Peninsula Beverly Hills Chef’s Garden Grows

In 2016 when I dined at Belvedere inside the Peninsula Beverly Hills, I met the creative Executive Chef David Codney, while enjoying many of his signature dishes. In my Beverly Press review, I described the evening as an approachable fine dining experience, offering a distinctive flavor profile that lures guests to return for more.

Now with the global pandemic, the hotel had to close it’s beautiful interior fine dining room, yet Chef David is still at the Peninsula, and has stayed busy cultivating his “secret garden” on the rooftop of the hotel for outdoor dining venues.  

The Peninsula implemented an initiative encouraging their chefs to have a garden, and during the Spring, Chef David rode the elevator up to the fifth floor, where the 60’ outdoor pool and bubbling spa tub overlook Beverly Hills and the Century City skyline. Below the pool deck are plots of soil and a street sign that reads Peninsula Place 9882. He nurtured his garden at the beginning of the pandemic and harvested an array of heirloom tomatoes and herbs to include in his innovative menus.

Once Chef David could offer outdoor dining, he reinvented three dining options for guests and locals. One is le Petit Belvedere, located on a terrace, off the formally decorated lobby of the hotel. It’s an outdoor dining California-style brassiere concept. The menu offers saffron risotto croquettes, moules frites, steak au poivre, and a showstopping Grand Marnier souffle.

Guests can imbibe with a selection of signature cocktails, beer, wine, and Laurent Perrier Champagne.

He also has created a seasonal menu at The Roof Garden, near his secret garden. My husband and I were eager to try his freshly picked garden to plate offerings.

Stepping into the Peninsula Beverly Hills, we were greeted by a uniformed staff member and lead to stand on a mark on the floor to have a digital temperature reading, before gaining clearance into the hotel to dine. 

Riding the elevator up to the Chef David’s The Roof Garden, we stepped out onto a beautiful al fresco setting with yellow and white striped umbrellas, a teak bar, tables set for two to four guests, and a socially distanced lounge area with chairs arranged around a flickering fire pit. As the sun set, the lights of Beverly Hills and Century City high rise buildings illuminated the sky.

Waiting for our table to be throughly sanitized, we walked out to the end of the pool area to take a peek at the secret garden. Looking down we noticed rows of vibrant and colorful tomatoes, herbs standing tall and stalks of fennel.

Once we were seated, the friendly and professional wait staff each wore a mask and were careful in spacing each time they approached us. 

We started with a bright orange Aperol Spritz while looking over the menu, and noticed Chef David puts an asterisk next to each dish that offers ingredients from his garden.

First, we enjoyed spreading bright white burrata and vibrant red and yellow heirloom tomatoes with sprigs of basil from his garden, onto a variety of bread from a bread basket. The creaminess of the burrata was nice on flat parmesan cracker bread, and olive rolls sliced in half, especially when topped a tomato slice and basil before taking a bite. It was a perfect starter with our cocktails.  

Other menu items showcasing Chef David’s tomatoes include his Cobb Salad and BBQ Mary’s Chicken Salad with crunchy dried Russian corn, black beans, an array of tomatoes, mixed greens, and his special barbecue thousand island dressing.  

I noticed there were a handful of asian influenced items that included a Mandarin chicken salad, and an udon bowl with fresh cilantro, miso dressing, white soy mushrooms, cashews for crunch and daikon radish for some heat. He also makes sesame tofu with broccoli rabe, chopped eggplant, and a piquant crispy chili garlic sauce.

My favorite was the cilantro shrimp pad Thai that had a tamarind glaze. There were five large grilled shrimp, and sliced scallions, crunchy green papaya, crisp bean sprouts, diced peanuts and egg on top. Wedges of lime can be squeezed on top to offer a refreshing touch of citrus with each bite. 

 Chef David posts his garden vegetables on his Instagram page and educates his followers. In one of his posts he took a photo of his beautiful tomatoes and added a fun fact comment that said, “tomatoes are botanically a fruit but culinarily a vegetable…. the Supreme Court had to rule this for tax reasons on imports. In 1883 the court declared it to be a vegetable, as it was generally served with dinner and not dessert. This ruling was only for the tariff and not reclassify for botanical purposes.” 

One of the reasons why his tomatoes grow so well is because he also composts a lot of the restaurant’s waste into the soil to provide nutrients and moisture and help stop weeds from growing.

The last entree we ordered was a grilled swordfish steak that was cooked perfectly with secret garden fennel and an arugula salad mixed with dandelion greens, and Belgian endive. They were lightly dressed with a preserved lemon dressing.

Other seafood offerings on the menu include branzino with oven roasted tomatoes, and wild local Seafood Co Santa Barbara salmon served with quinoa and a corn salsa with chili, almonds and sesame.

Chef David makes two burgers, a Roof Garden BBQ burger with thick cut slices of Nueskie bacon, smoked bbq onions and aged white cheddar; and an Impossible burger layered with two Smash burger patties and garden tomatoes.

Be sure to save room for dessert, the whole wheat butterscotch blondie enhanced with ribbons of dulce de leche, chocolate sauce and a scoop of horchata ice cream with oven roasted, cinnamon sugar covered nuts on top.

Before leaving we learned Chef David is planting for the winter and soon will be changing his menu items to include his seasonally, fresh vegetables and herbs when they are ready to harvest.

Back by popular demand, Chef David is now offering his elegant afternoon tea outdoors at Le Petit Belvedere. It’s just a short walk through The Living Room, where it used to be set up before the pandemic. Guests can enjoy free flowing Champagne by Laurent Perrier, along with one of a kind teas and a tower of sweet items that includes a lemon thyme eclair, tarragon Mandarin layer cake, scones and gluten free zucchini loaf. Some of the savory sandwiches include his traditional cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, a pastrami sandwich with horseradish cream, house made pickles, pickled mustard seeds and micro parsley, and Maine lobster and caviar roll on brioche bread with herbs from his garden. 

Enjoy a meal up on the fifth floor The Rooftop Garden daily from 7 a.m., to 9 p.m. Le Petite Belvedere is open for dinner on Wednesdays through Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m., and champagne and tea is now being served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11a.m. and 1:30 p.m. On Sundays there is also a seating 4 p.m. 

Take-out options are available with pick-up at the valet for those who prefer to dine at home. 9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd., (310)551-2888 and (310)975-2736.

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