Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Sneakeater

Vespertine

Recommended Posts

I feel so guilty about posting in the Paris thread about restaurants I've never been to that I'm finally constrained to get around to writing about this restaurant that I have been to. It's been so long -- three months??? (I guess to mongo that's nothing) -- that my comments will be even more general than usual.

What's impressive about this restaurant is how it works as a gestalt. It's in a very Post-Post-Modern office building seemingly dumped by Martians into an otherwise unprepossessing warehouse area in Culver City. The restaurant was designed (in conjunction with Chef Jordan Kahn) by the same architects who designed the building -- and boy is it designed. But here's the thing: Kahn's reportedly intense participation in the design process means that everything about the restaurant springs from a single sensibility that you can feel at work. A more totalist experience than you ever have had in a restaurant. (If I remember right, they gave us not snacks but scents to take home.) (Of course, I've lost mine.) I can see how some people would find this more than a bit much. But to me, it meant that the loooooooonnnnnnng loooooooonnnnnnng dining period never got old. Even the postprandial visit to the garden for drinks and snacks, which some have complained about as a tacked-on time-extender, seemed a pleasant coda (no surprise: my date and I managed to close out the place).

So how was the food? Not quite memorable. Subject to exactly the objections you'd expect: complication for its own sake, willfully odd combinations, conceptual muddle. But I'll tell you what: nothing tasted bad. (I realize that seems like ridiculously faint praise when you're talking about a meal at a very expensive restaurant -- but how many Modernist meals fail in exactly that way?) Dishes ranged from inoffensive (good, even) to very interesting (and still good). I think you could make a good case, if you wanted, that Chef Kahn still thinks like a pastry chef: very precise deployment of ingredients and technique. When (read that Paris thread) what we value now is a little (this isn't quite the word) sloppiness (voyager would call it "soul").

So, not a great restaurant (like, say, Maaemo). Very much worth going to once. I doubt you'd feel you need to return.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for this...it makes me even more excited for our upcoming dinner at Single Thread, this Sunday night.

 

But I wonder, because from everything I've read and understand, the Connaughtons were pretty heavily involved in the design process, once again bringing that totalist experience you describe above, to this restaurant/farm/inn. So I'm hoping that the food, too, is more memorable than yours appears to have been to you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Superb report.    How I wish I had access to this kind of intelligent observation at other restaurants, other towns.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for this...it makes me even more excited for our upcoming dinner at Single Thread, this Sunday night.

 

But I wonder, because from everything I've read and understand, the Connaughtons were pretty heavily involved in the design process, once again bringing that totalist experience you describe above, to this restaurant/farm/inn. So I'm hoping that the food, too, is more memorable than yours appears to have been to you.

Are you staying there as well?

 

Someone mentioned it's about $1200 to $1500 a couple all in including a decent bottle of wine or two. Is that true?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Thanks for this...it makes me even more excited for our upcoming dinner at Single Thread, this Sunday night.

 

But I wonder, because from everything I've read and understand, the Connaughtons were pretty heavily involved in the design process, once again bringing that totalist experience you describe above, to this restaurant/farm/inn. So I'm hoping that the food, too, is more memorable than yours appears to have been to you.

Are you staying there as well?

 

Someone mentioned it's about $1200 to $1500 a couple all in including a decent bottle of wine or two. Is that true?

 

We're staying up the road, at a B & B called the Belle du Jour. We've stayed here before, and it's quite nice. 

 

The price of dinner is $330 pp. 

 

Guest rooms are over $1K/night (but that includes breakfast!).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd like to thank Joe for giving me a chance once again to comment on a restaurant I haven't been to.

 

Reading up on Single Thread, it interestingly seems like sort of the converse of Vespertine. Vespertine's goal, in paying so much attention to non-food elements such as design, is to transcend the traditional restaurant experience. I think it's telling that the item they give you to take away is a scent rather than a snack: they want you to leave with a sensory impression rather than something yummy to have for breakfast. That's what I meant by totalism: not so much that Kahn wants to be in control of every element, but that the total sensory experience is supposed to count beyond the food.

 

With Single Thread, it sounds like their goal is to perfect the traditional restaurant experience. To me the tell there is that the Connaughtons say they don't even want diners to notice the subtleties of most of their design choices (something that no one connected with Vespertine would ever say -- and not just because "subtlety" doesn't seem to be part of their vocabulary) (OK, that last bit is unfair and not really accurate). I'm sure the Connaughtons would further say that they don't want all the trappings they've created to detract from the food -- again, the converse of what Vespertine is doing.

 

Single Thread seems to want to be the most perfect restaurant meal you've ever had; Vespertine wants to be the greatest acid trip.

 

Now I want to be clear that I'm not making a value judgment here -- beyond saying that it seems much more likely to me that Single Thread can succeed in what it's attempting than Vespertine does; you really have to have a level of genius to pull off Vespertine's proffer that I didn't feel any of the principals possesses. So -- getting back to commentary on places I've actually been -- Vespertine remains an interesting attempt rather than a realized achievement. I can't wait to read how you think Single Thread does.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Thanks for this...it makes me even more excited for our upcoming dinner at Single Thread, this Sunday night.

 

But I wonder, because from everything I've read and understand, the Connaughtons were pretty heavily involved in the design process, once again bringing that totalist experience you describe above, to this restaurant/farm/inn. So I'm hoping that the food, too, is more memorable than yours appears to have been to you.

Are you staying there as well?

 

Someone mentioned it's about $1200 to $1500 a couple all in including a decent bottle of wine or two. Is that true?

 

We're staying up the road, at a B & B called the Belle du Jour. We've stayed here before, and it's quite nice. 

 

The price of dinner is $330 pp. 

 

Guest rooms are over $1K/night (but that includes breakfast!).

 

Just looked on their website - great wine list but ridiculously overpriced. Now I know why I was quoted 1200-1500 all in. After wine,tax and tip it's easily over $1k. Unless you order the $55 Riesling that retails for $9 - and sip slowly.

 

ETA - the B&B looks terrific!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You know, you're right.  So even though we're celebrating 2 big birthdays this year (albeit SE's isn't as ancient as mine), I've changed our reservation to In-n-Out Burger. 

 

And I can get by there by bringing Pabst in a brown paper bag.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Isn't it obvious that you can cherry pick a wine which is on the list at an insane markup?

 

But I think the list can also be cherry picked in other ways:

 

Emmerich Knoll 'Loibner', Federspiel 2017, which is on the list at $75, retaining for around $30. So a reasonable markup.

 

This local chard, Brick & Mortar 'Sweetwater Springs' 2014, on list at $105, retailing $40. 

 

There are plenty more to be found...but I'm just getting ready to leave for a drink and dinner!

 

And all speculating aside, wouldn't the best stuff to drink with this food, (along with the most reasonable markups) be wines from Sonoma County and surrounding regions?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And all speculating aside, wouldn't the best stuff to drink with this food, (along with the most reasonable markups) be wines from Sonoma County and surrounding regions?

 

Markups - maybe.

 

Best wine to drink - that's an interesting question w/r/t New World wines in major New World restaurants, but is this really food of the California terroir?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Single Thread seems about as California terroir as you can get.

And by implication its food (which looks rather Japanese-inflected) will work best with California wines?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...