So, what about this concept my fellow foodies: a fantastical dining experience centered around chocolate. Yep, you read that right: Chocolate! And, guess what? It is not a dream or a wish, it is a real and fully-immersive dining experience at Universal CityWalk in Hollywood… the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen.
Now open in CityWalk, this larger-than-life experience cannot be missed with its billowing chocolate-colored factory stacks, golden dome, and steampunk exterior leading to the sweet and savory delights found inside.
THE BACKGROUND STORY AND FOOD
The first thing to know about Toothsome is that the restaurant is an experience unto itself, based in the narrative of Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome and her sidekick Jacques.
The story starts with Penelope and Jacques exploring the world in their dirigible (think balloon airship). When they returned home to her parents’ cottage in London to share their experience and experiments with her family, they found the home empty with a note from her parents on the kitchen floor stating that they would “look for her wherever chocolate can be found.” With this knowledge, Penelope developed an industrialized chocolate emporium to share her love and knowledge of chocolate with the world, in hopes of being reunited with her family along the way.
In talking with Toothsome’s executive chef, Carlos Garcia, I found that this background story is the inspiration and starting point for the chocolate-focused menu. “The menu is meant to be something of a continual adventure, taking everything Penelope knows about chocolate and creating a fully-industrialized, state of the art chocolate emporium,” he says.
The menu consists of reimagined classics, with dishes — both sweet and savory — infused with chocolate and cocoa. For example, to jump-start the meal, appetizers include Toothsome’s signature Chocolate Almond Bread with Salted Caramel Butter, and Coffee and Chocolate Stout Wings made with Stout Beer exclusively created just for Toothsome.
Chef Carlos also shares that, “The menu is quintessentially American with a French influence offering—something you do not see elsewhere in Hollywood.”
Classic entrees also offer a chocolate kick with items like Braised Short Rib with cheddar grits and a cocoa gremolata, and the innovative Cocoa Pork Tenderloin, featuring a chocolate crust and reduction along with sweet potato mash and vegetables.
Reimagined classics include Chicken Bourguignon, Gnocchi, a selection of ½ lb towering burgers (including the Tour De France Burger featuring an egg, avocado, brie and crispy onions), as well as flatbreads, pastas and salads.
In addition, I must mention that the menu features BRUNCH ALL DAY with loaded waffles and crepes, beautiful French quiches, and … wait for it … Chocolate Brioche S’mores featuring rich chocolate brioche french toast smothered in chocolate sauce and charred marshmallows.
But what Toothsome is most famous for is its towering milkshakes and one-of-a-kind desserts.
The milkshakes are already popular around the world — where they are offered at both the Orlando and Beijing Toothsome locations — and bring a truly indulgent treat to Hollywood.
There are 13 milkshakes, each centering around popular flavors ranging from red velvet, key lime pie and confetti cake, to brownie, espresso and chocolate hazelnut. In addition, they offer a fully vegan option—the Pineapple Upside Down which features vegan pineapple upside down cake and oat milk whipped topping.
Yes, not only do you get creamy and thick milkshakes with each option, but then they are also piled high with whipped cream, actual pieces of cake, pie, cookie and/or brownies and edible decorations matching each theme.
The sweet side of the menu also includes one-of-a-kind desserts including Triple Chocolate Bread Pudding, Flourless Chocolate Gooey Cake, and (swoon) Chocolate Crème Brulee.
The indulgence does not stop with desserts; there is a full craft cocktail menu created just for Hollywood. Anyone else up for a PB Cup Old Fashioned, Chocolate Old Fashioned or Vanilla Chocolate Cocktail?
With such a unique menu, it is no surprise that the culinary team cannot wait to share their creations. “We are excited to bring sweet and savory cuisine to LA,” says Chef Carlos. “LA is a foodie town and there is nothing like Toothsome … nothing that incorporates chocolate and cocoa throughout the menu.”
THE DESIGN: STEAMPUNK + CHOCOLATE
Now onto the amazing and whimsical design and, if you are like me, the idea of a chocolate factory has held somewhat of a mythical place in my brain since childhood. Toothsome takes that mental visual to a level I could have never envisioned with a glimmering, metal-infused steampunk design.
Su-Fei Sakamoto, senior director of design and planning at Universal Parks and Resorts, describes the design as, “Steampunk with an added layer of fantastical architecture. It is a kinetic place with external pipe and gas features combined with moving gears that create the visual of a working factory for chocolate.”
“Toothsome is truly the most themed piece of architecture at Universal CityWalk,” Sakamoto explains. “I am excited about how we were able to truly express the fantastical Victorian steampunk time and place in this setting.”
The Toothsome exterior showcases billowing 97-foot smokestacks and a large golden dome. “In designing Toothsome, we leaned into the existing architecture, including the dome and arches,” Sakamoto says. “It had great architectural bones and we were able to celebrate the form and structure of it. It was an architectural restoration project and the Toothsome Victorian overlay enhanced its existing glory.”
The entire experience fully reveals itself visually as soon as you walk through Toothsome’s doors. With the Foundry milkshake bar near the entrance and muralled dome just beyond — with a striking Sextant centerpiece right in the middle of the dome — you are able to take in the essence of the interior space in one moment.
“The exterior entrance provides a great picture spot for guests with the Toothsome sign, moving gears and smokestacks above, but the Sextant, inspired by the navigational tools of the era, and dome is a beautiful, unique centerpiece and another favorite spot,” says Sakamoto.
As you make your way further into the restaurant, stunning visuals abound, showcasing an industrial theme inspired by the urban nature of LA. The propping and décor features lightly polished patinas combining black, gold, bronze and brass, while telling Penelope’s story along the way. Throughout you will also see chocolate factory features integrated into the function of the space with traditional building elements like ductwork made to look like working factory elements.
“The propping throughout is truly unique to the Hollywood location,” says Sakomoto “You will find little sculpted and unique steampunk critters throughout. The sculpted octopus above the elevator is very industrial, and all of the sculptures are very special.”
The entire Toothsome experience is a dedication to imagination — with local artists painting the dome mural, and both Universal Hollywood metal workers and sculpture artists from all over contributing pieces to the décor. Add to that the creative menu showcasing chocolate in both the savory and sweet, and Toothsome is an experience unlike anything else in LA.
For more information, to view the menu and to make a reservation, click on over here. Make sure to tell me in the comments what you are looking forward to eating and experiencing during your first trip to Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen!