Montage Beverly Hills
225 North Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 10/19/13
It’s been two years since my last visit to Scarpetta (it really doesn’t seem that long ago at all) and three years since my first opening night visit – still one of the more memorable dining experiences of my life. Scott Conant is still the face of the restaurant, but day-to-day oversight of the kitchen has transitioned to new executive chef Freddy Vargas as of May (who took over from the short tenure of Alex Stratta). This past weekend, I was invited back into the restaurant to get a taste of what’s new. This would be my fourth visit overall.
The dining room is huge but the best seats in the house are the five at the end of the kitchen. Dubbed the ‘Chef’s Counter,’ it offers a front row seat in the kitchen and interaction with the chefs. As one can assume, it’s a completely different type of experience. My understand is that this isn’t tasting menu-only; a la carte is possible…but some sort of tasting would seem to be the best way to get the full experience.
141 South Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 10/10/13
Patina’s been a fixture in the Los Angeles fine dining scene for decades, celebrating its 10-year anniversary at the Walt Disney Concert Hall this month. To celebrate, the restaurant offered a special menu of 10 courses for $10 each on October 10th.
I first dined at Patina relatively “early-on” in 2006; this would be my third visit. While I’ve found many of the Patina Group restaurants to be a little boring and overpriced for what they are, I’ve felt that the flagship Patina bucked that trend with its strong execution grounded in classical French and modern American cuisine. It’s been just over a year since my last visit; new Executive Chef Charles Olalia had just taken over the kitchen from the exiting Tony Esnault. At the time, the menu still had much of Esnault’s touches – this would be my first meal with Olalia fully at the helm crafting the menu.
6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 10/5/13
I haven’t been to Osteria Mozza in three years and it’s still one of LA’s most popular Italian restaurants. Since opening in 2006-7, the Mozza restaurants have been consistently popular. I’m amazed at what they’ve been able to do with the property at the corner of Melrose and Highland. Starting with Pizzeria Mozza then Osteria Mozza, it expanded to include the Scuola di Pizza and Mozza 2 Go. The Scuola has now turned into Chi Spacca, creating quite the power corner for the Bastianich/Batali/Silverton trio. Rounding out the options within a block of this hot corner are Hatfield’s, Susan Feniger’s Street, and Trois Mec.
Even though it’s been open for a while, scoring a prime table on a weekend evening still seems kind of tricky. I stumbled upon a cancellation on OpenTable and snatched up a 2-top this past Saturday night.
The menu consists of a variety of appetizer-like options from the small plates and mozzarella section, pasta, main dishes, and sides. A pasta tasting menu is available, but we opted to choose our own dishes this evening.
Fishing with Dynamite
1148 Manhattan Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Dining date: 9/15/13
Leveraging the success of his popular Manhattan Beach Post restaurant, chef David Lefevre opened Fishing with Dynamite on the same block earlier this year. This new restaurant is more seafood-centric, reminiscent of Lefevre’s Water Grill days. Whereas many expected M.B. Post to be a seafood restaurant (bringing Water Grill influences to Manhattan Beach), it turned out to be more balanced featuring bold, full flavors. From my experience, Fishing with Dynamite seems to be more finessed with more subtle flavors.
Not unlike M.B. Post, Fishing with Dynamite has been packed early on. I snatched a weekend lunch reservation weeks in advance; lunch and dinner menus appear to be the same. A varied raw bar and seafood platters are available, as well as a combination of both “old school” and “new school” dishes.
Hakkasan Beverly Hills
233 N. Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 9/28/13
Hakkasan’s Beverly Hills location opened last week, the latest of three West Coast openings in the past 10 months. This location didn’t open with nearly the splash as the last one (club/lounge/restaurant in Las Vegas), but with the same standards in food that’s awarded the chain Michelin stars in New York and London. I dined at the Las Vegas location in May and thoroughly enjoyed it; I’ve been awaiting this outpost’s opening in order to try more.
Hakkasan’s always sought a fine balance between serious dining and a hip, trendy culture. Its Beverly Hills location, across from Scarpetta and Bouchon, promises to be fairly scene-y already attracting the attention of celebrities around town. Even on this evening, paparazzi were hanging out outside the restaurant awaiting glimpses of anyone worth taking pictures of. I’m always skeptical of the see-and-be-seen restaurants, but Hakkasan seems to have the pedigree to meet the needs of those who are there for the atmosphere and those that just want a delicious meal.
Dining date: 9/1/13
A lobster roll is one of my favorite things to eat at casual seafood places. Lately, I feel like it’s been popping up more and more in local Los Angeles restaurants becoming fairly hip. Renditions from Hinoki & The Bird and Son of a Gun have received national attention, while we have trucks/restaurants (Lobsta Truck & Cousins Maine) dedicated to the sandwich. We even have our own lobster roll event called the Lobster Roll Rumble. It’s such a simple thing – really, at its simplest, all you need is lobster, butter or mayo, and bread. Perhaps that’s why it’s spreading so quickly from menu to menu.
Being primarily made up of a rather expensive ingredient, a lobster roll is frequently the most expensive item on a menu. Easily reaching into the mid-$20s and, sometimes, low-$30s (I’m looking at you Water Grill!) I often think twice about ordering something so common that is not likely to fill me up. Appearing easy to make at home, I’ve often thought about making my own for much cheaper…and finally did.
I have a pretty good idea of what my ideal lobster roll is. A warm, buttery and toasted bun is key. Of course, perfectly cooked lobster lightly covered in butter (I’m not a cold mayo lobster roll kind of guy). And, I like little to no filler – just the lobster for me. To me, the keys to success were finding split-top hot dog buns (a relative rarity here) and perfectly cooking the lobster. No one likes overcooked, rubbery lobster.