Vespertine chef Jordan Kahn’s latest venture is a multi-sensory thrill ride focused on a slower, more contemplative dining experience. Yes, the food takes center stage, with Kahn’s Mayan roots and the California landscape dominating the menu, but the lush interior plays just as vital a role.
Willow branches scented with eucalyptus and wintergreen welcome diners as they enter Meteora, which is named after a group of monasteries built into rocks in central Greece. Kahn has customized the playlist—something he’s known for at his other restaurants as well—that never repeats over the course of the night.
That sets up the foundation for what Kahn describes as ancestral eating, an effort to consume food that’s local, grown sustainably, and changes depending on the seasons. “Our ancestors were not eating in the car on the run, or indulging in drive-thru,” he says. “A meal was an occasion.”
That’s evident at this immersive restaurant where the menu is divided into four categories: vegetables, ocean, grains, and meat, yet another nod to going back to the basics. The preparation, though, is anything but basic. The grilled leaves and stone dish features stone fruit such as peaches and apricots gently warmed over a fire and dressed with toasted buckwheat oil and a paste made with surinam cherries and roses.
Smoke and fire play a central role in the preparation of dishes at Meteora. Meat dishes such the beef ribs are rubbed with pine resin and smoked overnight. Seafood includes grilled Bigfin squid served on a plate composed with cherimoya (custard apple), young coconut, macadamia nuts, and jicama for “a vibrant and bold course with dynamic flavors,” according to Kahn. And vegetable centric-dishes such as the chanterelle mushrooms see the funghi cooked over a smokeless coal flame that chars them without imparting a smoky flavor. They’re served alongside tamarind-glazed plantains, a jam made with duck jus, and pickled roots.
The beverage program is an extension of the food ethos at Meteora. The mezcal-based comosus has kiwi juice infused with a crushed verbena leaf, yuzu, and agave sap. And the apple brandy-based ossum cocktail has apricot kombucha, birch juice, and crushed white nectarines, all of which impart fragrant and smoky qualities to the cocktail.
“We forego traditional cocktail methodology and restrict the use of refined ingredients,” Kahn says. “We do not add any sugars or sweeteners to our beverages.”
Meteora’s 80-seat interior features oak tables, two private dining rooms that can accommodate up to 12 guests, and a chef’s table with space for eight. A botanical theme dominates the dining room: artist Dave Lovejoy made bird’s nest-like decor featuring willow branches from the Sierra Nevadas; knotted rope light fixtures hang above beige-colored banquettes, and a large skylight and candles provide a warm ambiance and amber hue to the space.
“From design and sound, food and beverage, service and hospitality, everything is connected,” Kahn says.
Meteora is open Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30pm to 11pm, with reservations available up to two weeks in advance through OpenTable.