Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Scarpetta - Los Angeles

225 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Neighborhood: Beverly Hills
(310) 860-7800 

Our last trip to New York City during the 2009 holiday season involved endless hours of "food" research with extra attention given to Italian. A reservation at Babbo had always escaped me, so we had to get that in.  Leaning on the warm compliments of Frank Bruni, Convivio and Scarpetta were next on the top of our list. Convivio or Scarpetta? Some chowhounders praised Convivio, while an equal representation supported Scarpetta. We also couldn't ignore the strong write-in votes for Marea. Unfortunately, Scarpetta was squeezed out and would have to wait for another trip to the Big Apple, or would it?

Fast forward ten months and my girlfriend reads about the Scarpetta expansion to the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills and insists we try it early while Scott Conant is hopefully in the kitchen.

Following Eater LA's coverage, I note there is a chef's counter and we call repeatedly to request a seat at the counter. With all the confusion and pressure of opening a restaurant, they still don't know exactly how they are going to utilize the counter space. After several calls to the restaurant, we finally get in touch with the Montage's catering manager and they allow us to sit there and what an unbelievable experience it turned out to be.

As we walk into what is the grandest kitchen we have set foot in, the staff of about 15 are hard at work and dressed in white uniforms, with the exception of chef Conant. He opts for a more casual attire with comfortable blue jeans and a black button up dress shirt. I would assume the black shirt works for the numerous photo ops guests are requesting at the conclusion of each meal. 

We take our seats at the most exclusive table in the restaurant. It has full view of all the stations and the private dining room is in back of us. Shortly after, the chef with one of the most reputable Italian resumes in the country stops by and introduces himself as Scott. He asks if we would like him to set a menu for us and we kindly decline. We have something different in mind, we want every pasta dish this kitchen can produce.

So, now all that's left to do is sit back and enjoy the dinner and a show.

Bread basket (8)

 Bread accompaniments - from left, eggplant caponata, mascarpone butter and citrus olive oil (7)
The bread basket includes a piece of stramboli that is the real star. Great quality salumi packed in fresh baked bread. The citrus oil was very refreshing, the mascarpone butter sounded better than it tasted and the caponata was just an afterthought.

The kitchen at 8PM

RAW YELLOWTAIL olio di zenzero, pickled red onion (7)
He starts us off with a few light bites. First is the yellowtail crudo; light refreshing and a good start to the meal.

TUNA ‘SUSCI’ marinated vegetables, preserved truffles (7)
Another light bite. It was better than most crudo I've had. The flavors complimented each other and the vegetables provided a pleasant crunchy texture. While I enjoyed the dish, it's not something I would crave and we didn't come to eat raw fish.

BEEF TARTARE hazelnuts, truffles & shaved parmigiano (9)
You usually can't win me over with truffles, but the raw beef, truffle oil, crunchy hazelnuts and buttery toast points all came together wonderfully, I love it. The strong flavors held up well to the red meat.

 PUREE OF PUMPKIN SOUP farro, almonds, spiced croutons, pumpkin oil (8)
I'm a sucker for table side presentation. Here, the soup is poured over the seasonal vegetable medley. The soup is substantial and the contrast of textures between the vegetables and the soup is harmonious. And it's not the last we'll see of that talent. He has a knack for producing the appropriate textures in dishes. 


CREAMY POLENTA fricassee of truffled mushrooms (10)
One of his signature dishes and rightfully so. This is a bold, velvety dish of cream, polenta, mushrooms, and more cream. A must order on any visit.

Chef starts his magic

'Death by Pasta'
The interlude to the pastas begins. We knew there were six on the menu and I've read of a special each night thus far. But nothing could have prepared us for the upcoming onslaught of starch he had planned for us. He apparently has his food Network set close to the Iron Chef as this would be the first of 14 pastas courses we consume over the next three hours, some on the menu, some well thought out impulses.

PASTA WITH CAVIAR housemade fussili, caviar & chives (5)
He starts us with a simple fusili topped with osetra caviar. The pasta was enviously tender. I wish I could get my pasta like this. Paired with brut champagne, it was a nice start to the main event.

SPELT PASTA pumpkin & porcini (7)
One of two pastas reserved for diners with dietary restrictions. He served us spelt pasta with pumpkin and mushrooms. Reserved for vegans? I think not, this was better than most pastas in the city.

SCIALATIELLI sorrento-style pasta, dungeness crab, sea urchin (6)
The first of the menu pastas. I expected the sea urchin to be a more pronounced component and perhaps a sliver on top, but it was just lightly incorporated in the sauce. I would have to give Battle Sea Urchin to Michael White's Spaghetti with crab. 

 Chef Scott Conant

BEET & SMOKED RICOTTA CASONSEI pistachio nuts, poppy seeds (9)
Now we're talking. He hits the flavors wonderfully here. The tender pasta with the beets, cheese and butter. Again, nailing the texture with the pistachio crumbles. Definitely recommended.

