When invited to a twelve course foodie event that includes art and new friends, the answer is always Yes! In Los Angeles, you really never know what to expect, but even two hours of traffic was truly worth this culinary sensory affair. Little did I know this celebration of food was in a random nondescript Lankershim Boulevard venue (once a dance studio) in North Hollywood, but that is exactly why I adore LA, the unexpected is what makes this city so intriguing.
As I entered this candlelit private dining space surrounded by boisterous abstract expressionistic colorful art by Jens Schmidt, immediately I was greeted with bubbles by a lavishly dressed man in a tweed suit with a matching vest, pocket watch, and smiling mustache. Little did I know this amiable fellow would be catering to my every need the rest of the night. Known as Rob “Rob C” Ciancimino, he is one of the three curators behind INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table.
A rotating curation of artists is part of this unique feast. For the month of December Artist Jens Schmidt will don the walls. His art is reminiscent of early 20th century abstract masters, with a heavy stroke of childhood whimsy on raw canvas, in aggressively opaque primary colors. Every month will feature a new fine artist, and their art will stay up throughout the month for all our guests to view and purchase.
As guests arrived around 7:30 for cocktails, the multi-course extravangana began promptly at 8 pm including a well thought out playlist to set the mood. Had I paid more attention to the invite I would have realized this chef’s dinner was no ordinary multi-course chef dinner but a secret Supper Club orchestrated by a Michelin star chef, Chef Paul Shoemaker. Honestly, as much as I am obsessed with food and love chef inspired tasting menus, often my body can’t handle all the food combinations, especially paired wines with each course followed by dessert and coffee. My stomach is often twisting and gurgling three quarters of the way through dinner. This experience was entirely different and I credit that to the masterful chef, not overdoing the dishes with sauces and greasy, rich combinations.
As we were asked to sit down anywhere we like, the twelve course Chef’s Table Menu of concoctions were unveiled as about twenty of us excitedly ripped through a sealed wax stamp at the 24 foot table.
The first course was a mind blowing first for me – edible cocktails or shall we say dainty aperitifs in three parts: Bourbon Cider Liquid Rav, an oyster ready to be sucked below a foamy fizzy champagne beet juice caviar passion fruit concoction that felt so erotic, and Cold Fever, Gin Tonic.
The second course called Pre-Amuse was the most inventive of the night – a Dime Bag and a Foie Gras, Truffle Mac-Daddy bite. The little plastic dime bag casing melted on your tongue while your mouth was teased with a playful bite of foie gras dust, pine nuts, candy cocoa nibs, and Cocoa Puffs.
The most memorable bites included Pasta with Truffles, a freshly caught Scallop that looked like it had been grilled, with baked avocado, yuzu ponzu, caviar, and smoked sesame, and Bone Marrow Truffle Ravioli where we were told to pop the whole ravioli in our mouth for the best flavor sensation. Due to my New England upbringing, my favorite course of the night was the simple succulent undercooked Butter Poached Maine Lobster that tasted like it had been infused with butter for days, but this time my lobster lay speared on a bed of coral nage and basil soil, a new texture for my sensory pleasure.
As wines were paired to complement each course, we learned that the very table we were gorging ourselves was repurposed right from the floorboards below. As each course arrived Chef Paul Shoemaker humbly came out to explain each creation in a loving personable way. On the technical side of Shoemaker’s menu, he shared that “The foundation is French in technique, but there are influences from all over the globe.”
Executive Chef Paul Shoemaker rose to recognition at Alan Ducasse and French Laundry before proving his culinary prowess in kitchens at Providence, Water Grill, his own restaurant Savory, and Firefly, but most notably, Joe Pytka’s Bastide, where, in less than six months he earned himself a Michelin star.
Midway through the meal a break was granted for guests to stretch their legs, sip some more vino, and admire the art with subtle meanings, priced anywhere from five to ten thousand dollars. Old school hip hop elevated the mood. The third maestro orchestrating this cultural dance of food, art, and music was Manny Marroquin, multi Grammy Award winning mixer/engineer, and owner of the famed Larrabee Studios.
To prepare us for dessert, a beautiful bite called the Gold Mine came out that looked like a gold nugget shooting gold dust but tasted like passion fruit taffy filled with a bursting strawberry saffron fluid gel. Port was poured to compliment the dessert entitled the Dead Tree. The dessert chef shared his inspiration for the Dead Tree came from his time in Alaska where there were acres of burnt forests and the little green sprig popping from the charred chocolate ganache forest showed a sign of hope.
Every bite was exquisitely thought out using only the freshest ingredients. The playful experience was one of the most memorable dinners of my time in LA, and I thought how this celebration of food and company would be the ultimate gift to give someone for $125. The menu changes each night, so your experience at INTRO will never be the same.
Experience INTRO and engage all five of your senses.
INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table
4200 Lankershim Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 91602
INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table operates every Friday and Saturday evening from 7:30 pm to 10:00 pm and reservations are required. Door opens and Bubbles begin at 7:30 pm. First Course served promptly at 8:00 pm. The INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table menu changes seasonally and often due to the availability of the finest ingredients. INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table has a 24-hour cancellation policy and will do their very best to accommodate any food allergies or alcohol restrictions if communicated in advance upon making a reservation. For more information and to make reservations, please visit INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table.