The Spaghetti at Scarpetta

Spaghetti With Tomato and Basil ($26)

It really all started with a heavenly dish of Duck Foie Gras Ravioli in Meatpacking District. So when I heard Scott Conant’s Scarpetta was coming to the left coast back in October – and no further than across the Canon Drive Beverly Hills parkway from Bouchon – I became elated that I would finally get to try the famous spaghetti. What’s more, I wouldn’t have to reserve one of my meals to do so (and commit a “repeat”) on my next trip to New York.

It’s a $26 entree in an upscale, self-described “Old Hollywood-style” interior. Personally, it reminded me more of New York – but I have prior associations and attachments. The pasta in Beverly Hills, though? Perfectly al dente. It’s made with semolina flour and zero-zero pasta. The fresh basil brought the other dimension to the vibrant tomato, and I found myself scarfing down the European-sized portion of noodles and sauce.

If I visit Scarpetta often and never order another dish, I would be just as happy.

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Sunday – Thursday

5:30 – 11:00 PM

Friday – Saturday

5:30 PM – Midnight

Free parking for 2 hrs in public underground, adjacent lot

Scarpetta at Montage
225 North Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310.860.7970

Tastes From Angeleno Magazine’s Chefs Night Out

Beef Tartare Crostino with Guanciale Zabaglione & Shaved Black Summer Truffles & Baby Artichokes in Casseruola | Angelini Osteria - Chef Ori Menashe

Brad A. Johnson of Angeleno Magazine bestowed his awards on the best of Los Angeles, as he does every year, and it was time to celebrate. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to participate in this celebration, and boy did it impress.

Capesante day boat scallops with farro, summer corn, heirloom tomatoes, scallions, English peas and citronette | Culina - Chef Victor Casanova

So I didn’t get to try everything before the tastes ran out – but I don’t really blame the event organizers. I blame my sloth pace at really savoring every bite there was in the Fairmont Miramar’s beautifully appointed parking circle, which surrounds probably the oldest tree I know in Los Angeles. I was happy to note that Oxley Gin was a liquor sponsor (along with Veev), and whom created the cocktails with which I washed down all the heavenly plates of food. It was an impressive showing, indeed.

The beef tartar could have stood on its own – nevermind that the shavings of black truffles put it over the top in the best possible way. I had two.

Cauliflower Panna Cotta Topped With Transmontanous Caviar | Petrossian - Chef Ben Bailly

Another favorite was Chef Ben Bailly’s Cauliflower Panna Cotta topped by Petrossian Transmontanous caviar. So indulgent and so delicious – it was like creamy heaven accented with that perfect, almost briny zest caviar gives. I, again, had two.

Chef Ludo Lefebvre was there to deliver punches to the mouth. Not literally, of course, but his Heirloom tomato smoothie came accented with its own extractions from the sea: Squid ink vodka jelly and seaweed tartar. As with LudoBites, the combination of everything together was done amazingly well – while in fact I love tomatoes, seaweed, squid ink and vodka individually. The shooter was surprisingly spicy, with the umami of the squid ink and seaweed probably augmented by the vodka. Delicious.

Lobster Tapioca with Uni | Chef Laurent Quenioux - Bistro LQ

Laurent Quenioux from Bistro LQ’s Lobster Tapioca topped with uni was amazing as always. Once upon a time I did the tasting menu at Bistro LQ and the lobster tapioca in particular, as one of the starters, was my favorite dish. It was a decadent revisit and one I was glad to have.

My favorite fish of the night, however, was prepared by Chef Josiah Citrin of Mélisse. The loup de mer, or seabass, still had the skin on which helped retain a lot of the flavor and came in a pool of appropriately oily broth, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and basil.

Loup de mer, Heirloom Tomatoes and Cucumber-Basil | Chef Josiah Citrin - Melisse

It was refreshing yet surprisingly weighty. The tiny filets were cooked to a perfectly tender consistency, and I was amazed I could appreciate the flavor in such a small piece of fish.

