Test Kitchen: Closing Night
9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Over the past four months, there’s no restaurant I’ve been to more than Test Kitchen (well, outside my weekday lunch rotation). Since its debut in August with Red Medicine, the restaurant has been a wild success featuring a diverse array of continuously changing chefs and menus. It remains even more popular than when it first opened, and I feel like its “pop-up” concept could be sustained for a while longer. However, all good things must come to an end – tonight was Test Kitchen’s last dinner service.
Originally, the finale was a $500 a plate charity (Gettlove and Share our Strength) benefit where 5 courses were prepared by 5 of the biggest names that have cooked in the kitchen. As much as I loved to go, it was way too expensive for me. However, just within the last week, the price was lowered to $150 and the chef/course count upped to 8. Yes! That was more than enough to get me here.
The restaurant was completely packed with a full dining room and bar area, bloggers (I dined with Kevin of kevinEats and Ryan of Epicuryan) and, of course, many chefs (including many past Test Kitchen chefs). It was great to see everyone come out to support the restaurant and the two charities. By no means an exhaustive list, just who I saw throughout the night: Dan Moody (LudoBites, upcoming San Diego project), Sherry Yard (Spago), Marcel Vigneron, Eric Greenspan (The Foundry on Melrose), Adam Horton (Saddle Peak Lodge), Ben Bailly (Fraiche), Nguyen and Thi Tran (Starry Kitchen), Chris “CJ” Jacobsen (The Yard), Haru Kishi (Chaya Brasserie), Alex Reznik, Amanda Baumgarten (Water Grill), Kevin Meehan (Cafe Pinot), and Gary Menes.
Ricardo Zarate: Lobster Tartare, Cucumber Mango Ceviche Sauce, Caviar, Sweet Potato Chip
We started with this lobster tartare. I enjoyed the small pieces of lobster paired with the sweetness of the mango, and I thought the crisp cucumber was integral in balancing out the dish. The caviar added a briny, salty dimension while the sweet potato chip added the textural component.
Alain Giraud: Oxtail Consomme, Mushroom Royale, Truffles
This was one of the strongest dishes of the night for me. The chicken and black truffle quenelle was simply delicious with a tasty chicken flavor heightened by black truffles. The consomme screamed umami with a deep, hearty flavor that was just really soul-satisfying.
Walter Manzke: Scallops, Hazelnuts, Cauliflower
Manzke orchestrated what was probably my favorite meal here, and this dish did not disappoint. The scallop, perfectly cooked, was topped with small bits of hazelnuts. This was an interesting textural interplay as I probably would have preferred the “crunch” from something thinner…like a chip. Regardless, I thought the nuttiness paired well with the scallop, and the green apple added just a little bit of tartness, which I thought was important.
Michael Voltaggio: “EcoPez” Turbot, Earth, Ash, & Sea
Leave it up to Michael Voltaggio to create the dish that took the longest to explain. He created an ash by cooking down leeks and mushrooms, then pureeing them and drying them out. This created a strong mushroom flavor to accompany the fish. An interesting way to impart the earthy flavor, I thought it really worked. A mushroom chip added some crispiness to each bite.
Steve Samson & Zach Pollack: Toasted Wheat Strascinati, Lamb Ragu, Braised Greens, Pecorino
Toasted semolina was the base of the pasta dough here. The pasta was rather thick, making the bites overly doughy for me. However, the rich lamb ragu was wonderfully flavorful.
Neal Fraser: Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Squash, Chestnuts, Bacon, Violet Mustard
This pork tenderloin was unbelievably tender. Unbelievable. I’m not sure how Fraser did it, but the meat was moist and flavorful as well..really uncharacteristic of a pork tenderloin. It was seriously closer to beef than pork. The pureed squash and chestnuts added sweetness (and a holiday tone!), which was tempered by the brussels sprouts and some bitter greens.
Amy Pressman: Pear Pandowdy with Gingerbread Ice Cream, Pear Bourbon Hard Sauce
I loved the presentation here with the gingerbread man topping the pandowdy. Similar to a bread pudding, this was actually the most filling course of the night. The pandowdy was very moist with a flavor best described as “spiced pear.” I probably would have preferred a lighter dish to finish off the meal, but I still enjoyed this.
Jonathan Grahm of Compartes Chocolatier: Special flavors created for Test Kitchen
Lastly we were presented with a duo of chocolates from Compartes Chocolatier to take home. We had a rosemary truffle and a raspberry ganache – my favorite was the rosemary truffle for its subtle herbaceous flavor. I thought the rosemary-chocolate combination was unique and pretty delicious.
Alain Giraud came out to chat with us a few times and was the first to sign our menus. Given the restaurant (and kitchen) was packed, having all of the chefs sign the menu was quite a task, but Kevin was able to make the rounds and get it done for us!
What’s next for the Test Kitchen space? Samson and Pollack will be opening an Italian restaurant named Sotto on the Test Kitchen floor, while Zarate will open a Peruvian restaurant called Picca on the second floor. Lastly, mixologist Joel Black will be debuting a bar on the top floor. While Test Kitchen no longer exists, it’s good to see that the space will be filled by some of the people that were integral to Test Kitchen’s run.
It’s bittersweet to see Test Kitchen’s doors close. I’m not sure what’s next – rumors of everything including a TV show have been mentioned. Regardless of what happens, it’s proved that Los Angeles is a dining scene open to trying new things, and that the pop-up restaurant continues to thrive in LA.