The Pandemic has been ravaging restaurants. Being flexible and having the ability to pivot has been essential for anyone to survive —from mom and pops, chain, to Michelin Starred restaurants. But to open a fine dining tasting menu concept during this time Is just freaking bold and gutsy and frankly, against all the odds. Phenakite by chef Minh is such a place—and it’s aptly named after a mineral that is born from heat and pressure.
We all know chef Minh from Porridge and Puffs, the comfort food favorite among many. She does however have fine dining experience and it’s her ace card to use those techniques to make the thoughtful and soulful dishes we know and love. Speaking to her on the 3rd night of service, we got the sense that this concept came together really quickly during the pandemic—they don’t even have a phone number! An opportunity came up and she jumped on it with maybe several months of planning and execution. This is not your typical fine dining restaurant with big investors and huge expensive build out.
Phenakite is in a spacious open air patio of Second Home LA, a new co working space right behind the target in Hollywood. Its a beautiful patio space with string lights lining the trees and a fountain in the middle. There’s plenty of room for social distancing and diners are very widely spaced—easily at least 6 to 10 ft away from anyone else.
They could definitely pack more in but, but I think keeping it sparse is the goal as safety is very much a concern. Temperatures were taken.
We have been cautious during this time and have been doing mainly take out—this was our first extended outdoor dining and honestly even leading up to the dinner we felt a tad nervous. But upon seeing the social distancing and the the precautions taken (shields/mask) by everyone including the diners (we noticed most placing the masks back on when not eating) we felt better about it.
Both alcohol free and wine pairing available as well as a la carte.
Menu for the evening. So how was the food? How would chef Minh’s food translate to tasting menu format? Will it lean technical with tweezer components, or will compose of unexpected delights (typically ferments and pickles) that we come to recognize and love?
Won’t go into a blow by blow of each dish but, I’m happy to say you will definitely recognize her thoughtful and soulful style of cooking we all know from porridge and puffs–but it’s not just an extended menu of PP. Yes, there are a few ingredients that we recognize (the watermelon rinds and shrubs abalone porridge to name a few) that are similar but most of the dishes are new and apparantly changing with each menu. Phenakite really does give her a much more creative space physically and broader license to create artistically.
I think 8 months into this pandemic my view of dining out has changed.
Restauranteurs and workers are putting themselves at risk for earning a living AND they have a new burden of keeping the diners safe. As such, I’m willing to pay more for these reasons. Phenakite does an outstanding job of making the diners feel safe–something that is just as important as the outsanding food and service.