The start of 2018 means culinary experiences that transport you to Greece, Japan and Versailles, but you need to act fast.
It’s easy to get FOMO just trying to keep up with all of L.A.’s new restaurant openings, seasonal menus, trending ingredients and culinary innovations. We’re here to complicate things even more by pointing out that this city is also home to a slew of pop-ups and special events that require you to act fast or forgo your seat at the table. Here are three dinners you might want to book ASAP.
Sweet Greek Big Fat Greek Feast, January 18
L.A.-based food/travel journalist Christina Xenos is also a formidable personal chef who’s co-author of the newly released OPA! The Healthy Greek Cookbook. The book offers modern takes on Mediterranean classics while keeping things lighter with recipes that embrace olive oil and shy away from butter. (Co-author Theo Stephan grows her own organic olives.)
You can enjoy food from the book, prepared by Xenos herself, at an EatWith dinner featuring specialties like melitzanosalata (eggplant dip), spanakopita (spinach pie) and chicken kapama (a hearty braise of thighs and spiced tomato sauce with white wine, honey and vinegar) with orzo. The $72 feast also includes a Greek village salad, dessert and Greek coffee.
The intimate dinner party starts with an appetizer hour when guests can mingle and try an assortment of spreads and dips like tzatziki and red pepper feta dip. If the weather is nice as it tends to be in L.A., dinner will be on the patio next to Xenos’ kitchen.
Visitors at dinners like this with Xenos often end up making new friends, laughing a lot and exchanging business cards by the end of the night. The chef enjoys getting to know her guests.
“I think the point of EatWith in general is it’s a more personal experience than going to a restaurant,” Xenos says. “People come to these dinners because they want to meet other people and they want to be interactive.”
Hakkaisan x Shibumi dinner, January 24
David Schlosser, the L.A. chef behind kappo-style downtown restaurant Shibumi, loves showcasing hyper-specific Japanese ingredients. So for his collaboration with Hakkaisan Brewery (from the Uonuma region in Niigata), Schlosser will pair a tasting menu with Hakkaisan sake while also cooking with ingredients used to brew sake.
Schlosser, who doesn’t serve sushi at his restaurant and loves to have his guests explore other kinds of Japanese food, is excited about this dinner because it will allow him to really focus on koji. Shibumi already prepares a lot of dishes with koji. In many ways, Schlosser says, “It’s the most important ingredient.”
Koji, if you’re not familiar, is the game-changing mold that makes sake (not to mention. soy sauce, miso and rice vinegar) possible.
For the $125 collaboration dinner (seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.), Schlosser will cure Hokkaido scallops in shio koji. The chef, whom David Chang recently referred to as a "Kaiseki Eminem," is also planning bites like a starter with uni, crab, ikura and warm tofu; local black cod in kasu; and an amazake cheesecake.
Kasu, often used to marinate fish, are the lees that remain after sake production. Amazake is a sweet drink made from koji. If you sit at the counter inside Shibumi, the friendly Schlosser will be happy to explain all of this and a lot more while you watch him make dinner.
“Shibumi is about respect and traditions and trying to show Americans how special Japanese food is beyond sushi,” Schlosser says.
And on this night, guests can also try some special sake from what’s essentially Hakkaisan’s super-reserve stash. Hakkaisan U.S. ambassador Timothy Sullivan will be there to discuss what you’re drinking.
Disco Dining Club, February 10
L.A. underground pop-up king Laurent Quenioux is leaving his Highland Park backyard to cook for Disco Dining Club’s Versailles-themed third-anniversary blowout. Quenioux is planning a tasting menu with dishes showcasing chanterelles, Atlantic monkfish and California squab on a night that will be all about sensory overload at The Deco Building.
“I wanted to combine the debauchery of a dinner party with the debauchery of a warehouse party,” Disco Dining Club founder Courtney Nichols says when asked about the origins of her raucous culinary events.
Nichols is working with actors, costume makers and DJs to create an immersive night that includes Quenioux’s dinner, an afterparty and theatrical performances. A Belgium events agency, Criaturas, is even sending over five costumes from its new Versailles collection. The after-party features midnight croissants, cocktails, champagne and “eccentric shuckers” offering unlimited oysters. The DJs include both L.A. talent and French-born Joakim. Point is, be ready for a long night of dinner, drinks and dancing. Tickets for Disco Dining Club: Hall of Mirrors Edition range from $100 for just the afterparty to $250 for a VIP experience that also includes dinner and bottle service.
“Yes, it’s a food event, but you’re really entering a set piece,” Nichols says. “The sounds and colors and fantastical items instantly force you to be a very free individual, just like when you’re on a disco dance floor.”