Molecular gastronomy may be dead in Pasadena, but it's alive and kicking in Marina del Rey.
When Vü Restaurant opens on December 1st, chef Kyle Schutte hopes to inject, aerate and freeze-dry a little flare into a notoriously stodgy dining category: the hotel restaurant. His "gateway dish"? Chicken-fried watermelon.
After a year-long renovation, the Jamaica Bay Inn in Marina del Rey reopens this Saturday, November 20th. Two weeks later, its in-house restaurant opens. Despite the awkward name, Vü (pronounced not like TV pitchman Tom Vu's surname but like "view," as in "a room with a") has an ambitious concept and in 28-year-old Schutte an inventive new chef.
The southern transplant spent his culinary career in Atlanta (One Midtown Kitchen) and the Charlotte suburbs (XO Restaurant and Lounge). Since July, Schutte has been glorying in L.A.'s farmers markets and planning, during the height of summer's abundance, Vü's fall and winter menu.
Attempting to balance culinary parlor tricks with traditional fare, the menu has five sections: charcuterie, crudos, cold small plates, hot small plates and entrées. The entrees offer the tamest fare, while the rest of the menu features oddities like a lobster-tail ceviche with Fritos and popcorn Jell-O; bison carpaccio; and hamachi with collard greens fluid gel.
There's a deconstructed potato salad made with fingerling potatoes, white wine vinegar jellies, toasted celery seeds and carrot glass (that would be carrot juice that's dehydrated into thin orange sheets). It's matched by a reconstructed caprese salad made with cherry tomatoes that are peeled, injected with a balsamic pudding and wrapped in a basil-infused mozzarella.
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For those who would skeptically eye such concoctions, Schutte has an answer: chicken-fried watermelon, the dish that may have earned him the job at Vü. Schutte dips watermelon cubes in buttermilk batter and seasoned flour then fries them and tops them with pickled watermelon rind. Schutte thinks the familiar blend of southern technique applied in an unlikely manner will convert skeptics.
"If you can't relate to the food, there's no point in serving it," Schutte says. "Every good dish, whether you get it from McDonalds or the French laundry, it should transport you."