2018 Ancestral de la Cristina
Raspberry Leaf, Yogurt, Tamarind
Almond ‘Shell’, Almond Milk
Hojita of Hoja Santa, Mezcal, Citrus
Blueberry Eucalyptus Tart / Panellets of Pinenut Cream, Puffed Rice / Chicken Skin and Liver Mousse / Trufflecini of Porcini Powder, Truffle Cream
Pizza Margherita of Meringue, Tomato, Mozzarella Mousse, Basil
Caviar, Yellowfin Tuna Belly, Bone Marrow
Oyster Aguachile, Herb ‘Caviar’, Cucumber Distillation
Santa Barbara Spot Prawn, Olive Oil, Sea Salt
Tempura Shiso Leaf, Dry Aged Beef Tartare, Borage Flowers
Ensaimada, Porcini Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, Pork Fat, Parmesan Butter
Strawberry Negroni, Gin, Mint
Beet Gazpacho, Beet Chip, Horseradish Ice Cream, Goat Cheese Snow
Potato ‘Croissant’, Lentil Cappuccino
Kohlrabi and Snap Peas, Australian Winter Truffles
Sun and Shadow of Dungeness Crab, Thai Peanut Sauce, Cilantro Flowers, Coconut Milk
5 Day Dry-Aged Turbot, ‘Teriyaki’, Tea of Roasted Bones
Pigtail Curry Bun, Red Curry
Cochinillo Emmolada, Mole Madre, Sweet Corn, Huitlacoche
Cow and Her Milk, Gorgonzola, Apples
Fresas Con Nata, Harry’s Berries, Sorbet, Strawberry Consomme, White Chocolate
‘Tropic’ of Pineapple, Zucchini Bread
Cheesecake Bomb, Dried Flowers
Double Espresso, Ice
Xuixo with Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate Mousse
Happy to acknowledge Jose Andres’ contributions to humanity, though less impressed by his Cuisine and commitment to customers across several meals, it is from ThinkFoodGroup collaborator Aitor Zabala that Somni sees modernism still relevant inside the SLS Hotel, two Michelin Stars and a top five ranking by OAD proving justified even when accounting for the $350 price point.
As much theater as a meal, Chef Zabala’s experience at El Bulli, Arzak and Akelarre gifting he and his kitchen staff of twelve with a good sense of how to use modified textures without compromising ingredients, it is immediately upon entering the Beverly Hills hotel that guests are led to a small waiting area, complimentary Bubbles offered along with options for Wine Pairings ranging $150-$500.
Forgoing Alcohol henceforth, though the “Unique” pairing ordered by a tablemate seemed fair priced thanks to the Sommelier repeatedly topping off near-empty glasses, it was following Snacks highlighted by liquefied Almonds inside a delicate Shell that guests transitioned to Somni’s dining room, the Bar built from a single tree truly gorgeous though the eye is otherwise drawn to a kitchen that stretches back at least fifty feet.
Serving just ten guests per seating, the experience lasting approximately 150-minutes and comprised of twenty eight items, it was after a brief introduction that dining began in earnest, a smoky frozen Cocktail quickly consumed as staff arranged four service pieces soon featuring airy Blueberry Meringues, Chicken Skin piped with Foie Blonde, re-imagined Panellets made with puffed Rice and bloomy Mushroom Chips.
Next highlighting ‘mg’ with Margherita Pizza, a rapidly-dissolving ‘crust’ beneath crushed Tomatoes and creamy Mousse recreating the flavor of Naples at less than an eighth the heft, it was with no trickery involved that Caviar atop Tuna Belly and Marrow delivered unmitigated richness, the follow-up “Aguachile” another fun idea, though perhaps the only time all night that a more classic presentation would have been preferred.
Again offering uncompromised ingredients in the form of a peerless Spot Prawn, and following it with a single Shiso Leaf packed with raw Beef painted in Tempura, it was after an umami-rich Ensaimada that another edible Cocktail freshened the palate before proceeding to Gazpacho brightened by Horseradish.
Taking no shortcuts with a “Croissant” made from spiraled Potatoes, the exterior shattering and interior pliable with a flavor not far from French Fries, it was inside a Kohlrabi bowl that Peas infused with Truffles shined, its bold aromatics carrying over into “Sun and Shadow” with a generous amount of Dungeness Crab soon afloat in Peanut Sauce and Coconut Foam.
Truly global in its references, a Teriyaki-glazed “Rib” of Turbot aged for five days fusing Spain and Japan into the meal’s most memorable plate, it was after dipping a Pork Bun into Red Curry that the night’s final savory arrived, the Pork with crispy Skin delicious on its own but all the more so when dragged through Corn Smut and Sauce built from Enrique Olvera’s Mole Madre.
Bridging to Dessert by way of Cheese, a Cow-shaped Wafer hiding Gorgonzola and Apples, it was thanks to Harry’s Berries that Strawberries and Cream showed beautifully while “Tropic” and “Cheesecake Bomb” both outperformed a Mochi Dumpling that tasted mostly bland save for hint of Blueberry.
Offered complimentary Coffee to finish, the night’s menu and a list of staff delivered like a play bill alongside deep fried Dough shellacked with Cinnamon and filled with Chocolate, it was with bill pre-paid by TOCK that guests took their leave, a final goodbye offered by one of the Chefs at the SLS main door.