There are a couple new happy hours at some pretty fancy spots in Mid-City West and West Hollywood launching today. With weather in Los Angeles warming up as much as it has recently, it doesn’t get much better than these refreshing libations and succulent bites on the terrace or patio to begin your night.
Single or not, you won’t find me exactly chomping at the bit to try any sort of prix fixe menu on, of all nights, Valentine’s Day, only the busiest dining night out all year. A night of fighting the crowds of twosomes to order up one of the multitude of prix fixe menus during a potentially service-distastrous evening is not something I can recommend to you in good conscience, so why pretend? Anniversaries and birthdays are as great as the dates they land on are unique to each couple or person, so when a calendar designates that one particular day is the day everyone is to express one’s affection to his/her significant other, I can’t help but get a little bit apprehensive.
Here are a few fun alternatives to Valentine’s Day that take that icky obligatory feeling out of your profession of love…
Petrossian, at least in West Hollywood and beyond, has essentially become synonymous with caviar as its flagship Los Angeles restaurant serves wide-ranging clientele in its white-soaked dining room, one caviar-enhanced meal to the next. As Chef Giselle Wellman continues to tinker with the always-excellent, savory-focused menu, she has decided to do something a little different in regards to the more casual, often-ignored boutique and patio area of the restaurant. In the daytime, the beautiful boutique is flooded with daylight, with artful floral arrangements decorating high tops and a cushy, long booth lining the inside front wall.
Caviar is often intimidating to those not yet inducted, but in Petrossian’s quest to make all things caviar-palatable, perhaps the omnipresence of its signature ingredient on the menu has ironically become a barrier, of sorts. There lacked a menu that was evidence that the brand – in its dining room incarnation, at least – was content to not beat the ingredient to death by proving its compatibility with everyday dishes.
If there could exist a niche to fill in between lunch, happy hour and dinner at Petrossian, the newly-launched boutique and patio menu of small plates does exactly that. Because small plates are just the thing for us non-committal diners these days. Of course, this doesn’t detract from the elegance of the dinner menu nor the lightness of the lunch menu – nor the introductory nature of the happy hour menu, that is. There’s a perfect mid-day vibe to this menu, what with vegetables and fruit matching the vibrance and breeziness of the boutique and patio without sacrificing any of the taste.
It’s hard to complain about the asparagus, which turned up perfectly cooked and seasoned. I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has said “I hate burrata,” but the apricots, basil and prosciutto make for lovely complements. The nice touch that Giselle brought to the already-delicious olive plate is that she warms the conconction up. You can bite through the tangy-sweet orange peels, while wondering why everyone doesn’t heat up their olive appetizers.
The morels that accompany the farm egg are the menu’s savory sweet spot while the sweet peas are just the perfect sweet touch – and truth be told, I really just can’t get enough of runny eggs. Win-win. The caviar aioli to the pomme frites are basically as “bar food” as you get in the place – but what an excellent version, at that.
And of course, it’s impossible to ignore the Mussels, Fig & Brie sandwiches and Prime Flat Iron Steak Crostinis. The Fig & Brie, with its delicious walnut bread, is like the Thanksgiving you missed last November (because we’d all pick this over Turkey Club leftovers). The garlic aioli atop the uber tender Prime Flat Iron Steak cuts is just the perfect touch. The Mussels are also solid, with the broth being one of those things you just wish was a soup.
You can order from this menu on Mondays through Saturdays from 5 – 11 PM while seated in the boutique or patio – but not the dining room. And if you happen to be there before 7 o’clock on a weekday, you may as well scope their happy hour drink menu as well, including the Caviar Martini.
After all, you’ll want to complement your small plates with a little – or a lot – of caviar.
All food and cocktails were hosted.
Truffle Oil, Parmesan, Pine Nuts, Lemon
Apricots, Basil, Prosciutto
House Pickled Vegetables
Cucumber, Cauliflower, Carrots, Pear Onion, Fresno Chili
Citrus and Herb Marinated Olives, Grilled Baguette
Morels, Fava Beans, Peas, Baguette
Soy Sesame Vinaigrette, Chives, Caviar
Prince Edward Island Mussels
Saffron, White Wine, Fresno Chili, Parsley, Grilled Bread
Trout Roe, Salmon Roe, Caviar
Fig and Brie
Walnut Bread, Arugula, Honey
Prime Flat Iron Crostinis
Watercress, Caramelized Onion, Garlic Aioli
Last month, I was asked by Dine LA, a non-profit subsidiary of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau and coordinator of LA Restaurant Week, to shoot a little video on featuring a few restaurants around town. Honored by the consideration, I accepted, and had quite a fun time being driven around in a brand-new Acura TSX Wagon (with Acura being sponsor of the project).
