When you combine two of the biggest names in the world of Los Angeles luxury hospitality, Wolfgang Puck and the Hotel Bel-Air (701 Stone Canyon Road, Los Angeles 90077), magical things happen. Magical and delicious things. I spent a dreamy getaway in one of the hotel’s magnificent Patio Suites and had an opportunity to enjoy a dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, called Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. It’s wonderfully fresh and modern California cuisine with great influences from Europe and the Mediterranean. There’s a focus on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, which begins with local providers and weekly chef’s visits to Southern California’s farmer’s markets. With everything overseen by the master and creator of California cuisine himself, Wolfgang Puck, it really works together to create a great, luxurious farm-to-table dining experience. When that dining experience is presented in the idyllic, Elysian surroundings of the Hotel Bel-Air, you may have achieved culinary nirvana.
It’s a large, mostly outdoor dining area, with an expansive terrace and an inviting and elegant, indoor dining room. There’s large marble fireplace separating off a private dining room and wine cellar on the side. There’s a nice combination of large, comfortable booths and widely spaced tables. We dined at night, al fresco, and there were heaters and plastic walls to keep the terrace space warm. The restaurant is in the center of the hotel, which is beautifully nestled on 12 acres of lavish greenery in the heart of one of Los Angeles’ most exclusive residential neighborhoods.
Our dinner started off with a series of amuse-bouches, small tasting plates with two individual servings, one for each of us. These are off-menu samples shared by chefs to give you a taste of their cooking and what’s in store for the evening. Before the tasting, we were given some Henriot Brut Souverain, a light refreshing champagne that was a perfect starter. First out were some Kumomoto oysters, served in a dashi gelee with diced cucumbers and shaved wasabi. I don’t normally order oysters but ended up eating them both and enjoying the flavors and textures. Next up was a fava bean bruschetta with a mint marjam, again, interesting. The last amuse-bouche was by far my favorite, Campania artichoke tortellini with enormous shaved black truffle slices on top. The filling also had mascarpone cheese and the tortellini was served in melted Parmesan Reggiano. It was interesting to just eat the raw truffle slices and really taste their flavor alone. The truffle’s earthy flavor matches perfectly with the pasta and cheese and many of my chef friends recommend this basic preparation for fresh truffles.
For my main course, I went with the Wolfe Ranch quail, from the restaurant’s “Naked on the Wood Grill” menu section. It was cooked nicely, just a touch of pink inside and just a touch of char outside. The quail came with a unique kalcumber (a Puck specialty featured at Spago) relish and lime pickles. My guest was quite full after all the tasting plates and had the smoked salmon appetizer as their main, which was served on four lemon-herb blinis with a dollop of dill cream. The salmon was fresh and delicious the the dish was a unique dinner version of something you would expect to find at breakfast.
I kept it French for the wine. I went with a a few glasses of a 2010 Grenache Chateauneuf du Pape from Paul Autard. I love a good Chataeuneuf and think they pair perfectly with a wide-ranging meal like this. It really enhanced the quail.
Dessert did not disappoint as we went with the chocolate souffle. I had the blueberry souffle at the hotel’s sister property, The Beverly Hills Hotel, a few weeks ago, and it came topped with a white chocolate wafer with the Dorchester Collection (the hotels’ parent company) logo. Sadly, this souffle came topless. The souffle was cooked perfectly, light and delicious, especially when I poured the mini pitcher of raspberry sauce on it. The raspberries were fresh and plump and topped with 24k gold flakes. It was interesting to eat the gold, which is tasteless, inert and harmless. I must admit I did not care for the Earl Grey Tea ice cream, just wasn’t sweet enough for me.
I must also mention that while not cheap, the restaurant is not as pricey as one might expect. I don’t normally go into detail about meal prices, but for for fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, served from a Wolfgang Puck kitchen in this beautiful setting, I think it’s a great deal. Soups and salads are under $20, a shrimp cocktail is $24, the smoked salmon was $22. My quail was $28, pastas and pizza are under $25 (except for the truffles). A sirloin steak is $48, as are lamb chops. And those are dinner prices. Service was friendly but I would have enjoyed a bit more attention as I love frequent table visits by waitstaff.
The restaurant serves a popular Sunday jazz brunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and an Afternoon Tea (Fridays and Saturdays from 3-4) that’s a Los Angeles tradition. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. daily, followed by lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner is served from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (10:30 p.m. on weekends).
Freddy Sherman is a world traveler and editor of the travel blog luxuryfred.com. You can follow him on Twitter -@luxuryfred and check out his travel photos on Instagram – @luxuryfred.
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