New Chef Rockin the menu at Cavatina

The first review I wrote in 2016 was about my memorable dinner at Cavatina at the Sunset Marquis Hotel. The hotel sits in a 3.5-acre oasis of gardens and is a home-away-from-home to rock legends, filmmakers, writers, actors and discerning guests from around the world.

Chefs Chris Turano and Michael Schlow - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Chefs Chris Turano and Michael Schlow – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Recently, James Beard Award-winning chef, Michael Schlow, the owner and creator of Cavatina, introduced his new executive chef, Chris Turano.

I’ve been a Turano fan since he was the chef de cuisine at Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara, and later executive chef at The Garland’s The Front Yard. Inspired by a mixture of Sicilian and Southern roots, Turano has opened more than 10 restaurants in his career. He won the Food Network’s show, “Chef Wanted” in 2013 and holds a Court of Master Sommeliers certification.

Recently I dined on the outdoor covered terrace with a group of friends. Schlow approached our table and greeted us. “I’m thrilled to be collaborating with Chris. He brings a great passion for sourcing the best ingredients and has a true understanding of what makes a great kitchen,” he said.

The chefs think in similar ways and have developed a variety of new, full-flavored dishes on the menu.

Toast Trio - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Toast Trio – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Our first tastes of the evening were three different types of toast. One was a soft scrambled egg with briny uni on top offering the essence of the sea. Next was an avocado and fresh black truffle toast providing a hint of earthiness. The last toast was shrimp poached in citrus juice with olive oil and microgreens. This provided a simple and clean profile.

The chefs have a new crudo menu featuring hamachi with aji amarillo, soy sauce, pickled mushrooms and a sprinkling of crispy black rice. “I enjoy playing with textures and flavors while creating this dish,” Schlow said.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

The chefs succeeded with a bowl of edamame puree and tuna poke highlighted with crispy tempura bits. Schlow suggested we eat this with a spoon. The creamy, green purée was layered with firmer-to-the-bite fresh tuna poke cubes and sprinkled with crispy tempura offering a pleasing crunch. It’s an ideal balance of flavor and complexity.

Another winning dish was the artistic plate of mussels on top of toasted couscous with Marcona almonds, sliced apples, and spicy Harissa sauce made with curry and butter.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

A lighter dish that provided a rainbow of colors was the sliced fig with purple cauliflower florets doused with an orange gastrique and adorned with sliced radish.

Cavatina’s veal loin is served with fava beans, trumpet mushrooms and chive sauce - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Cavatina’s veal loin is served with fava beans, trumpet mushrooms and chive sauce – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Hearty fare was the veal loin the fresh fava beans, king trumpet mushrooms and a chive sauce. The veal was cooked low and slow at 300 degrees, rendering it so tender it nearly melted in my mouth.

For dessert we enjoyed the local citrus fruit with crème fraîche and crisp pistachio biscotti bites. Chef Turano used four different types of oranges in four different colors. The pièce de résistance was soaked orange slices in simple syrup and dehydrated until crisp. Biting into these chips brought a smile to my face.

These two esteemed chefs make quite a winning team with new menu changes to Cavatina each season. Once again it will be on my list of best meals in 2016.

Rock and Roll memorabilia  decorate the grounds - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Rock and Roll memorabilia decorate the grounds – Photo by Jill Weinlein

For Thanksgiving, Cavatina is offering a four course meal that includes roasted Kabocha squash soup with gala apples, pancetta and sage and an arugula salad with persimmon, baby beets and hazelnuts. Guests have a choice of entrée items that include Mary’s organic turkey, prime beef rib eye or roasted ocean trout. Side dishes include brioche-leek stuffing, cranberry-kumquat compote, herb roasted mushrooms and roasted cauliflower with salsa vert and crispy Brussels sprouts. Holiday pies and cookies make up dessert. $65 per person, and $25 for children 11 and under. Toddlers are free of charge. $$$ Parking validation is available.1200 Alta Loma Road. (310)358-3759.

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