eaten! @what happens when

What happens when…

…a chef, two designers, a photographer and a musician open a restaurant?

Nope, that’s not the opener to some cheesy foodie joke, it’s actually how the story behind What Happens When begins.

Publicized widely as temporary (aka ” pop up”) restaurant that changes its menu every 30 days, WHW is certainly not your average dining experience!

What Happens When | An evening of interpretation

When I walked into the space, I was a little overwhelmed by the close quarters we’d be dining in.  The drapery hung dangerously low from the ceilings, and tables were arranged tightly side by side.

From the barren walls to the exposed piping peeking through the drapes, there was a definite air of temporariness about the place.

Unfortunately, it made the restaurant seem a little more amateur than it should have.

While Eileen and I waited for Evelyn to join us, we curiously examined the surroundings of “movement three” (the themes at WHW are labeled dramatically as movements).  There were elements of the decor that blatantly belonged to the inspiration behind this movement (impressionist painting) and others that were a little more of a stretch.

For example, our painter’s palette as menus were a tad bit literal…(impressionist painting.  PAINTing. Paint. Get it? Yeah, so did we).

On the back of our menu palette was an explanation helping us connect all the dots.  This is the first time I’ve been told how a fine dining restaurant’s motif actually manifests itself.  Seems a little forced to me…

One quirky feature of the night was the pull out drawer with cutlery (kindly labeled for those of us who don’t know the difference between a 1st and 2nd course spoon)…

OK – less talking, more eating!

To kick off the meal, we were greeted with a tin full of freshly baked, soft (albeit a bit greasy) garlic knots.   It was a warm welcome indeed…

And the amuse (from right to left) was a chilled garlic gazpacho, swiss chard omelette and some kind of lemon gelee.

All were good, but not necessarily great.  The gelee was debatable, but I enjoyed the lemony lightness of it.

Since there were three of us and only 4-5 selections per course, we were lucky enough to get to sample nearly the whole menu!  As we learned, the dishes for movement 3 were created in traditional French technique with a modern spin.

The techniques were lost on me, but tell me this plate doesn’t just scream modern…

An ode to the impressionistic paintings that inspired this movement, the plates were canvases to splotches of color, sauce, textures and dimension.

The picture above is my artichoke salad.  Each piece of artichoke was soft and succulent, the shavings of cheese and slices of salami were a nice punch of flavor.  The flowers didn’t taste like much, but that beautiful purple hue served its purpose!

(for much more brilliant photography, see the WHW website here)

Eileen’s appetizer was the seafood salad…

And Evelyn chose the rabbit in filo with yogurt sauce and garbanzo beans…

Nothing spectacular so far…on to the entrees.

Eileen’s vegetable bouillabaisse.  I’ve never had bouillabaisse before, but this rendition was thick and creamy and full of chunky veggies.  Not quite the fishy, brothy original, but tasty nonetheless.

I ordered the veal with lardon (fancy word for bacon), pearl onions and pea puree.  The veal was soft and tender, and deliciously fatty.  Definitely the best entree of the three.

Evelyn made the healthy swordfish steak with veggies choice.

For dessert (part one) we were given a small glass of homemade strawberry jam with creme fraiche.  No surprises here.

And for dessert (part two…and three and four) we nibbled on a chocolate tart with a coffee glaze…

Cheese plate with toasted hazelnuts, apricots and a granola biscuit…

And finally, a buttery almond tart…(on the nicest plate of the evening, might I add. I wish we had seen more of these!)

All of our desserts were quite good, but I would probably only order the almond tart again.

And to finish us off, we left with a sweet macaroon…

And a fun sticker to paste somewhere around the city and email a photo of back to WHW.  What a clever idea!  Where should I put mine I wonder…

I give WHW credit for thinking outside the box.  This was a dining experience I’ve never had before, and will never have again come May 1st! (because the movements will change, not because it was so terrible I’d never go again).

In fact, I’ve already decided to return to WHW at least 2 more times to check out the upcoming menus, so I’d say this was a rather good business model too!

I just hope that next time it won’t be such a literal conception to execution experience…I kind of like the ambiguity and subjectivity that comes with art and its interpretations.

3.5 out of 5 stars go to WHW.

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