Meeting Curtis Stone at SHARE

Australian Chef Curtis Stone’s is one of the most charismatic chefs I’ve ever met. His mega-watt smile, culinary talents and charm has landed him appearances on a number of top rated programs including Take Home Chef (TLC), Top Chef Masters (Bravo), and Food Network’s All-Star Academy.

img_7190

Chef Stone began his cooking career in his homeland of Australia and later honed his skills at Michelin-starred restaurants in London under renowned chef Marco Pierre White. Southern California foodies embraced Stone with open arms when he opened his first solo restaurant, Maude in Beverly Hills in February 2014. The restaurant is named after his beloved paternal grandmother and first culinary mentor. Stone’s unique approach at Maude is to give a fine dining culinary experience by serving an array of multi-course dishes, showcasing the finest ingredients available each month of the year.

With its success, Stone opened his second restaurant, Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant in Hollywood in July 2016. He did all this while also becoming a New York Times bestselling author with six cookbooks – his most recent titled – Good Food, Good Life.

img_3780

I learned that one night while dining at Maude, Gordon Ho the Chief Marketing Director and Head of Sales for Princess Cruises had an idea. Since Stone is in Southern California and Princess Cruises’ headquarters is in Southern California (Santa Clarita), Ho approached Stone to see if he would collaborate with Princess Cruises and have a similar restaurant concept at sea onboard the Princess fleet.

img_3781

Stone embraced the idea and soon he was working in the kitchen with the Princess Cruises culinary team to create and open SHARE by Curtis Stone. It’s his third restaurant and first at sea, giving cruise passengers an exclusive opportunity to enjoy an exclusive and exquisite dining experience.

img_3990

While the ship was in the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro for the day, before taking a 39 day voyage to the South Pacific (Hawaii, Tahiti and Fiji), I had the opportunity to meet Executive Chef Curtis Stone and many members of Princess Cruises’ culinary and marketing team. It was a special celebration lunch to debut his new menu onboard the Emerald Princess. SHARE by Curtis Stone is also a fine dining experience on the Ruby Princess and the Sun Princess.

img_3826

Sitting at a table for four, I admired the elegant dining room with floor to ceiling glass windows allowing passengers oceanview dining. Inside SHARE is a private dining room with Stone’s family pictures, memorabilia and cookbooks strategically placed in bookshelves. A highlight in this room is a copy of Stone’s first recipe of Orange Cake written in crayon.

While enjoying the six-course menu, we all agreed Chef Stone has made an art out of connecting strangers and loved ones by presenting beautiful executed dishes, while using the finest ingredients, premium meats, and seafood. With each course Chef Stone came out to the dining room to tell us a little story about each dish.

Here’s a preview of the menu at SHARE by Curtis Stone on the Emerald Princess:

img_3993

For a Starter we enjoyed a artistic plate with a swirl of Nduja (spicy, spreadable pork salumi from Italy) with a couple of slices of Duck Speck, green olives and two types of freshly baked breads. First I spread the Nduja on the bread and topped it with the savor thinly sliced duck.

img_3848

Next we received the salad course of Kanpachi Crudo with sliced mango, a dollop of avocado puree and shredded almonds on top for a little texture to balance the smooth and fresh fish and fruit.

img_3851

For the pasta dishes made fresh daily, Chef Stone and his team made a heavenly Ricotta Cavatelli with Brussels sprouts leaves, beets and sunchokes.

img_3857

The fourth course was soup of the day – a rich lobster bisque with pieces of lobster and minced shallots.

img_3863

The main course was tender Duroc Pork served with broccoli puree and carrots.

img_3867

We finished with a decadent Toffee Cheesecake decorated with with dried apple chips to give it a nod to autumn, and grapes soaked in a red wine reduction.

Cruise passengers can experience this exact experience for a supplemental $29 per person fee when cruising onboard the Emerald Princess. Wine and cocktails are extra. To book a cruise onboard Princess Cruises, call your cruise specialist or click on this link  Princess Cruises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alessandro Del Piero Scores a winning goal at No. 10 Restaurant

Last Saturday was the second time I’ve dined at No. 10 Restaurant in Beverly Grove. The first time was right before it opened. While contractors were standing on ladders adjusting lights, the chefs Nick Parker and Italian-born Fabio Ugoletti prepared a variety of seasonal Italian delights.

The name of the restaurant No. 10, as in, the number ten, is named after former Juventus soccer star Alessandro Del Piero. He is involved with this sexy, Spacecraft-designed club-like dining venue. It’s lively in the evening, with a weekend DJ spinning music out on the open-air dining patio and lounge. On Wednesday, they offer live jazz to enhance one’s dining experience. IMG_2406

Walking inside the front lounge area we admired the huge copper dome lights and wide marble bar with a peek-through to the kitchen. The dimly-lit dining room has a few deep circular booths, and tables with rich and comfortable leather chairs. 

Arriving at 7 p.m., we noticed there were a few tables available inside, however by 8:30 p.m. the restaurant was running at full capacity. This restaurant tends to attract a later dining crowd. General Manager Maurizio La Rose runs the restaurant smoothly as he chats with guests, pours flutes of Prosecco, and helps whenever needed. 

Sitting at an outdoor table facing W. Third Street, we looked over the cocktail and wine menu. Nearby, the flickering fireplace lounge area offers two comfy gray couches decorated with pumpkin colored pillows. It’s an ideal spot for a cocktail and charcuterie board. 

IMG_2411

Our personable server Eddie recommended we start with the Polpo, a charred thick and long Mediterranean octopus tentacle cut into three large pieces. It rested on top of perfectly cooked broccoli, white grapefruit sections, a swirl of yogurt, and delightful crispy chickpeas giving this dish a touch of crunchiness. We enjoyed this with a glass Forchir Pinot Grigio and Clementine Cotes de Provence Rose’.

Fabio Ugoletti is from the Chianti region of Tuscany and is a pioneer in the development of “new wave” Italian dishes. Working as an Executive Chef at a prestigious 1-star Michelin restaurant is one of his many accolades. As a gastronomic consultant, he helps  in the success of organized culinary events all over the world.

IMG_2417

Looking at the pizza section, Eddie recommended Chef Fabio along with Chef Parker’s Tartufata white sauce pie. It arrived piping hot with melted spheres of burrata, shavings of black truffles and decorative squash blossoms. The thin crust had crispy edges that were cut into 8 pieces. Chef Parker likes to create seasonal dishes that feature hand-picked, organically-grown vegetables and herbs. This pizza is the quintessential autumn flavored pie.

IMG_2420

Studying the pasta section, Eddie told us his top three favorites – the Paccheri with Maine lobster; Ravioli with butternut squash; and Pappardelle with lamb ragu and shavings of white truffles. We decided on the Paccheri that was served in a bowl with large and smooth pasta tubes. They were mixed with chunks of lobster, tomatoes and onions, sautéed in olive oil and garlic, before olives and a sprinkle of oregano and basil topped this dish. It was dazzled with a splash of crustacean broth offering the essence of the sea.

IMG_2423

Other popular entrees include Diver scallops in a caviar sauce; roasted duck breast and thigh with polenta; grilled Australian lamb chop served with eggplant caponata; and Mediterranean sea bass. We decided to order the lightest dish – the Spigola al Cartoccio Mediterranean Sea Bass that arrived in a vacuum-sealed steamed bag with sliced zucchini, potatoes, fennel, olives and herbs. Eddie cut open the bag to allow the delicate and perfectly cooked fish to cool down. The sous vide vegetables provide a healthy side dish to this protein.

IMG_2429

We finished with two of the seven desserts, including a Mele in Gabbia that arrived on a plate with layers of sliced apples stacked with golden raisins and a pleasing scoop of cinnamon gelato on top. Chocolate lovers will enjoy the rich N10 Sphere made with three different types of chocolate and meringue into a semifreddo. When delivered to us, it looked like a chocolate and gold snowball. While Eddie held a small white pouring cup, he tipped it slowly so the luscious chocolate sauce could stream down on top of this classic semi-frozen treat that has the texture of frozen mousse.

No. 10 offers a contemporary Italian seasonal menu prepared by American and Italian chefs blending their gastronomic cultures into a creative new wave of Italian delights. 

$$-$$$ Open at 6 p.m. nightly. On Saturday the restaurant opens at 5:30 p.m. Come in on Sunday at 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. 8436 W 3rd St. (310)924-2011.

This review was published in the Beverly Press

CUT Lounge in Beverly Hills is a cut above

The new CUT Lounge is a recently-opened Wolfgang Puck chic bar and refined lounge located in the former Sidebar space.

