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3 weeks agoupdated May 09, 2024

Vespertine Returns to LA Restaurant Scene

Restaurant of the Week: As bonkers, and as expensive, as we remember, Vespertine is back and better than ever. 

By Kim Ayling

Seven years since it first opened, and four since it shut, Jordan Kahn’s highly experimental Vespertine has once again opened its doors to curious diners.

Located in Los Angeles’ Culver City neighborhood, in a drastic building that gives little of the culinary experience awaiting inside away, Vespertine launched in 2017 and quickly got ears wagging. Ambitious and, to some people’s minds, a touch pretentious (it’s a prerequisite of fine dining), the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars, among other prestigious accolades. Kahn’s vision had worked.

However, in 2020, along came a border-closing, restaurant-shutting, world-stopping disease. Vespertine was one of the many, many restaurants to adapt to at-home meals during Covid-19 but for a time it looked like it would never make it to re-opening its bricks-and-mortar presence.

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vespertine restaurant
The Waffle by Eric Moss Architects / ©Vespertine

Time proved doubters wrong, however. Last year, Kahn made the announcement that Vespertine 2.0 was on its way; in April, doors opened. As bonkers, and as expensive, as ever, Vespertine has been welcomed back to LA’s restaurant scene gladly. 

[See also: Mauro Colagreco Honors the Moon in New Cookbook]

Chef

A lover of theatrical, over-the-top and boundary-pushing dining, Kahn is on a non-stop train away from ordinary. The Georgia native was a long-term Thomas Keller fan and secured a job under the famous chef at an early age. Since, he has worked in the kitchens of Grant Achatz and Michael Mina.

Before he opened Vespertine, Kahn’s first restaurant baby was Destroyer (he refers to himself as the ‘father’ of his concepts). Destroyer is not as terrifying as it sounds – less death metal demon’s lair, more minimalist, eco-friendly cafe with a menu that includes oatmeal and french toast. Destroyer opened in 2016, a year before Vespertine.

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chef jordan kahn
Jordan Kahn / ©thegry.space

Following the sad closure of Vespertine, Kahn surprised the industry by opening a whole new restaurant, Meteora. Another ambitious concept, Meteora sought to imagine what food would look like in 5,000 years time, with a ‘primal’ take on cooking.

According to press materials circulated ahead of Vespertine’s re-opening, its “return completes the trinity of the chef’s visionary worlds.”

Menu

Studious, ahead-of-time menu researchers, prepare to be disappointed: Vespertine’s menu is not one easily found. All diners really have to go off of are the rumors of chef Kahn’s avant-garde style and a quite infuriatingly vague website. 

squid at vespertine restaurant
Kahn is highly concerned with ingredient provenance / ©Vespertine

What we can tell you, however, is that the $395, 16 (plus)-course menu promises to be more than just dinner and instead an immersive experience designed to invigorate all five senses – Kahn proudly believes a meal out should be more like theater than just sustenance.

As with the first iteration of Vespertine, Kahn is highly concerned with ingredient provenance and has worked hard to create a supply chain that prioritizes biodynamic and regeneratively grown produce, as well as some foraged goods. 

The bulk of the ingredients used at the restaurant are from California but, via a network of trusted fishermen, Kahn also uses a number of rare seafoods such as Pacific deep-sea prawns and Hawaiian specialties. 

[See also: The Most Significant Restaurant Openings of 2023]

vespertine restaurant
The 16 (plus)-course menu promises to be more than just dinner / ©Vespertine

Interiors

With a culinary concept so out there, it is befitting that Vespertine occupies all three floors of one of Los Angeles’ most interesting architectural feats: The Waffle. Designed by visionary firm, Eric Owen Moss Architects, the vast bronze-colored building gently twists as it reaches up to the sky; in the firm’s own words, it is ‘soft geometry.’

Inside, the space is suitably futuristic. The experience takes guests through different portions of the building as their dinner unfolds: Some are light and airy, with smooth curved lines and calming stone-colored palettes; others are dark and angular. The opposing effect is all part of the Jordan Kahn experience.

Vespertine, 3599 Hayden Ave, Culver City, CA 90232, vespertine.la

[See also: The Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of 2024]

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