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Wolvesmouth still the hardest dinner reservation in Los Angeles

Craig Thornton - Youtube

There's no wizardly pretension from the man behind the curtain, despite the long odds of landing a reservation at his restaurant. The waiting list is in the thousands, and the weekly seatings oblige only 16 souls. A quest for reservations begins by joining an online mailing list - ultimately guests are hand-picked, dictated by a perceived likelihood that the meld of strangers will render a captivating, amusing, or at the very least...lively dinner party . Welcome to Wolvesmouth. Host, creator, and man behind the party curtain is Chef Craig Thornton, who serves his 12 course pageant of food and art once a week in his downtown Arts District loft - strictly devoid of any L.A. Chez-Bistro-esque attitude. Eight chosen invitees are notified via email - each may bring a guest. The address of Thornton's loft is revealed the day of the dinner. The cost? Pay what you believe to be fair at evening's end. Chinese-fashion red envelopes are provided for anonymous donations. On average, guests give $90.

"It’s not a restaurant. It's a dinner party. it’s the intersection between food, music and art. It’s an exploration in social dynamics. It’s friends, old and new. It’s fleeting and always changing. No menus. No dress code. No pretense." - Thornton.

Balancing the personality dimensions of table partners is a part of achieving that dynamic. Why assemble a group of predictably interacting financiers when instead, the host can seat a fragrance chemist next to a hippotherapist, a telephone psychic next to a hand model, a cotillion instructor with a zoo artificial inseminator?

It's a supper club in an urban loft, where an open kitchen, expansive dinner table, and an art and taxidermy-steeped living room all flow together invitingly, stroked by a blaring Rolling Stones backdrop. Before sitting down, guests get a chance to mingle and observe Thornton's kitchen preparations, while swapping and enjoying their BYO wines. Once seated, Thornton delivers courses and briefly discusses ingredients and motivations behind the dishes. More wine is enjoyed.

No doubt Thornton is an inner-artist...every dinner course is a canvass of fresh local flavor and Pollock-esque colors. He makes generous use of "bloody" berry and red-beet gastrique splatterings, appeasing the embalmed carnivores looming throughout his loft. Think Gerald Scarfe's Pink Floyd on a edible album jacket of "The Wall."

Courses are delicate integrations of rabbit, quail, lamb and wild boar from the forest. Lobster, skate, bass, and halibut from the deep.

Underground dinner clubs are flooding the market. Rooftops, basements, abandoned garages, churches, alleys - no urban neighborhood has been untouched by the "secret," multi-course, string-illuminated, license-lean, undergound dinner party. A major player in the field is Dinner Lab, the 10-city, members-only supper club founded two years ago in New Orleans - and who recently announced plans to open in 9 more cities nationwide. Dinner Lab charges an annual membership fee as well as a fixed price for individual parties. The club's significant expansion comes on the heels of $2 million dollars in seed funding.

Thornton's pursuit of delivering intimate dining memories for his guests has him resisting calls to launch a traditional restaurant. But Wolvesmouth will not be expanding. The table in Thornton's loft has no capacity for added leaves. The stuffed forest denizens seem content with their currently copious snarling space in the dining area.

Thornton is a chef obsessed with food. His objective is to prepare delicious dishes in an intimate, informal setting - something that most commercially-driven restaurants have trouble doing. Consequently, Wolvesmouth remains the hardest to land dinner reservation in Los Angeles.

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