CUT Lounge at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills is the chic bar where Sidebar used to be located. The cuisine is “Wolfgang Puck” at its finest with innovative cocktails to match.

img_8203Since we had theatre tickets to see “Merrily We Roll Along” at the Wallis Annenberg Theatre, we needed a quicker dining option than the leisurely, fine dining experience at CUT by Wolfgang Puck.

Beautiful glass and metal doors open to the dark and cozy lounge, where we were led to a table for two in the middle of the room by Tracey Spillane, regional director of operations for L.A.

img_8204

Slinking into low, mid-century modern chairs around a contemporary table, Spillane shared with us that Wolfgang and his wife Gelila Assefa Puck worked with Waldo Fernandez to reimagine Sidebar and decorate the room in sophisticated hues of gray, brown and beige.

Terence Leavey, the new beverage director, has some interesting drinks on his cocktail menu, like the Pins and Needles cocktail made with Hendricks Gin, a rosemary sprig, sliced Japanese cucumber and lemon. It was refreshing to sip while looking over the menu. They carry a collection of rare whiskies from Scotland, USA, Canada, Taiwain and Japan. A vintage Negroni cart will soon be a featured attraction.

img_8174

To my delight corporate executive chef and partner Lee Hefter and chef Ari Rosenson promoted Hilary Henderson to chef de cuisine. She has worked for the Wolfgang Puck family for quite some time, and most recently, alongside Rosenson as sous chef of CUT Beverly Hills.

We started with the pâté, an ethereal spread served with dark brown bread. The pâté was crusted with honey mustard seeds and decorated with colorful micro flowers.

Another favorite dish was truffle grilled cheese rectangles made with grilled Gruyere and mozzarella cheese topped with decadent black truffle shavings. We also enjoyed the cleverly wrapped empanadas copetin made with Tuscan black kale and Gruyere cheese.

img_8179

I found the Alaskan King crab and Santa Barbara uni toast with avocado a fresh and clean tasting dish, with a pleasing cocktail sauce. For those who like oysters Rockefeller, the CUT lounge version is Fanny Bay oysters served tempura style in shells with cucumber relish, coconut and cardamom.

img_8182

Spillane has a professional team working in the lounge. Throughout our culinary experience, Dylan Resnik from Northern California dressed in a formal business suit, checked on us and delivered a small plate of grilled Maine Diver scallops dazzled with Meyer lemon, sage and celery root. The handsome Italian Corrado Alfano brought us cavatappi mac and cheese made with fusilli pasta and aged Canadian cheddar from Quebec.

Spaniard Esteban Paulin served us the most tender, dry aged American wagyu sirloin steak skewers placed on a pool of red harrisa aioli. The meat at CUT is grilled over hardwood and charcoal, before finished under a 1200- degree broiler.

img_8253

Even though we were in a hurry to get the theatre, I wanted to try two desserts by pastry chef Angela Tong, since she has worked under the direction of Spago Beverly Hills award winning executive pastry chef Della Gossett. Tong’s desserts didn’t disappoint, especially her espresso semifreddo that had a hard chocolate shell covering chicory coffee ice cream enhanced with dark chocolate crumble. The inside was mousse-like and heavenly in flavors. We also ordered her apple cider funnel cake made with beautifully roasted heirloom apples and a dash of maple and chopped pecans. The food, wine and cocktails are definitely a CUT above most Los Angeles lounges and many restaurants.

img_8207CUT Lounge is not participating in dineL.A. Restaurant Week, however CUT by Wolfgang Puck offers a special $95 multi-course Exclusive series menu. It features an heirloom apple salad; sautéed Maine Diver scallops with roasted Italian chestnuts and French black truffles, plus a steak duo of red wine braised short ribs and a dry aged New York steak with a green peppercorn Armagnac emulsion. For dessert, guests will enjoy the espresso and chicory semifreddo that I enjoyed so much. A sommelier will pair the courses for an additional $50 per person.

CUT Lounge is open 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sunday. $$$ 9500 Wilshire Blvd. (310)276-8500.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on January 12, 2017 – http://beverlypress.com/2017/01/cut-lounge-in-beverly-hills-is-a-cut-above/

Multi-course Interactive Dining at Maude in Beverly Hills

My friend Allison reserves a dinner once a month at Maude in Beverly Hills. She has become a groupie of Australian chef Curtis Stone, since he opened the restaurant in 2015. She knows many of his small selective team of chefs and professional servers by their first name. I’ve been told that most come from esteemed restaurants around the globe such as French Laundry, elBulli, Torrisi, Vue de Monde and Joel Robuchon.

Plum leather around cheese is a nice course - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Plum leather around cheese is a nice course – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Every time I see her, she raves about the prix-fixe, multi-course theme dinners. Recently she attended and enjoyed an evening of plums.

I’ve been so inspired to dine at Maude based on her enthusiasm, however at $125+ per person, I’ve patiently waited for a special occasion. With my birthday coming up and plums being one of my favorite fruit, I went online to make a reservation. You can only reserve online, on Maude’s website, on the first day of the month at 10 a.m. There are just 25 seats. Children under 10 are discouraged, as this is a 2.5 hour elegant dining experience.

When I went online, I noticed reservations are available for tables of two or four people only. They start at 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at 15 minute intervals. Then the reservations resume again at 8 to 9:15 p.m. Want to dine at 7 p.m.? Forget it. There are only 7 tables and seats for one or two parties every 15 minutes until the restaurant is full. The 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. time is never available. I did notice a 8:30 p.m. reservation on a Thursday night, but I thought that was too late. We wouldn’t be home until midnight. Unfortunately, the month of August was sold out.

A 2.5 multi-course elegant meal at Maude - Photo by Jill Weinlein
A 2.5 hour, multi-course elegant meal at Maude – Photo by Jill Weinlein

My friend Allison recommended I click on the wait list for a date and time that I prefer. Guests pay for the experience when they click on the reservation button. If something arises and they can’t make their dinner date, they can call the restaurant and talk to the personable Luis. He will call the first person on the waiting list and try to fill the spot to refund the guest’s credit card. That is how I was able to secure a table for two recently on a Friday night.

There isn’t much signage in the front of the restaurant on Beverly Drive. As I stepped inside, I glanced towards the kitchen, hoping to see the tall and handsome chef Curtis Stone. Sadly, he was not present the evening we dined. He was probably at his new restaurant Gwen, that he opened on Sunset Blvd. with his brother Luke.

Interactive cooking is one of the courses at Maude. Photo by Jill Weinlein
Interactive cooking is one of the courses at Maude. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Maude is feminine and dignified in decor with mirrors on the ceiling and natural colored wood beams. Blues music plays softly for ambiance, and dried flowers hang upside down near the kitchen. The restaurant is named after Stone’s beloved grandmother, as a tribute to introducing him to the love of cooking and food.

The wine sommelier welcomed us and checked us in. Next to our table, the guests were just about to leave. As they stood up, they left the menu on their table. I reached over to take a peek. That is a big no-no at Maude and the sommelier scolded me and took it away. It’s all about the element of surprise.

At times I felt as if we were in an episode of the PBS television special Downton Abbey. When my napkin slid down my leg and almost fell on the floor, one of the servers swiftly approached the table, told me to drop the napkin on the floor and within seconds produced a new napkin. Plates and cutlery are removed with each course and new place settings are presented with each new dish.

Spot shrimp with plums - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Spot shrimp with plums – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Stone must have been inspired in making a variety of plum dishes, became he and his team created twelve, instead of the normal nine courses. I received one extra dessert course, because I was celebrating a birthday. When you make a reservation there is box to check for special occasions.

Every table is a comfortable distance to the open kitchen, where multiple chefs and servers congregate before the choreography and delivery of each course parades into the dining room.

The evening I dined, I learned there are two main categories of edible plum growing on trees. There are European plums and Japanese plums. European plums have been cultivated since ancient times and were introduced to the United States, possibly by the Pilgrims. Most of the plums now grow in California. The Japanese plum originated in China, before coming to North America.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

The sweet-tart fruit grows only during the summer months. Not only does Stone incorporate various plum varietal with each course, he displays this pleasing stone-fruit in the center of the plate with skins ranging in red, purple, green, yellow and amber. Other dishes offer plum as a supporting role to enhance the produce and proteins with jam, foam, sauce and paste.

We declined the wine pairing option and opted to just order one glass of wine each. It was served in an exquisite thin stem glass. Our server Ben was quite a gentleman from the UK with a cute man bun. He explained the wine glasses were from Wally’s Wine and Spirits in Brentwood. They are very thin, delicate and fancy. For those who would like to bring their own favorite wine to pair with the courses, the policy is one bottle per two people with a corkage fee of $50 per bottle.

