72: The number of jars on the fermentation wall at Dialogue.
Chef Dave Beran’s 18-seat Santa Monica restaurant already functions like a speakeasy — you get a code to enter the unmarked door in an otherwise nondescript food court — so it’s fitting that the bottles, also mostly unmarked, are stored as if they’re in an apothecary shop.
The 72 on the shelf above a row of diners is only about a third of Beran’s bottling project: The remainder are stored in a storage locker cage downstairs. About 65% of the collection pre-dates the restaurant, which opened in September 2017, and originated in Beran’s downtown loft during the many months between the chef moving to Los Angeles from Chicago and opening his first restaurant.
What’s in the bottles: coriander root and rice wine vinegar; apple cider vinegar that traces its apples to a Michigan farm where it was reduced in maple syrup drums, then aged in oak barrels in Los Angeles; rhubarb vinegar; aged rose syrup; blackberry red wine vinegar; and two remaining bottles of a spectacular burnt onion syrup made from 100 pounds of red onions that Beran bought from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza larder and bottled on Nov. 6, 2016.
“It might have fermented just a little,” Beran says of the stuff, which is composed of just onions, sugar and salt. “I think it’s been in one dish of every menu.”