Thursday, October 18, 2012

Test Kitchen

Los Angeles.  Why bother writing about a restaurant where the chefs and the prix-fixe, multi-course menu change every night; where the servers are barely trained, the foodrunners are still memorizing table numbers, and every night is opening night? Because Test Kitchen has food that sustains the circus; and the circus is the point.  Only in Los Angeles are there pop-up restaurants within pop-up restaurants within brick-walled restaurants in Skid Row.

Test Kitchen is a sort of a rotating who's-who in the L.A. culinary world: the chefs breeze in, take over the kitchen at whatever restaurant plays host (currently it's the soon-to-open Bestia, on the fringes of downtown), and cook the food they want to cook. You pay what they ask, and you eat what they give you, or you just don't participate in the whole event.

Whatever I ate won't be there on the night you choose to go (they have a blessedly easy reservation system on OpenTable... just book early), but the offerings by chefs Ori Menashe, Walter Manske and Neal Fraser were delicious, and if they're any indication of the talent booked at Test Kitchen 2012, y'all are in for a treat.

Charcuterie board
To start, house-made charcuterie, including a stunning rabbit porchetta and a "faux gras" mousse with Asian pear.  We suspected the "faux" gras was actually chicken liver mousse but it was nearly as rich as the real thing and just as decadent. 

Grilled Octopus with lentils
Next up: grilled octopus, deliciously charred, with warm lentils...then Mediterranean turbot with sunchoke puree (oh boy, oh boy do I love sunchokes) and black truffles... and finally: duck breast served with a confit-filled pastry, perfect little grapes, and a little dollop of what we guessed to be parsnips but was as addictive as chocolate. 

We wrapped up the night with two desserts by two different pastry chefs (Genevieve Vergis and Mariah Swan) - an ultra-rich rice pudding with roast plums, and a teeny tiny bite of a s'more that was the perfect nightcap to the evening.

Rice pudding with plums
The downside to this "let's do it LIVE!" style of cooking?? The TIMING.  Dinner took nearly 4 hours.  We had a 45 minute wait between courses... twice.  And several tables around us sat down after and finished before our little table of four.  But a couple cocktails from master mixologist Julian Cox helped soothe the nerves, and frankly, the food was so good it was worth it.  The open kitchen was a perfect theater - more than once, harried food servers rushed off with hot plates, only to bring them back, tails between their legs, when they went to the wrong table.

What will be on the menu when YOU go?  No one knows until about a week in advance - but snag a table, get started with some drinks, settle down for a looong night, and enjoy the show.  Your tummy sure will.

Test Kitchen 2012 
2121 East 7th Place
Los Angeles, CA 90021

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