We’ve never experienced anything quite like Dà Lat Rose, but then again, we’d never dipped shrimp into butter candles before our preview of Helene An’s new restaurant.
You’ll be firmly planted in Beverly Hills, but L.A.’s newest tasting menu takes you on an escape from Saigon, through Vietnam’s street-food scene, a stop at a wedding and into American restaurant stardom, and it’s all in an evening’s jaunt through the experiences of An. At Dà Lat Rose, the Crustacean matriarch’s autobiographical new restaurant, the fine-dining Vietnamese menu is the culmination of an extraordinary life well lived, a course-by-course glimpse into how An built her restaurant empire in a new country—and where it’s headed next.
Starting November 6, you’ll be able to ascend a lantern-lit staircase for a $225 12-plus–course dinner built literally upon An’s culinary foundation: Dà Lat Rose perches over Crustacean, the seafood-minded restaurant that marked the chef’s rise to fame, first in San Francisco, then in Beverly Hills. The former upstairs event space has been transformed, a year in the making, into a two-part rabbit hole of An and her story. Before you even see the main dining room, you’ll be led to the bia hôi, Dà Lat Rose’s upscale take on the Vietnamese beer houses stocked with homemade beer and drinking fare.
An’s earliest years translate here to Vietnamese classics: a plastic bag full of da chanh, a salty-tart limeade, but as a cocktail infused with vodka and yuzu soda. It’s served alongside razor clams grilled tableside and smothered in Vietnamese herbs. As beautiful as these dishes are, their histories can be dark.
Each course has a name (“A Tumultuous Time,” “In Hiding”) and in the bia hôi you might receive a succulent, appetizing chicken oyster in a light roast-quail jus with fluffy bamboo rice, but the significance of the vessel—a tube of bamboo—is less than picturesque: An’s childhood escape from the Viet Cong left her family fleeing to the jungle and fashioning knives out of bamboo for protection.
When the French regained control of the region, An and her family came back to safety, and you can taste the melding of cultures in “The Return” course, thin bánh xèo pancakes sandwiching escargot, A5 wagyu tallow, melted bean sprouts and wood ear mushrooms. But Dà Lat Rose is also full of reveals and interactive moments—you’ll want to dip those satay spot prawns into the small candles full of butter and garlic that’ve been sitting on your table the whole time, and, of course, there’s meaning in those, too: An and her family escaped the Fall of Saigon via raft, with nothing to light the way but lanterns (though their oil wasn’t tinged with lemongrass and the wicks weren’t edible).
Dinner progresses as you move to the main dining room, where An’s own protégé, Crustacean chef Tony Nguyen, might slice baguettes for your bánh mì bread service or wheel a cart to your table and ladle hot oil over red tilefish for a spin on cá chiên, the scales puffing and crisping before your eyes like a magic trick.
The two collaborated on much of the menu’s execution, especially on the dishes nearing the end of the meal, which nod to An’s past and present, and Nguyen’s contemporary vision. An’s iconic garlic noodles can of course be found downstairs, but at Dà Lat Rose, they’re dramatized with uni, gold flake and a showering of fresh shaved truffle. The collaborative pork cheek thit kho comes served with tender braised duck egg and dripping with Vietnamese caramel, while the Nguyen-forward wagyu bò kho stew arrives a fitting tribute to Los Angeles: braised wagyu as tamale.
At $225 per seat, it’s a steep price for an everyday meal, but comparable to any of the city’s most prestigious tasting menus—and eating the life of one of L.A.’s most storied chefs isn’t something that comes along every day.
Dà Lat Rose opens to friends and family on Wednesday, October 30, with reservations open to the public on November 6. Reservations are available now at $225 per guest, with à la carte beverages, a $115 standard wine pairing, a $225 reserve wine pairing or an $85 cocktail pairing available. Find Dà Lat Rose above Crustacean, located at 468 N Bedford Dr, open for dinner Wednesday to Saturday.