Saturday, November 06, 2010

Wolvesmouth Underground Dinner (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

Wolvesmouth Underground Dinner
Los Angeles, CA
Sat 11/06/2010, 06:30p-11:00p

The Wolvesden has moved.

The Wolvesden
Yes, LA's premiere underground supper club has left its former Hollywood Hills hideout and taken up residence in a decidedly urban Los Angeles loft. The new, larger location has allowed dinner parties to expand from eight diners to 12, but clearly, with only two or three events a month, demand for Craig "Wolvesmouth" Thornton's cutting edge cookery still outstrips supply.

Sally, Wasima, Debra Paul, Gina
Neil, Leilani: Bite Me Debra, Sandra
The pre-meal mingling well underway.

Dance-Off Dance-Off
Dance-Off Dance-Off
The new loft provided ample space for the requisite pre-dinner dance-off.

Craig Thornton
Wolvesmouth at work. Note the dual immersion circulators in the background.

tahitian squash. sweetbread. blis.
1: tahitian squash. sweetbread. blis.
Thornton was able to locate some elusive Tahitian squash (the phallic-looking one), which he promptly incorporated into this first dish. The squash was expectedly saccharine, with its sweetness kicked up a notch further by the inclusion of maple syrup. However, the sweetbreads actually did a very effective job in tempering the sugariness of the squash-syrup, and taken together, the dish was surprisingly balanced, with an almost breakfast-y essence to it.

Julian Cooking Julian Cooking
Even Julian got in on the cooking action.

crab. jerusalem artichoke puree. watermelon radish. pickled persimmon.
2: crab. jerusalem artichoke puree. watermelon radish. pickled persimmon.
Crab was very nice, showing off a characteristic sweet brine augmented by the crisp fruitiness of persimmon (which I usually do not care for). The sunroot, at the same time, grounded the dish somewhat, making for a successful mélange of tastes and textures.

Craig Thornton

scallop. potato. chive. chanterelle.
3: scallop. potato. chive. chanterelle.
Scallop came perfectly cooked, and the dish announced itself with a positively intoxicating aroma. The earthiness of the mushrooms served as a superb counter to the bivalve, and I loved how the chive-potato combination tied everything together. Easily one of the best scallop dishes that I've had in a while.

tomato. olive oil. saba.
4: tomato. olive oil. saba.
Hemispheres of four multicolored tomato cultivars arrived drizzled with saba (the grape must syrup, not the fish) and olive oil. The tomatoes were distinct in character, yet cohesive. Each was brimming with a pure, sweet, juicy savor that was heightened by the gravity of the saba, while the olive oil served as a countervailing element.

ocean trout. pumpernickel. lingonberry. creme fraiche.
5: ocean trout. pumpernickel. lingonberry. creme fraiche.
Ocean trout was excellent. Its savory, slightly oily flesh was delectable alone, but also nicely balanced by the tang of crème fraiche and especially the earthy tinge of pumpernickel (genius!). The use of lingonberry was interesting, as its tart, jammy sweetness was a surprisingly apt pair with the fish.

Craig Thornton

rabbit. bacon n onion muffin. swiss fondue. green apple. mustard greens.
6: rabbit. bacon n onion muffin. swiss fondue. green apple. mustard greens.
Next up was the Chef's reinterpretation of chicken cordon bleu. Rabbit was cooked sous vide, resulting in a stupendously tender consistency and a delicate, almost chicken-like relish. The key here was thus the Gruyère and its creamy, luscious flavor that perfectly completed the dish's base of rabbit. The muffin, on the other hand, served to provide a fitting saltiness to the fray, while the apple helped to lighten the dish. One of my favorite courses of the evening.

pork cheek bao. pork cheek bao.
7: pork cheek bao.
Thornton's next dish married his Southern roots with the traditions of dim sum, resulting in a sort of Asian pulled pork sandwich in the same vein as a Cantonese char siu bao. The pork filling was suitably tender, with a definite porcine savor that, fortunately, wasn't overly saccharine. Very satisfying.

buddhas hand sorbet.
8: buddhas hand sorbet.
As a palate cleanser, we were provided a sorbet of Buddha's hand citron, gin, sugar, and salt. A refreshing jolt to the palate with a distinctly sweet-sour tang.

Craig Thornton

squab. roveja. prune leather. squab skin. sauce. tokyo turnip.
9: squab. roveja. prune leather. squab skin. sauce. tokyo turnip.
Our final savory of the evening brought us sous vide squab breast, heavy and substantial, and loaded with rich, dark flavors. Along with its crisp, savory skin, it went gorgeously with the included cake of roveja (a near extinct type of legume from Umbria, provided in this case by Sam Kim), which showed off a fantastic pea-like flavor that deftly complemented the bird. I also enjoyed the sweet "Fruit by the Foot," and especially the light, bitter, tempering taste of the Tokyo turnip.

ube 'mochi'. coconut milk powder. palm sugar coconut shortbread. avocado ice cream. lime styrofoam.
10: ube "mochi". coconut milk powder. palm sugar coconut shortbread. avocado ice cream. lime styrofoam.
With this dessert, Thornton showed off his considerable prowess with the sweet stuff, a common weakness among savory chefs. Contrasting sweet and sour flavors from the ube (purple yam) and lime were tied together by the avocado ice cream, while the shortbread served to ground the dish. A flawless mixtures of disparate textures and tastes.

s'mores. toasted marshmallow ice cream. graham cracker pudding. salted chocolate. smoked pop rocks.
11: s'mores. toasted marshmallow ice cream. graham cracker pudding. salted chocolate. smoked pop rocks.
We finished the meal with a gorgeous rendition of a classic campfire treat: the s'more. The ice cream was marvelous even alone (Julian wisely commandeered the leftovers), beautifully capturing the essence of toasted marshmallow. It paired faultlessly with the graham cracker sauce and chocolate, making for a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I adored the smoky tinge from the Voltaggio-esque pop rocks as well.