Throughout the evening, Ben explained each dish when it was presented to our table. I learned about agretti, a verdant Italian succulent with a feathery texture. It looks like a cross between ocean coral and fennel fronds. Stone and his team used agretti in two courses.

Plums were the stars for the August dinner. Photo by Jill Weinlein
Plums were the stars for the August dinner. Photo by Jill Weinlein

I could have done without the first course, an ornate shortbread-style cookie with lardo, also known as melted pork fat, and thinly sliced magenta with a peek of black skin plum and fennel stems sliced into tiny medallions. The wafer was soggy to the bite, due to the plum juice and shiny coating of fat.

I perked up with the cold, bubbly plum gazpacho with cucumber, sorrel and a sprig of slightly sour and salty tasting purslane served in a plastic glass.

Bubbly gazpacho - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Bubbly gazpacho – Photo by Jill Weinlein

I discovered the hazelnut cream drizzled over sliced green plums with sweet yellow skin and bright purple beets was appealing. Especially with anise buds and tiny edible flowers. The herbal hyssop leaves sprinkled on top were an aromatic condiment. The leaves have a lightly bitter taste, yet interesting minty aroma.

Foie gras with roast eel foam on top and plums on the bottom was interesting. It was served in an elegant pudding glass and had green nori slices on top. The risotto course had a whole spot prawn that I had to dissect to get the meat. It was served on a small bed of sliced corn kernels and flavorsome okra.

Some of the courses were served on pure white plates, while others were featured on floral china plates that looked like they came from Maude’s dining cabinet.

The Kampachi course is similar to yellowtail. The sushi grade slices were dotted with little dried black olives, wafer thin sliced yellow plums and tiny basil leaves with dainty white flowers. Another fish course was the red sea bream covered with a warm plum wine foam. Sliced yellow flesh plums were arranged as fish scales and dried artichoke crisps offered an earthy saltiness.

An interactive dish was the Tsukune, known as a Japanese chicken meatballs or sausage cooked yakitori style. A white ceramic small open pot with a heaping of herbs was placed on a cork coaster in front of us.

Plump sausage with herbs - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Plump sausage with herbs – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Next, Ben brought a large white plate with herbs of mint, parsley, cilantro, and chives. In the center was a puddle of plum sauce and sprinkling of white sesame seeds. Under the smoking herbs were two plump chicken sausages. With tongs, Ben removed them and presented one Tsukune on each plate.

Pheasant with lily bulbs - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Pheasant with lily bulbs – Photo by Jill Weinlein

My favorite dish was the perfectly cooked pheasant with crunchy lily bulbs. The game bird offers a rich white meat that is more dense than turkey or chicken. It must have been cooked slowly at a low heat to keep it moist. Lily bulbs scales were scatted around the bird. They are white and skinless with a starchy section that offers a slightly perfumed smell. I enjoyed the delightful crunchy texture and refreshingly sweet taste. This course was also served with steamed and pleated gyoza filled with pheasant in a bowl of light-colored pheasant broth.

The evening culminated with a plate of Humblot fog cheese wrapped in dehydrated plum leather and Marcona almonds.

Next, a chocolate diplomat in a caramelized pastry. Even though the potions are small, after twelve courses, you become satiated with food.

You don't just get one dessert at Maude - Photo by Jill Weinlein
You don’t just get one dessert at Maude – Photo by Jill Weinlein

A plate of two sugar-plum gels, plum caramels and little plum Bon-Bons arrived at the end with the bill and a souvenir menu to take home. The online reservation of dinner, tax and service was charged when I secured my reservation, however guests receive another bill for wine, non-alcoholic beverages and coffee.

Plum bon-bons and caramels - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Plum bon-bons and caramels – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Upon finishing, we were presented with beautiful wrapped cellophane bags with blue ribbon, filled with a plum crumble bar to enjoy on the car ride home of next morning with coffee.

Don’t be surprised to see a celebrity or two. The night we dined actor Peter MacNicol (CSI: Cyber and Ally McBeal) sat with three others at a table across from us.

Will I dine once a month, like my friend Allison? Probably not, however for the month of September, the menu features grapes. Besides plums, grapes are one of my favorite fruits. I wonder if Stone will create something decadent with Cotton Candy grapes? Maybe I should drum up another special occasion.
There is a public parking garage next to the restaurant or valet parking. Go online to http://www.mauderestaurant.com. 212 S Beverly Drive (310)859-3418.

Parts of this article were also published in the Beverly Press on August 18, 2016 – http://beverlypress.com/2016/08/refined-dining-at-maude/

Dine Like a Celebrity at BOA Steakhouse on Sunset

(BOA Steakhouse -photo by Jill Weinlein)
(BOA Steakhouse -photo by Jill Weinlein)

Driving into the parking garage of one of the most prestigious pieces of real estate in West Hollywood, I noticed an impressive array of Bentleys, Ferraris and Teslas lined in a row.

The stunning modern high-rise tower on Sunset Blvd. was the headquarters of renowned architect Charles Luckman. In 2009, architect Stephen Kanner re-clad and re-skinned the exterior giving it modern lines, blue-tinted glass and a light-colored facade. The revocation attracted elite entertainment companies and the Innovative Dining Group (IDG) to open BOA Steakhouse on the street level of the building.

With its elegant decor, professional service and indoor and outdoor patio dining space, BOA Steakhouse has become an ideal power lunch and dinner destination for actors and models visiting Ford Models office, Abrams Artists or Atlas Entertainment and Media Talent Group located in the 14-story building.

In 2010, the private, members-only Soho House took over the two-story penthouse on top of the building, which served as Luckman’s personal residence, before he sold it to the Mani Brothers Real Estate Group.

(Celebrity Rob Reiner with writer)
(Celebrity Rob Reiner with writer)

I’ve dined at BOA Steakhouse for lunch twice and both times I have seen a few familiar faces. Recently, I enjoyed seeing actor, comedian, producer and director Rob Reiner. He stopped at our table and shared with me that he has two movies coming out, with one premiering in May, 2016.

What brings people back to BOA Steakhouse is the talented Executive Chef Jose Melendez. The amiable chef was formerly at Patina Restaurant Group before coming over to IDG. He creates the best chicken chilaquiles in LA. Who knew a steakhouse would make a plate of fresh tortilla chips layered with a green tomatillo salsa, cotija cheese and an egg on top. This egg is cooked to 61 degrees. When our server Corey pierced the egg with a fork, the sunny yellow yolk oozed onto the chips and Chef Jose’s secret lemon crema sauce dotted with a pinch of microgreens. It’s a heavenly combination of smooth and crunchy, mellow and slightly vinegary. The perfect balance and this dish is only available on Mondays during the lunch hour.

(Photo Courtesy of BOA Steakhouse)
(Photo Courtesy of BOA Steakhouse)

I enjoyed these chilaquiles with a group of six friends sitting at a circular booth outside on the patio. After this winning dish, we shared a Wagyu Flat Iron steak with Baby Gem salad. The beef is aged for at least 40 days and brushed with a glistening butter and red wine sauce when grilled. It’s sliced perfectly in a row, framing the Baby Gem lettuce leaves that are crowned with pickled mushrooms, breaded and crispy onions and shallots, and then dressed with a zesty Dijon vinaigrette.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

We also tried a variety of Chef Jose’s new sandwiches on the Spring menu starting with an avocado and Burrata toast. He chars the edges of a sliced baguette, before spreading a thick and creamy white burrata cheese on top. Then he adds toasted hazelnuts, sautés king trumpet mushrooms, and adds a few spicy baby greens with a sprinkle of truffle vinaigrette. It’s served with either a salad, french fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings or fresh fruit.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

A favorite at the table was the layered grilled chicken torta. Chef Jose calls this the “East LA meets Hollywood,” sandwich. He grills a chicken breast and chars panela cheese. It’s one of Chef Jose’s favorite cheese, because when he heats it, the cheese softens, but doesn’t melt. It’s a white and smooth cheese that is similar to Indian paneer, and exquisitely absorbs the flavors of the housemade escabeche vegetables of diced cauliflower, carrots and baby tomatoes. This is not a boring chicken sandwich, especially with the black bean chips layered between the two slices of bread.

