Jordan Kahn's new restaurant Vespertine - Spring 2017 / Culver City

For those of you who were wondering if Destroyer would ever do dinner service…

Sounds like they’ll be doing $250/pp tasting menus. Two nightly seatings / 22 people per seating.

“Vespertine is a gastronomical experiment seeking to disrupt the course of the modern restaurant. A perceptual and cognitive experience, where deliciousness is driven by form and texture is crafted into sculpture. Blurring interrelationships between materials and ideas, environment and context, of sound and dissonance.”

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oh good another restaurant with a trailer


Stranger Things + Chef’s Table + a building



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This is good news for the city of Los Angeles.

I’m very skeptical of the food. My meal at Red Medicine was awful - the clearest example of style over substance in my experience. We could see some potential, but most of the dishes were ruined by being overwrought.

But the intention seems to be an interdisciplinary art project in which food is served, not about creating a restaurant with a great menu. It sounds like more food dioramas are coming. I guess that’s not a problem to them, though:

“the intention at Vespertine, Moss adds, is to ‘erase the line’ between architecture and food.”

I’m ambivalent about the ambient soundtrack - that kind of “music” is not particularly appetizing, but rather sterile, estranging, and otherworldly, though that’s perhaps what they’re aiming for. Same with the “uniforms” by Jona Sees, who himself was the designer of now defunct fashion label In Aisce (which in my opinion was also quite overwrought…“In Aisce” is Gaelic for “in vain”…). Again, there was promise, but it was usually too try-hard.

They mention John Cage’s music as an inspiration. It’s not too hard to imagine one of the “courses” referencing Cage’s “4’33” - just watch, literally, as the diner is presented with an array of empty plates for nearly 5 minutes, and to critique the “oversharing” culture of social media, he or she is being recorded and live streamed along the walls to see his or her reaction and to feel self-conscious. The plates are then cleared, and then - with expectations now inverted, cultural constructs of a high-end dining experience challenged, the artifice of the industry exposed - the diner is presented with the “real food”: a farce of a garden that the diner eats with his or her hands. Tricks like these continue for duration of this immersive, multi-sensory “gastronomic experiment” (their words), which will no doubt soon require a TOCK ticket, because this will be billed very much as a performance. Actually, they refer to it as a “perceptual and cognitive experience.”

In a more positive sense, it could be refreshing for someone to be so ambitious. One can hope the meal will live up to all these ambitions, but they have their work cut out for them.


They will obviously be walking a fine line, and in many ways, they will have to be extraordinary to pull this off. The restaurant that immediately comes to mind in conversation with this Kahn spot is Mugaritz, which divides opinion like that of few other places.

Andoni Luis Aduriz has said that taste is not the most important thing for him at Mugaritz. Here’s an interesting snippet when he discusses his famous “stone” potato… “The taste of the edible stone matters less than those five seconds you spend in suspension, wondering if you’re really about to eat a stone — and what that will taste like. Yes, it’s a sort of dare: Are you willing to come with us? If you aren’t, then our failure is guaranteed.”

Kahn will seemingly be operating on a very similar playing field. He’ll need flawless execution and diners willing to come along with him. I guess the question is this: should we appreciate a potato that looks like a stone more than a normal potato?

We shall see

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I wonder how sustainable this business model is. L.A. is a food-loving city, but fine dining is a niche that’s hard to get a foothold…let alone fine dining that’s avante garde. I think there are only a small handful of places that are successful at it and even those places have an element of casual to it (i.e. The Bazaar, ink, etc.)

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I went to one of those video cube dinners. It was fun, but it was only $50 pp, which made the so so food more acceptable. It was more about the experience than the food. I wonder where this will fall…

LA is not a town that can support too many $250pp places IMO, unless it is super trendy to be there.


IMHO, no. I’m not a cerebral enough guy that I would enjoy food that coalesces more in my head than it does in my mouth. But, as other posters have said, we shall see what the market will support.

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I like experimental food and I like performance art. But if you decide your our food is both, I don’t want a waiter description for the conceptual inspiration of the dish.

I want the chef in front of me, plucking mushrooms from a lichen-covered log, quoting Dante while hanging upside down on a trampoline suspended from a gallows pole

I will then draw my own conclusions.


I do recall some amazing and some really inedible dishes at Red Medicine.
This sounds like a place where for $250 pp they can give you whatever, if you do not like it, your palate is just not avant-garde enough.
For my $$$$ I personally would much rather prefer OOE omakase at Shunji.


