My friend Allison reserves a dinner once a month at Maude in Beverly Hills. She has become a groupie of Australian chef Curtis Stone, since he opened the restaurant in 2015. She knows many of his small selective team of chefs and professional servers by their first name. I’ve been told that most come from esteemed restaurants around the globe such as French Laundry, elBulli, Torrisi, Vue de Monde and Joel Robuchon.
Every time I see her, she raves about the prix-fixe, multi-course theme dinners. Recently she attended and enjoyed an evening of plums.
I’ve been so inspired to dine at Maude based on her enthusiasm, however at $125+ per person, I’ve patiently waited for a special occasion. With my birthday coming up and plums being one of my favorite fruit, I went online to make a reservation. You can only reserve online, on Maude’s website, on the first day of the month at 10 a.m. There are just 25 seats. Children under 10 are discouraged, as this is a 2.5 hour elegant dining experience.
When I went online, I noticed reservations are available for tables of two or four people only. They start at 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at 15 minute intervals. Then the reservations resume again at 8 to 9:15 p.m. Want to dine at 7 p.m.? Forget it. There are only 7 tables and seats for one or two parties every 15 minutes until the restaurant is full. The 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. time is never available. I did notice a 8:30 p.m. reservation on a Thursday night, but I thought that was too late. We wouldn’t be home until midnight. Unfortunately, the month of August was sold out.
My friend Allison recommended I click on the wait list for a date and time that I prefer. Guests pay for the experience when they click on the reservation button. If something arises and they can’t make their dinner date, they can call the restaurant and talk to the personable Luis. He will call the first person on the waiting list and try to fill the spot to refund the guest’s credit card. That is how I was able to secure a table for two recently on a Friday night.
There isn’t much signage in the front of the restaurant on Beverly Drive. As I stepped inside, I glanced towards the kitchen, hoping to see the tall and handsome chef Curtis Stone. Sadly, he was not present the evening we dined. He was probably at his new restaurant Gwen, that he opened on Sunset Blvd. with his brother Luke.
Maude is feminine and dignified in decor with mirrors on the ceiling and natural colored wood beams. Blues music plays softly for ambiance, and dried flowers hang upside down near the kitchen. The restaurant is named after Stone’s beloved grandmother, as a tribute to introducing him to the love of cooking and food.
The wine sommelier welcomed us and checked us in. Next to our table, the guests were just about to leave. As they stood up, they left the menu on their table. I reached over to take a peek. That is a big no-no at Maude and the sommelier scolded me and took it away. It’s all about the element of surprise.
At times I felt as if we were in an episode of the PBS television special Downton Abbey. When my napkin slid down my leg and almost fell on the floor, one of the servers swiftly approached the table, told me to drop the napkin on the floor and within seconds produced a new napkin. Plates and cutlery are removed with each course and new place settings are presented with each new dish.
Stone must have been inspired in making a variety of plum dishes, became he and his team created twelve, instead of the normal nine courses. I received one extra dessert course, because I was celebrating a birthday. When you make a reservation there is box to check for special occasions.
Every table is a comfortable distance to the open kitchen, where multiple chefs and servers congregate before the choreography and delivery of each course parades into the dining room.
The evening I dined, I learned there are two main categories of edible plum growing on trees. There are European plums and Japanese plums. European plums have been cultivated since ancient times and were introduced to the United States, possibly by the Pilgrims. Most of the plums now grow in California. The Japanese plum originated in China, before coming to North America.
The sweet-tart fruit grows only during the summer months. Not only does Stone incorporate various plum varietal with each course, he displays this pleasing stone-fruit in the center of the plate with skins ranging in red, purple, green, yellow and amber. Other dishes offer plum as a supporting role to enhance the produce and proteins with jam, foam, sauce and paste.
We declined the wine pairing option and opted to just order one glass of wine each. It was served in an exquisite thin stem glass. Our server Ben was quite a gentleman from the UK with a cute man bun. He explained the wine glasses were from Wally’s Wine and Spirits in Brentwood. They are very thin, delicate and fancy. For those who would like to bring their own favorite wine to pair with the courses, the policy is one bottle per two people with a corkage fee of $50 per bottle.