An interactive sandwich is the smoked Wagyu Tri-tip that arrived to our table under a glass dome. The General Manager Brad Stewart removed the glass slowly, so we all could see and smell the smoke swirl out and dissipate upwards. That smoky essence continues between two pieces of bread with sliced Brie, roasted red peppers, thinly sliced Wagyu beef and a flavorful black pepper aioli.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The roasted turkey sandwich isn’t dull either, with its sliced turkey enhanced with smoked mozzarella, oven dried tomatoes and pickled chow-chow made with a variety of vegetables in a mustard slaw.

We all enjoyed the BLT with slightly sweet applewood smoked bacon, crisp lettuce, avocado and a pleasing creamy bacon dressing.

Lunch entrée salads include a blackened salmon quinoa salad with smoked artichokes, roasted peppers and lemon vinaigrette. Many of the starter salads on the menu are vegetarian and can have grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp added for protein.

Another popular lunch option is the three course Executive lunch with a starter of a Caesar salad, mixed salad or soup of the day. Entrees include a brick chicken with lemon roasted Weiser farms pee-wee potatoes, charred Spring onions and a dark green, fringed mizuna leaf that is a mild peppery flavor and less spicy than arugula.

(Photo of writer taken at BOA Steakhouse)
(Photo of writer taken at BOA Steakhouse)

For dessert with the Executive lunch, diners receive a generous scoop of ice cream with a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. If it’s your birthday, they will insert a sparkler into the ice cream to make it a festive event.

When the sun sets on Sunset Blvd., BOA Steakhouse offers Happy Hour specials from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday in the sophisticated lounge with comfortable, oversized furniture and in the bar area.

IMG_0697
(BOA Steakhouse -photo by Jill Weinlein)

During the dinner hour the restaurant transforms into a romantic setting serving prime Omaha 40 day dry aged New York Strip and the bone in Rib Eye. They also grill up seafood, chops, and premium American Wagyu with a choice of rubs and house made sauces, including BOA’s own J-1 sauce.

A rolling salad cart is pushed throughout the restaurant for an interactive, custom-made Caesar salad presentation.

Sit back, relax, and scan the room, you never know who will be dining next to at this elegant steakhouse.

Valet parking is available or park in the building. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner service begins daily at 5:30 p.m. $$$ 9200 W Sunset Blvd. (310) 278-2050.

This article was featured in the April 7, 2016 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.  – This article is available on the GPSmyCity app –  https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html

Fritzi DTLA is Fabulous

Right in the middle of the Arts District - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Right in the middle of the Arts District – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Executive Chef Neal Fraser and General Manager Cesar Lopapa are brilliant. They saw an opportunity to feed a slew of millennials drinking craft beer at the Arts District Brewery. They secured the space next door, popped out a wall for the Generation X & Y crowd to walk up to a counter and order elevated burgers, gourmet hot dogs, naked wings or salads to pair with their brews.

Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News readers know Chef Neal Fraser as a local boy who with his wife and business partner, Amy Knoll Fraser, opened the neighborhood café BLD in 2006. Later they secured a space at the Original Farmers Market and opened the gourmet and healthy hot dog shop – Fritzi Dog.

Step up to the counter at Fritzi - photo by Jill Weinlein
Step up to the counter at Fritzi – photo by Jill Weinlein

Fraser got his start as a line cook at Wolfgang Puck’s Eureka Brewery and Restaurant. Realizing that he wanted to open his own restaurant one day, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in New York. After graduating, this talented chef worked for Joachim Splichal at Pinot Bistro downtown, Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and Hans Rockenwagner’s at Rox. When he felt he was ready, Fraser opened his first restaurant, Boxer, in 1995, and later Rix in Santa Monica. With wife Amy they opened BLD, Grace, and next the acclaimed Redbird at Vibiana. He brought in his friend Cesar Lopapa to run it smoothly.

On television Fraser has battled with Iron Chef Cat Cora on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and became the first California chef to win the culinary competition. He also appeared on BravoTV’s Season 5 of “Top Chef Masters” and was victorious on the Esquire Network’s “Knife Fight.”

His newly opened Fritzi Eats is a beautiful symbiosis of a popular beer drinking destination interacting with a dynamic chef’s gastropub menu at reasonable prices. Watch out Umami Burger down the street, there is a new darling in the Arts District serving a burger patty made with a bacon and beef blend topped with fontina fondue, crunchy iceberg lettuce, a touch of Thousand Island dressing and Calabrese relish. It’s beyond good, especially with a pint of the easy to drink Mateo Golden Ale offering notes of fresh baked bread and subtle spices.

Located inside the Arts District Brewery - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Located inside the Arts District Brewery – Photo by Jill Weinlein

The Fritzi Eats window inside the brewery offers some of the same food as the casual sit-down just opened Fritzi LA next door. Using the same kitchen, the menu at Fritzi Eats has a few of Chef Fraser’s gourmet hot dogs that are popular at his Fritzi Dog. There is his one-of-a-kind, whole carrot sous-vide in 26 spices dog topped with a parsley gremolata and crispy Brussels sprouts. He also serves his Snappy O’Brien with smashed tots, grilled peppers, bacon, onions and cheese, and his Four Alarm Fritzi jalapeño chicken dog with jalapeno relish, Sriracha ketchup, and a super spicy mustard.

My Baby Boomer husband and I were envious of these hipsters wearing beards, plaid shirts and jeans, sporting man buns and playing Skee ball and darts throughout the cavernous brewery. We didn’t have a place like this when we were their age. We lived next to Park LaBrea and frequented El Coyote, City, and on special occasions Campanille.

Watching groups of echo boomers sipping beers while popping Fraser’s rock shrimp tempura with winter squash and yuzu kosho aioli in between foosball games, I realized, who cares if we are the oldest in the place, and inserted money into a Skee Ball machine to play a few games, before walking next door to Fritizi LA.

Cesar Lopapa and Jill Weinlein - Photo by Rick Weinlein
Cesar Lopapa and Jill Weinlein – Photo by Rick Weinlein

To my delight, my friend Cesar Lopapa was there and gave me a big hug. I met the handsome Lopapa in 2012 when he opened Short Order and Short Cake in the original Farmers Market. Besides being an expert in opening restaurants and hospitality, Lopapa has become a professional photographer exhibiting his pieces at the Hotel Normandie, L.A. Now he is helping Fraser and 213 Hospitality Group open and run this wood-fire rotisserie restaurant as the General Manager. Ingenious!

I learned he will soon be welcoming his first baby girl into the world. His enthusiasm and positive outlook was contagious and set the mood for our dining experience.
We stood at the front counter and noticed a retro black board with small white letters offering the cocktail menu. I ordered the Nitro Mai Tai made with Martinique rum, Jamaican rum, dry Curacao, fresh lime juice and orgeat. Fritizi staff member Stacey made the Mai Tai to my liking, not too sweet and garnished it with sprigs of mint.

Craft Arts District Beers served at Fritzi - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Craft Arts District Beers served at Fritzi – Photo by Jill Weinlein

We placed our order at the counter with server Alexandra. She gave us a number to place on our high top wood and metal table with matching stools. The ambiance is concrete flooring, high and low tables, white globe lighting and big metal windows looking out on Traction Ave. I wished Lopapa’s photographs graced the walls. They would give this dining room even more pizzazz.

Rotisserie Chicken at Fritzi - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Rotisserie Chicken at Fritzi – Photo by Jill Weinlein

My husband ordered a pint of Bonzai Pale Ale offering a citrusy aroma with hints of grapefruit. It paired nicely with the wood fired rotisserie chicken. Diners get a choice of mostly white or dark meat. The chicken comes with a vegetable of the day, tots, fries or two potato waffles. These potato waffles are another creative idea. They are a blend of hash browns, with an egg and butter mixture that are poured into a waffle iron. They rise like a waffle, and look just like a waffle, yet go better with ketchup, than maple syrup.

A twist on the original Wedge Salad - Photo by Jill Weinlein
A twist on the original Wedge Salad – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Our order of the baby iceberg wedge was different than a traditional wedge with small wedges topped with heirloom cherry tomatoes. Instead of the traditional crumbled bacon, the salad has pieces of moist rotisserie chicken and crispy chicken skin on top. It’s dressed with a pleasing Point Reyes blue cheese dressing. At first the crisp chicken skin looked like potato chips, yet when I bit into one, it was much more flavorful.

The menu has Steak frites with black garlic aioli and a healthier dish of Santa Barbara whitefish. Be sure to try the crispy tater tots that are slightly salty and pure comfort food.

For dessert right now they only have a selection of four ICDC ice cream flavors from restaurateur Amy Knoll Fraser and Pastry Chef Mariah Swan’s artisan ICDC, located near Fraser’s BLD. My husband wished for a bigger dessert menu with slices of pie to go with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.

