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Saturday, January 14, 2012

An Inside Look At Wolfgang Puck's New Restaurant At Hotel Bel-Air - Forbes

The king of California cuisine has a new conquest in his empire. With the opening of his latest outpost, Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air (located inside the reborn Five-Star Los Angeles-area enclave), west coast restaurateur Wolfgang Puck has opened what we think will be the jewel in his vast collection. Here’s what we discovered on a visit to the contemporary chic restaurant this week.

The terrace at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. Photo courtesy Dorchester Collection.

The simply named eatery is the indoor-outdoor centerpiece of the iconic Hotel Bel-Air, reopened in October after a massive two-year renovation. Known for its gorgeous gardens and Spanish Mission-style design, the hotel’s Old Hollywood glamour is revived, and the restaurant oozes the same kind of star-wattage. Designed by the Rockwell Group, the space is made up of semi-private open-air banquette alcoves, and a large terrace and dining room that flow together seamlessly. From our seat inside near the double-sided marble fireplace—the central focal point of the interior dining room, which has multiple floor-to-ceiling glass wine cellars and is decked in rich neutral tones and contemporary furnishings—we could easily see the glowing candles and twinkling floor lanterns outside on the large terrace. The whole scene was so enchanting it almost eclipsed the food. Almost.

The seasonal menu is both elegant and informal—an artisan bent melds with simple elements of classic California comfort cuisine.

The beet salad. Photo courtesy Five Star Travel Corporation.

Puck devotees will recognize a few favorites from nearby Spago, including house made agnolotti topped with seasonal shaved truffles. In fact, many of the ingredients are sourced from the same farmers, fishermen and foragers as the chef’s flagship fine dining restaurant, but here the dishes are a bit simpler.

Our dinner began with an amuse bouche—a spoonful of Russian Osetra caviar with Bellwether Farms crème fraiche, and sudachi citrus. We followed the suggestion of our knowledgeable server and chose the roasted kohlrabi-turnip soup (with horseradish, chive oil and edible flowers), the trio of lamb (loin, rack and belly, prepared three different ways) and the imperial chocolate

dessert (a warm pudding cake with spiced ice cream and coffee sauce). Walking the line between light and heavy, the meal satisfied with the mix of robust (lamb belly) and subtle (turnip soup) flavors.

Guests staying at Hotel Bel-Air can experience even more Wolfgang Puck—the chef’s restaurant group heads up dining for the entire hotel (which means everything from room service to cocktails at the famous bar have the chef’s touch). All breakfast pastries are made in-house (a humble English muffin on the breakfast menu was made memorable with its perfect texture— crispy on the outside and soft on the inside).

Imperial chocolate dessert. Photo courtesy Dorchester Collection.

At lunch, the menu leans toward dishes that delight the ladies who lunch here, including tomato-basil arancini, chilled prawn cocktail and the famous tortilla soup, which Puck first developed in the 1980s when he consulted on the hotel’s menu with its previous owners. It’s just one example of Puck’s long relationship with the hotel—and the neighborhood. He lives about 10 miles away and dines at the restaurant often—he even had Thanksgiving dinner here with this family. With such an idyllic location and iconic hotel, given the opportunity, we just might move nearby, too.

An Inside Look At Wolfgang Puck's New Restaurant At Hotel Bel-Air - Forbes
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