BEEN THERE: PARK STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD CULINARY POP-UP WITH CHEF JAMIE LAUREN

By RACHAEL IMES
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We showed up to Park Studios Hollywood last Tuesday (November 12th) for a pop-up dinner of artistic proportions, featuring a creative menu from Top Chef alum Jamie Lauren, while surrounded by the work of showcasing photographers Andrew Kuykendall and Jason Lee Parry.

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The night was one of contrasts and dichotomies—from the atypical restaurant location, to the unusual pairings of tastes and flavors—and while open to the public, the gathering felt decidedly intimate, consisting of friends and faces both new and familiar.

Immediately upon arrival, we were welcomed by Andrew of Park Studios himself, and were provided with custom-designed cucumber lime mixed drinks to accompany our dinner. In the background soft sounds from The XX and Death Cab For Cutie set the mood for the night. One of the highlights of dining in a space typically dedicated to art, included seeing the final display of all the effort that went into re-envisioning the dining experience. As we explored the work displayed on the gallery’s walls, we were struck not only by the sheer utilization of space in the floor room area, but by each carefully set place seating on the single dining table, reflecting a thoughtful consideration of each individual attendant.  Guests were also welcome to bring their own bottles of wine to share with their fellow diners around the table, sparking anticipation and chatter for the impending meal to come.

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Chef Lauren opened the night with a dish that set the standards high for the rest of the evening – presenting a hamachi crudo with lemongrass-kaffir lime oil, pickled chilies, and crispy shallots. The chilies and shallots added a satisfying crunch to the dish’s main component, while the lemongrass and lime brought forth a refreshingly fragrant citrus flavor to the deliciously soft, melt-in-your-mouth hamachi.  It was the dish to transform the essence of an art gallery into that of a full-fledged restaurant. Need I say more?

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After this light dish, our second meal was a creamy celery root soup, topped with a delicate line of mustard oil and two renditions of a single ingredient—freshly-chopped beet relish and a sprinkling of crunchy beet chips.  While some of us had never before tried celery root (let alone were aware that it was edible), the thick smoothness and inviting pumpkin-like color of the soup truly embodied the warmth of the autumn season, while the beet additions gave a hint of tart, contrasting intrigue.

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Our third meal combined a variety of vegetable flavors and textures, including black kale, roasted heirloom carrots, and a smoked chickpea puree, with a drizzling of goat cheese dressing and light dash of berbere.  While colorful and interesting in its use of well-known ingredients, the dish mainly served as a preparation for the main course of the dinner.

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Now onto the main course! It was a new take on the classic meat-and-potatoe-like comfort food, and along with the hamachi, was our personal favorite plate of the night.  With tender slow cooked pork shoulder, curry flavors, and a side of kabocha squash puree and Brussels sprouts. The only downside to this dish was that I was almost too full after eating everything to finish it. But again, I repeat, almost.

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Finally, we ended our night with a not-so-typical chocolate cake to satisfy our cravings for sweetness after all of our savory eats. However, when it comes to dessert, the notion of portion control doesn’t apply to Chef Lauren, and although the individual pretzel-and-potato chip-encrusted chocolate cakes may have been a serving size greater than our stomach capacities could tackle at the conclusion of a five-course meal, we were struck by the originality of the cake itself.  The salty crushed potato chips made for a surprisingly complementary crumble for the sweet chocolate, and though we couldn’t finish our entire desserts (hey, we were busy stuffing ourselves with pork shoulder!), our hosts were kind enough to bring us to-go boxes to take our “miniature” cakes home with us as leftovers for our breakfast – that we were already anticipating.

You can check out more of our dining space for yourself and see the artwork of Andrew Kuykendall and Jason Lee Parry, showing now at Park Studios Hollywood. Be on the lookout for news of future pop-up dinners by following Park Studios on Facebook.

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