Chef R.J. Cooper’s new, all-tasting-menu venture–parceled out in 16 or 24 quick-bite dishes–is a wild ride of a night, especially if you accept the chef-as-control-freak premise and don’t burden it with too many expectations of what dinner should be.
Lots of restaurants have open kitchens, but how many put the kitchen in the middle of the dining room? Ten cooks work the stoves, periodically swinging by your table to talk about a dish’s execution. Transitions between courses are often jolting–Cooper apparently wants to shock diners’ palates into an appreciation of new combinations and textures. There’s no doubting the artistry, precision, or daring of his mission, though deliciousness sometimes proves elusive and the cost of this lab experiment of a meal is high. But when every moving part comes together, the experience feels exciting and up to the moment.
What to get: The tasting menus are set each night–you don’t choose your courses–but we’ve enjoyed the Ode to O’Connell, a rendition of the Inn at Little Washington’s famed caviar and cream; basil-fed snails with ham consommé; shavings of foie gras with smoked vanilla, lavender, and huckleberry; potato three ways (foam, confit, and chips) with black truffle; coconut fluff with green mango and a swipe of peanut butter; imperial-punch cocktail, made with Indian spices and Indonesian rum.
Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Very expensive.