Tantilizing Tater Tots - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Tantilizing Tater Tots – Photo by Jill Weinlein

After we said goodbye to Cesar and his staff, we explored more of downtown’s Art District. The nearby Angel City Brewery had just one lone food truck parked outside to feed its imbibing guests. Once the word gets out about the creative fare at Fritzi LA and Fritzi Eat, Fraser’s newest endeavor will be one of the most desired brew and casual food destinations in LA. $$ Fritzi is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 814 Traction Ave. (213)537-0327. Fritzi Eats is open Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. 828 Traction Ave. (213)537-0327.

A little bit of Disney Magic at the Bel Air Bar + Grill

 

(Photo by Bel Air Bar + Grill)
(Photo by Bel Air Bar + Grill)

Driving off the 405 freeway onto the Moraga exit, I noticed a striking two-story glass bougainvillea flower window in the front of the Bel Air Bar + Grill. I was invited to a tasting dinner by the owner of the restaurant Susan Disney Lord. She is part of American royalty – the Disney family, and the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney and one of Roy E. and Patricia Disney’s daughters. Her grandfather and great-uncle Walt Disney, co-founded of The Walt Disney Company.

Lord is a true California girl growing up in Toluca Lake, she now lives near the beach and close to her restaurant. Besides owning this restaurant, she is the President of the Roy Disney Family Foundation, participates on the Cal Arts CAP council, and is passionately involved with the Alzheimer’s Association by serving on the Board. She is also a wife, and the mother of five children that include two sets of twins.

Walking up the stairs into the private dining room, Lord was the first person to welcome me. When I remarked about the flowers on glass, she enthusiastically told me about its story.

Lord bought the landmark Bel Air Bar + Grill a few years ago and renovated the building. She commissioned an artist that she has known for about 30 years, Amanda Weil, to make a dazzling first impression of the restaurant.

These two ladies walked a few blocks up on Moraga to gain inspiration from the beauty of this So Cal enclave. They both appreciated the magnificent magenta colors of bougainvilleas growing freely. After taking a few clippings, Weil went to work.
At night, the nearby Chevron gas station’s bright lights, backlight the exquisite flowers on glass creating a visually beautiful moment as you walk in the door.

I told Lord that Weil’s piece is the new Georgia O’Keefe of art on glass. It’s spectacular.

Since Walt Disney founded and created Cal Arts with Lord’s grandfather Roy O. Disney, up in Valencia in the early 1960s, Lord has always had an affinity to the school known as “The Caltech of the Arts.”

Disney staffed the school with an array of his talented artists. Most of Disney’s movies including Frozen, Tarzan, Pocahontas were all made by many Cal Arts students.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Lord displays Cal Art students artwork on the walls throughout the restaurant. They rotate a few times a year or when a piece is sold, with all the money given to the student.

Standing together, Lord and I remarked about Zach Eins piece over the bar and multiple pieces upstairs. This talented artist uses a blow torch to burn images of human eyes and faces on wood. They are exquisite.

After construction took about one year, Lord hosted a “I survived the 405” party and everyone in the neighborhood came to have dinner, drinks and bond.

(Executive Chef Chris Emerling and owner Susan Disney Lord - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Executive Chef Chris Emerling and owner Susan Disney Lord – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

New to the restaurant is Executive chef Chris Emerling. Born in Springville NY, Emerling told me that he didn’t dream of being a chef as a young boy, “I wanted to be a snowplow driver, because it looked so cool.” However, as he graduated high-school, he enrolled in the Pittsburgh Culinary School and soon worked in mostly private clubs and high-end French restaurants including a kitchen in Lussaine, Switzerland.

He’s a kind chef, with a beautiful smile, and a perfect fit to work at Lord’s restaurant, because he seems to add a little “pixie dust” to each dish.

Trays of his fish and braised short rib tacos were passed around the room. These weren’t your everyday tacos, the fish was cold house-cured salmon with a crunchy jicama ginger slaw and the short rib tacos were accentuated with a carrot poblano salsa, chipotle and avocado.

(photo by Jill Weinlein)
(photo by Jill Weinlein)

As we sat at a long, elegantly decorated dining room table upstairs, I felt as if I was in a scene of Disney’s “Be Our Guest” in Beauty and the Beast. Multiple servers paraded into the room with long white plates in their hands. Each plate offered three individual appetizers that included a burnt orange colored, pureed, and chilled gazpacho with dill weed. The pixie dust Chef Emerling infused was avocado dots. Next to this amuse bouché was a four-minute poached egg that had a delicious tapenade made with a classic tomato, oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Last was a luscious burrata topped with Emerling’s housemade duck prosciutto, herb poached mushrooms and sprigs of arugula.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Our next course was a colorful salad sampler trio, including the restaurant’s classic chopped salad that first appeared on the menu back in 1997. SInce it’s a Bel Air community favorite, Lord and Emerling kept it on the menu, and just heightened it with carrots, corn, garbanzos, Parmigiano-Reggiano and a sprinkling of honey balsamic on top. It was a real crowd pleaser the night I dined.

Another favorite was the Waldorf “Escoffier” salad. Don’t visualize a chunky mayonnaise salad, this one is pure elegance. In the 1930s, Auguste Escoffier was one of the world’s greatest chefs. A group of men in the Jantzen suite at the Hotel Waldorf-Astoria formed an epicurean organization who gathered at the Waldorf regularly and called themselves, “The Friends of Escoffier.”

Emerling’s Waldorf salad is not flat, but rises above the plate. Instead of chunky apples, his apples are sliced long and thin to peek out. Instead of celery, Emerling chops celeriac which is the bulb that grows from the stalks. Celeriac is the heart and soul of celery, offering a delicate and vibrant flavor to this fine dining dish. California walnuts are sprinkled around and then glistened with a delicate and vibrant 3880 French Escoffier secret sauce that only Emerling knows how to make so well.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Seafood dishes include grilled salmon that is half cooked and boosted with lemon, lovage – a herb that a few chefs are foraging in the local foothills, and dash of cream. It’s served with a potato and fennel sauté.
The scallops were served with four root vegetables that included carrots, kohlrabi, onion and celery. The roots change based on what chef selects at the markets. He makes a divine pickled pineapple to complement the scallops and drizzles an orange citrus emulsion before dusting it with a cilantro and red pepper luster. Emerling also creates this same sauce for the Market fish of the day.

Meaty entrees include a pan roasted juicy chicken with preserved cranberries and a delightful rosemary hash with chicken gastrique. His tender, slow braised pork cheeks were served with sweet potato gnocchi and peas, while his red wine braised short ribs are cooked for hours and served with roasted rainbow carrots, garlic mashed potatoes with charred poblano chilies to intensify the flavors.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

For dessert you must order the lemon tart with an Italian meringue. I didn’t care for the coconut infused chia pudding, however I know chia is the new ingredient to upgrade desserts. Expect to see more chia seed dishes on menus across Los Angeles, because they are high in fiber, high in omega-3’s, and plump up in liquid giving diners a satisfying fullness.

At the end of the feast, I walked back to my car, and noticed just behind the restaurant, a little cafe named The Shack. Owned by Lord, it’s a great alternative for to-go food from the same fine dining kitchen inside the Bel Air Bar + Grill. The Shack opens Monday through Friday for breakfast, snacks, soups, salads, sandwiches, coffee, smoothies and shakes from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Great-Uncle Walt and Grandfather Roy must be smiling with pride at Susan Disney Lord. Her winning culinary destination is an ideal spot to meet family and friends who live in the San Fernando Valley, or to go to before or after a UCLA basketball or after exploring the Getty Center.

The Bel Air Bar and Grill is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy Hour is available the same days from 4 to 6 p.m. Brunch is on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner is served nightly at 5 p.m. $$- $$$ 662 N. Sepulveda Boulevard. (310)440-5544.

TOP CHEF – Chris Crary Signature Sailing

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

Celebrity Cruises and Bravo Media are offering “Top Chef” fans and food lovers the opportunity to meet a new lineup of cheftestants on the Celebrity Reflection® sailing November 14, 2015.

The exclusive “Top Chef Signature Sailing” cruises to the Eastern Caribbean from Miami, Florida. Guests get an up-close-and-personal culinary experience with six former “Top Chef” competitors, including Los Angeles’ Chris Crary, the Executive Chef of Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails.

Other chefs include Nina Compton a Top Chef New Orleans runner-up; Tiffany Derry a Top Chef D.C. and Top Chef All-Stars contestant; Ash Fulk from Top Chef Las Vegas; Gregory Gourdet a Top Chef Boston runner-up; and Doug Adams, a Top Chef Boston finalist.

