19 February 2017


Gwen restaurant, Los Angeles. View of open-fire grill at the back wall of the restaurant interior. Photo by author, 2-18-17.
In the main dining room at Gwen restaurant in Hollywood, there's a cunning presentation of choices. It starts with a look at one of the tasting menus. Will you have the three-course or the five? The prices seem low. $85 for the five? A bargain, you think. This can't be all.

It's not. That is just the overture. The tasting menu is the baseline. Then comes a "supplements" list. But it's no mere addendum. It seems more like the main event. The list is as long as the longest tasting menu, and parades a tantalizing selection of eminently distinguished meats. The prices reflect that. Some, like the 80-day dry-aged beef from Creekstone Farms and, of course, the top-tier wagyu, are over twice the cost of the entire five-course tasting menu.

You go for it. "Go big or go home," you toss caution, and half a month's rent, to the wind. Once ensconced in the dining room at Gwen, even before your platter of meat arrives, there's a good chance you'll feel that the splurge is worth it. Why?

The decor has you in a decadent mood. A restaurant menu never had a conspirator so good. See for yourself. The full-length view of ravishing embers, and the platform above it for specialty cuts, continuously jostled into a sequence of stations based on doneness and resting phases, will rile you. The action never gets dull. And you can't miss it. It's the visual anchor, literally the central feature of the restaurant.

Do you have the choice to abstain? Of course. But people say the same about sex.