Artistic and modern Tuscan cuisine is the focus at Culina, the Italian restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills.
Last weekend, my husband and I enjoyed an intimate dinner in Culina’s refined and comfortable atmosphere. The main dining room features sophisticated décor and excellent service. For a more private experience, dine in the glass-enclosed Grappa Room, which can accommodate up to 12 guests at an impressive table made from a 200-year-old fallen Magnolia tree.
Culina also features a top-notch culinary experience from Chef de Cuisine Luca Moriconi, now in his second year at the restaurant. However, he’s been part of the Four Seasons Hotels family for years, beginning as a junior sous chef at the Michelin-starred Palagio Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze before serving as the resident Italian chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Damascus, Amman and Palm Beach.
An additional talent this chef displays, that is different from many other chefs, is drumming. I learned it’s one of his passions. Studies have shown that drummers have an innate ability to problem-solve and change those around them. They are better able to keep a steady beat, which are all important skills in a kitchen.
Our meal started with two types of bread, which were delivered to our table with a side plate of Italian delights. One bread was sliced thick, displaying a soft interior and beautiful baked crust outside. The other was wafer thin, a crisp flat bread broken into different sizes. Both could be enjoyed with enhanced butter ribbons, crispy fried and dried red chilies, small Italian olives and taralli, or crunchy olive-oil biscuits shaped like mini doughnuts.
Culina also offers a creative cocktail menu. We selected the La La Lupe, comprised of El Tesoro Tequila, ginger cordial, lime juice, St. Germain, agave and orange bitters. It arrived in a clear old fashioned glass with a slice of lemon and beautiful orange flower. My husband ordered the Silk Sheets, which features Ketel One vodka, Amaro Nonino, Lillet Blanc and Peychaud’s Bitters, to sip with our starters.
The night we dined, Chef Luca debuted his new spring menu. We started with the Tonno Rosso, a raw ahi tuna mixed with chopped sweet and spicy peppers. Its presentation looked like a work of art with the bright red fish placed on top of thinly sliced cucumbers arranged as floral petals. Slightly toasted pine nuts gave this dish a buttery and mild pine flavor, and the Carasau flat bread crackers inserted into the middle gave the dish height and crunch. Our attentive server, Orsola from Italy, recommended pairing this dish with a pour of Montenidoli Fiore, a dry white wine that elegantly complemented the fish.
For our next course, Orsola recommended a pour of Fattoria Sardi Rosé from Toscana to pair with the charred octopus salad. The soft salmon pink-colored wine was well-balanced in minerality and acidity and offered a crisp, clean and refreshing aroma with notes of dried rose hips, raspberry and melon.
As for the salad, four pieces of an octopus tentacle peeked out under frilly watercress and frisse leaves. Each tentacle was moist, not chewy, rubbery or dry. Again, Chef Luca presented this dish in an artistic arrangement with a cauliflower and smoked potato puree in the center for dipping and al dente green beans to round out the dish.
To accompany the next course, a decadent risotto biancorossonero, we had a glass of 2016 straw-colored Vorberg Bianco, which cut the richness of the dish. Chef Luca shaved a generous amount of seasonal black truffles at our table. The northern Italian rice was mixed with mushrooms and sottocenere cheese, a cow cheese with a rind of ash, truffles, herbs and spices that offers an earthy flavor profile. A spoonful of truffle caviar and carabineros deep-sea prawn crudo added a pop of cardinal color.
Chef Luca’s signature dish is his mother’s lasagne di Grazia, where he creatively recreates a classic beef lasagna and adds layers of pleasing béchamel sauce – a velvety white sauce that is more flavorful than ricotta – and a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. The perfectly cut square of his lasagna, which comes in a beautiful blue glazed ceramic bowl with a sienna-colored interior, is the most heavenly lasagna that I have ever tasted.
Our last main course was roasted striped bass served on another beautiful blue plate. Underneath the perfectly cooked moist fish was sautéed spinach, and on top was julienned zucchini and a pleasing caper emulsion.
For dessert, we had a classic Millefoglie featuring vanilla cream, honey gelato and more shaved black truffles on top from Pastry Chef Federico Fernandez, who is known for his creative confectionery offerings. This talented pastry chef also makes tiramisu, brown butter cake, panna cotta, and an array of vegan ice cream, sorbetti and gelati. For those who choose to sip their sweets, grappa and dessert wines are available by the glass.
On our way out, we were once again struck by the décor, this time for the flower- and artwork-adorned lobby with exquisite floral pieces from celebrity floral designer and artist Jeff Leatham. A life-sized statue by American artist and sculptor J. Seward Johnson depicts Marilyn Monroe in her famous white dress blowing above a subway grate, one of the most iconic scenes in the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch.”
Between the atmosphere and the food, dinner at Culina is an elevated culinary journey that is artistically and thoughtfully presented by Chef Luca and his Four Seasons team.
Culina and the attached Vinoteca wine and small bites lounge are open for dinner every Sunday through Wednesday from 6 to 10:30 p.m. and every Thursday through Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m. The restaurant is also open for breakfast and lunch daily. Culina and Vinoteca offer a Sunday brunch buffet from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 300 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills, (310)860-4000.
This review was also featured in the Beverly Press