Passengers can choose from an array of exclusive chef-hosted shore excursions, as well as, new watch duel-style cooking demonstrations, where cheftestants battle each other while answering fans’ questions. The audience gets to choose the winning dish.

solstice_class_thumbFoodies on the cruise can enjoy exclusive and intimate experiences with the chefs by booking private cooking classes and private dinners to improve their skills and get advice on preparing sumptuous dishes at home.
Celebrity will continue to offer interactive Quickfire Challenges and “Top Chef”-inspired menu evenings on its modern luxury vacations onboard nine ships, for all sailings departing through June 2016.

The Quickfire Challenges put guests in the spotlight to get a taste of the pressure the cheftestants experience on the show. Plus, guests can indulge in a selection of the dishes the judges raved about on the series at “Top Chef Night” in the main restaurant.

The Celebrity Reflection® is a newer ship with an expanded deck, additional staterooms, more seating in the main and specialty restaurants, more sun lounge chairs on the pool deck, and more seats in the theatre. There is the new Lawn Club Grill celebrating outdoor grilling and The Alcoves offering cabana-style relaxation. Passengers can take a painting class with a Master Artist from the ArtCenter South Florida in The Art Studio, before or after a spa experience in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub®.

Bravo’s Emmy® and James Beard Award-winning “Top Chef” will return for season 13 this fall. For more details about Top Chef at Sea, visit celebritycruises.com/topchef.

For more information about Celebrity Cruises call (800)437-3111 or your travel professional.

HYDE Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

A free-form mural at the entrance welcomes patrons to Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails. Talented visual artist and designer Gregory Siff was commissioned to paint the edgy abstract of Sunset Boulevard. He wrote quotes from people he overheard while working in the restaurant, including hundreds of poignant and whimsical questions, statements and requests. The motif continues in the dining room.

I met a group of friends at a table near the mural to sample “Top Chef” Season 9 fan favorite Chris Crary’s new summer menu.

We snacked on spiced fried chickpeas and enjoyed Kentucky Mules made with Makers Mark bourbon, lime juice, spicy ginger syrup, Angostura bitters and seltzer water. My friend raved about the Red Dragon cocktail with Bacardi Dragon Berry, freshly pressed lime juice, muddled strawberries and a pinch of fresh mint. I really enjoyed the Hornet’s Ankles cocktail made with Avion Blanco tequila, lime juice and house-blended clover honey syrup. It’s a twist on the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail. As we enjoyed the drinks, we toured the restaurant and lounge.

A huge basement is located under the bar. A metal floor near the bar can be pulled up, revealing a stairway leading to two walk-in refrigerators, a dry pantry and wine cellar. When the building formerly housed the Coconut Teaszer nightclub in the 1980s, the area had a winding staircase and was called The Crooked Bar.

Hyde started down the street as a beloved celebrity club/lounge popular during the late hours. It was a small, intimate and private setting where Lindsay Lohan, Brittney Spears and Nicky Hilton entertained friends.
When Michael Mena XIV closed its doors, Hyde moved to the site at the corner of Sunset and Laurel Canyon boulevards, and hired executive chef Chris Crary to head the kitchen.

The interior was design by Waldo Fernandez and art collector Guy Hepner. Huge photos are displayed of Elton John playing piano to a sold out stadium crowd, and David Bowie sitting in a chair with a joyful large dog standing on its back legs. Two cozy fireplace areas are ideal for intimate gatherings.

Crary knew he wanted to be a chef at the age of 12 while helping his grandmother in the kitchen and eating her Southern food. When the restaurant space was being renovated before Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails opened, Crary asked the contractors if he could keep the old wood flooring. He sanded, stained and glued pieces together to make serving pieces for his creative fare.

Crary was formerly with The Viceroy and Ocean 41 before coming to Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails on the Sunset Strip. He was cast on Bravo’s “Top Chef”. How could they not select him? Not only is he an incredibly talented chef, he is extremely handsome. While on “Top Chef” Season 9 in Texas, he made it to the group of Top 16 chefs, and was voted fan favorite.

The Hyde is known for its nightclub environment, and now with Crary, it is becoming a foodie dining destination. We started with a colorful plate of peaches and burrata with curled prosciutto. The sweet grilled farmer’s peaches were topped with verdant pesto, toasted pine nuts and thin slices of pretzel bread.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

“Mostly everything is made in-house, except the burrata,” Crary said. “The burrata is from Italy. We bake the brioche and breads.”

Crary’s street tacos, priced at $3 on Tuesdays, are delicious. He makes four varieties each week. For the carnitas tacos, Crary uses pork butt roasted slowly at 250 degrees for more than nine hours. His halibut tacos are topped with a delicious lime slaw, and his carne asada is spiked with zesty creme fraiche.

I also enjoyed the seared ahi tuna with radish, heirloom tomato, avocado puree, basil and compressed watermelon. Crary places watermelon cubes in a bag with soy and sriracha sauces and honey. He vacuum seals the bag to infuse the flavors before serving the bright red watermelon with the ahi. Another seafood inspired dish is fried calamari with sundried tomatoes, pepperoncini, parsley, citrus and wholegrain mustard.

Entrées include a sliced 14-ounce bone-in rib-eye steak with crispy smashed fingerling potatoes and brick colored walnut romesco sauce for dipping. Locally-caught black cod is served with miso cauliflower, kumquat puree and crispy puffed rice.

My favorite dish was Crary’s simple and pure chicken Bolognese with melted parmesan cheese. It had less fat than mac-and-cheese, yet was so comforting.

Side dishes include corn crowdie with pistachio, chile, buttermilk, diced jalepeños and herbs decorated with chile limon popcorn. Another side dish offered is Brussels sprouts marinated in sherry and honey before being flashed fried and drizzled with almonds and dates.

Guests must try the cinnamon spiced milk with Crary’s brown butter chocolate chip cookies and a demitasse of espresso. Crary loves to prepare deconstructed desserts that include s’mores with a large brownie cake smothered with fudge sauce. He tops it with crushed graham crackers, marshmallows and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. His deconstructed lemon tart features meringue peaks, lemon curd and a sprinkling of crumbled pie tart crust.

Could this be the quintessential Los Angeles restaurant attached to one of the hottest nightclubs? Only time will tell, but with Crary at the helm, chances are pretty darn good.

Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails serves brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner begins at 7 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday; 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

Every other Tuesday, a comedy show is held at 8 p.m. with five comedians and a host. A $20 standing room entrance fee includes admission and one beverage. A $30 three-course prix fixe menu is also available. 8117 Sunset Blvd. (323)940-1650.

This article was published in the August 20, 2015 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News. This review is GPSmyCity – https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html

Barton G – Where Art and Food Collide

IMG_5337The truly one-of-a-kind, theatrically over-the-top dining experience at Barton G is nothing short of amazing. As servers bring enchantingly artistic culinary presentations from the kitchen to the table, the dining room fills with oohs and ahs. Every diner enjoys a glamorous and unique evening of avant-garde dishes complete with vaporizing cocktails.

If three-foot-tall desserts and outlandish presentations are not your cup of tea, perhaps Barton G might not be for you. These dishes demand attention.

The elegant décor is embellished with white textured felt walls and wood square paneling made from recycled wine barrels. Rows of single orchid flowers in small clear vases adorn the walls and taupe colored drapes are elegantly drawn back. Raised silver plated placemats embossed with the signature “B” invite diners to be seated.

Who is Barton G? The man behind the moniker is concept designer, restaurateur, author, and hotelier, Barton G. Weiss. He stages the most extravagant weddings, sports, entertainment and fashion events with an element of surprise and elegance. He also has been a guest judge on the popular television show “Top Chef”. Barton and executive chef Jeffrey O’Neill at The Villa by Barton G, housed in Versace’s former Ocean Drive mansion, wow guests in Miami and now they impress diners in Los Angeles.

The whimsical marble bar near the front of the dining room is a hub for servers gathering smoking martinis with namesDSC_0451 like Diamonds are Forever and Buddahlicious. These signature cocktails come from Barton G’s Below Zero Nitro-Bar and are crafted with liquid nitrogen—adding both a refreshing chill and high drama.

Friends ordered one of each and applauded when the cocktails arrived. Diamonds are Forever is made with citrus vodka, triple sec and lemonade. It’s served with a vodka Popsicle and sugar stick to stir into the vaporing cocktail creating a sweeter and more potent libation. There is a sparkling votive candleholder on the mirrored cocktail tray to hold your Popsicle stick after the vodka dissolves.

