Celebrity chef Scott Conant first opened Scarpetta inside the Montage Beverly Hills, then Food Network Chef Geoffrey Zakarian came in and renamed it Georgie. Both restaurants closed, and now a woman chef de cuisine, Monica Olaes is the new head of the kitchen at the renamed The Restaurant.
Sitting inside the beautifully decorated dining room, Chef Monica approached my table with a plate of her comforting purple potato gnocchi. I learned that while growing up in the Philippines on a farm, Chef Monica became a farmer tending to tomatoes, watermelon, turnip, and purple potatoes. Harvesting the produce, she and her mother went to the community farmers market every week to sell the family’s latest seasonal items. Afterwards she helped her mom in the kitchen prepare meals for the family.
Later when her family moved to California during her teenage years, she attended the California School of Culinary Arts, Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. With her degree, she worked in the kitchen at Fig & Olive in West Hollywood and with Geoffrey Zakarian at Georgie.
Her passion as a farmer and traveler inspires her to create exquisite seasonal dishes at The Restaurant. One of her signature dishes that wow’d me was her Fry bread. Chef Monica told me that while hiking in the Grand Canyon, she met some native Americans who were making this wonderful bread. It was warm and the best she had ever tasted, inspiring her to make something similar in Beverly Hills. Her puffy Fry bread is topped with prosciutto, Serrano chili, and a secret juniper and tarragon topping.
The head sommelier Kristopher Messiah pairs every dish with one of the 800 different wines on his list. He curates some of the best wines from around the world, and offers a good value by the glass and bottle.
We started with a savory amuse bouche of bite-sized smoked Gouda cheese and potato croquettes dazzled with a black garlic aioli and chives, before six hot Parker House rolls arrived in a baking tin with a side of soft butter.
Next a plate of spicy lobster mixed with harissa aioli and topped with smoked trout roe was presented on crispy rice rectangles. It was a wonderful combination of creamy and crispy with a touch of heat.
Chef Monica makes a satisfying winter chestnut and butternut squash soup and tops it with creme fraiche and crunchy pepitas. Next we tried the Kampachi crudo served with burnt avocado, prickly pear, and pickled pearl onion. I noticed Chef Monica likes to pickle and add a touch of tartness to many of her dishes. She told me that after meeting the chef at the newer Montage Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, she was introduced to the unique and pleasing flavors of burnt avocado and prickly pear.
Our server Olivia recommended the salmon tartare served with pickled ramps, puffed rice, avocado mash and a drizzling of lemon dressing. It was an excellent and light dish.
What makes Chef Monica’s purple potato gnocchi unique is the carrot curry essence. She also adds Japanese shimeji mushrooms to give a slightly crunchy texture and a subtle nutty flavor. The pickled Fresno chilis add a touch of spiciness.
To honor Conant’s popular spaghetti dish that New Yorkers and Beverly Hills diners enjoyed, Chef Monica’s Spaghetti Arrabbiata is similar with blistered cherry tomatoes and a twirling mound of al dente pasta goodness.
Entrees include seafood specialty dishes focusing on halibut, salmon and grilled branzino that can be ordered as a fillet or whole 1.5 lb fish.
Chef Monica roasts and grills Jidori chicken, Colorado lamb chops and a multitude of beef cuts from filet mignon to hanger steak, ribeye and Tomahawk. Diners can select three sauces with their proteins that include a spicy chimichurri, red wine jus, and her special juniper and herb creation.
Inventive sides include rainbow cauliflower with pickled raisins, pine nuts, olives and chopped cilantro. Her Brussels sprouts are enhanced with chopped hazelnuts, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar. Mac and cheese lovers will enjoy the combination of gooey Fontina, Gruyere, Parmesan, with leeks and topped with a panko crust.
Executive pastry chef Amanda Lavin make an array to toothsome desserts that include a honey nut squash custard with maple crumble, that is crowned with a scoop of pomegranate sherbet. Her rice pudding is topped with red wine spiced figs and an almond tuile. We also enjoyed her cheesecake with an essence of caramelized pear and scoop of pear sorbet.
The Restaurant is offering a New Year’s Eve four-course dinner starting at 7 p.m. There is an additional wine and champagne pairing offered with each course for an additional fee. The elegant dinner is $295 per person.
Chef Monica is also participating in the 2019 Winter dine.L.A. event from January 11 through Friday January 25. Guests can order a three course with one side dish specially priced set menu for $59. There are a choice of three starters, entrees, sides and dessert. Menu items include her signature Fry bread topped with prosciutto or the Kampachi crudo; a juicy filet mignon or halibut, and pastry chef Amanda Lavin’s chocolate pavlova. It’s available on Sunday and Monday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday 5 to 9:30 p.m. $$ 225 N. Canon Drive (310)860-5848.
This review was featured in the Beverly Press December 2018.