We visited Petrossian on Robertson in West Hollywood, Street by Susan Feniger in Hancock Park and Church & State in Downtown L.A. – all of which you have no doubt seen mentioned here on the blog and in my tweets. It was such a pleasure to work with Carrie Kommers, director of the video and of Dine LA, and Evan Romoff, the DP (that is, Director of Photography) and editor – both of whom put me at ease and helped break my “professionally produced” video cherry. We had lots of laughs, bloopers and takes. I had quite a time avoiding “um’s” in the audio. And really, all the credit goes to Evan, the editor, who made me look and sound pretty decent, despite my failure to reapply some mid-day makeup. 😉
The other night, I again had the privilege of visiting Petrossian on Robertson – the caviar boutique that doubles as a dining hotspot with a clean and casual ambiance. I know the space well from my numerous visits to Chef Benjamin Bailly and have even had the honor of judging a cold soup Dine LA Quickfire ChallengeÂ (recap) held in the boutique area.
But things have changed since the end of Chef Bailly’s year-long tenure as Executive Chef. He has moved on to Fraiche in Culver City and now, Giselle Wellman has taken over the kitchen. She has some big names on her resume, including New York’s Del Posto and most recently Beverly Hills’ Bouchon. Armed with just a basic pasta recipe by Tony DiSalvo, she taught herself how to make 20 kinds of pasta at his Jack’s La Jolla for the purposes of its reopening as an Italian restaurant – quite a feat that would be perfected by working in Mario Batali’s kitchen thereafter.
And the agnolotti that I had at Petrossian happened to be my favorite dish of the evening. The house-made pasta was tender and the filling was perfectly cooked – with fontina being one of my favorite cheeses, of course. The pasta was topped with perfect prosciutto, accompanied by fresh asparagus and extremely flavorful mushrooms while finished off with a further savory, non-frivolous parm foam. Everything in this dish worked together extremely well in no small part by top-notch ingredients and good execution. Not bad for a chef in her new kitchen. (She still has Ben’s pistachio creme for the Pistachio Creme Brulee.)
My second favorite dish of the evening was the Smoked Sturgeon Risotto with pressed caviarÂ cooked into the dish in order to fully integrate the eggs’ flavors. The topping of slicedÂ apple slices was an elegant, sweet reprieve from the rich risotto. Everything on the plate made for a really delicious combination while the risotto itself was amazingly complex in its richness. If I weren’t so full, I might have licked the plate.
Of course, we had to have dessert and with a vendor like Petrossian and their delicious chocolates, it’d be premature to leave their dining room without having done so. Giselle was especially excited about her on-theme espresso pearls, which, of course, look like caviar. She showed us a video of her making them byÂ droppingÂ theÂ espressoÂ mixture into clear liquid with an eye-dropper. The result?Â A glorious topping to spread over panna cotta.
The beads weren’t especially potent but they were indeed novel and well, espresso goes extremely well with vanilla. The cardamom shortbreads had good spice and were a nice, crunchy side note. This is definitely my go-to dessert at Petrossian.
Overall, I was impressed with Giselle’s new but solid menu – especially given that she just moved in a few weeks ago. It seems like she’s fitting in well into the space at Petrossian and will continue to evolve in that space, given her unbridled passion for cooking. I can’t wait to revisit to try more dishes, which she’ll have time to perfect. The blogger-friendly boutique-restaurant hybrid has great things to look forward to.
Also, Petrossian is participating in Dine LA (going through Friday this week and Sunday – Friday, January 30 – February 4 next week). Fortunately, the risotto, agnolotti and espresso panna cotta I’ve mentioned are all on that menu so this is the opportune time to try them out.
All food and wine were hosted.
Last Thursday, merely the day after Blogger Prom, I joined Josh Lurie of Food GPS and Chef Ben Bailly of Petrossian West Hollywood in judging the second of four Quickfire Challenges hosted by Dine LA in promotion for their upcoming restaurant weeks.
The challenge was cold soup, and it was a contest of the Italian and French schools of culinary arts. Fifteen minutes were allowed and the “surprise” ingredient was Alverta President caviar – a premier, new American strain of caviar. Chef Akira Hirose prepared a potato leek soup that had much of its treasures buried at the bottom. We, the judges, were instructed to go to the bottom to scoop up the essence of everything that was in the cold soup. And, so we did. The salmon was perfectly smoked, the yuzuÂ packed a refreshing citrus punch, the hazelnut and potato leek carried weight, and the thick soup had great complexities overall. The piquillo pepper that dotted the soup was a nice touch, spicing up the soup a tad.
