Beverly Hills' new crown jewel Da Lat Rose tells the inspiring story of chef Helene An through a 12-course gastrobiography tasting menu that begins with her tumultuous childhood during the Vietnam War and chronicles her journey to building a Vietnamese fusion empire in California, achieving the ultimate American dream. From juicy razor clams grilled over white coals to begin and stone crab claws dipped in lemongrass garlic butter to Mama An's famous garlic noodles topped with sweet, creamy Santa Barbara sea urchin, each course is paired with vibrant cocktails and world-class wines. Servers tell their matriarch's story with love, pride and plenty of theatrics along the way. Red tilefish scales puff up instantly when 400-degree canola oil is poured overtop the tender fillets tableside and Mama An's protégé Tony Nguyen puts his own Los Angeles street food twist on the final savory course. Rarely do you find a tasting menu served with this much soul and in such an exquisite jewel box setting.
There are no servers at Somni. Instead, the cooks themselves enthusiastically deliver and describe more than 20 courses to just 10 guests each night. Diners are seated in a dramatic half moon around the kitchen for a behind-the-scenes peek at the creation of each plate. Chef Aitor Zabala's Spanish heritage is evident in dishes like his savory reinterpretation of Catalan panellets, replacing marzipan with Manchego. Zabala has a modernist touch yet balances technique and playful whimsy with pure, intense flavors that bring the concept of dining as theater to life with panache.