That’d be San Sebastian, mid-2000’s. (and most likely reciting Goethe, not Dante.) :wink:


In my second life I write about music like Cage’s (much like Johnathan Gold). I’m a rather voracious fan and would be squarely in the market for what you describe, but I think that would be an invalid interpretation of 4:33 as a meal or dish. The entire point of 4:33 is that it still contains music; it advances an argument based upon Cage’s experience in an anechoic chamber, and his conclusions that silence does not exist. The specific bracketing are technically elements of music, simply not ones often highlighted, whereas 1) the dishware itself is not actually food, and 2) to the extent to which the dishware is part of a plate of food/dish, one must admit that they are already quite distinctly highlighted by the overabundance of Instagram photos (though, one might suspect that what might be called “the Michelin aesthetic” sometimes pushes chefs to highlight the plating of a dish over its gustatory elements already, meaning that rather meager versions of Cage’s aesthetic are already employed frequently in the dining world). I think what you describe would be utterly boorish, but on the other hand, if a dish were constructed out of, say, the vapors of ingredients, presented with comestible that was technically inedible (perhaps a gum of some sort), yet delivered the flavors and taste sensations of a full dish, one might argue a successful working of such a dish would be quite fascinating, at least insofar as it was worked into a more complete menu of actual comestibles. An entire evening of repeat performances of such a dish is intriguing, but strikes me as too malevolent to attain more than an opening-night audience.

But I am sure you were making a kind of jocular point, and I am being overly pedantic for most purposes, I just couldn’t help weighing in with a perspective from someone who would enjoy the exercise. In general, I agree that masterful food, even as art, ought to sate the gustatory senses. Indeed, I would even perhaps advocate a view of the aesthetic of food wherein that is considered an essential component of food qua Art because, for me, the achievement of an ineffable contact with the Sublime has always come from an experience of overwhelming pleasure produced from exemplary and precise balance fused into dishes that produce something one can crudely describe as “deliciousness”.

Now, as for the pragmatics of Vespertine? I loved most of Red Medicine, but debuting at $250 is fairly outrageous. This means that for $25 less one could have Providence’s priciest menu, or a 20+ course meal at Orsa and Winston (never mind the high-precision food of N/Naka). Even in SF a $250 debut would be incredible. That price places it higher than virtually every restaurant in the rather high-priced North other than Saison. Does Kahn expect to execute with the perfection of a 3-michelin star kitchen from day one? It strikes me as completely absurd. The more traditional model in SF of beginning around $50-$60, and gradually scaling up with traction as the kitchen proves its precision makes more sense to me, but perhaps he sees Destroyer as having established that already?

I will admit that people enjoy Destroyer (and it is fairly enjoyable; and rather ambitious for a lunch spot), and there are some dishes there that mark a significant improvement in the finesse of his cooking, conceptualization, and ingredient sourcing compared to his Red Medicine days. And I often thought many of the “style over substance” type dishes at Red Medicine would have worked in the context of an extended tasting menu (a $28 pork cheek and radicchio dish leaps to mind, rather exquisite, but 2 bites of food that was entirely out of context).

I can imagine this spot becoming quite hot within the LA Art and Design crowd, and the notion intrigues me, but I am also not sure I will be amongst the first diners to show up (but maybe I will, who knows).

Insofar as this represents a push to gain a wider understanding of high-end dining in LA, I am in support of it. If it turns out being far more art than food, it would seem to be a failure, though. The food at Noma or Alinea is stilll quite delicious as I understand it, and if someone could manage to create something on that level with a unique LA spin, I would be quite enthused.


An excellent question. I would say that we certainly ought to, if the potato also gains some element of flavor that is at the height of flavor which we agree a potato can achieve.

If the potato founders in flavor terms, it seems less clear that we ought to value it above an exemplary potato that lacks the guise of a stone.

I suspect there may be a spectrum of appreciation expressing individual diner’s tolerances for such dishes depending upon their own personal values aligned on “intellectual” and “gustatory” axes. The best restaurants, imo, achieve high levels of both simultaneously (e.g. a conceptually deconstructed reconstituted pozole that is utterly delicious at Californios), though some allowance may have to be made for those chefs effectively creating their own cuisine type (Alinea), where there may be a lack of reference to some extent. The intellectuality may take more a frame of presentation in such cases, but the flavors ought to still reach transcendent levels.

Simply my own view, of course.


I was indeed joking. I’m not familiar with Cage’s oeuvre or the particular inspirations of 4’33. For all I know it may just as well be “silence” as 433hz instead of 432hz / 440hz. My point was that there’s very much a performance aspect of it that’s challenging the audience’s expectations of what should come, though that is the extent of my analogy and since I’m not a Cage fan, it was very likely off.

I do think they will have to masterfully walk a very fine line for this to be a success. They are certainly ambitious. If they succeed then they can charge $250 no problem. But when I mean “style over substance” dishes at Red Medicine, I wasn’t talking about dishes out of context but rather poorly executed or thought out dishes.

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You are correct. I had a few horrible dishes at Red Medicine but I always felt most of them were the result of the casual side of the menu and a fragmentation of concept. It feels like he will be distilling or far more with this project. So I suppose I am cautiously rooting for him haha

whilst i dig john cage, i’d rather eat at a restaurant inspired by conlon nancarrow. now that would be an interpretation and “performance” i’d want to, um, “eat.”

pretentiously yours,
prof. cliff cleven

At first, I thought I was watching a clip of Beyoncé walking through the reeds in the opening scenes of “Lemonade” (she wuz robbed, BTW).

And then I thought I was watching a travel documentary of avant-garde geometric buildings.

And then, after watching the entire trailer w/o seeing anything that resembled food except dripping water and a flower petal, I thought to myself, “I do not wish to go to there.”

Sorry, y’all.