How a Master Chef Created a Michelin-Starred Restaurant in a Mall Food Court

Michelin-starred Dialogue is a Santa Monica restaurant that prides itself on confusing the diner.

“If we force them to share something, and we don’t really tell people how to eat it, and just say ‘we encourage you to explore,’ then they have to talk to each other,” says executive chef and owner Dave Beran. He’s referring to courses like squab and beet consume, served in a glass to resemble wine, salmon roe on a bed of what’s essentially fancy cheese whiz, and mid course caviar and coffee cream dish that can be confused for dessert.

Chef Beran creates, and recreates, this highly conceptual 18-course tasting menu that showcases seasonal items throughout the year, all in an 800-square-foot space hidden inside a mall food court.

“I don’t want a menu with a bunch of short stories. I want to write the menu as one long story. So this is our winter menu. As things die in fall, it builds layers on the ground.”

The layered concept can be found in dishes throughout the menu, like a dish featuring pumpkin seeds covered in burnt parsley that simulates the twigs and seeds of a forest floor, a slow roasted miso carrot dish that resembles logs, and a black sesame and whipped yuzu course that looks like a spoonful of dirt.

“The original idea came from the idea of a concept album, an album you have to play straight through in order, where song five needs songs four and six, ”says Beran. “I was really drawn into the fact that things made [other] things better.”

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