Alas, it was then time to try Chef Celestino Drago’s creation. True to form, it was a cold gazpacho incorporating the juices of fresh, yellow and red heirloom tomatoes. Cucumber juice provided a bit of green color and rounded out the sweetness of the tomatoes. The juices enveloped a bit of guacamole – the weight in this soup – along with orange zest and yuzu in the martini glasses, which further brightened the concoction. Then came the caviar and diced cucumber. Basil oil was drizzled and croutons were floated atop the cold soup. Though this was not as unique as Chef Hirose’s soup, Chef Drago’s was the winner in my camp. I really enjoyed the flavors all the different juices – and even caviar – brought to the table, and while gazpacho is a common menu item in Italian menus, I thought this was a well-executed dish.
But the beauty of having three judges is that if not unanimous, a winner would be determined by two, and I was ultimately outvoted by Chef Ben and Josh. They favored Chef Hirose’s cold potato leek because of its complexity. There was speculation that Celestino was outnumbered by those from the French camp. Me – I was content to be outnumbered and stood by my decision. I myself skewed toward the lighter soup since I prefer my cold dishes without a ton of weight, but also thoroughly enjoyed Chef Drago’s gazpacho.
And so continues the Dine LA Quickfire Challenges… Stay tuned for today’s rendition: Cold Noodles. It also comes complete with sneak preview of Starry Kitchen Dine LA dishes for $5 a pop and an after-party at CASA.
Held last Thursday, September 23, 2010
6 – 8 PM
Petrossian West Hollywood
321 N. Robertson Blvd. (one block north of Beverly Blvd.)
West Hollywood, CA 90048
Quickfire Challenges don’t only happen on Top Chef. And in celebration of the upcoming Dine LA weeks, there are themed challenges happening all over the city. Yesterday, Mark Peel of Tar Pit and Campanile defeated Ben Ford (Ford’s Filling Station) and David LeFevre (Water Grill) with a Guinea Hen dish. Fortunately, there are three more challenges and I will have the honor of being a judge of the “cold soup” Quickfire Challenge to take place tomorrow at Petrossian – the caviar boutique and restaurant in West Hollywood on Robertson. The other judges will be Chef Ben Bailly, Petrossian’s chef and Josh Lurie of Food GPS.
In this challenge, we’ll see Chef Akira Hirose, Maison Akira Owner/Executive Chef go up against Chef Celestino Drago, Chef Drago Restaurant Group Owner/Executive Chef. The winner will go up against the other three winners of the other challenges in early October in a finale (TBD).
Of course, it’s not good enough to just watch. You’ll get to participate, too, by taking advantage of some great happy hour prices of Petrossian specialties:
Chips & Dip $10
Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Caviar $8
Borsht Shooters $2
Shrimp Papillotes $8
Salmon Rillettes $10
So I hope you can come and attend what promises to be a very exciting challenge. It’s going to be fun, exciting and a close contest, for sure. …Now where is my cold soup?
Thursday, September 23, 2010
6 – 8 PM
Petrossian West Hollywood
321 N. Robertson Blvd. (one block north of Beverly Blvd.)
West Hollywood, CA 90048
If one could eat luxury, one should also be allowed to drink it, too. Petrossian in West Hollywood thought as much as they recently have expanded their liquor license and integratedÂ vodka flutes and cocktails into their menu. It may be as obvious to bacon loversÂ as bacon salt; for caviar lovers, Petrossian created the Caviar-tini. Â
Two and a half ounces of vodka with a half ounce ofÂ dry vermouth and maybe a dash of orange or Angostura bitters are the martini, but the skewer with 1 Petrossian caviar-stuffed olive, a cocktail onion and 1 Petrossian Caviarcubeâ„¢ – essentially caviar pressed into a cube – make it the Caviar-tini. It was the perfect amount of dirtiness. I saved the skewerÂ for theÂ last few martini sips and found my patience rewarded me well.
There are other cocktail options like their Basil Gimlet ($12), Vodka Sunrise ($12) and Russian Cider ($12). (Don’t worry – there’s also a Cosmopolitan [$14] for you Carrie-types.) Their Hibiscus Champagne ($12) will remain available – just don’t forget to eat the flower, too. If you were thinking straight-up, choose a vodka flute of the European variety from Beluga or Russian Standard Premium (Russia), Linie Aquavit (Norway) or of course Jean Marc XO (France). Belvedere and Chopin are your Polish options.
Chef Ben Bailly’s menu is reason enough to get you in the door – now you can wash down each bite of his dishes with a complementary, caviar-topped cocktail. Because you don’t need vermouth to make a martini dirty.
Hollywood Bowl season is upon us! And what better opportunity to combine your love of food with your love of music than to do up the pre-performance picnic the right way? Grab a recommended wine from JillÂ at Domaine LA to pair with your food and you’re set. Just make sure your show is an official Bowl event and not leased out. If it’s leased out (most likely to includeÂ the high profile rock bands not part of the KCRW World Music Series), then you’re confined to the Patina catering sold (or served in your fancyÂ box seats) at the venue. If not, you’re good to go!