Craig Thornton and Dog
With the cooking done, it was time to bring out the pooch.

Amazingly, Thornton managed to outdo his previous effort, presenting us with a suite of dishes that were avant garde yet approachable, thoroughly inventive yet uncompromisingly delicious--an incredible experience overall. What we have here is simply the best "restaurant" that you won't be able to get into.

The Wolvesden


Blogger My Shimoda said...

Despite falling on my head a couple times, I obviously won that dance-off. ;-) had to work up an appetite! That whole dinner was amazing and I truely felt like a 'Top Chef' judge, speculating and analyzing with everyone at the table. My favorites were dishes: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11. I especially enjoyed the exotic touches he used like, buddahs hand and ube. All of the proteins were cooked superbly and the plating was beautiful. I enjoyed the creative whimsy of flavors and textures, and the pace was nice. I think Craig is a promising chef and I hope to enjoy his food again sometime.

-I also loved our group. fun to meet new foodies. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010 9:23:00 AM  
Blogger bagnatic said...

awesome and deliious looking. very informative kevin...makes me want.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous @ahoyPaulChoi said...

thanks for posting.


Thursday, November 11, 2010 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like a great menu, as usual. One of the most exciting things in LA dining right now. WIll have to return soon.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 2:40:00 PM  
Blogger Chocolate & Chants said...

I love your pictures. Even my best friend (Trip or Treats) is jealous! I didn't know this concept existed in LA, i've heard of it in Hong Kong, but not here. So cool! There are some interesting things on that menu - watermelon radish? Saba? Must try these things!

Friday, November 12, 2010 3:57:00 PM  
Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

Good Saturday morning to you, Kevin. Enjoy this warm sunny day.

The ube mochi and s'mores make me want dessert at 7:00 a.m !

p.s. Just had dinner at The Capital Grille at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. It was excellent - I think you would like it !

Saturday, November 13, 2010 6:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Pam @ Kitchen Cookware said...

Look like a fun underground dinner fun and party! food and fun!

Sunday, November 14, 2010 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger thngotiatr said...

Gah, seeing your pictures and comments make me feel even worse about turning down an invitation I recieved.

Monday, November 15, 2010 12:34:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Leilani: I think it's pretty obvious that you won that battle--we all know white guys can't dance. ;)

Amy: Get yo'self on the list!

Paul: No problemo.

Linden: Indeed. I looked through your meal, and I appreciate how the courses are totally different each time.

Chantalle: I suppose you might say that underground dinners are the new pop-up restaurants. ;) Have you gotten on the mailing list?

Annie: Both desserts were excellent, which is sort of an uncommon thing, as I'm more of a savory person. I'm actually not sold on Capital Grille though; I ate there in Denver a few weeks back, and felt that it was on par with Morton's and the like.

Pam: Yes, food and fun, together at last.

Vinh: Why did you turn it down?

Monday, November 15, 2010 12:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Daniel said...

As an amateur cook and a huge foodie, this meal was inspirational from both a consumption and creation standpoint. Thank you for the blow-by-blow recap.

If I had even half of Thornton's talent, I'd be throwing supper parties left and right. Something to work towards I suppose.

From a consumption perspective, almost every dish was very cerebral and combined unexpected ingredients resulting in (what seemed like) excellent results. Something I'd gladly pay very good money for.

In addition, I just started a food blog this past weekend, and like yourself many years ago, my inaugural post is on Alinea. Give it a read if you'd like-- I think you'll see quite a few similarities as well as a few differences from your last visit in 2009.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Daniel, I appreciate the kind words. I just checked out your blog, and you definitely did your meal at Alinea justice. Keep up the good work!

Saturday, November 20, 2010 5:40:00 PM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

kpcc's offramp had a segment on la dining scene which covered, among others, the renewed trend of underground dining in la -

check it out

Monday, May 23, 2011 9:18:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I don't think that segment really "covered" the trend in underground dining. It sounded more like a rant to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 4:46:00 PM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

perhaps she was ranting cuz she wasn't invited? hahahahaha

anyways have you heard of this?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 9:18:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

To quote Chris Brown: "I don't see how you can hate from outside the club. You can't even get in!"

No, I hadn't heard of Sensorium. Sounds like an intriguing concept though. I'd definitely be checking it out if it were in LA.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 5:56:00 PM  
Blogger celloshred said...

curious, whats a range of what people pay per person? i wouldnt want to be insulting, but dont really know what that would even be...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 12:33:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

If you're in the $110-$190 range, I think you'll be fine. ;)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 3:04:00 AM  

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