There were a few things that ran out by the time my leisurely pace took me to the other side of the courtyard, unfortunately, like Hatfield’s Braised Pork Belly, Craft’s White Wine Braised Octopus and Comme Ca’s Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Terrine. But as usual, it was good to enjoy the blogger company that was there, like Lindsay of LAist, Caroline on Crack, Hadley of GrubStreet LA, Josh of FoodGPS, Kevin Eats, Jo of My Last Bite, Kat of Eater LA, Mattatouille and much, much more. This was a great event with a great turn-out, and there was no better occasion than to celebrate this year’s winners (the first award of which I was very happy Lazy Ox Canteen won):

  • Best New Restaurant: Lazy Ox Canteen
  • Best New Chef: Michael Voltaggio (formerly The Langham)
  • Chef of the Year: Michael Cimarusti, Providence
  • Restaurant of the Year: Hatfield’s
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Zoe Nathan, Huckleberry Café & Bakery
  • Outstanding Wine & Spirits: The Bazaar
  • Outstanding Service: The Grill on the Alley
  • Vanguard Award: Water Grill
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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows
101 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Piccolo Venice Doubles in Size With Flavors & Charm To Match

Garganelli Neri ai Ricci | Squid ink Garaganelli, fresh sea urchin emulsion, quail egg shavings

I had never been to Piccolo on the beach prior to their remodel. One of my girlfriends, a lady of Venice, had eaten dinner there however and had raved about it – so I was excited when I was invited to taste their food. Piccolo is now twice the size it once was, but to my observation it had the charm to match their expansion.

Caprese: A Revision

I appreciated the open kitchen, which really added to the still-intimate, neighborhood feel of the restaurant. Italian hospitality is exuded by every employee there. The fact that the food also delivers will make you forget that you are dining on the beach without so much as a view of it, lest you score one of the few outdoor patio spots. We’re not in Malibu, anymore. The saying is “location, location, location” (not “view, view, view”), and it seems that Piccolo is more than content to rest its reputation on its food with its locale reflecting its desire to be Venice’s Northern Italian speakeasy. Only public parking is available, and expect no apologies about it – your reward comes in the cuisine.

We started out with Chef Roberto’s new-for-summer revision of Caprese as we knew it – with burrata and micro cilantro topping a multi-colored and -layered, fluffy gelee floated with olive oil and seasoned with a delicious Hawaiian Lava salt. It was refreshing, delightful and a nice introduction to what followed.

Capesante Gratinate | Seared sea scallops over parmesan-truffle fondue

With our palates opened, we were ready to enjoy a tasting-sized yet indulgent serving of seared sea scallops – perfectly done so with flavorful brown coloring on one side of the sliced scallop to reveal an ever slim ring outside a tender center on the other. The thin shaving of truffle, as always, was magic – yet I couldn’t leave a drop of the creamy parmasan fondue on my plate. All three components together are a match made in heaven – made in no small part by its proportioning.

Risotto con Salsiccia di Cinghiale - Vialone Nano rice, home-made wild boar sausage, parmesan fondue
Risotto con Salsiccia di Cinghiale | Vialone Nano rice, home-made wild boar sausage, parmesan fondue

The Squid Ink Garganelli was another favorite, with the dark, ridged rolls having that perfect al dente bite; soggy, Americanized pasta seemed more than just blocks away. The earthiness of the egg pasta was further rounded out by shavings of dried, salted quail egg yolk (alternately substituted with bottarga shavings) and the delicious sea urchin emulsion the pasta lay upon. We partook after tossing. The fullness of the egg pasta infused with squid ink was so delicious and could only come straight from the sea – yet precluded the saltiness that the inclusion of shellfish would bring. In this dish, I appreciated that the salt element was subtle enough to really let the squid ink really shine.

Germano Reale al Miele | Pan-seared breast of Mallard (wild duck), truffled-honey sauce

The housemade wild boar sausage risotto was also delicious. It had real depth thanks to the bits of sausage and almost-smoky tomato-based sauce. The risotto did well in holding flavor of the sauce while the consistency of each grain remained deliciously firm at the center – the way risotto should be.

The seared slices of duck breast had a delicious layer of fat which was so perfect in absorbing the truffled-honey sauce it was dressed with. It’s an indulgent, sweet Secondi and I would easily order it again (once I had tried most other things on the menu, that is). If sweet, rich and tender bird is your speed, you should definitely order this dish. The pickled greens and cubes of what seemed to be cornbread were great accompaniments, cutting the richness while complimenting the duck slices.
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