I arrived at 8 PM sharp. Walking through the doors of the Mondrian Hotel after a long day at the office and a brisk walk along the Sunset Strip, I was ready for a drink. Right away the staff broke a sweat to keep me happy. Before I could read the menu, I had a drink in my hand. The “Extra Special Peter Rabbit.” This is the bartender’s spin on a Pimms Cup. House infused cucumber gin and basil lemonade. The bartender was a bit heavy handed with the gin, but I really didn’t mind that much.
I was seated at a table made of beautiful white marble and topped with vibrant green and purple succulents. Already feeling like Caesar, the staff began bringing out waves of food. First up, oysters full of liquor, free of debris, cut clean from the shell and another visit from Peter Rabbit.
Next was the Hamachi and duck cracklings crudo. The dish is plated with tiny yellow flowers, smoked grapes, pickled serrano gribiche and fresh basil. The flavors awakened a nascent happiness. I started sizing up the room and something about the moment reminded me of Dali.
The décor of the restaurant is a sleek and modern oceanic bazar. As if an Italian racing yacht crashed into a furniture store. I’ve since switched from Peter Rabbit to a Paper Tiger, a vodka based spirit that is far more balanced and flavorful. I start thinking about how Dali would cover the restaurant. Maybe a cooking show or reality TV style vignette.
Most cooking shows focus far too much on the food and overlook the art of dining and hosting. When everything on the menu is delicious, what makes the food taste even better is the spectacle of the moment. The location. The ambience. The music.
Looking at the suited real estate agents, well-dressed studio types, and beautiful home-wreckers, I notice a thread linking them all together. As the polite and attentive wait staff dips and sways with the flow of the room and the whims of the patrons, I’m now razor-focused on how Dali would cover the space.
Flowers for the mind’s appetite – a guide to eating well, a new cooking show hosted by Salvador Dali. The best show never seen on TV. My mind starts to wander on this notion when a delightful din hits my ears.
At 10:05 the Fall came on the DJ set. The tune is called Barmy. It’s off “This Nations Saving Grace”. Read the lyrics and think about Hollywood. Lots of nice thematic overlap. I can see Dali in the parking lot of a post-production house in Santa Monica, cellphone to his ear, chain-smoking while nervously pacing. His PA is cautiously keeping his distance. Suddenly, Dali realizes he knows exactly how to edit the kitchen footage he got from the restaurant. He’ll call the head chef and restaurant owner Brian Malarkey soon to share his idea about using the song to set the tone.
With British post-punk filling my ears and the strange dance of flamingo birds flaunting and galloping in skyscraper heels, I’m ready for the next course.
The table is now covered with an impressive spread of Pacific wild caught swordfish, Alaskan king crab and tender steaks from Ohio. Dali is impressed by the surf and turf congress. I can see him in the kitchen, standing over the poultry, asking the chef where their hats, shirts and ties have all gone.
The Paper Tiger’s bite is strong. I’m dusting off some mental notes on the surreal. The imagination feeds the hungers of the unconscious… The waiter brings out a plate of chicken liver mouse with caviar. The dish is served in place of foie gras, which was recently outlawed in California after being deemed inhumane. My favorite dish of the night is served with a slice of toast and presented in a French terrine topped with more edible flowers. This combination of ingredients achieves the perfect balance of savory and sweet when paired with the provided green apples.
Dessert is now served. On a full stomach, I feel like we’re in ancient Rome. A slice of passion fruit cheesecake, a cappuccino, and a towering peanut crunch sundae so lavish that it may have been airlifted from the food halls at Harrod’s London. I wonder what Dali made of Harrods? Or Willy Wonka’s factory? The coffee is bringing me back to life. I have work tomorrow. I wish it was Friday and not Thursday. How does Dali close out the show? A brick through the window? No, Brian is a kind man and we need a second season.
Looking out the window of my driver’s car as we leave Hollywood, I’m reminded of the strange, ephemeral beauty at the heart of Los Angeles. Now I’m certain. If Dali brought his show to tape an episode at the Herringbone, he’d be quite satisfied.
Herringbone launches at Mondrian Los Angeles