CITIZEN Beverly Hills: Casual, comfortable, crafty
At the new Citizen in Beverly Hills, paparazzi linger on the sidewalk patio. Next door is Spago and across the street is Georgie at the Montage Beverly Hills. This area is known for celebrity sightings with Mastro’s and The Palm just down the street. The night I dined at Citizen, John Stamos sat in booth next to us.
Citizen was previously Spaghettini and the Dave Koz Lounge, a sophisticated supper club by restaurateurs Cary Hardwick and Laurie Sisneros. They also own Spaghettini in Seal Beach. With 27 years of success in Orange County, they joined Grammy nominated saxophonist Dave Koz to create a top-notch restaurant offering California-inspired Italian cuisine in a state-of-the-art music venue.
Unfortunately, it closed earlier this year for renovations and rebranding. Why? Who knows. The restaurant business is tricky. Hardwick and Sisneros told their staff, including executive chef Scott Howard, they wanted to recreate a new dining experience that would appeal to all citizens in Los Angeles. Howard went to their Seal Beach kitchen at Spaghettini and the others found odd jobs around town until Citizen opened its doors three months ago.
One of those who patiently waited was our server Chase. He is just one of the professional servers and cheerful hosts at the restaurant, just as when it was Spaghettini. The new GM Jennifer Courtney runs the restaurant smoothly and is liked by all.
What’s new at Citizen is the decor and music. The space is more casual offering a whimsical throwback to the 60s and 70s with macrame wall coverings and hanging plant holders. Basket lights hang above the long stone-top bar. The semi-private dining room, which once was the stage, now has three walls decorated with colorful yarn art.
Concrete floors, brick walls, block wooden tables and burnt orange upholstered chairs accent the dining room.
Stylish metal doors open to a patio area with al fresco dining, showcasing the lights and activity along Canon Drive. The cozy lounge area offers conversational couches with throw blankets to drape over to keep warm on cool nights.
The flow is better for servers to deliver food and beverages from the large bar and kitchen to those dining outside. Howard is back in the kitchen making a variety of small plates and larger entrées that include a Tai snapper served whole and deboned with coconut black rice, pineapple kimchi and glazed with a ginger-chili vinaigrette.
We started with a cocktail snack of marinated olives, burrata with grilled grapes and La Quercia ham, while sipping a Wisconsin Old Fashioned.
Sitting in a semi-circular booth that was roomy enough for four guests, we next enjoyed a bowl of fresh crudités on ice, arranged in a colorful pattern with edamame hummus as a dip. The farmers market vegetables included purple and light yellow cauliflower, snap peas, heirloom cherry tomatoes, bright red radish, yellow and orange carrots and romanesco – a cross between cauliflower and broccoli with a greenish cone-like appearance, offering a mild, slightly nutty flavor.
Chef Howard makes a 1970s throwback and Southern favorite – pimento cheese dip. This salmon colored spread is served with warm rosemary and white cheddar buttermilk biscuits. Drizzle a little chipotle maple syrup on top for added zing.
Howard adjusts some of his dishes weekly, depending on the seasons and what his suppliers provide him. One week pappardelle pasta flavored with wild mushrooms, parsnips, fennel and apple was on the menu.
While listening to 70s music (Rolling Stones, Styx, Tom Petty) Chase recommended the smoked short rib tacos with a barbecue sauce on fresh tortillas, a dollop of chipotle creme, sliced avocado and pickled onions. I inquired about the tender pale yellow micro green shoot featured on each taco. Chase said that it grows from a popcorn kernel. It looks like a blade of grass, yet offers a slightly sweet profile and a bit of a crunch. Used in dishes for many years in European cuisine, popcorn shoots are now being featured in some fine dining establishments.
The menu offers raw bar dishes, such as fresh oysters, poached shrimp, ceviche and hamachi. Howard makes fresh ceviche daily usually chopped with cucumber, peppers, avocado, lime juice and tomatoes. It’s served with crisp tortilla triangles.
We ordered two large scallops with charred radicchio. Charring this leaf offers a smoky, more pleasing mellow profile than when served raw. The scallops are elevated with a citrus, slightly sweet orange-honey jus.
We saved room for dessert and enjoyed a pot du creme with coffee whipped mousse and crunchy chocolate nibs on top. Also on the menu is a deconstructed s’more and an ethereal strawberry pavlova. Another comfort throw back is a root beer float served with cherry cookies.
Citizen offers a social hour every Monday through Friday starting at 2 p.m., with Lucky Seven bites, rotating cocktails and select wines by the glass for $7 until 7 p.m. On the first Thursday evening of the month, starting at 8 p.m. there is a live DJ spinning Vinyl 45’s and LP’s. Celebrate the “Art of the Meal” during lunch at Citizen from 12 to 2 p.m. Order a la carte or enjoy a three-course Power Lunch that begins with a bowl of soup, such as tomato fennel, followed by a chicken or pasta dish and then take back to the office or home a cherry chocolate chip cookie. Dinner service begins at 6 p.m. every day except Sunday, when dinner service begins at 5:30 p.m. $$-$$$ 184 N. Canon Drive. (310)402-5885.
This article was featured in the December 8, 2017 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.