat in black slippers and designer flowing black tunics, all "quiet as ninjas," so you can hear and absorb the overall experience of a taylor-made musical score by selected composers. The music will remind you of "the soundtrack of an iceberg flowing by a National Geographic film." The music will still be in your head when you go to sleep that night.
But you're really there to eat, right? Well, the philosophy of the management is that the menu is dedicated to "exploring the dimensions of cuisine that are not rooted in tradition or culture."
One reviewer has commented that the mysterious food is "a steaming pile of pretentious nonsense." The chefs are of the belief that they will lead you from darkness into light and that is enough.
But the bottom line for the customer is that you are not sure what you're eating and you're not suppose to know. If you want to be fed with actual food, this is not the place to go.
The appearance of the food is more important than the taste, because the emphasis of the chef is to make the food look like anything but food. Would you like scallops with salted plum? The oldest dish on the menu is flounder "pounded thin, crusted with charred onion powder, pressed into a bowl over a kind of porridge studded with minced shallot, perfumed bits of pickled Japanese plums and bright, crunchy bursts of acid that would either be finger-lined vesicles or chopped stems of wildflower oxalis," all served on clay plates created by a local sculptor.
But you may also like dried lamb heart shaved over a bowl of marionberries bleeding into pale yogurt, or smoked bone marrow, or horseradish ice cream.
Your salads may look like a bouquet of flowers. As they advertise, "the ingredients are not ordinary, but creative. Your dining experience will be a whole new level of great."
You'll have to agree that the entire experience will appeal to a true snob and somebody who loves to brag. Why would you go there and spend a $1,000 for two people but to brag about it?
The purpose of this column is not only to provide information to ordinary, everyday folks, but also occasionally to snobs, people with too much money, fine-dining fans and habitual braggarts. So today, this gem is for you.
But now, in the interest of fair disclosure, I must confess that I enjoy fine dining myself and don't mind bragging about it. Just this past weekend I returned again to the annual sauerkraut dinner at the rural St. John's Church. The meal featured homemade sauerkraut and pork, homemade bread, homemade pickles, corn, baked beans, and homemade apple pie.
I wouldn't miss it and now I'm bragging about it. And believe me, you don't have to have too much money to eat there. Now you have to decide if all that makes me a snob.