Below, you’ll find options all over town. SoÂ wherever you hail from, you’re set toÂ make your little haven in Hollywood home for a few hours whether they be Pool, Garden, Terrace, Super or bench seats. And by the way,Â yes, you can always order from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza2Go – I would just recommend ordering and picking up extra early in the day on Bowl nights given its vicinity and the likelihood everyone may be thinking the same thing as you. Here we go… (Check the map at the bottom for a visual of all mentioned locations.)
Napa Valley Grille – Westwood
When at UCLA, I always knew the Napa Valley Grille as the out-of-range option for us students – the place you got your parents to take you to when they visited from out-of-town. But they’ve recently come out with a boxed lunch program that seems pretty accessible to me, ranging from $10.75 to $13.75 with 3Â seasonal options from Executive chef Joseph Gillard and packaged in recyclable materials. You can wax Napa in Hollywood (or elsewhere) as they areÂ themed after different Napa Valley regions:
Russian River Menu: Shrimp Salad Sandwich, with Poached White Shrimp, Fine Herbs, Buttermilk Dressing, and Shaved Cabbage on a Soft Herb Roll; Sweet Pea Salad with Butter Lettuce and Green Goddess Dressing; housemade Napa Potato Chips; and Summer Fruit Trifle ($13.75)
Stagâ€™s Leap Menu: Slow-Roasted Rare Prime Beef Sandwich with Bacon, Red Onion Jam, Creamy Horseradish, and Smoked Cheddar Cheese on Pretzel Bread; Roasted Red Fingerling Potato Salad; housemade Napa Potato Chips; and a Black and White Cookie ($12.75)
St. Helena Menu: Roasted Vegetable Foccaccia with Grilled Zucchini, Eggplant, Portabella Mushroom, White Bean Hummus, Tomato Fondue, and Basil Goat Cheese on Herb Ciabatta Bread; Orzo Pasta Salad with Pepperdew Peppers, Spring Onions, and Golden Balsamic Vinaigrette; housemade Napa Potato Chips; and a â€œBlondieâ€ Bar ($10.75)
You’ll undoubtedly want dessert (not included)Â – so choose from delicious selections like Mini Eclairs with Cordillera Dark Chocolate-Brandy Cream, Bourbon Pecan Bars and White Chocolate Coconut Cookies.
Call to place order
Petrossian Boutique & Restaurant – Robertson/West Hollywood
Ordering your take-away items from Petrossian means you demand taste, style and class. More power to you. In fact, I just ate there last night and was delightfully reminded how absolutely talented Chef Ben Bailly is. So tote his offerings to The Bowl – your tastebuds will be titillated while your ears are enchanted. Below are someÂ picnickingÂ suggestions straight off their menu:
Caviar Surprise, served in a caviar tin and comprised of layers of Caviar, King Crab, CrÃ¨me FraÃ®che and Apple Cider Jelly ($32)
Caviar Dip and Sweet Potato Chips ($14)
Blinis with Caviar, Trout, and Salmon Roe; the Green Bean Salad with Burrata, Marcona almonds and Transmontanus Caviar ($18)
Smoked Salmon Tartine with Goat Cheese, Capers, and Caviar ($16)
Eggxiting Caviarâ€”two 12 gram â€œeggsâ€ of Transmontanus caviar and spoons in an isothermic case ($49)
Petrossian CaviarCubes ($45)
Foie Gras and PÃ¢tÃ© (from $20)
The Petrossian staff will kindly package the items to go in one of their stylish cooler bags or pack your picnic basket for you. Provide your credit card number ahead of time and theyâ€™ll deliver your items to you in your car.
Call to order
In a collaborative effortÂ that is decidedly Francophile,Â Mireille GuilianoÂ – former CEO of Clicquot and author of New York Times Best Seller, French Women Don’t Get Fat -Â will be hosting a special caviar tasting dinner at Petrossian on Robertson Blvd. Diners will be celebrating Guiliano’s follow-up book, Women, Work and The Art of Savoir Faire as well as partaking in the fruits ofÂ James Beard Rising Star ChefÂ semi-finalist Chef Ben Bailly’s culinary talents.
AÂ caviar presentation will kick off your night. And when the courses startÂ rolling out, brace yourself for deliciousÂ menu tems like Caviar Surprise with King crab, Apple Jelly and Caviar; or Green Bean Salad with Burrata and Caviar. Wash those down with a glass ofÂ ChampagneÂ alongside Mireille herself, and it’ll be a night to remember. You’ll go home with a signed copy of her new book for a keepsake. Call Petrossian to reserve your spot.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Includes 3 course dinner, caviar presentation, glass of champagneÂ & signed copy of Women, Work and The Art of Savoir Faire
Petrossian West Hollywood
321 N. Robertson Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048