INTRO Chef’s Table and Art Gallery, debuts in North Hollywood.
Part mix and mingle, part gourmet dining, a new chic supper club offers a unique experience in the Valley.
Written by Joshua Lurie
Along Lankershim Boulevard, streetlamps guide the way to the brick-walled entrance to Evolution Dance Studio. Enter and you won’t see lithe bodies practicing pirouettes. Instead you’ll discover what essentially looks like an art gallery with brick walls, exposed wood beams, and a 24-foot King’s table sporting rosemary sprigs and candles. Jazz and ragtime music plays. Welcome to INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table, an ambitious weekend pop-up from Manny Marroquin, Rob Ciancimino, and chef Paul Shoemaker.
INTRO runs through summer, at which point the trio will pivot to Verse, a 140-seat restaurant with live music, housed in the former Firenze Osteria space down the block. Manny spearheaded plans for the pop-up concept. The eight-time Grammy winner (sound mixing) owns Larrabee Sound Studios next door and often grabbed an “ear break” at Firenze. After Firenze shuttered, he took over the space. A restaurant consultant connected him with GM Rob, a longtime hospitality pro, and Paul, a Michelin-star chef.
On the evening I visited INTRO, a crowd of entertainment industry types and adventurous food seekers circled the table. Paul presented every course, starting with edible cocktails: a gin and tonic in a tiny martini glass with freeze-dried pomegranate; a “spherified” bourbon and apple cider flavored with Mexican cinnamon; and champagne with cherries and strawberry espuma.
Rob poured white Burgundy, 2015 Yohan Lardy Beaujolais-Villages Blanc.
And then the parade of edibles began showing up. First, a tiny salmon cornet, planted in tangy Meyer lemon crème fraiche like a dropped ice cream cone, joined a salmon-skin chip topped with cured salmon and smoked salmon roe.
Truffle macaroon with whipped honey truffle buttercream was delivered via a wood block, along with an “edible dimebag.” Japanese rice paper dissolved, unleashing foie gras powder, pine nuts and cocoa nibs. This level of playfulness and luxury lasted throughout the meal.
A round, thick-skinned ravioli filled with liquefied bone marrow and Burgundy truffle supported the espuma. Paul warned, “Don’t cut it open because you’ll lose all the love.”
Diver scallops from Stonington, Maine arrived overnight. He plated each scored, lightly- torched bivalve with savory aged yuzu ponzu, baked avocado, smoked sesame, chile threads and tiny beads of ponzu caviar.
Slate slabs (and vibrant green brioche basil crumble) supported short-handled metal spoons filled with sous vide Maine lobster and melted Vermont butter.
Pungent Epoisses and Burgundy truffle fondue incorporated macadamia nuts, but as Paul said, “It’s all about the truffle.”
A brief intermission allowed diners to stretch legs, socialize and peruse art, which changes every six weeks. On this particular night, walls hosted abstract canvases by Jens Schmidt. When we sat back down, music transitioned to hip-hop, and Rob opened bottles of David Givaudan La Bête from Côtes du Rhône.
Purple beets accompanied marshmallow, meringue, pickled blueberries, whipped goat cheese, candied walnuts and shaved grapes.
Pork belly circulated in apple cider vinegar for three days before joining butternut squash puree, bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup, oat and pine nut soil, crispy chicharron and cocoa ginger reduction. Paul said, “Hopefully it works.” It did.
Paul wet-aged Prime beef for 28 days, cooked it sous vide, and then plated the rosy slices with sweetbreads, persimmon and sauce vin rouge.
For the meal’s curtain call, pastry chef Raymond Morales was inspired by an Alaskan camping trip. Just before he arrived, 1,000 acres of land had burned. “You could still feel the heat,” he said. Here, a dulce de leche tree, chocolate ganache, liquid brownie, brown butter spruce powder and candied cocoa sprig signaled “new life.” Just like INTRO.
INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table
4200 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.experienceintro.com
$125 per person; bubbles begin at 7:30 p.m.; dinner starts at 8 p.m.; open Friday and Saturday nights only.