Driving through the Cedars Sinai campus on a warm December evening, I pulled up to CHAYA Brasserie in Beverly Hills, eager to see how they revitalized the restaurant and to experience newcomer Executive Chef, Harutaka Kishi’s (aka Chef Haru), unique fusion of Japanese and French dishes.
Recently, Chaya closed for one week to renovate the space and revamp their menu. While gauze curtains and a mini bamboo forest dominate the center of the restaurant, Chaya now has two distinctive dining areas, the “La Petite” side with an expanded bar/lounge serving small plates and the main dining room “Brasserie” serving a formal dining experience with its new prix-fixe tasting menu that changes weekly.
I ordered a holiday sangria and met my group for our dining adventure on the Brasserie side. Our six-course tasting menu began with the arrival of La Petite Chaya served in a quaint pine wooden house. Standing upright about one-foot tall, were three levels with beautiful little plates and bowls of bite size appetizers. Chef Haru’s hint of Japanese philosophy of the cuisine is apparent in his artistic execution. One floor had a flavorful yellowtail mole, another a bowl of pickled vegetables that exploded taste and texture with each bite. The salmon rilllette with wasabi cream was divine, and the bottom floor had a Moro miso wing that was savory, yet the bones got in the way of enjoying more of the meat.
As the beautiful braised Endive salad arrived with a slice of bleu d’Auvergne, candied pecans, bite sized gingerbread croutons and a dried Orin apple on top, I immediately pierced a crouton and enjoyed the pleasantly sweet crunch with the a fork full of creamy cheese.
The King crab risotto was decadent with its Japanese rice, maitake tempura crabmeat and sprigs of greens. Next, arrived the cedar baked Loup de Mer, presented on a bamboo tray with wild mushrooms. This dish was blanketed delicately with a lemon grass veloute. Two divine crispy scallops rolled in sesame seeds rested on a bed of mushrooms next to the tender fish.
Trying to pace myself, another entrée of Black Angus beef tenderloin and short rib duo arrived. Sitting together on top of a warm parsnip puree and accompanied with a pot of Farmer’s market baby potatoes, onions and parsnips. I couldn’t finish the rich meats and pushed it aside for the light pear foam dessert with chestnut cream and a bite sized green tea donut. The pear foam dish lacked zip, yet the donut was scrumptious.
Chef Haru arrived at our table and shared with us how as a small child, he enjoyed watching his mother cook in their kitchen and often joined her on shopping adventures at the wonderful Parisian Farmers markets. His family had a restaurant in Paris where the young Haru worked. One night, the revered chef, Joel Robuchon dined there for dinner. Impressed with the food, he offered Haru a position at Robuchon’s Tokyo restaurant, La Chateau. From 1999 to 2004, Haru worked his way up to Chef de Partie (station chef). In 2004, Haru met another esteemed chef, Gordon Ramsay, while working at the Conrad Tokyo. After a mini-sabbatical to join with his twin brother, a master sushi chef in Madrid, Spain, Haru reunited with Ramsay to help open Gordon Ramsay at the Trianon Palace in Versailles, France and then as Executive sous chef for Ramsay at the London Hotel in West Hollywood.
I asked Haru what it was like working with Joel Robuchon and Gordon Ramsay? “Robuchon likes to take young and ambitious chefs and help them become better, while Ramsay is strict and demanding. He did give me a lot of freedom to create new dishes and inspires chefs to focus on consistency,” shared Haru in his alluring French accent. “It was challenging coming to America and not knowing the culture. Kitchens run much differently in Los Angeles than in France and Japan,” admitted Haru. “However, I don’t feel like a stranger in Los Angeles and I enjoy riding my bike to work.
Before leaving I asked him how he likes his new position at CHAYA. “I’m hoping to add a sushi bar,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes. Since his twin brother is a master sushi chef, might he invite his brother to come to Los Angeles and work with him? Stay tuned to see if this talented and handsome chef’s wish comes true. Price: $$. 8741 Alden Dr. (310)859-8833.
via Chaya Brasserie.