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Posted at 5:00 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Food, music and a geodesic dome... welcome Sensorium

By Justin Rude

Chef Bryon Brown has become known around town for his series of supper club events held under the name Artisa Kitchen. Diners sign up or are invited and given only a time and location (frequently a gallery or art space), and the menu remains a secret until service. Now, the 34-year-old chef is taking his operation to a new stage (literally), as he reveals his plans to debut Sensorium, a high concept pop-up restaurant that will be located in a temporary geodesic dome just a few blocks from the Nationals Park stadium.


Sensorium will open for business on April 12th, and feature two seatings per night from Tuesday-Sunday for six weeks. The dining experience will combine cutting-edge culinary creations with costumes, lighting and music -- and a multi-course wine pairing. If all goes according to plan, the performance and design elements of the restaurant will be perfectly in sync with the presentations on the plate. "People who do culinary theater have always come from the theater side," Brown says, "I feel like we are coming from the culinary side, and using the theater as a stage to heighten the culinary senses. While you are eating, it will be sort of a show, but it's sort of a huge 12-course show with wine pairings."

The project is at least partly influenced by one of Brown's former bosses: Jose Andres. "I worked with Jose at Minibar," says the chef, who staged at Andres' experimental mini-restaurant, "and he taught me to look at how we experience food." In addition to Andres, Brown has worked with Steve Manino at Rustico and Ron Tanaka at Cork. His experiences with them gave his training Italian, French and Spanish tendencies, but cutting edge techniques of molecular gastronomy are likely to be as big an influence on the menu at Sensorium. The team is still researching techniques and dishes for the menu, but Brown did have one course he could reveal -- a mimosa grape amuse. The bite-size appetizer uses pop rocks to simulate carbonation and turns the mimosa liquid into a grape using a gel encapsulation technique.

The dome is the creation of a Maine-based design company called Geodome. The multi-faceted structure makes a perfect rig for the restaurant's ambitious lighting program, which is being designed by Brown's master stage builders, Jeremy Bellmay and David London. The London brothers The pair also helped Sensorium interview and train its costumed servers, who were drawn from the local theater scene.

Seatings will take place at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Each seating will accommodate 30 guests, with tickets ranging from $125-$150 per person.

The whole thing may sound like it doesn't exactly fit in with D.C.'s reputation as a conservative dining town, but the Manhattan-born chef argues otherwise. "The whole D.C. scene in regards to both the culinary and art world has been so open to this process and idea," he says, "I'm really grateful for the opportunity that everyone has given me here, I don't think I could have done this in any other city."

By Justin Rude  | February 9, 2011; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  | Tags:  restaurant openings  
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