Wednesday, January 12, 2011
After watching Chef/Owner Scott Conant on the show, Chopped, show no mercy when Italian dishes were cooked improperly, I was definitely curious as to what his food was going to be like. Will his exacting standards follow through on his own menu at his newly opened restaurant, Scarpetta, in Beverly Hills?
Our meal definitely started on a high note when they brought out their complimentary bread which were accompanied by an eggplant caponata, mascarpone butter and citrusy olive oil. The bread itself was soft and/or crusty when it needed to be but the absolute treasure in the basket was their stromboli, which had ham and cheese rolled into it. That stromboli is actually quite rich and filling, so you might want to limit to yourself to just one or two.
When it came to the appetizers, my party shared three of them. First up was the Raw Yellowtail which was seasoned with ginger oil and topped with pickled red onion and a pinch of sea salt. The tender and mild flavors of the fish went well with the slight hint of spice from the ginger oil while the sea salt gave it a nice ocean-y finish.
The second starter was the Braised Short Ribs of Beef on a bed of autumn vegetables and farro risotto. To be honest, I don't remember much about the flavors of this particular dish, but I did remember that the beef was meltingly tender.
Our last appetizer was the Creamy Polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms. I really loved the creamy texture of the polenta and when paired with the earthy flavors of the mushrooms, this was definitely a hit with everyone at the table.
Now on to the pasta dishes and again, we shared 3 of them, starting with Chef Conant's signature dish which was Spaghetti with tomato and basil. After one bite, I could see why he's known for this dish. There was a creamy-silky texture to the sauce that was mouth appealing plus the subtle peppery flavor of the basil was also a perfect complement to the tangy-acidity of the tomatoes.
Even though the Spaghetti was definitely tasty, my favorite pasta dish of the night was actually the Beet and Smoked Ricotta Casonei with pistachio nuts & poppy seeds. I'm a beet lover so as soon as I saw this dish on the menu, it was a must-order. The sweetness of the beets, the smoky cheese and the sweet nuttiness of the pistachios really made my taste buds dance with delight.
The third pasta dish we tried was the Duck and Foie Gras Ravioli with a marsala reduction. This is the one savory dish that didn't do much for me. I didn't taste the duck because it was just too overwhelmed by the sweetness of the foie gras and the rich flavors of the marsala sauce.
Our meat entrees consisted of two different ones. My favorite of the two was the Ash-Spiced Venison Loin with braised radicchio, smoked polenta dumpling and dried cherry reduction. The venison was cooked perfectly and its strong, distinct flavors went well with the bitterness of the radicchio and the tartness of the dried cherry sauce.
A little less memorable for me was the Aged Sirloin of Beef with roasted baby potatoes, porcini mushrooms and barolo reduction. Just like the venison, the beef was cooked perfectly, but nothing else really stood out for me.
Someone in my party also ordered the Black Cod with caramelized fennel and concentrated tomatoes. I only had a small taste and not enough to leave an impression, but my friend enjoyed it.
When it came to the savory portion of our meal, almost all of the dishes were stellar. Unfortunately, when it came to desserts, Scarpetta didn't do as well. It's not that they were bad. It's more like they were just okay. There wasn't anything really mind-blowing about the 4 different ones we tried. First, we sampled the Chocolate and Vanilla Parfait with a hazelnut milkshake and biscbill maherotti. I'm not sure why but the Parfait tasted a little too coffee-like for my liking.
The second dessert we tried was the Pear Crostata which were stuffed forelle pears, brown butter pound cake and honey gelato. I didn't taste enough honey in the gelato, but I did like the denseness of the cake.
My favorite dessert was the Coconut Panna Cotta with guava soup and caramelized pineapple. I enjoyed the creamy texture of the panna cotta and I could have easily eaten a small bowl of just the guava soup. The tropical flavors all played nicely together.
Last was the Amaretto Flan with spiced roasted pumpkin and marsala zabaglione gelato. At our table of five, no one liked that amaretto flan. In fact, one little bite was enough to put everyone off. I just couldn't taste the almonds and the flavor was a little bitter, plus the texture was more like jello than what we're used to as flan. We all did like the gelato and wished we had more of that instead of that flan.
To end, my friends and I really enjoyed dining at Scarpetta. Not only was the food superb, the service was impeccable. Our water glasses were always filled. Dirty dishes were quickly swept away and when we returned the cod dish because it was undercooked, they graciously took it away and fired up a new one. Scarpetta is a restaurant I'd definitely dine at again and would recommend to friends looking for a fine dining Italian restaurant experience.
Scarpetta Beverly Hills
(inside the Montage Hotel)
225 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210