Looking over the wine “bible” at Wally’s Beverly Hills can be quite daunting, as it’s a thick menu filled with pages of white and red wines from different local and international regions around the world.
Wally’s owner Christian Navarro and Wine Director Matthew Turner oversee a wine program of 3,000 selections. There are four pages dedicated just to the 130 glasses of wine they pour.
Sitting at one of the high-top communal tables among floor to ceiling shelves lined with Burgundy, Bourdeaux, and Champagne bottles, I noticed the attentive servers were dressed in formal black pants, crisp white shirts, black vests and ties. Managers are dressed in formal suits, yet friendly and not pretentious. They are there to make sure guests have the best wine and dine experiences.
As our server Kelly introduced herself, I told her I was in the mood for a wonderful rose’ wine. She had the affable Turner approach our table with three of his favorite bottles of pink hued wines. Pointing to an impressive display of wine bottles behind the bar, he told me those wines were all under $40. For wines over that amount, he caps them with a Coravin wine preservation device. “This saves good wines from being wasted,” Turner said. “Wines can be poured into a glass without removing the cork.” This device has a needle that punctures the cork and inserts argon gas to protect the remaining wine. It’s a must for restaurants, oenophiles and wine collectors.
As he set his three favorite rose’ wines on our table top, Kelly set three wine glasses in front of me. Turner educated me about each pour from lightest to darkest. First the Domaines Ott Chateau de Selle Cotes de Provence Rose 2016 offered clear, pale peach hues and a minerality complex that was elegant to the nose combined with gentle aromas of citrus and yellow stonefruit. After a sip, it finished with floral notes and a touch of spice on my palate.
Next, Turner poured from a bottle of Miraval Rose’ from Cotes de Provence, France. This is celebrities Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie winery. The pretty rose petal pink colored wine offered a more aromatic expression of fruit and flowers to the nose. I enjoyed a slightly strawberry fruit finish.
The final rose’ was served in a clear bottle with a label. It was a tad darker than the first two wines. Turner said it’s a surprise dry rose’ made by Marciano Estate with Cabernet and Merlot grapes.
Before coming to Beverly Hills, Turner was at The French Laundry, and St. Regis working with Micheal Mina. He trains the staff about all of his wines, and has won the Wine Spectator Award for the second year in a row.
As an amuse bouche was presented to us as a welcome offering, it looked similar to a coconut macaron, yet biting into this ethereal cheese bite, I knew we were in wonderful a culinary experience.
Kelly arrived again with a wood board holding three different cheeses curated by Jenny Knotts, the Director of Cheese and Specialty Foods at Wally’s. My favorite was the Essex Comte from France with a deep nutty and sweet onion flavor. Placing a slice of on top of the soft bread with a swipe of honey, it’s creamy finish was reminiscent of creme brûlée.
Another hard cheese I enjoyed was the Wisconsin Hook’s 15 year Cheddar. Made from pasteurized cow milk, it had a pleasing caramelized intensity with each bite.
Looking around the room, I spotted General Manager Thibaud Duccini and smiled. The first time I met Thibaud was 8 years ago when he was my server at Patina. In my 2010 review of the restaurant, I called him Prince Charming. He continues to live up to that title at Wally’s Beverly Hills.
What makes Wally’s an entertaining dining experience is the charismatic Dubliner and Bar Manager Carl Roberts. Approaching our table, he introduced himself and shared one of his “What did the woman say to the …” jokes. As we giggled, his rich and deep laughter was infectious. Roberts has been curating cocktails, spirits and specialty wines, as well as chatting and entertaining diners since Wally’s opened in Beverly Hills in 2014.
Executive Chef David Féau and his team prepare artistically beautiful cuisine. Ordering the summer heirloom salad, it arrived looking more like a French fruit tart, than a salad. The large circular base was a thick slice of sweet, yellow watermelon topped with an ethereal nitro feta cheese, that looked like powdered sugar. Slices of yellow heirloom tomatoes and salmon colored pickled plums were arranged on top, before spicy green and purple basil leaves finished off this exquisite dish along with a sprinkling of basil infused balsamic dressing.
Impressed with the food, our server told us the corn agnolotti is a popular new dish on the menu. It arrived in a beautiful gray and white serving bowl with bright yellow, green and red colors in the center. Biting into a tender and plump bite-sized pillow of pasta, a burst of lightly sweet corn, brown butter and black truffle broth bathed my tongue. Large pieces of succulent lobster also glistened in this broth.
For an entree, we ordered a whole French sea bass filet that was baked in the wood oven with slightly charred lemons halves. On the side of the serving dish were over 20 blistered sweet, yellow and red cherry tomatoes. This also arrived with a fresh out of the oven tray of summer fresh sautéed vegetables that included fennel, summer squash and yellow wax beans. These vegetables were topped with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and edible flower petals.
We finished our meal with a French Le Feuillet dessert, that is similar to a Napoléon, yet the puff pastry was much thicker. There were slices of Pudwill farm berries, a lovely vanilla cream, and azuleta sugar offering a violet essence and aroma. Très bien!
Before leaving, I peeked into the two semi-private party rooms. One seats 22 people comfortably and the other, is fondly called the Barrel Room that seats 12 guests. It’s a bit removed from the main dining room, yet the energy of Wally’s Beverly Hills is not lost.
When manager Rod Bonios walked by, I recognized him immediately. We first met years ago at Maru in Santa Monica. He told me he was going back to Santa Monica soon to help open the new Wally’s Santa Monica on Wilshire and 2nd. I told him I look forward to another reunion.
For a fine wine and dine experience that is formal, yet a lot of fun, visit Wally’s Beverly Hills. $$$ 447 N. Canon Drive (310)475-3540.
My review of Wally’s is also featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News –