Throughout the evening, Ben explained each dish when it was presented to our table. I learned about agretti, a verdant Italian succulent with a feathery texture. It looks like a cross between ocean coral and fennel fronds. Stone and his team used agretti in two courses.
I could have done without the first course, an ornate shortbread-style cookie with lardo, also known as melted pork fat, and thinly sliced magenta with a peek of black skin plum and fennel stems sliced into tiny medallions. The wafer was soggy to the bite, due to the plum juice and shiny coating of fat.
I perked up with the cold, bubbly plum gazpacho with cucumber, sorrel and a sprig of slightly sour and salty tasting purslane served in a plastic glass.
I discovered the hazelnut cream drizzled over sliced green plums with sweet yellow skin and bright purple beets was appealing. Especially with anise buds and tiny edible flowers. The herbal hyssop leaves sprinkled on top were an aromatic condiment. The leaves have a lightly bitter taste, yet interesting minty aroma.
Foie gras with roast eel foam on top and plums on the bottom was interesting. It was served in an elegant pudding glass and had green nori slices on top. The risotto course had a whole spot prawn that I had to dissect to get the meat. It was served on a small bed of sliced corn kernels and flavorsome okra.
Some of the courses were served on pure white plates, while others were featured on floral china plates that looked like they came from Maude’s dining cabinet.
The Kampachi course is similar to yellowtail. The sushi grade slices were dotted with little dried black olives, wafer thin sliced yellow plums and tiny basil leaves with dainty white flowers. Another fish course was the red sea bream covered with a warm plum wine foam. Sliced yellow flesh plums were arranged as fish scales and dried artichoke crisps offered an earthy saltiness.
An interactive dish was the Tsukune, known as a Japanese chicken meatballs or sausage cooked yakitori style. A white ceramic small open pot with a heaping of herbs was placed on a cork coaster in front of us.
Next, Ben brought a large white plate with herbs of mint, parsley, cilantro, and chives. In the center was a puddle of plum sauce and sprinkling of white sesame seeds. Under the smoking herbs were two plump chicken sausages. With tongs, Ben removed them and presented one Tsukune on each plate.
My favorite dish was the perfectly cooked pheasant with crunchy lily bulbs. The game bird offers a rich white meat that is more dense than turkey or chicken. It must have been cooked slowly at a low heat to keep it moist. Lily bulbs scales were scatted around the bird. They are white and skinless with a starchy section that offers a slightly perfumed smell. I enjoyed the delightful crunchy texture and refreshingly sweet taste. This course was also served with steamed and pleated gyoza filled with pheasant in a bowl of light-colored pheasant broth.
The evening culminated with a plate of Humblot fog cheese wrapped in dehydrated plum leather and Marcona almonds.
Next, a chocolate diplomat in a caramelized pastry. Even though the potions are small, after twelve courses, you become satiated with food.
A plate of two sugar-plum gels, plum caramels and little plum Bon-Bons arrived at the end with the bill and a souvenir menu to take home. The online reservation of dinner, tax and service was charged when I secured my reservation, however guests receive another bill for wine, non-alcoholic beverages and coffee.
Upon finishing, we were presented with beautiful wrapped cellophane bags with blue ribbon, filled with a plum crumble bar to enjoy on the car ride home of next morning with coffee.
Don’t be surprised to see a celebrity or two. The night we dined actor Peter MacNicol (CSI: Cyber and Ally McBeal) sat with three others at a table across from us.
Will I dine once a month, like my friend Allison? Probably not, however for the month of September, the menu features grapes. Besides plums, grapes are one of my favorite fruits. I wonder if Stone will create something decadent with Cotton Candy grapes? Maybe I should drum up another special occasion.
There is a public parking garage next to the restaurant or valet parking. Go online to http://www.mauderestaurant.com. 212 S Beverly Drive (310)859-3418.
Parts of this article were also published in the Beverly Press on August 18, 2016 – http://beverlypress.com/2016/08/refined-dining-at-maude/