Tesse is Terrific on Sunset

After developing and operating over 20 successful restaurant concepts such as Bestia, Petty Cash, République and Otium, restaurateur Bill Chait repeats his success with Tesse, his newest endeavor on Sunset.

The new dynamic duo Michelin-starred Executive chef/partner Raphael Francois and award winning partner/pastry chef Sally Camacho Mueller make quite a team at Tesse on Sunset. Chef Raphael worked with Marcus Mueller (Sally’s husband) and when the idea of Tesse came about, Raphael knew Sally would make a perfect partner.

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Tesse is a play on the French word “delicatesse,” meaning delicacy. It’s a thoughtful restaurant the minute you walk inside and notice Alexis Readinger of Preen, Inc., design. It’s modern with a teak bar, soft tan leather banquettes, a beautiful wood and cork ceiling, and interesting 3-D patterned rose colored cinder block walls throughout the main dining space.

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The first time I dined at Tesse was last year while attending a private dinner in the attached Boutellier wine room. Managing partner and wine director Jordan Organ opened this unique wine store and named Boutellier – a French title given to one in charge of the King’s wine. The logo of this space is a key, representing the only person with a key to the King’s cellar.

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Ogron travelled the world exploring unique partnerships with wineries, and brought hard to find and affordable wines to Los Angeles. During the evening, this wine store lined with bottles, is transformed into a private dining room for standing receptions or private seated dinners. 

Ogron’s wine list features nearly thirty wines by the glass that come in 3 oz. pours, and a list of thousands of bottle selections.  The 3 oz. pours enable guests to enjoy multiple varieties, however if diners prefer a traditional pour they can tell their server.

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They also offer two corkage policies. If you purchase wine at Boutellier, it may be opened in Tesse for $15 per bottle, no bottle maximum. All other wines will be charged at $30 per bottle for the first and second bottles, and $50 per bottle for the third and fourth bottles with a four bottle maximum.

The contemporary dinner menu offers a European twist that is influenced by chef Raphael’s recipe that he learned to make while growing up in Belgium and France. This esteemed chef has a resume that includes Michelin-starred dining establishments in Brussels, Paris and London. He cooked at Le Cirque in New York and Le DeSales in Washington DC. Now the bearded chef lives near the restaurant and gets around Los Angeles on a BIRD electric scooter to go to the Farmers Market.

Before drinking wine, I enjoyed a craft cocktail named Date Night designed by Nick Meyer and Julian Cox. It was a refreshing vodka based beverage enhanced with date syrup and cranberry juice. I sipped it while enjoying French specialities displayed on a long wooden board with thick slices of bread and whole grain mustard. There were pâtés, terrines, rillettes, saucisses and dates. 

Chef Raphael next sent to our table a classic beef tartare with a twist. It was mixed with caper berries, chopped shallots, on a Grana Padano cheese crisp with shaved cheese and a sprinkling of chive aioli.

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Bowls of colorful radicchio and kale leave had thin slices of peach, kernels of corn and a sprinkling of goat cheese. It was dressed with a pleasing beer vinaigrette and paired nicely with a beautiful Chardonnay Library Release Frostwatch 2014 from Bennett Valley. I learned the wine is a barrel fermented blend evoking layers of flavors that include ripe red apple followed by citrus notes of lemon, lime and orange peel. This wine offered a rich silky mouthfeel with just a nuance of well-integrated French oak.

This wine also went well with ethereal plump ravioli pillows filled with parmesan cheese, sweet currants and sautéed herbs.

Large scoop of burrata, topped with Oregon porcini duxelles arrived before my entree. Duxelles is finely chopped mushrooms with shallots, herbs such as thyme or parsley, and black pepper. It is all sautéed in butter and reduced to a paste. I grabbed another piece of this heavenly bread and spread this on top. Delicious!

A plates of beautifully cooked French classic skirt steak was set in front of me. The protein was cooked on the wood-fired hearth before it was topped with a bordelaise sauce, watercress, sliced grapes, and shallots.

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The last highlight of the evening was pastry chef Sally’s dessert. After graduating with honors from both the Culinary and Baking, and Pastry Programs at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, she gained recognition for her exquisite duck egg creme brûlée. I thought it would be savory, yet instead the creamy custard base sweetened with Muscovado, a robust flavor sugar from Mauritius. It’s high molasses content gives a strong lingering flavor. This beautiful ethereal brunt cream had a curled almond crisp tuile cookie dusted with powdered sugar on top.

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Enjoying the dinner so much, I brought my husband to Tesse for brunch on a rainy Sunday last month. Sitting in the main dining room, we started off with three of chef Sally’s pastries to share around the table. We chose a chocolate croissant, along with a fresh fruit danish and a small banana loaf. All were exquisite.

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Our friendly server recommended we start with fresh red beet and carrot juice, and a kale, celery and green apple juice. She also told us that we have never tasted a grapefruit like the one they serve at brunch.

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It’s half of a ruby red grapefruit with muscovado sugar sprinkled on top. When torched, it bubbles and browns to a caramelized brûlée. The blushing red sections burst juicy sweetness with each spoonful.

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During brunch the formidable culinary duo reinvent classic brunch fare into something special. We ordered chef Raphael’s special smoked salmon Benedict topped with an exquisite herb hollandaise. Instead of English muffins, the eggs are on top of two slices of housemade brioche bread. Lovely pickled tomatoes and smoked salmon finish this brunch favorite.

img_0089When the “Frenchy Pizza” was delivered, Chef Raphael arrived at our table to prepare the dish in front of us. On a large wooden round plate were two grilled crepes topped with olive oil. There were dishes of ricotta cheese, garlicky pesto, marinated tomato confit and crispy prosciutto. This is the only restaurant in Los Angeles where you will experience this unique and savory crepe style crust pizza. Chef finished it off by shaving French cheese on top. 

While enjoying the new brunch offerings, we glanced at the daytime cocktail menu, including the Drip Club for coffee lovers with vodka, demerara (a dark rum fermented cane sugar from Guyana), and coffee. The Tesse Bellini is a pour of Champagne and peaches, while the refreshing Gin Fizz Tropicale is a mix of Sunday gin, orgeat, pineapple, and lime.

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Looking around the dining room, I noticed almost every table had a stacked up high Tesse burger. It’s made with braised short rib, instead of ground beef, and is topped with a thick and crispy onion ring.  Baby bib lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, pickled jalapeños and housemade ketchup finish the burger served with a handful of duck fat fries.

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Before leaving, our sweet and efficient server Maureen encouraged us to walk across the breezeway to Fred Segal to see the newly opened Tesse Cafe and Bakery. It is open for breakfast and lunch serving French delicacies on Sunset.

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Tesse is open for dinner daily from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday brunch begins at 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tesse Cafe & Bakery is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with lunch during the weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 8500 W. Sunset Blvd. (310)360-3866.

This review is featured in the Beverly Press on February 28. 

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