Following up on the excellent reports from @J_L (http://foodtalkcentral.com/t/somni-beverly-hills-a-pictorial-essay/7258), @yangster777 (in J_L’s thread), and @PorkyBelly (in this thread), I thought I would touch on some of the unique aspects of my meal not already mentioned, and give my impression of the wine service. All told, I left a very happy camper. The food was at a minimum very good to excellent, with the tangental aspects like service, surroundings, and just plain ol’ “fun” aspect putting it over the top for me. Everyone I chatted with, including the GM, Somm, sous chefs, and some of the cooks as they came by to present dishes, were wonderful with lots of passion. Very highly recommended.
Please excuse my poor photography. I tend to snap quickly and focus on the food.
Upon arrival, you are seated at a reserved table in the lounge area of Bazaar at the SLS Hotel. We were greeted by GM Eric Jeffay and shortly thereafter by Sommelier Brandon Miradi for our welcome apertif of what I believe was NV Clos Lentiscus Greco Di Subur Blanc de Blancs. The other Somni guests were seated in the same general viscinity, but in their own groups. I find the Bazaar to be a fun place to grab a drink, but YMMV.
As can be seen from the various pictures, the 10 guests sit at a long wood-top counter in a semi-circle shape. This is actually a smart layout for a couple different reasons. Though you aren’t right in front of the cooking like at some chef’s table spots, there is a lot of space for the staff to approach you to present dishes or to chat, as well as the staff to monitor you from behind. And, throughout various times at the meal, I could have a conversation with the sommelier in front of me whereas the person next to me could have a conversion with the sous chef. The feel is both open and intimate at once. And the curved aspect of the bar helps a bit with the social aspect of interacting with and monitoring the reactions of the other guests, as well as being able to see everything. There is no bad seat. The brightness of the space is also super appealing.
"hojita": woke up the palate with a strong mix of mezcal and lime being the primary flavors.
apple & beet flore / foie gras wants to be corn / almond shell: Here you see the playfulness in the cuisine, with some of the components being made to look like something else.
The 100% Meunier was notable in that so rarely do you get a chance to try this varietal straight up. Usually it’s blended with chardonnay and/or pinot noir in your typical champagne.
pan con tomate y jamon:
spot prawn and that’s it / live scallop:
(after consumption, sorry)
This wine was amazing. Silky and perfectly integrated acidity at 9 years old, but loads of depth.
"croissant" / pigtail curry bun: Croissant stuffed with potato was top 2 or 3 bite, you dip it into the seafood stew. The bun had a mild dry heat, really lovely.
This chenin blanc was somewhat sweet, but had enough acidity to carry in through and cut through the richness of these dishes. Dangerously tasty.
(NEW) strawberry negroni: I was told this had Aperol in it rather than Campari, but it exploded in the mouth, delicious and refreshing.
kohlrabi and snap peas:
fireflies with pil-pil: A fun squid dish.
Surprising wine pairing here, with this red blend from Napa [edit: turns out this is only bottled in Napa, but grown elsewhere in CA]. Fresh, fruit foward, light, low abv. Reminded me of Beaujolais.
alubias con jamon: Sous chef Alex Staley brought out the molds to show us how they make the “beans”. Don’t be embarassed to pick up the bowl to slurp the last of the broth, it’s worth it.
(NEW) turbot and mushroom tea: Here you get two preparations of the fish. Both a breaded version, and also a version where you have to essentially suck the meat off the bones. For the latter, you use your hands.
japaense A5 & bone marrow: Wow.
Have to be a bit careful pairing a Napa cab with a delicate cut of beef like A5, but the wine was so well balanced and dealt with the richness of the bone marrow sauce.
nori empanada: Absolutely unique, yet familiar in flavors, with a sticki filling of sweet sesame paste.
Sauternes is never a bad move with dessert.
(NEW) black forest pizzelle:
mochi / merienda:
Optional post-dinner drinks / coffee / tea:
Vessels and Utensils:
As you can see from the various pictures posted, the vessels and utensils were wonderful. These are small touches that really make the meal extra special. The deejo knives (also shown in prior reports) were exquisite to use.
As mentioned in J_L’s thread, there are three tiers of wine pairings (and one non-alcoholic): Illusion ($75, non-alcoholic juices); Unique ($175), Prized ($250), and Vintage ($500). I opted for the mid-level $250 “Prized” option. This is a very important aspect of these types of tasting menus, not only to elevate the enjoyment of the food, but because it is a tasting in its own right. Not to mention this costs more than the food.
Somni uses Zalto stemwear exclusively. These are among my favorite stems available and are what I happen to use at home for less casual drinking. These have become pretty ubiquitous at high-end places, but it is worth mentioning. While the effect of using such glasses on the taste of the wine is debatable, for me, they certainly make drinking wine more pleasurable in the end.
As for the wines themselves, the Prized pairing from my dinner seems to be quite different than from prior reports, so looks like the wines above are relatively “new.” There were a good mix of old world and new, but I sensed a slight theme of generally younger / up and coming wine makers. My palate is heavily European leaning, so some of the pairings surprised me, but in a good way. For example, pairing the the squid and two fish dishes with a red wine from Napa valley [edit: turns out this is only bottled in Napa, but grown elsewhere in CA]? But the wine worked quite well, due to its lowish tannins and light body, almost like a Beaujolais from France. Didn’t care for the first two sparkling wines, but after that, they were all wonderful. My wine of the night was probably that 2009 Vina de Martin Escolma Blanco. Wine is so subjective, but overall the pairings were well done with some creative combinations, if perhaps not good as value for money as the wine pairing at Dialogue (perhaps owing to the fact that they offer so many diffferent kinds here?).
Service was perfect. There was a moment where I had one more bite left of a particularly rich dish, but was out of wine. Somm. Miradi noticed and gave me another short pour to chase the bite, as the next course was almost ready to arrive. Just a example of the good service on offer. He was also nice to chat with about the wines.
So yeah…looking forward to another visit, perhaps in August. It’s better not to read too much about these kinds of meals. Just go and enjoy.