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Vespertine's $$$$ Spaceship Tasting Menu Tops Jonathan Gold's '101 Best Restaurants' List

Vespertine in Culver City. (Photo via Vespertine/Facebook)
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Jonathan Gold's much-anticipated 101 Best Restaurants for 2017 dropped Monday evening, and Vespertine—the 22-seat, $250+ per person spaceship tasting menu restaurant/immersive theater experience in Culver City—has taken the top slot.

The annual guide is now live on the L.A. Times' website as a subscriber exclusive, and the premium print edition will be delivered to Times’ Sunday subscribers on October 29.

Jordan Kahn's hypetastic hot spot has received both heated criticism and mixed praise, and Gold begins his first place blurb by "address[ing] the spaceship in the docking port here — not everybody is going to be ecstatic that we are naming Vespertine the best restaurant in Los Angeles."

Though not a complete shock (Gold mainly praised the otherworldly experience of Vespertine in a September 1 review), the choice still feels like a bit of bummer. Part of what makes Gold's Los Angeles and, by extension, his 101 Best Restaurants list, so vibrant is that his reviews always feel like an exhortation to explore the city. Providence, which Vespertine unseated after four years in the top spot, is also a top-tier fancy restaurant with the prices to match. But their basic tasting menu costs $120 a person, or less than half of Vespertine's opening bid. Providence is very fine dining, but it's not a 22-seat, high-concept "gastronomical experiment seeking to disrupt the course of the modern restaurant," to quote Vespertine's press release. Then again, I can't really knock Vespertine—I haven't been there. Not a single person I know has, which is maybe the problem.

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Along with Providence and Vespertine, Spago, Lukshon and Taco Maria round out the top five of the 2017 list.

Notable additions for 2017 include the Arts District's sublime Italian newcomer Rossoblu (Gold's number 10 slot, and we should note Rossoblu's pastas also made LAist's extremely competitive The Five Best Last Meals To Eat In L.A. Before A Nuclear Attack list earlier this year), Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson's Kismet (number 21), Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown (number 26), Brentwood's Pizzana (number 36) and Mercado La Paloma's Holbox (number 39, in a joint entry with Chichén Itzá). Chinatown Filipino restaurant Lasa emerges in the number 18 slot after being name-checked in last year's Far East Plaza entry while still in semi-permanent status. Ricardo Zarate's new Peruvian restaurant Rosaline is another notable addition (number 70), as is Santa Monica's Erven (71).

One notable exclusion? Venice's Felix Trattoria, which was named as LA Weekly's 2017 pick for best new restaurant in Los Angeles, and topped Esquire's recent best new restaurants in America list. Here's Gold's previous Felix review.