There are only a handful of moments in life where you can say a meal took your breath away. That you were truly exhilarated by an experience that sets it apart from all others. Somni Restaurant at the SLS Hotel at 465 S La Cienega Blvd in Los Angeles, has created a multi-sensory culinary experience centered around a stunning bespoke exhibition kitchen for 10 guests. This evolution in fine dining is a hidden restaurant in the back room of the hotel lobby, under the leadership of Michelin starred Chef José Andres and executed by Chef Aitor Zabala. Chef Zabala previously worked in two of the top restaurants in the world, Arzak (which I loved), and El Builli which I never had the honour of visiting.
Somni means “dream” in Catalan, and the name is apt for the epicurean journey you will embark on. The experience begins outside the restaurant, in the lobby, where you are welcomed with a drink, ours was champagne, and a few appetizers to whet your appetite and curiosity of what is to come. Then you follow a gentleman to a secret door that is roped off. Step inside to the most gorgeous exhibition kitchen, a U shaped counter to the best seats in town. There are actually more chefs than guests, where you can interact with them. It is an immersive culinary experience. The design includes blond curved wooden panels and the table you sit around is made from one single slab of oak. The restaurant has no angles or corners. There are clean white touches, and the only colour coming from two large flower arrangements and three animal heads, a bull, a horse and a deer. This is a reference to El Builli. The food is the showstopper here. Where José Andres other restaurant in the SLS, Bazaar Mar, is colorful, playful, and crowded, Somni is the antithesis – stark, minimalist and ethereal and intimate.
The meal is 20 courses, and comes in at $250 a head, but you won’t begrudge the price, you will feel blessed to be there. You must book and pay in advance for your adventure on the app Tock. Once you are there you will be offered a selection of different priced wine or juice pairings. I usually dislike doing this, and I find I am always happier ordering a good bottle of wine instead. This was actually the first time I have ever enjoyed each and every selection offered. There were three wine offerings and we went for the mid ranged one, at $125 per person.
The team explains each dish to you as it comes out. You can ask questions about the preparation if you wish. The chef pushes the boundaries and introduces creative dishes that not only visually stimulate and delight, they also have dynamic flavouring.
It is hard to pick out a standout dish as there were so many, but I will try. The beef tartare with shiso leaf, the pizza margherita, which actually wasn’t a pizza at all, the strawberry negroni’s that burst in your mouth, reminiscent of the faux olives from chef Albert Adria in Spain. The most beautifully prepared dish I have ever seen, the kohlrabi and snap peas, and the cow and her milk. That cheese was a perfect bite. Each dish had so many wonderful components, with flavours that rippled across my tastebuds. The desserts were also sublime. I really enjoyed their interpretation of a mochi, so tender and delicate. The meal was creative, contemporary, artistic, breathtaking and timed so perfectly. It is definitely one of my most memorable meals and was on par or may have even surpassed my experience at Alinea. That is why I am not surprised that Somni just earned a coveted 2 Michelin stars right out of the box!
Now I will compare all of my next fine dining experiences to Somni. The meal made me swoon, and I will be “dreaming “ about it for a long time to come … Somni may have ruined me for life.
Highly and enthusiastically recommended!!