TAJARIN shaved white truffles (4)
I've always hated m.p. dishes. Just tell me how much the dish costs. Apparently less than $200 since he included it in the menu. It was a simple dish and although the pasta was superb, the dish as a whole is not something I would spend good money on just for white truffles.

PUMPKIN CAPPELLACCI amaretti, parmigiano (10)
The spaghetti is the best pasta? Really? I had to have a second helping to confirm it was as perfect as my initial bite told me. This is a lesson in the contrast of flavors and texture. Take note, the sweetness of the pumpkin heighten with some spice. Then, the contrast of the pasta and the soft filling against the amaretti crumbs is impeccable.  A must order, the surprise of the evening.

MACARONI  fonduta & porcini cream (2)
I'd assume there a few pastas the kitchen is experimenting with. This must have been one of them. A simple dish of macaroni, mushrooms, with a disappointing light fonduta on the bottom.

SPAGHETTI tomato, basil (9)
During the course of the evening, the chef mentioned that this dish is going to put his newborn through college. It's a great dish and is as simple as it sounds, yet heightened by quality ingredients and olive oil reaching every square inch of the plate. A must order.
During an early exchange, I told chef Conant I've tried the recipe at home and watched the No Reservations Technique episode. I questioned whether the butter measurements were accurate.  He chimed back that the butter was accurate, but that he might be more liberal with the olive oil. He held a cooking class teaching how to make the spaghetti and walked the class through the recipe step-by-step. As he walked around to see the students' progress, he thought to himself, "Are we making the same dish?" So, I now have the secret.  A couple more ounces of olive oil combined with a tons of experience and talent.

Public parking in Beverly Hills, $5. Dinner for two at Scarpetta, $800. Having chef Conant personally prepare and present the famed spaghetti....priceless!

CAVATELLI CARBONARA truffle zabaglione(4)
This one looked cool as it was prepared  at the table, but it lacked a pronounced flavor.

Presenting the cavatelli

AGNOLOTTI DAL PLIN mixed meat, fonduta, mushrooms, parmigiano (7)
The agnolotti was a dish I had high expectations for since Frank Bruni gave it his blessing in 2008.  It was good, similar to a few dishes I had at Per se. I couldn't find a flaw in it, but it's not something I would crave. I didn't think the shaved truffles on top were needed.

BUCKWHEAT PAPPARDELLE pickled mustard brussels sprouts & prosciutto (8)
Besides being one of my most memorable dining experiences to date, I'll remember this night as the first time I found value in those weirdos with dietary restrictions. Thanks to them, we were able to try a pleasant spelt pasta and now this. It had a funky flavor, not one for the masses, but I truly enjoyed it. One of my favorites of the evening and a definite surprise.

DUCK & FOIE GRAS RAVIOLI marsala reduction (9)
I know this dish is ordered a lot in the NYC restaurant, but I didn't think I would like it. Like Thomas Keller said, "We taste with our eyes first." And the zigzag marsala reduction presentation reminded of the Olive Garden. But, I was mistaken; the dish was conceived and just a small little pouch of extravagance. A must order, so now I have half the menu pastas at a required order.

CHESTNUT GNOCCHI filled with short ribs & sugo d’arrosto (10)
This may have been richer than the ravioli and slightly better. If I had to go back for one dish it would be the Cappellacci, but my second choice would easily be the gnocchi special. I loved the chestnut texture against the soft gnocchi and the pleasant sweetness of the short ribs.

COCONUT PANNA COTTA guava soup, caramelized pineapple (4)
I've had very few panna cottas in my life and I can't say I'll be running back for more.  The flavors are so light, it makes you beg for a little intensity. I would have preferred a fourteenth pasta.

CHOCOLATE olive oil mousse & candied hazelnuts
BICERIN frangelica ganache, espresso & cream
HAZELNUT SEMIFREDDO chocolate sorbet & hazelnut tuile (3)
This would need to be plated on a nude playmate for me to enjoy it. We were both so stuffed, it was near impossible to find pleasure in anything caloric, even chocolate. I would, however, like to go back and try the ameretto flan. Pictures of that have looked appetizing

Closing time

And that drew a conclusion to an unforgettable night. We weren't exactly sure what the bill was going to be, given we ended the meal with over 20 courses. The final tally....$200 per person for food, $100 per person for the wine pairings and a 21% imposed gratuity. $800 out the door for two and I would gladly do it again. chef Conant nails pastas on so many levels from making a very tender dough, to appropriate textures, to intense flavors, to creating a comfortable dining experience. I was taken by how mellow he was and how he hasn't allowed his celebrity to get the best of him.  The only thing I frowned upon all night was when the chef 'popped his collar' prior to posing for our picture. But, I'd much rather have the one flaw outside of the food. Maybe next time, we'll get some proteins in there.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing how simple it can be to communicate with people and have them understand a certain topic, you made my day.

    Comedy Magician Show Los Angeles