Eating Out

Dialogue Discouraged at Dialogue Restaurant – Los Angeles

Part of the fun in a multi-course tasting menu is the interaction with the staff and the education of the elaborate process behind the final product. And at nearly every single fine dining spot we’ve been to, the staff is happy to engage with customers that show an interest in learning about their work at a deeper level.

Perhaps the best example of this was at Enigma in Barcelona where Chef Oliver Peña finished dishes in front of us at the Barra room chef’s table while describing the process in great detail. His enthusiasm and love for his work was overflowing, and he even met us after dinner to give us a package of raw ingredient he mentioned earlier.

Now I understand that cooking and talking simultaneously is a skill, and I don’t expect all chef’s tables to be nearly that engaging. When eating in a dining room though, I do expect fine dining servers to have an understanding of the dishes and to engage with the customer. When you are paying this much for meal, it’s not just about the food. Alinea in Chicago is one of my favorite examples of a spot that excels at creating a playful, magical feel to the evening.

Dialogue restaurant is a tiny 18-seater, hidden away behind an unmarked door in an upstairs mall food court. The only giveaway is perhaps the bottles of vinegar peeking through the high window.  The adventure of finding the restaurant, along with Chef Dave Beran’s pedigree (Alinea and Next) built my anticipation for a fun and delicious night. Upon finishing the meal though, my dinner mates and I agreed that Dialogue restaurant was weirdly cold from a service perspective, and food execution missed the mark, despite the process.

The main sommelier Jordan avoided our table after a handful of dishes in, because he clearly didn’t want to be bothered by my husband’s questions about the process. One of his final responses before he disappeared was an insincere “Cool!” in a laughably high-pitched voice.

Thank goodness Jeremy took over and happily spent the rest of the evening chatting with us. Other than Jeremy though, the wait staff were not that interested. I also had a clear line of sight to the chef’s counter, and Chef Beran looked like he couldn’t be bothered as well. It was all very unwelcoming and unpleasant, despite cheerful Jeremy.

The food was similarly disappointing. The heavily Japanese-influenced, seasonal California menu consisted of 21 small courses. I appreciated the creative ingredient combinations and technique, yet felt an overall lack of warmth and cohesiveness in the finished dishes. Other than the simplest dish – truffle milkshake – no dish compelled me to crave more. Half the meal was also oddly sweet (and I usually love sweet and savory). The wine pairings were unremarkable. Unsatisfied, we had a second dinner back at the hotel.

Dialogue LA - Geranium Ice Cream, ginger yogurt, lychee, rose, lemongrass
Geranium Ice, ginger yogurt, lychee, rose, lemongrass

One of the better dishes was a cucumber and mint salad. Wonderful depth, nice brightness, and a lingering punch of garlic.

Dialogue LA - Salad of Cucumber and Mint, peanut, long bean, raw garlic
Salad of Cucumber and Mint, peanut, long bean, raw garlic

Dialogue LA - "Kanpachi for Nancy", fermented tomato, purslane
“Kanpachi for Nancy”, fermented tomato, purslane
Dialogue LA - Spaghetti Squash with late harvest fermented apricot, crumbled pesto, parmesan cream
Spaghetti Squash with late harvest fermented apricot, crumbled pesto, parmesan cream

Course five featured camomile, lemon, honey, and sesame in a sweet, dessert-like dish. But dessert this was not, and it was rather odd to have this course so early on.

Dialogue LA - Camomile Tea, lemon, white sesame, "butterfinger"
Camomile Tea, lemon, white sesame, “butterfinger”

The next dish of fennel ice cream and fermented peach was promising with fun temperature and texture contrast, but also marred by an overly sweet shiso powder.

Dialogue LA - Fennel-Smoked Ice Cream, fermented peach, red shiso
Fennel-Smoked Ice Cream, fermented peach, red shiso

Next came shots of buttered movie theater popcorn in liquid form, and who doesn’t like buttered popcorn?

