900 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 9/24/11
There were only a few places on my dad’s list of places to try while in LA. Scarpetta’s brunch was one, Bouchon Bakery another, and WP24. I’ve been once before and was pleasantly surprised. It was more authentic than I imagined it to be and the food was pretty tasty. But, I’ve struggled with the cost a little bit. The tasting menu, at $130, is at the high end of most restaurants in LA. Plus, it was way too much food for one meal.
This time, we opted for the a la carte menu. Three courses are $80 while a fourth will bring the total to $120. Cheaper, and apparently still a lot of food.
It’s easy to want to compare WP24 to some of the San Gabriel Valley’s finest, but I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. The experience is totally different. For starters, it’s in the Ritz Carlton with a really nice view of downtown LA. The decor, level of service, and quality of ingredients are on an entirely different level. I think the most legitimate peer group is to compare WP24 to other fine dining restaurants, whether it be Asian or not.
Sweet Basil Pinarita Patron Silver, Pineapple, Thai Basil
I’ve been on a thai basil kick lately, so I had to try this cocktail. The alcohol of the tequila definitely hit up front, but I think the sweetness of the pineapple and aroma of the thai basil helped to balance this out.
While we were still debating what to order from the extensive menu, we received a couple of amuse bouche. I found them both to be promising, but just lacking in something.
Shrimp Toast with Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce
I thought the shrimp filling was very tasty, but found the exterior toast to be overly browned/crisped, having a a much crispier texture that I would’ve liked.
Curried Seafood Turnovers
The second dish out of the kitchen were these turnovers. Again, good flavors with a subtle curry, but it was slightly dry.
We opted to each order an appetizer, with my mom going with the 3-course and my dad and I sharing the Peking Duck for a fourth course.
Crispy Suckling Pig Black Plum Purée, Sweet Bean, Chinese 10 Spice
I really liked these the last time I had them, but didn’t find the pork to be quite as flavorful this time (it was leaner this time too). It was still pretty good though, with a perfectly crisped skin.
Steamed Diver Scallop and Shrimp Sui Mai Dumplings Ginger-Garlic Crab Sauce, Fresh Chives
I liked the sweet, plump chunks of scallops and shrimp in these dumplings. I really enjoyed the flavors here, especially with the subtle ginger and garlic in the sauce. Very simple, but tasty.
Crisp Lettuce Cups Maine Sweet Shrimp, Rice Sticks, Pickled Ginger-Serrano Chili Vinaigrette
The flavors were pretty clean here; I could taste the sweet shrimp, cilantro, and slight heat of the chili in that vinaigrette. The lettuce was, indeed, crisp, adding a welcome subtle texture to this dish.
Whole Sea Bass Baked in a Fragrant Salt Crust Zhenjiang Black Vinegar, Ginger, Shallots, Scallions, Mala Flavored Oil
The fish was first presented in its salt crust, then taken back to remove from the salt and plate. I thought the fish was pretty good..it wasn’t overly moist but wasn’t dry either. However, I thought it a little difficult to find the tiny bones in the fish especially when it was so dark in the restaurant. At this price level, I expected to have the bones removed.
“Szechuan Style” Steak Au Poivre Prime Filet of Beef 10oz., Smoked Chili-Shallot Sauce, Scallions, “La You” Hot Oil
A solid piece of steak, very tender and cooked well. The sauce added some depth of flavor with a very mild heat. Nothing too exciting, but done well.
Grilled Lamb Chops Marinated with Korean Gochu Jang Chili Pickled Ginger Sauce, Crispy Garlic, Wild Arugula Salad
Similar to the filet, the lamb was cooked a nice medium-rare. The arugula was a nice touch (always like it with red meat), adding a fresh, bittery flavor to go along with the ginger-based sauce.
We also ordered a couple of sides to go along with the entrees.
Shanghai Noodles Fresh Chilies, Thai Basil Leaves, Slow Cooked Oxtail
I really liked this one. A noodle dish with oxtail and thai basil? Money. The oxtail was rich and tender, while the thai basil brought a really nice aromatic essence to the dish.
XO Fried Rice Maine Lobster, Fried Shallots, Budding Chives
A good fried rice, for sure, but I was looking for something more at $18 a bowl. I thought the small pieces of lobster were overcooked, too.
Whole Roasted Duckling “Peking Style” with Traditional Garnishes (For Two)
My dad and I shared one additional entree. A whole duck was presented then cut, served with all the traditional accoutrements including the buns, cucumber, scallions, radish and hoisin sauce. It was seriously a feast that the table could barely contain, and the duck was done really well. Good flavor with a really nice, crispy skin.
While we were pretty full by now, the a la carte menu included dessert – five of them were available to choose from. Apparently, WP24 is in a transitional phase in their pastry department, with Cassie Ballard taking over the reigns from Sally Camacho. We tried a little bit of the old, and a little bit of the new.
Marjolasian Layers of Dark Chocolate, White Espresso Mousse, Cashew Nougatine, Coffee Ice Cream
A classic from Camacho’s menu – beautiful layers of chocolate, espresso and a nutty noutatine. Loved the design. The crispy wafers were so delicate and crisp, and each layer displayed a unique flavor. A complete bite through each layer contained a rich chocolate-espresso flavor, as well as a nice crunch from the wafers and nougatine. The coffee ice cream was delicious.
Birds Nest Chocolate Truffle Cake, Crisp Won Tons, Condensed Milk Ice Cream, Fresh Raspberries
One of the entrants from Ballard’s mind, I thought this was another interesting one. A rich chocolate truffle was contained inside this “nest” made of wonton wrappers. How cool! When cracked, the molten center oozed out; really nice with the creamy condensed milk ice cream, as well as the textural interplay of the fried wonton wrapper. Imaginative play on the traditional Chinese Bird’s Nest Soup.
The bill came with cookies and an almond tuile.
I again left WP24 satisfied and very full. I think some of the plates were really well-done and justified their price tag (lettuce cups, Shanghai noodles, Peking duck, both desserts and maybe suckling pig), while some were probably best saved for a favorite restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley (XO rice, maybe lamb/beef).
Three courses ($80) is probably an appropriate amount of food for most. But yeah, it’s still rather expensive. If I had to choose an expense-account dinner in downtown LA, this would probably be it. Also, I think it’s a really solid option as a special occasion restaurant for non-Japanese Asian food.