Chef Thornton started these dinners in San Diego over 5 years ago and thankfully has moved the operation up to downtown Los Angeles. His career path has spanned from sushi to Bouchon and to has led him to his current solo endeavor where ingredients and presentation equal any fine dining experience but with a personal and relaxed atmosphere. Where else can you go where the chef comes to your table to describe the dish you are about to eat? I wanted to totally food-geek out and ask a ton of questions, but I held back in a moment of shyness. I'll be trying for a second invite and can hopefully feel a bit more brave. For more of Craig's story, check out a few links here, here and here.
The pace of the three hour dinner was casual but not drawn out and left us with more than a full belly. I should have paced myself early, but each dish was just too good not to try to lick the plate. By the time the sixth and seventh courses were served, I had to take it easy and leave a few bites for my homies. A total of nine dishes were served with three fish courses, one veggie, three meat and two desserts. After dinner, I eavesdropped on a conversation the chef was having at our end of the table in which he outlined why the courses were planned in each order. The pork belly with buttermilk and crystal hot sauce, was planned as the first course to shake up the order a little bit. Serve a big dish and go in with a bang, followed by three more delicate and light seafood dishes. Then take a pause with a veggie dish and bring the diners back up with two meat courses. The finale of fruit-centric desserts ended the meal on a light note with fresh citrus and strawberries (Craig is not a fan of heavy, chocolatey desserts).
This dinner experience is something special that you can't experience in a restaurant and can only come close to in your own home (given you have a gourmet chef in your family). Check out this link and persistently RSVP.
|Refrigerator menu. Over half way through at about 9pm.|
|Ingredients- Note the green strawberries|
|More ingredients- cocoa, green garlic, what looks like black fennel?|
|Sous Vide - magic for pork belly course|
|simple kitchen, only 4 burners|
|Pea "risotto" and tile fish|
|Chef Craig Thornton|
|The chef and his "staff". I could watch chefs cook all night.|
|Prepping borage flowers|
And now the dishes:
|2 day dry-cured and 10 hr sous vide pork belly, buttermilk & crystal hot sauce, blueberry-shallot garnish and fried green strawberries|
|Tile fish with pea risotto, wasabi peas, carrot|
|Sea scallop, morels, onion & bacon relish, fiddlehead fern, asparagus and asparagus puree|
|Crab salad with cheddar fritters and fresh picked favas|
|Veggie- brussel sprouts, avocado, kale, cabbage, apple sphere, cucumber, twice cooked potato in carrot top-horseradish- dill sauce.|
|Rabbit, ricotta, mint, parmesan, rabbit jus, ramps, ramp pasta. Ramp leaves were impressed within the pasta.|
|Lamb, potato puree, cocoa, rhubarb-beet verjus, cat grass, nasturtium, borage flower|
|Buttermilk pana cotta, freeze dried mandarin, clementine, tangerine, vanilla shortbread|
|Coffee pound cake, donut ice cream, strawberries, strawberry merengue, whipped coffee|