Q: What’s the first rule of Test Kitchen?
A: The chefs make—and break—the rules of Test Kitchen.
At the experimental eatery on the southern edge of Beverly Hills, where a rotating cast of L.A.’s finest previews new menus and tries out specialty dishes, nothing stays the same except the location.
The brainchild of foodies Bill Chait and Brian Saltsburg, Test Kitchen takes the concept of mark-your-calendar dining clubs and pop-up restaurants one step further—by booking star chefs like Grace’s Neal Fraser and Bastide chef Alain Giraud for one-night stands and four-night residencies. The bar also shakes it up with a changing crew of young mixologists who favor fresh-squeezed clementines and pomelos, exotic syrups and the South American brandy pisco (a nod to Test Kitchen co-founder and frequent guest chef Ricardo Zarate of the contemporary Peruvian hotspot Mo-Chica).
Offering Mexican, South American, Mediterranean, Russian, Haitian, vegetarian, and raw food evenings, the cozy 60-seat basement space has become an underground sensation among cuisine geeks. It’s not only novel, it’s also simple: Patrons don’t peruse a list of entrees and sides or suffer the recitation of daily specials. The menu is all prix fixe flights, priced from $40 to $70 per person. Although they have to memorize a new menu at least twice a week, the servers are brisk and enthusiastic, clearly stoked to be a guide to the culinary adventure.
There’s just one problem: It’s hard to get a booking—there’s a phone, but no one there to pick it up until dinner is in full swing. (Hint: Try Open Table) And it’s only going to get harder. Test Kitchen recently announced that it is going on hiatus in mid-December. A new restaurant will take over its current location and, on the floor above it, Zarate will debut dishes first served at Test Kitchen at his latest eatery Picca. According to Saltsburg, Test Kitchen 2.0 may reopen in a new location in spring. Stay tuned for details.
Test Kitchen, 9575 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 277-0133; www.testkitchenla.com
David A. Keeps is the Los Angeles correspondent for Travel + Leisure.