‘Dialogue‘ is a small, 18-seat ‘tasting menu’ restaurant headed by former ‘Alinea’ and ‘Next’ chef Dave Beran. It is located at 1315, Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401, but as there are no signs outside, it may be elusive. Finding yourself at a food court and surrounded by Subway, McDonald’s and Wolfgang Puck Express sign, you may be forgiven for your disbelief. The restaurant is hidden on the 2nd floor of the food court. You will first see a door with a “K” written on it and a “Private” sign beneath. When you make your reservation, you will be given a passcode so you can open the door.
Degustation Menus are between $175 and $205, not including tax. There are two wine pairing options priced between $125 and $175. As a “no-tipping” restaurant, the meal and wine pairings will only have tax added to them.
The restaurant design is simple, yet still chic in its own way. There are only three tables that can seat up to four persons each, and counter seating for about six or seven. Therefore, I think this place is not ideal for a group larger than four people. The kitchen is located immediately behind the counter, so sitting there will provide a front row seat to watch Chef Beran in action.
Chef Beran designed a Four-Season menu, running from Spring to Winter. The courses started with a savory dish followed by a sweet dish. Each sweet dish complemented the prior savory dish and prepared your palate for the next dish. The courses were arranged beautifully and the presentation was superb.
The First course, “Springtime for Sean”, had caviar, cream sauce, nuts and green crispy strings that tasted like roasted green onions. This course had a mix of textures from fresh, to crispy, to creamy, to savory caviar all in one dish; Spectacular Flavors.
The Second course was a drink: “roasted banana tea” (vinegar gastrique) with a peanut and brown butter foam. It was a mix of nutty and sweet flavors that elegantly prepared your palate for the next course.
The Third dish was my favorite: “blackberry thermidor, short rib, bone marrow”. It consisted of blackberries with short rib, fried bone marrow bits, and croutons. A blast of savory crunch with an amazing bite of short ribs. The crisp from the croutons mixed with the short ribs and the crispy bone marrow took this dish to another level of superb! It had a whopping bang of flavor in every spoonful.
The Fourth dish consisted of fennel, white peach, and a rose vinegar/syrup made by Chef Beran from rose petals. The dish also came with a cube of fresh dragon fruit on the side. I liked the freshness and sweetness element of this dish that complemented that prior dish very nicely.
The Fifth dish consisted of king crab, popcorn, orchid and earl grey tea. It was a beautiful and juicy crab, topped with popcorn cream flecked with bits of actual popcorn. The orchid and the earl grey surprisingly gave this dish a lemony and tangy finish with a sparkle and crunch. The flavors kept developing every second. It was just amazing! This dish ranks high up there with the best dishes of the night.
The Sixth dish takes you to Thailand; “burnt lettuce that thinks it’s a peanut”. It consisted of mango and papaya with a burned lettuce puree that tasted like peanuts. There were no peanuts in this dish, but the burned lettuce gave this dish a peanut-like refreshing flavor.
The Seventh dish keeps you in the summer and traveling in Thailand. It consisted of a 96 hour koji plum vinegar, with crunchy fried nuts on the bottom, then covered with a cream sauce, fresh yuba (soya skin) and a soya milk sauce, and finally topped with fresh Thai basil. Such elegance in this dish. The soya skin is made from curdled soy milk, giving the plate a great texture that is complemented well with the nuts and the Thai basil.
The Eighth dish is the squab with jus, Thai long peppercorn crème fraiche, begonia, bitter chocolate, cherry, preserved sakura. Beautiful presentation! The squab was very tender, juicy, and delicious. The crème fresh and the squab were a delicious combination and I loved it but the portion too small for me.
The Ninth dish was “the sobering of rhubarb”; bitter chocolate, cherry, and rhubarb dried and fermented to alcohol. The presentation was spectacular and the cherry chocolate with the rhubarb was sweet and tangy that brought unique flavors.