In the Buddahlicious drink, pear infused vodka is mixed with lychee and cranberry juice and served with a nitrogen Popsicle of pear vodka and a small golden Buddha. Rub his tummy for good fortune. I ordered the signature Sabrinatini martini served with a nitro-champagne swizzle stick and a solid chocolate monkey hanging down the side of the glass.

Sipping our drinks, we commented on every extravagant dish that left Chef de Cuisine Attila Bollok’s kitchen, especially the more whimsical plates with gigantic fishing lures standing upright and three-foot-tall silver forks.

Dining at Barton G is elegant dinner theater with the culinary creations as the starring act, thrilling your senses with both their jaw-dropping presentations and their heavenly aromas and flavors.

By 7:30 p.m. the restaurant was full of families celebrating a birthday, couples on dates to impress, and groups snapping photos to post on Instagram. These dishes are guaranteed to get many “likes” on your social media DSC_0453accounts because no other restaurant in Los Angeles offers artful cuisine on such a grand scale.

For example, the caviar cannoli appetizer is presented in a giant silver Humpty Dumpty serving piece filled with ice. Remove the top and find a plate of small rolled cannoli shells filled with black caviar and decorated with edible flowers. “It’s all about having fun and letting go,” Chef Attila said.

The fresh line-caught halibut ceviche is served in a clear glass and placed into a leopard print stiletto heel. This cold appetizer is mixed with a dollop of mango sorbet and small laughing bird shrimp. These crustaceans are sweet and raised without antibiotics or hormones. Chef Attila marinates the shrimp and halibut in leche de tigre (a citrus-based infusion) for an hour, then drains the liquid and pours it into a shot glass to serve with the ceviche in the shoe. Guests are to drink the shot before scooping the avocado mousse, mango sorbet and ceviche with a plantain chip.

Chef Attila also fries laughing bird shrimp and presents them in a large carnival-style popcorn machine with Old Bay spiced popcorn. Guests can dip the crispy treats into a Sriracha aioli or sweet chile sesame dipping sauce. It’s a fun, unusual appetizer to share with others.

The chopped sunflower salad, served in a large wooden bowl, includes arugula, sunflower petals, purple cherries and sunchokes dressed in a slightly sweet stone-fruit vinaigrette.DSC_0456

The soy marinated and coal roasted foie gras balances hot and cold temperatures and varying textures. The tender and rich foie gras is served with warm, smoked, seedless grapes and cold scorched honey and pistachio gelato and accompanied by black sourdough “charcoal” bread sticks. After a three-year ban on foie gras, O’Neill and Chef Attila wanted to hype up the classic dish with the deeply smoky bread and fruit to raise the flavor profiles. They succeeded.

Porcini pizzeola, a delightful, umami-forward vegan dish, is served with a potted green plant and a side of eggplant puree and chickpea croquettes.

Barton G’s quirky creativity shines with the lobster pop tarts, which are brought to the table in a retro-toaster resting in the two-slice heating frames. These pop-tarts, however, are made with crispy phyllo pastry, Pernod mornay sauce, and fresh Maine lobster.

Lobster lovers will also adore the creamy lobster trap truffle-mac n’ cheese made with a generous portion of large pieces of perfectly cooked lobster and mixed with a smooth and exquisite three cheese lobster sauce.

Our server, Hristina, was very professional and friendly, explaining the ingredients in each dish. When I looked with intrigue at a smoking treasure box at a nearby table, Hristina told me it was filled with chocolate. The treasures included a Valrhona 66 percent double chocolate bittersweet brownie with house-made Tahitian vanilla bean nitro ice cream, rich chocolate ganache and gold dusted chocolate spoons.

As the dessert service continued, I was in awe over Barton G’s “Let Them Eat Cake” tribute. A silver Marie AntoinetteDSC_0475 bust was placed before me with an elaborate hairdo of pink cotton candy piled over two feet tall and styled like a wig. Several delightful petite cakes surround the dish.

I marveled at the baked Alaskan Everglades dessert with a large croaking neon eyed frog and a huge piece of seven-layer red velvet ice cream cake, wrapped in toasted meringue and topped with a full size candy apple to represent the ‘cherry’ on top.

My jaw dropped one last time when a three-foot tall whimsical bird arrived on a platter with four different double chocolate sponge cake bombs. The dessert, “Crazy Bird Gets The Worm” offers cakes of butter toffee, chocolate mint cream, banana praline, and a peanut butter powder with crackling snickers inside.

When it comes to innovative cuisine and over-the-top glamour in Los Angeles, it doesn’t get better than Barton G.

$$$ Open Sunday through Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday the restaurant is open until 11 p.m. 61 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310)388-1888.

This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on July 9, 2015. It is also published in GPSmyCity – https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html

Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in Los Angeles for 2014

We have enjoyed some wonderful meals at restaurants throughout Los Angeles. As devoted foodies, our team IMG_0980selected a repertoire of new and old dining establishments that provide creative fare, that is beautifully presented by attentive service, in an inviting atmosphere. Here is our list of honorees from some unique dining venues:

#10 Sonoma Wine Garden – Executive Chef Garee Battad, Sous Chef Jefferson Reyes

Located up on the third-floor dining deck of Santa Monica Place, the atmosphere offers the quintessential sunset viewing spot to have a glass of wine with a farmers market fruit and cheese board. The creative cocktails by the talented mixologist Rob Floyd go nicely with Reyes’ lamb meatballs served over linguine. Open for lunch, weekend brunch and dinner nightly. 395 Santa Monica Place, Ste. #350. (424)214-4560.

IMG_1459

#9 Open Sesame – Ali Kobeissi

This full-service, casual restaurant serves some of the best Lebanese cuisine in Los Angeles. Our favorite dishes include the grilled halloumi cheese with sliced watermelon, skewers of lean beef and lamb, smokey garlic baba ganoush and the fried cauliflower pita sandwich. Kobeissi has another Open Sesame in Long Beach and is passionate about using the best products for his classic dishes with a contemporary twist. Open daily at 11 a.m. 7458 Beverly Blvd. (323)525-1698.

#8 Crossroads – Founder and Chef Tal Ronnen, Executive Chef Scot  DSC_0096Jones

The elegant supper club serves vegan and vegetarian dishes that will convert almost every carnivore in town into eating healthier. Ronnen makes his buttery cheeses with almond and macadamia milk. Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and actor James Caan are all huge fans and dine here often. Make reservations for their Sunday Brunch to try their Bloody Mary rolling cart, Crossroads Benedict and fried “chicken” with waffles. There is a full bar and wine and beer list. Open for lunch during the week starting at 11:30 a.m. Dinner is served daily at 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday Brunch begins at 10 a.m. 8284 Melrose Ave. (323)782-9245.

#7 smoke.oil.salt – Executive Chef Perfecto Rocher

The scent of the wood burning oven lures foodies into this Spanish tapas and wine establishment. So does Perfecto’s multi-course paella dinners on Sundays for $49 per IMG_8645person. Partner Stephen Gelber offers some rare Spanish wines for guests poured by the glass using the Coravin system. Order the black skillet filet with a light artichoke omelet topped with a mosaic of sliced pickled fennel, celery, mint and cauliflower. Another must-try is the butcher’s filet of lean Iberico pork wood-fire grilled to seal in the succulent flavors. Dinner is served Tuesdays through Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to midnight. The Wine Bar menu is served until 2 a.m. 7274 Melrose Ave. (323)930-7900.

#6 DOMA – Executive Chef Dustin J. Tranibabt-beets-Doma

Visually stunning dishes come out of Trani’s kitchen, from grilled octopus to braised veal with crispy polenta. His special handcut pasta dish is coated with garlic, tomatoes, Dungeness crab butter and Parmesan cheese. Etheral light pasta pillows are dusted with truffle sauce. The restaurant offers pre-theater dinners for guests seeing a show at the nearby Wallace Annenberg Center of Performing Arts. The four-course meal is $38 per person. Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday for dinner at 5 p.m. 362 N. Camden Drive (310)277-7346.

#5 Plan Check – Executive Chef Ernesto Uchimura

DSC_0293This is a fun gastropub with three locations in Los Angeles serving savory burgers, innovative cocktails and comfort food. Uchimura incorporates an Asian flair to his pastrami sandwich with Kimchi mustard spread on to layers of double smoked pastrami, Swiss cheese and a sunny fried egg on top. The Plan Check burger has Americanized Dashi cheese with Uchimura’s famous ketchup leather, and schmaltz onions on a crunchy bun. Diners love the short rib pot roast, French fries cooked in beef tallow and sprinkled with smoked salt. Try the cruller donuts filled with cream and fruit. They offer a variety of draft beer, wine and Japanese whiskey. Open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to closing at 351 N. Fairfax Ave. (323)591-0094 and 1800 Sawtelle Blvd. (310)444-1411. Opens at 11 a.m. at 1111 Wilshire Blvd. (213)401-1616.

