Fine dining in disguise
Claim to fame: Chef Jordan Kahn, the artiste behind futuristic dining experience Vespertine
Reason to go: Kahn’s daytime eatery is as good as his fancypants dinner joint
To look out for: Parking around here is a challenge, maybe take an Uber
So you’re curious about the food at Vespertine but can’t stomach the sticker shock that comes with it? Destroyer’s got you covered. Chef Jordan Kahn’s breakfast- and lunch canteen, across the street from his remarkable flagship restaurant, is surreptitiously close to that fancy dining experience. Though with a different kind of fanciness, and most notably, at a fraction of the price.
Instead of a dimly lit dining room, you’ll be sitting at picnic tables, on a sunny Culver City-sidewalk, marveling at the Hayden Tract’s neo-brutalist architectural oddities. And instead of luxuriating over a three-hour tasting menu, you’ll make your way here on a weekday, before 3.30 PM for a convivial, quick bite. Unlike Vespertine’s refined and calculated esthetic, Destroyer is laidback; there’s a smattering of indoor seats where locals sit hunched over laptops, the menu is projected on a wall, you order and pay at the counter, before being served tableside. It’s tiled, bright and simple.
The open kitchen, however, exudes all of Vespertine’s tech:y finesse. And this is where things get really interesting: flavors are layered, textural- and aromatic surprises abound, dishes are unconventionally plated and served on heavy pottery. It’s earthy, forage-focused, lush and poetic. Just like at Vespertine. A sophisticated chicken confit with nutty heirloom grits and frizzled spigarello hides an exclamation mark of roasted strawberry at the bottom of the bowl. Roasted baby yams are creatively camouflaged by endive leaves sprinkled with a vibrant, chervil- and tarragon-redolent herb powder, and secured in place by a wonderment of sweet, chopped walnut goop, they’re accompanied by ethereal yoghurt foam that reveals avocado nuggets. Roasted beets are slathered in pumpkin seed butter and topped with a generous shaving of frozen, goat milk-funky horseradish cream. The rice porridge is a culinary version of grandma’s hugs, if grandma dressed in Jil Sander. It’s velvety, sheltering bits of caramelized broccoli as well as half a charred onion slicked with silky browned butter, and it comes accessorized with a chic dusting of black, burnt onion powder and jewel-like roasted kale. Nobody should leave Destroyer without getting a hug from granny!
Kahn’s innovative desserts bridge the savory and sweet in unexpected ways, vegetables often moonlight as fruits. And though Destroyer doesn’t serve alcohol, it offers house-made tonics and a good selection of teas and coffees.
The name, you wonder? Destroyer signifies a metaphorical comet that ended the cretaceous period and was directly responsible in creating the Cenozoic era, which exists today. This scientific-ish piece of trivia explains the restaurant concept. Like the allegorical comet that destroyed the long-ago geological era, Kahn has upended conventional notions of what fine dining should be.