The Tenth dish was the choy sum vegetable with a strawberry nahm prik (chili sauce) and cashew. The choy sum tasted fresh with a nice crunch to it. The chili gave it a nice spicy but sweet kick. The presentation was beautiful.
The Eleventh dish was spectacular! It consisted of nasturtium, trout roe, and pork belly with fermented strawberry sambal. The dish was entirely immersed in roe, then nasturtium on top. Just an explosion of flavors from sweet to savory and onto a juicy pork belly.
I wanted an entire bowl of this! The pork belly was so tender that it just falls into shreds and melts in your mouth.
The Twelfth dish was Black Cod, yuzu kosho beurre blanc and sea grape. A pure fusion of Japanese and French cuisine. The cod was very creamy with a soft and buttery texture.
The Thirteenth dish was the Hanger Steak and a charred onion. It had an “everything is burnt” theme. The steak was very tender and caramelized. The onions were charred and steamed. The onion was surprisingly crunchy and had all these juices and flavors locked in.
The Fourteenth course was “memories of a tomato salad”. It consisted of a small cup of tomato jelly with vinegar and herbs. It was a very refreshing salad after the steak course.
The Fifteenth course was a French onion “soup”, rosmary aroma. Chef Beran has an interesting and exciting twist to the French onion soup. It consisted of a bite sized crouton ball filled with French onion broth, then topped with cheese and scallions. As you bite through the crouton, the soup burst out in your mouth, creating mini explosion of flavors. It was very delicious!
This dessert was whipped persimmon, hibiscus sugar, and lemon shortbread. It didn’t stand out for me, although the mix of hibiscus and cream was interesting with a nice aroma. The combination of lemon and hibiscus in this dessert had a very unique spicy yet sweet finish. A Sauternes pairing would have made these flavors just pop.
The second dessert was “a carrot pulled from the snow”; covered with sugar (adding to the Fall/Winter theme finish). It was an interesting twist in transforming a carrot into a dessert that was crunchy and sugary. It definitely gave you that Winter feel and left a sweet finish to the meal. After the crunch from the sugar the carrot melts in your mouth. Definitely a thumbs-up for creativity!
The dessert dishes were all spectacular. What stood out was the “an autumn morning”; ages of seedling farms apples, miso caramel. Green apple ice with yogurt sauce. It was a sour yet sweet combination and a great finish.
Chef Beran designed the menu to pair with wine that he selected. I did not try the wine pairing but opted to bring my own wine and suffered the whopping $75 a bottle corkage fee. The spicy dishes went well with Reislings and Rosé (which, were the suggestions), however, the Thai inspired dishes screamed for some white burgundy. We brought the 2001 Batard-Montrachet, which was amazing; it complemented the oriental dishes and the finish was spectacular. The squab would have paired exceptionally well with the suggested Cote Rotie. I chose the 1995 La Turque for its deep purple color with scents of spices and herbs. With the tenderness of squab, the La Turque was a perfect combination.
‘Dialogue’ is not recommended for wine enthusiasts. By paying $75 corkage per bottle you would expect fresh stems for each bottle and the sommelier serving you with the wine. The restaurant had a very limited amount of stems such that they couldn’t accommodate more than two stems. The sommelier simply opened the bottle, poured a glass, and left the bottle on the table. Caveat emptor!
As soon as we were done with the last course and while we still had some wine left, the sommelier was rushing us to leave because the next reservation was coming up. It was just not what you would expect after paying so much in corkage.
The tasting menu at ‘Dialogue’ certainly gets the AlphaLuxe Two Thumbs Up but the wine service was somewhat lacking. As we tried it only 3 weeks after opening, perhaps that aspect will improve with time.
Anthony Nehme joins us as a contributor with extensive knowledge of wine. Anthony is a trial attorney and a forensic toxicologist. He is also a food and wine enthusiast and a wine collector.
Anthony lives in Downtown Los Angeles with his fiancé and his French Bulldog, Frank. In his spare time, you can find him jogging on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles with Frank, watching soccer, and touring California wineries.