From the outside, the corporate-esque building off Century City’s forever-under-construction stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard looked like it would house the sort of place happy-hour-loving, job-bitching nine-to-fivers would come to drown their sorrows — either that, or a Sizzler. But inside, the lights were low, candles flickered, and the music chica-brow-brow’d like a ’70s porno soundtrack. Blood-red plates and curving silverware were set on the dining room’s linen-covered tables. Beyond the bar, there was the bed: a queen-size bed, covered in a red damask duvet, red Egyptian cotton sheets and matching pillow shams in a private dining room called “the bedroom.” After all, this was Aphrodisiac, the newest “dinner in bed” restaurant to hit Los Angeles.
I hadn’t been in bed with my ex, well, since he became my ex — a long time ago. But I couldn’t go alone to a place called Aphrodisiac. And, sure, he had broken my heart, but we’d always gotten along like gasoline and matches, so I decided to ask him to join me, thinking maybe I’d secretly test the powers of gonad-pumping delicacies. At the same time, I wondered, would dinner in bed with my ex go on the long list of stupid things I’ve done?
If the name of the joint weren’t Aphrodisiac, I’d describe the environment as sensual and romantic. But a large neon sign in the restaurant brazenly announces the name, ruining the moment in the way that talking about sex too much before you do it does. It builds a certain level of expectation. It applies pressure.
Now, I’ve publicly eaten dinner in bed before, at Miami’s succinctly named Bed, but that was a dining room full of great big beds with a club vibe, and I was with an eight-chick bachelorette party. Here at Aphrodisiac there is only one bed. And we had the room to ourselves. Several candles were melting on two nightstands when we walked in, and I noticed that should we tire of reclining — or if the mood went wrong — there was also a table. My ex said he felt like we’d entered a cross between a Crate & Barrel display window and a hotel room. There was an awkward moment when Diané (pronounced “Djan-nay”), our impeccable waiter, stood there in a very un-bellmanlike way while we hopped on the bed. Diané insisted on speaking French to us, despite our parlez un peu pleas.
“We should ask if we have the room for the evening, or if they charge by the hour,” said my ex when Diané left. He was always clever like that.
But before I could get too nostalgic, I noticed that the bedroom’s large glass French doors overlooked the bar, which meant its patrons could overlook us. (“Curtains are on the way,” management said. “We’re still working out the bugs.”) Then I spotted three cameras positioned over the bed and the hanging microphone. On the plasma-screen TV we could watch ourselves eating, and every so often the camera angle would shift. We were eating in a Kinsey experiment. The idea was to give each couple a CD of their special evening. We suspected it was to keep the hanky-panky to a minimum.
We took off our socks and shoes, and ate course after course of raw things, seared custardy foie gras and filet mignon, and drank wine chosen to match each plate. I’ll admit that once or twice during our three-hour dinner in bed, a thought of a past moment we’d shared flushed across my cheeks. I blamed the wine mostly, and the grand finale, a chocolate cake so stacked, dark and beautiful that if Sophia Loren were a cake, she’d be this one. After a while we forgot about the TV, the cameras and Diané, and settled into great conversation. And that’s all. I can only imagine how we looked from the bar through the glass windows — maybe a museum diorama titled “Ex-boyfriend, Ex-girlfriend, Indigenous to Hollywood, California.”