Foodies in Southern California are always looking for the next big thing, be it food trucks or pop up restaurants. Basically, we like eating really good food in really interesting locations.
Tink's House hopes to take that to a whole new level. The project is part-dinner party, part-art exhibit.
The not-quite-restaurant is situated in a nondescript apartment in downtown L.A., just west of the 110 freeway. It's so under the radar that KPCC's Leo Duran, who got an early preview, was hesitant to walk in because it seemed like people live there, not host a dining experience.
"I spent a good five minutes outside rechecking the address on my phone before I thought, 'There's no other place this could be,'" he says.
Once inside, it's like walking into a dinner party: guests are seated around a coffee table with their shoes off and sharing drinks. Then, people are placed in groups of eight to travel through the four rooms together.
Being ushered into the first room for appetizers, says Duran, is, "Like walking into a trippy dream by Brian Wilson."
The floor is covered by a half-foot of sand. The furniture is stripped of their upholstery leaving just foam. Dark blue lighting and ethereal music create a relaxing mood. When the dishes are served, they're brought out on ceramic plates that look like artist palettes crossed with sand dollars.
There were bite-sized pieces of lettuce cups with hazelnut butter — pronounced by the server "let-TUSS" and "but-TER" — along with lamb neck croquettes that were a crisp perfection.
Once people have had their fill, they're walked to the Dining Room, which doesn't look like a dining room. An 8-foot tall cactus is at the center of the room, circled by eight individual desk tables draped in a bright orange netting.
It's a fitting scene for the second course: pompano fish that's been dried out to a crisp. The texture resembled a chip so much that it was easy to eat the tail fin and head whole without hesitation (except for any qualms you might have for eating a fish head).
The next room isn't as so staid to keep diners sitting: in the Kitchen, you walk barefoot across astroturf and bar mats that have been dotted with balloons filled with plaster powder. The sensation is like walking across mushroom caps, while jaunty jazz music in the background encourages people to be playful.
Diners are given small ceramic bowls filled with rice "pucks" that they can dress at will. In shelves along the wall are choices like shrimp chips, sesame yogurt, soybean sprouts and pumpkin seeds.
In the last room are the final courses. The Bedroom has all its surfaces draped in a baby blue fabric, including the picnic table in the center with a soft, foamy surface. bEach dish served has a phallic theme, such as the glazed carrot with a tassel of fennel fronds at its base.
Following that is a bowl of andouille sausage and shishito peppers tossed directly onto the table and squirted with a seafood cream.
The experience of dining at Tink's House is definitely not your usual experience.
"I didn't know what to expect," says Duran, "but I walked away liking how each room was designed to make you consider a theme and mood as you ate."
"It definitely felt more like an art experience than a restaurant," he adds, "but it was still fun and engaging."