Restaurant: Vespertine [1, 2, 3, 4]
Location: 3599 Hayden Ave, Culver City, CA 90232. (323) 320-4023
Date: November 11, 2020
Cuisine: Jordan gets back to his roots
Rating: Top flight takeout
Boy it’s been a long time since I made a food post. Sigh, quarantine life. I still haven’t been in a restaurant since March 11, 2020. Total record for my life as I’m sure that from my birth 4-5 weeks was the record (during summer camp in the early 80s!). Now, that being said I have been cooking up a storm but they aren’t elaborate enough to write up unless I start cooking posts.
Vespertine is a very unusual confluence of all sorts of artsy weirdness. It’s helmed by Jordan Kahn formerly of Red Medicine and currently of Destroyer across the street. I’ve generally been fond of Jordan’s unique culinary style. Since the pandemic started he’s been doing “out of the box” fancy takeout meals, and this one is an Alinea retrospective from Jordan’s time there. As I’ve always wanted to go to Alinea but rarely make it to Chicago, this seemed a perfect opportunity to dabble in that direction from the safety of the patio.
Above is the building where the restaurant is located, but I wasn’t there, Erick picked up the food and we ate elsewhere socially distanced.
The survey of a two person meal. Because Erick and I are gluttons (and wanted to social distance) we each had a set just like this.
The printed “links” to the virtual menu.
And the virtual menu.
Pear. Celery leaf & branch, curry.
A top down view. This was light with a vague pear finish to the “water.”
Oyster Cream. Lychee, horseradish, chervil. This could dish had great texture (slippery and soft) and a very nice oyster / horseradish flavor. Refreshing and herbal.
Duck. Pumpkin, banana, Thai Aromatics. Following the instructions, first you ate the bite to the right which was quite lovely with the Thai bit infused into the pine-nuts. Then we drank the rather lovely pumpkin/banana soup. One of the best pumpkin or squash soups I have had.
Halibut. Shellfish custard, hyacinth vapor. There were some complicated instructions about boiling water and pouring it into the outer container in order to release the “vapor” components. We didn’t bother with that but the fish (and particularly the thick which custard) were moist and quite lovely.
Beef. Elements of root beer. The beef itself was pretty good, and the mashed potatoes I think were trying to serve as the cream part of a root beer float. There was this weird root bear tone to the sauce which made it overall too sweet for my taste. One of those whacky ideas that wasn’t entirely successful. Jordan has also been putting too much sweet in his savory in recent years.
Idiazabal. Maple, smoked salt. This cheese “chip” had the texture of a shrimp chip, which was quite nice. It had a sweet and cheesy flavor and was overall very pleasant.
Bacon. Butterscotch, apple, thyme. Here in this odd presentation the sweet and savory thing worked perfectly. Lots of interesting smokey depth.
Black Truffle Explosion. This optional dish require that I actually cook. I had to boil water and cook the pasta and then melt the truffle butter.
Finally it was topped with truffle, the greens (warmed in the melted butter) and parmesan. The whole thing was eaten in one bite and was a nice bit of truffle/umami exploision.
Chocolate. Avocado, lime, licorice. The Chocolate and lime parts were great, particularly the fluffy lime mousse. The avocado was fine but I’m not sure how I feel about avocado in desserts.
Our wine lineup.
From my cellar: 2007 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet. VM94+. Bright medium yellow. Very ripe, expressive nose offers yellow peach and white flowers. Opulent, shapely and very ripe, in a distinctly sweeter style than the Batard. Gives an impression of lower acidity too, but there’s plenty of acid here. I suspect this one will shut down in bottle. Girardin, who bottled most of his crus in April and May of this year, noted that the 2007s really only started to express themselves in February, and that many of his fellow producers bottled this vintage too early.
Erick brought: 2008 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet. VM94. Reticent but pure aromas of apple, clove and crushed stone. Powerful, tactile and rich, with a sweet impression leavened by a strong crushed stone component. (A retaste of the 2007 Chevalier-Montrachet, which I predicted a year ago would shut down in the bottle, was indeed tightly wound, but its apple and mineral flavors showed outstanding verve and purity; it would be a treat to taste these two vintages side by side in six or seven years.) Incidentally, Girardin gives his grand crus a slow fining but does not filter them.
Erick also brought (open from the night before): 2010 Jean Noel Gagnard Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 94. A discreetly exotic nose combines notes of wood toast, acacia blossom, pear, peach and apricot along with hints of mango and papaya. The powerful and admirably concentrated broad-shouldered flavors possess a very round, suave and succulent texture where all of the dry extract really coats the mouth on the explosively long, complex and driving finish. This should be a knockout in 8 to 10 years.
Overall, we had a great evening. Great company, great wines, and great takeout.
Now in absolute terms the meal was only medium epic by my standards, but it was one of the best “fancy takeouts” I’ve ever had. They really do a great job packaging it and things survived the transit and the considerable length of our leisurely evening quite well. Really, actually bordering on amazing how this elaborate plating “travels” and clearly because of considerable effort on the restaurant’s part, including the very elaborate plastic containers. Yeah, the meal would have been better on premises, but considering, it was about as good as you get. Trying to imagine how it would have been on site, and therefore forgiving temperature issues and the takeout plating (which as I said is at the very pinnacle of takeout plating). Tonight was even better than our previous Vespertine menu (which was good) and all the dishes were tasty. The beef with root beer was a touch weird — in that very special Jordan Kahn way — but all the others were actually excellent.
Portions were also larger than the previous Vespertine take out meals I have had. Just one of my two meals was plenty. And as I had two, I ate the second the next day and it also held up quite well.