Dinner as theater at three new tasting tables
Somni Los Angeles
“To describe a dining experience as theatrical might bring to mind campy dinner-with-a-show Vegas productions,” said Andrea Chang in the Los Angeles Times. At José Andrés’ new Spanish-influenced tasting-menu restaurant in the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills, the intent instead is to offer diners face time with each chef on the team that prepares 20 or more dishes per seating. The space—with its semicircle of 10 seats wrapping a softly spotlit kitchen—isn’t a theater. “But it feels like one,” and so it’s no surprise that an acting coach was brought in to help the chefs with vocal control, mental focus, body awareness, and other fine points of performance. Still, nothing about the $235 dinner is as dramatic as the food, said Garrett Snyder in Los Angeles magazine. “Before you’re done marveling at a Santa Barbara spot prawn you’ve sucked down, a bun filled with stewed pig’s tail arrives, ready to be dunked in a fragrant pool of curry.” Add such culinary wizardry to the precision choreography, and a night at Somni is “nothing short of mind-altering.” 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 246-5543
Atomix New York City
Sometimes art requires a little bit of explaining—even in Manhattan, said Ryan Sutton in Eater.com. At Ellia and Junghyun Park’s Atomix, “one of the city’s most exciting bastions of haute gastronomie in years,” every dish of the 10 or so in the $175 tasting menu arrives accompanied by a beautifully designed card of a kind you might use in a modern parlor game. At first, this seems suspect: Junghyun Park’s eggplant with eel four ways is a two-bite affair explained by 240 words: “The reading process literally takes longer than the eating process.” But invariably, each card’s text unobtrusively reveals a detail we would have missed—that the jinjang sauce dotting the golden-eye snapper, for example, has been fermented five years, or that the thin-sliced wagyu beef has been seasoned with dried sea cucumber innards. A month after leaving Atomix and its sleekly contemporary townhouse setting, I was still consulting my cards to remember details of the experience, and appreciating how they make a complicated art more accessible. Park is clearly inspired by traditional Korean cuisine, but his cooking “earns its keep by transcending borders.” 104 E. 30th St.
Tarsan i Jane Seattle
What an upgrade, said Providence Cicero in The Seattle Times. Two years after Perfecte and Alia Rocher opened their Valencian-inspired restaurant and earned instant praise, the couple chose to reach higher. Tarsan i Jane is now centered on a 10-seat chef’s table, which faces a dais where Perfecte and his team cook while Alia, playing emcee, “provides fluent context” for a $185 meal that might involve a hundred ingredients transformed by fire, smoke, and fermentation. Consider what Perfecte does with carrots served three ways—confit, kimchi, and guacamole—all with the flavors rounded by fermentation. Now that his skills have fully blossomed, he’s able to toy with texture and “plate like he’s Joan Miró.” After an intense wild-berry ceviche and liquid spheres of broccoli garum bobbing in a chrysanthemum consommé, he’ll send out flame-licked rockfish with pickled sea beans and a tripe stew with Ethiopian flatbread. Alia will explain every detail, and “trust her advice on beverage pairings, too, whether you are drinking wine or the house-fermented juices.” 4012 Leary Way NW, (206) 557-7059 ■