When chef Dave Beran announced last year that he was opening his first solo venture in Los Angeles, it seemed all of Chicago mourned the loss of one of its most decorated chefs. The 36-year-old spent 10 years working in Chicago with Grant Achatz and the Alinea Group, first at the three-Michelin starred Alinea and later as the executive chef at Next, where he earned a James Beard Award and a spot in Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs class of 2014. Under Beran’s guidance, Jonathan Gold declared Next one of his favorite restaurant’s in the country.
Now, one year after arriving in Los Angeles, Beran is on the brink of opening his first restaurant, an intimate, 18-seat test-kitchen in what would seem an improbable location — Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade.
Dialogue, as the restaurant is called, occupies 800 square feet on the second story of the Gallery, a newly renovated food hall within eyesight of the Santa Monica Downtown Farmers’ Market. The location, which also houses the mission-oriented Everytable and the ice cream shop Sloan’s, is an unusual choice for a high-minded tasting menu project, but Beran saw the tiny footprint as an opportunity to experiment with experiential dining.
Dialogue, the chef says, will be a two-and-a-half-hour experience, with tickets purchased in advance at the cost of $185 per person, excluding tax and alcohol. It is unmistakably fine dining —with somewhere around 23 courses, or bites — but the test kitchen model means everything, from the menu to the service style, will adapt and evolve. On a given week, the chef might perfume the room or play with the lighting for a specific course. Down the line, Beran hopes to choreograph a menu to a piece of music.
The space, designed by Rugo / Raff Architects, is designed to provoke conversation, with three tables and an eight-seat walnut counter where diners have front-row access to the chefs cooking and plating.
Beran’s culinary origin is firmly rooted in the school of restaurant-as-theater: At Alinea, dinner is often compared to a carnival act where dessert is exploded, Jackson Pollock style, on your table rather than trotted through the dining room on plates. (One of that restaurant’s most famous dishes is a helium-filled balloon made out of green-apple taffy and carried in on a dehydrated apple string.)
At Next, Achatz and Beran adopted the model of a theater troupe, meticulously researching and executing three limited-run themed menus a year. (You can see trailers for all the menus on the restaurant’s YouTube page.) Fans of the restaurant buy season tickets in advance, and talk about the “Paris circa-1906” menu or Beran’s 30-course vegan tasting, much the way Deadheads recount their favorite shows. You were either there, or you missed it.
Diners can expect a few flourishes of showmanship at Dialogue, as well as a menu that leans heavily on Southern California produce and the extensive larder of vinegars and fermentations Beran has been building, largely in his downtown apartment, over the last 12 months.
If construction goes as planned, Dialogue will open the first week in August, with tickets available through Resy in early July.
1315 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, www.dialoguerestaurant.com