this thing's incredible

The Best Dish at L.A.’s Kismet Isn’t Food or Even a Dish. It’s a $9 Mug (Sold on Amazon).

Photo: Oriana Koren; courtesy of Kismet

Not long ago, I finally got to cross off a restaurant that had long been on my must-visit list: East Los Angeles’s Kismet, an airy, spotless oasis known as much for its clean, California-modern décor and celebrity diners as it is for its Mediterranean-inspired fare. As a hardened New Yorker with a (slight) escapist fascination for all things West Coast, the spot had been on my radar ever since it was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as 2018’s Best New Restaurant.

When my friends and I arrived, my excitement for the food I’d heard so much about was all I could think of during our 20 minute or so wait. And that food did not disappoint. I dined (gorged?) on a spinach and white bean frittata and a pastry Kismet calls “the best scone (honestly).” Served with lemon cream, I can confirm the scone is pretty close to that. While I came to Kismet thinking about the food, as good as it was, I left thinking about something else entirely: the delicate glass mug my coffee was served in.

The mug was part of a lovely little coffee presentation that also included a Scandi-style wooden tray, a perfectly sized spoon, and a miniature pot filled with the coffee itself. But even among that Instagram-worthy spread, the mug stood out — at first touch, its thin glass felt like it could break in my hand out of sheer fragility, making it seem like the last thing you’d want to pour hot liquids into. There was something so effortless, so elegant, and also so bold about using such a precious-looking vessel for something so normal and everyday as coffee. As a self-described minimalist, I was bewitched — and promptly looked at the bottom of my mug, took note of the brand, and prepared to do some research when I got home.

A few days later, back in my dark and often not-spotless Brooklyn apartment, I did a quick search for the mug, half expecting not to find it, half thinking whatever I did find would be well out of my price range considering how design-y Kismet is (its interior was also nominated for a James Beard Award in 2017). To my surprise, I found the mug sold in sets on Amazon. Manufactured by Indian glassware company Borosil, its thin glass is lab-grade — meaning it’s used to make glass equipment used in actual laboratories — which gives it the quality of being both light and strong (apparently, strong enough to withstand temperatures as high as 660 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the brand). Importantly, it’s also dishwasher safe. Even better: at $37 for a set of four, each mug comes in at the very friendly price of around $9 apiece.

The price is kind of shocking considering that Kismet’s extremely curated space awash in pale wood was designed by buzzy architect Jeff Guga, a Frank Gehry protégé whom Eater named as among those responsible for “California-fying” the look of restaurants across the country. According to Kismet’s chef–co-owner Sara Kramer, the mugs — which she says she found randomly on a day trip to Ojai — were just the thing to complement Guga’s aesthetic for the restaurant. “They’re lovely and light, and match the clean aesthetic,” she told me. “And the lab glass is a plus for restaurant use.” As someone with a penchant for tipping over glasses (and just about anything else), I can confirm that’s a plus for home use, too.

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The Best Dish at L.A.’s Kismet is Actually a $9 Mug