#4 Perch – Executive Chef Gerardo Benitez IMG_0326

After taking two elevators up to the 15th floor before arriving on the rooftop of a historic art-deco building in downtown Los Angeles, guests are treated to spectacular 360-degree view of Los Angeles while sitting at tables on the outside patio or near a blazing fireplace. Twinkling lights provide a festive ambiance. Chef Benitez prepares cuisine with French flair, like boeuf Bordelaise, steak with frites, Bouillabaisse, scallops, ravioli of rabbit and delightful fromage and charcuterie plates. Bring out of town guests here at sunset to show off our magnificent city. Open Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. for Happy Hour and at 5 p.m. dinner is served. On weekends, Perch opens at 11 a.m. for brunch and later dinner service. Live music and lively bar scene keeps this place open until 2 a.m. during the weekend. 448 S. Hill St. (213)802-1770.

Connie.Teds_.Lobster#3 Connie and Ted’s – Executive Chef Sam Baxter

Named after the award-winning Michael Cimarusti’s (Chef and partner) grandparents, this classic crab shack in West Hollywood offers some of the freshest seafood in town. Looking for oysters on the half-shell? A platter filled with Kumamoto from Washington, Matunuck from Rhode Island and Beau Soliel from New Brunswick are available. So are peeky toe crab cakes, and soft shell clam steamers bathed in butter and clam broth. Their lobster roll can be ordered hot or cold. Enjoy this fare with bottled or draft craft beer or with a glass of wine from California, Washington, Oregon or France. Spiny sea urchin can be spread on toast, and their Hook burger is better than most. Open for dinner only on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturdays Connie and Ted’s is open for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday it’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 8171 Santa Monica Blvd. (323)848-2722.

#2 Whisper Restaurant and Lounge – Executive Chef Anthony Jacquet

Located at The Grove is Rick Caruso’s romantic restaurant that offers an engaging American menu with an international twist by Chef Anthony Jacquet. Last summer, Jacquet was selected amongWhisper-Lounge.-Tuna-Tartareover 30 talented chefs across the U.S. by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau to participate in an immersive culinary journey throughout Taiwan. He was one of three esteemed chefs selected. To celebrate his arrival back to Whisper Restaurant and Lounge, Jacquet is offering a new dish from Jan. 5 to Feb. 5, 2015 – a Taiwanese influenced Berkshire pork belly bun with housemade Hoisin sauce, pickled Fresno peppers, five-spice candied peanuts and a sunny fried quail egg. Other winter fare includes his slow-cooked short rib pot roast, Australian lamb burger, and whole grilled sea bass. Tuesdays they serve a Maine lobster roll on a brioche. Happy Hour is everyday from 3 to 6 p.m. Open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. 189 The Grove Drive, Suite F-90B (323)931-0202.

#1 Scratch Bar – Executive Chef Phillip Frankland Lee

Sitting at the bar and having an 11-course tasting meal prepared right before your eyes by a talented chef is a memorable experience. The 11-course menu at Scratch Bar is filled with innovative Cheff-Lee-Margartiasmall plates including “oyster, mussel, egg, belly, smelt, head, prawn, escolar, duck, chocolate and vanilla,” as the menu reads. Some of our other favorite dishes include a shooter of sake-enhanced green mussel and avocado mousse with a sea urchin. Another favorite is the bone marrow roasted in a hollowed out sourdough bread with pickled red onions and shimeji mushrooms. Desserts are prepared by Chef Lee’s beautiful wife Margarita. Open nightly at 5 p.m. 111 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310)289-8010. This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers on January 1, 2015.

Red Med at Formosa Cafe

IMG_6584The legendary Formosa Café has been in Vincent Jung’s family for three generations. Originally opening in 1925 in a red trolley car that once rolled down Santa Monica Blvd. It became the Formosa Café when Jung’s grandfather Lem Quom, partnered with the owner in 1945, and later took full ownership in the 1970s.

Recently, Vincent collaborated with Adam Fleischman of Umami Burger and Red Medicine, and his AdVantage Restaurant Partners – Executive Chef Jordan Kahn and Noah Ellis to revamp the venue’s dining menu and rename the iconic spot Red Med at Formosa Café.

Inspired by Beverly Hill’s Red Medicine’s Vietnamese-themed menu and bar bites, Red Med at Formosa Café features some of the most popular dishes, including dumplings, spring rolls, bahn-mi, brisket and whole fish to share.

My eyes had to adjust quickly as I walked into the dark restaurant to meet a group of foodies. We frequently used our iPhone flashlights to read the menu and snap photos.

I was pleased to notice that all of the aesthetic elements of the Formosa Café are the same. The walls are still lined with over 250 black and white headshots of some of the IMG_6576most famous actors in the world. There is still a display case showcasing a collection of Elvis Presley decanters and statues above his old booth.

 

One of the head bartenders, Billy Ray arrived at our table with some of the classic cocktails that have been added to the cocktail menu. Bartender Matthew Boddie created a ginger daiquiri a la Central, pisco apricot Tropicale and the Singapore Sling for us to enjoy.

Billy Ray shared with us that in its heyday, Hollywood romances were known to have blossomed in the low lighting and cozy booths over cocktails. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, and Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner were frequent guests at Formosa Cafe.

IMG_6535Since the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio were next door, actors used to saunter into the waterhole and stay until the wee hours, prompting Pickford to go to the city to help create the “last call by 2 a.m.” city ordinance for bars in Los Angeles.

Gangster Mickey Cohen ruled the underground of liquor, women and cash at Formosa Café. His safe was built into the flooring between the two front booths to the left of the front door.

Unable to make it home one night, The Duke – John Wayne slept in the largest booth to the right of the front door. When Vincent’s dad unlocked the Formosa at 7 a.m. the next morning, Wayne was in the kitchen preparing eggs.

The talented Chef Mark Tagnipez is now in charge of Red Med at Formosa Café’s kitchen. Tagnipez had a good run at XIV and Red Medicine. His new menu is the first of many planned celebrations to mark Formosa Café’s 75th anniversary.

Some of Tagnipez dishes arrive with a lackluster presentation, yet once we took a fork to unwrap the layers beneath; we discovered spectacular treasures of wonderful flavors hidden beneath.

The entirely green Rock shrimp dish arrived in a bowl with layers of avocado. As I dug down, I exposed slippery, raw shrimp bathing in a green aguachile with ginger. This dish had a punch of heat after the first bite and was served with prawn rice crackers to scoop up the mixture of goodness.IMG_6551

When we spooned the marinated eggplant onto our plates, it didn’t look like much, yet the vivid flavors of garlic, sesame, and celery almost vibrated in my palate.

I enjoyed the ethereal Shanghai rice cakes that tasted like little chewy dough pillows dusted with bacon, shishito and Thai basil.

The chicken wings are a Red Medicine recipe rolled in flavorful crumbs, fish sauce lime and Thai chile, that spices the wings with aromatic flavors.

The crispy spring rolls are deep-fried and stuffed with a healthy dose of crab and Asian herbs.

Everyone at the table enjoyed the oyster mushrooms with crisp haricot vert beans, and a French chili pepper from Espelette mixed in with the oyster sauce.

Large parities may want to go straight to The Group Effort column on the menu for plates of tender Wagyu Beef Brisker braised in a secret plum sauce for 36 hours or a IMG_6561deep-fried whole black bass that arrives whole. The server filets it to reveal light-colored and moist fish with a crispy crust. These dishes easily feed three to four guests.

Before leaving, Billy Ray shared one more story. In the 1990s, the restaurant was threatened with demolition when its lease expired. Bono from U2, a frequent guest, was one of the citizens who spearhead a preservationists effort to keep the Formosa a landmark at its original location. Bono has been coming into the Formosa for years, because he enjoyed a waitress from Ireland named Cassie. She passed away a few years ago and bartenders continue to make a specialty cocktail, To Cassie With Love, in her honor.

The Formosa Café is open for dinner at 4 p.m. until the 2 a.m. “last call.”   Parking is available in the West Hollywood Gateway parking garage. $$ 7156 Santa Monica Blvd. (323)850-9050.

**This article was published in the February 6 edition of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.