you get a seat, you get a seat, you get a seat
It is a Saturday night in LA. The sky is a mix of blues that I have to look up: Blue Paper and Fish Pond. I must admit the intricacy of the Rayleigh scattering happening before my eyes put me into an appreciative mood for the many hues a blue can be, let alone the many facets a life, an experience can be.
I am driving to Chinatown on an evening that felt like summer wasn’t ready to cool down, although it seasonal clock would soon betray even its eventuality.
I take the long way down -Broadway South-and skip the freeeay. Sometimes I just want to see my city, a city that’s changing; blocks at a time, triple digit streets and double digit streets and single digit streets at a time, streetlights at a time.
I am changing too.
There are old warehouses with new names in minimal type. There are Instagram designed food fronts, cue the neon. There are street huggers whose address is concrete.
I think about these things as I near downtown, which has traded empty parking lots for brokered high rises, where you can smell elevated air at hundreds of feet in the sky.
Soon, I am in parking distance of a square where small business entrepreneurs have claimed the footage of places where seats at bar stools are occupied and lines formed by humans who seem to communicate by digital pheromones. Because, how else would the formation of this line, trailing to the east opening of the Far East Plaza and beyond exist?
Thankfully, this isn’t my line or my wait. I’m walking to the three walls that look like a recent stripped down set, of a Gucci Fashion Show, where a pale context makes any color pop!
Pop went the caffeine tonight for Jack Benchakul’s after-hours pop in.
Along with his cousin, Jack creates a three-course dessert menu for a searing of eight, four to the east and four to the west.
He walks, creates and serves from the middle island of his bar, aided by a set of cousin hands, which feels like two baristas are in attendance instead of one, walking coffee down their runway.
Each seating is announced over Instagram, and seats are open until they are not, that is, first come, first serve. I’m fortunate to have seen the notice – and this being my second attempt to get seated – I made the cut. This is a positive power of social media for businesses – to directly advertise and connect with their people, for an exclusive but open experience such as this.
Smooth rhythm and blues plays as Jack opens with his ideas around the tasting, his shyness at times and his belief in creating moments that push him to confront himself and his uncomfortable sensibilities, all in the name of self-growth.
This opening message is inspiring, almost as inspiring as what is soon to come before our eyes and mouths.
Benchakul shares that the drinks are Thai inspired, his cultural background, and are derived “from what’s readily available at markets now.”
We begin with a Chilled Red Plum soup over coffee blossoms, sake, butterfly pea flower tea. Dry roasted black rice floats in juicy plum and nectarine
The crunch is like that of fresh Froot Loops with the crack of Nerd candy. ‘Whip Appeal’ by Babyface plays and yes, I am whipped at one course in.
As he works, he assures, “you can see everything I do. There’s nothing to hide. We’re barely noticeable but you guys found us. The power of word of mouth.”
With an open canvas, we do see everything: this is the allure. It is the power of transparency and behind-the-scenes access getting upgraded to on-the-scene.
We continue with what will become my favorite course of the night, Jasmine Oolong Shortbread, paired with Matcha Milkshake. The Chrysanthemum Green Tea is all the pop, literally.
This coffee on the runway is at once a show stealer and a palate pleaser. It’s as if I’m drinking liquidized mums and the flowers are blooming within me.
The shortbread is an instant feel of melted down butter, smooth to the touch and crumble. Speckles of green reveal savory ingredients are at play, and I want to dance. Whitney Houston plays, she’s calling me out.
We end with Benchakul’s favorite course, which looks like caviar and eggs. Far from it, it’s black sticky rice topped with pandan sweetness by a Thai custard paired with SoCal St. Germain.
There’s the sweetness of purple yams with an “egg on top” that is quiet yet melodious. The tomato water, perceived in the amber drink, rounds out this evening’s balanced flight. ‘Rock With U’ by Ashanti plays and I’ve got the groove.
The product is as much the coffee and things as it is Jack itself. While this space portends simple, with the color-way being coffee, it’s simplicity can also translate as complex that has me looking again and again and again.
In a world of created experiences, design driven activations and pop-ups for branding sake this evening event portends to be all of these things in one.
The antennas of experience enthusiasts like myself are seeking and then sharing our findings with others in this digital age, not just because we are able to, but because communicating meaningful discoveries is how we are designed: it’s how we live.
“The coffee is good because everyone along the chain cares about it. This is my expression of coffee,” said Benchakul.
And me, oh, I’m happily just sittin’ in his room.