We were seated inside a small dining room area, which was soon filled with other diners as well. Once everyone was there and settled, the owner, dressed as a Jedi, greeted us and explained their philosophy.
El Ideas has set seatings - normally two per night, but given the holiday there was only the 8:00 seating that night. You pay for your meal and tips in advance when you make the reservation, it's BYOB (our waiter was a bit confused when we declined offer after offer of wine substitutes and insisted that we were happy with water), and you eat whatever the chef feels like making.
With each course, every patron was served at the same time and once the food was out, one of the cooks would step up to the half-wall between us and the kitchen and explain what we were about to eat. We were also encouraged to create a dinner party atmosphere - mingling with the other guests and hanging out in the kitchen (behind the "hot lines") was encouraged.
Our first course - roe on a bed of pomegranate seeds, creme fraiche, and cucumber:
"You'll notice that you don't have any silverware," the chef told us. "We're kicking off the night by showing you just what we mean when we say we do things differently here. We expect you to lick the first course right off the plate, and we expect it to be licked clean!"
Justin dove right in, and the waiter (dressed in a priest's robes with a skeleton face) complimented him on getting his plate quite clean.
#2 - Lobster gelatin with chunks of lobster, flavored with saffron and topped with a cauliflower mousse, macadamia nuts, and caviar
#3 - Monkfish on a bed of seaweed, bok choy, and pistachios with dehydrated mandarins
#4 - King salmon served with roasted eggplant, sesame sauce, and nasturium leaves (this was one of my favorites)
#5 - Beef tartar with hong vit, ghost pepper jelly, nori, and paprika
For the next two dishes, the chef explained that he wanted to reimagine favorite childhood foods. These two dishes were my absolute favorites of the night, both for flavor and for novelty.
#6 - A ball of fried bread filled with tomato soup and topped with melted cheese - in other words, a grilled cheese sandwich that you pop into your mouth and bite into to get a burst of tomato soup.
#7 - Potato leek soup with potato croutons topped with vanilla ice cream flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen, a.k.a. the chef's version of dipping your French fries into a Frostie.
The warm soup:
The chef coming around with a misty bowl of ice cream:
The effect of the combination:
It brought me pure delight, and was pretty tasty too!
#8 - Quail served with a poached quail egg with an array of pastes made from bell peppers, manchego, and crowder peas
#9 - Veal shank in a raviolo (I've never had occasion to use the singular before!) topped with kohlrabi, pear, anchovy, parmesan, and shaved white truffles - another flavor-favorite of the night.
#10 - Matsutake mushroom in a sauce made from black garlic, soy, and katsuobushi
#11 - Wagyu beef lightly seared with maitake, beets, and caraway (and, according to the menu, "smoke")
#12 - Foie gras with salsify (a flower, apparently), granola, huckleberries, and yogurt. It was strange to add foie gras to other ingredients I associate with breakfast, but the combination actually worked pretty well!
#13 - A sweetened egg yolk on a bed of pureed yam, marshmallow, rooibos, and thyme
#14 - Cheesecake with coffee and grapefruit purees, pumpkin ice cream, and shaved chocolate
#15 - One last childhood delight - chocolate cake batter served with mini smiling spatulas