Stepping into the dark and cozy Whisper Restaurant and Lounge on a cold winter night, it took us about a minute for our eyes to adjust to our surroundings, as we sat down at a high back banquette table and were handed our menus. The restaurant’s interior is elegant with its tall ceilings, mood lighting and festive holiday decor. It reminded us of a romantic supper club or modern speakeasy with Big Band music playing in the background.
We started our evening with two specialty cocktails: a Fizz Krabappel made with Prosecco, Stoli apple and cider, and a rum and apple cider mixed drink.
While sipping our aperitifs and looking over the engaging menu, the General Manager, Jonathan Strong, greeted us. A few minutes later, to our surprise, he brought the owner of the restaurant and The Grove, Rick Caruso, over to meet us.
The Grove at Farmers Market is his most successful complex, attracting visitors from all over the world. He also created the Americana at Brand in Glendale, 8500, The Commons at Calabasas, The Promenade at Westlake, and the Marina Waterside.
When Caruso opened The Grove, he developed The Whisper Restaurant and Lounge as his restaurant. It’s located near the valet reception and next door to his corporate offices. I’ve been told Caruso stops into The Whisper Restaurant and Lounge weekly to greet guests and check in with the staff.
Caruso hired the accomplished Executive Chef Anthony Jacquet seven years ago to prepare award-winning dishes at Whisper Restaurant. Growing up in Los Angeles, Jacquet went to college in San Diego before enrolling in the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After graduating, he interned with a well-known tapas chef, Barney Brown and later Chef Jean Francois Meteigner at La Cachette. Before becoming the Executive chef at The Whisper Restaurant and Lounge, he was the Chef de Cuisine at the Getty Center Museum.
Every few months he redrafts the menu to reflect the season based on what he buys at the farmers market. Right now he is incorporating pumpkin, pears, cranberries, and pomegranates into many of his dishes. Jacquet cooks with confidence and attention to detail. We enjoyed the braised short-rib croquette with spicy brown mustard and thinly sliced red pepper amuse bouche he delivered to the table.
Jacquet’s parents are from Indonesia and the Netherlands. His upbringing is incorporated into his cooking. We were told these croquettes are very popular in the snack bars in Holland. They were a nice start to a delightful evening.
Next, we tried a flatbread with grilled broccoli and burrata that had some fire to it from diced garlic and calabrian chiles. These small, red and spicy Italian chiles pack a punch. Slices of Italian pork capicolla
intensify the appetizer.
Strong recommended a Spanish white wine from the Northwest part of Spain near Portugal, a 2011 Morgadío Albariño. It’s a smooth wine with great minerality and nice peach notes to accompany the heirloom beets and burrata salad with sliced pear, crunchy pecans and pomegranate dressed in a light vinaigrette. It also paired well with the tuna tartare with black and white sesame seeds and a citrus-ginger vinaigrette. I couldn’t get enough of the intricately laced flavors.
For our entrees, we chose the braised short ribs and scallops. The short ribs were served on a bed of brown butter mashed potatoes and wonderful glazed root vegetables of turnips, carrots, onion and celery with a braising jus. A fitting hearty dish for a cold night.
The hand-harvested Maine scallops were placed on a purée of pumpkin-banana squash and bed of delightful black quinoa. To boost this dish even more, Jacquet paired it with sautéed bacon with mustard greens.
Before dessert arrived, we sipped a delightful Neige apple ice wine from Quebec. It’s made from apples harvested in the fall and pressed at
Christmas time. Served chilled, the color was a golden yellow with an aroma of ripe apple notes and a crisp taste with a striking intensity on the palate, balancing the sugar and acidity.
Desserts at the Whisper Restaurant and Lounge range from a pumpkin brulée with candied pecans, a chocolate croissant bread pudding and apple fritters with an apple compote and cream cheese ice cream. We sampled all three and were overwhelmed with pleasure.
Enjoying the atmosphere, service and cuisine, I told my husband that I’d sign up for a permanent table if I could. I also commented that the Whisper Restaurant and Lounge should change its name to that of the insightful man who created the restaurant, Caruso.
Open for lunch and dinner, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., and open until 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 189 The Grove Dr. (323)931-0202.
This article was published in the December 12, 2013 issues of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.