Dialogue LA - Popcorn and Caramel Soup
Popcorn and Caramel Soup

Sadly the corn shot was followed by a corn nugget that was the worst offender in the overly sweet category.

Dialogue LA - Corn and Honey Nugget
Corn and Honey Nugget

I’m not sure I’ve had any type of mochi with roe, but I enjoyed this new combination…though you guessed it, still a little too sweet!

Dialogue LA - Warabi Mochi, trout roe, kinako (roasted soybean flour)
Warabi Mochi, trout roe, kinako (roasted soybean flour)

The seared foie gras was a bit on the iron-heavy side for my taste, though I did like the sauce which reminded me of a bright Thai curry.

Dialogue LA - Foie gras, rutabaga, passionfruit, mustard, lemon verbena
Foie gras, rutabaga, passionfruit, mustard, lemon verbena

“Yuzu Glass” had nice presentation and technique, and the fermented yuzu powder was a tangy punch in the face (in a good way for me, though not for my dinner mates).

Dialogue LA - Yuzu Glass, fermented yuzu powder, mustard seed
Yuzu Glass, fermented yuzu powder, mustard seed

Honeynut squash is a sweeter, optimized butternut squash. This dish balanced the sweet squash nicely with savory onion.

Dialogue LA - Honeynut squash, butterfly sorrel, bori-cha (barley tea)
Honeynut squash, butterfly sorrel, bori-cha (barley tea)

It seems like you can’t have a tasting menu without caviar these days. Sadly the sweet chestnut and onion puree overpowered the premium osetra caviar. It was also weird to not eat caviar from a mother of pearl spoon.

Dialogue LA - Golden Osetra Caviar, chestnut, lapsang, burnt onion purée, vanilla-scented flowers
Golden Osetra Caviar, chestnut purée, burnt onion butter, lapsang oil, vanilla-scented flowers

Pheasant was one of only two meat dishes. I enjoyed the smoky depth of flavor and preferred the leg (hidden in the photo) to the drier breast.

Dialogue LA - "Pheasant with flavors of a Michigan Autumn", pheasant breast and leg, napa cabbage, apple, burnt corn husk jus
“Pheasant with flavors of a Michigan Autumn”, pheasant breast and leg, napa cabbage, apple, burnt corn husk jus

Following this was a course with black walnuts, which had a strong funk that wasn’t my favorite.

Dialogue LA - Grapefruit, Chicory, Cocoa Cardona Wisconsin goat cheese, black walnut
Grapefruit, Chicory, Cocoa Cardona Wisconsin goat cheese, black walnut

I do enjoy wild mushrooms in creamy grains, and I liked the bright contrasting notes in the mushroom farro dish.

Dialogue LA - Farro, sunflower petals, sunflower seed, wild mushroom (maitake, chanterelle)
Farro, sunflower petals, sunflower seed, wild mushroom (maitake, chanterelle)

Unfortunately for me, one of my least favorite meats – squab was the second meat course. That oat cream black truffle rillette hit the spot though.

Dialogue LA - Squab, kyoto red carrot, cherry, oat cream black truffle rillette
Squab, kyoto red carrot, cherry, oat cream black truffle rillette

As mentioned, the first dessert of truffle milkshake was the winner for me! I would gladly have seconds or thirds.

Dialogue LA - Truffle Milkshake
Truffle Milkshake

The other desserts were delicious, no complaints about the sweetness here! I also enjoyed the interesting and lingering menthol note in the second dessert.

Dialogue LA - Coffee, caramelized white chocolate, blackberry vinegar
Coffee, caramelized white chocolate, blackberry vinegar
Dialogue LA - Menthol, molasses, tonka marshmallow
Menthol, molasses, tonka marshmallow
Dialogue LA - Hot Chocolate
Hot Chocolate
Dialogue LA - November 2018 Tasting Menu
November 2018 Tasting Menu

I liked that Dialogue restaurant introduced me to many new ingredient combinations I hadn’t seen before. I would not come back here though because I didn’t feel appreciated or respected as a customer.

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