Saturday 14 January, 2012

Belly up to the Counter at Scarpetta BH

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Like many star chef restaurants, nearly all the outlets of Scott Conant’s ever-expanding Scarpetta empire—including Miami, Toronto and Las Vegas—offer luxe kitchen-adjacent “Chef’s Table” dining rooms. And Scarpetta Beverly Hills, located within the Montage hotel, is no different. As a matter of fact, on the night I visit, comedian George Lopez, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and a trio of women are enjoying the one here.

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But Scarpetta B.H. has another dining option that’s not only unique to all of Conant’s restaurants, but also most fine dining establishments: a counter actually in the kitchen. Yes, here, within one of the most attractive-looking working professional kitchens you’re likely to see off television, six lucky people an evening can sit and enjoy a $200 per person degustation (12 course minimum, with paired wines if desired) at a polished marble counter, and be served by the Executive Chef. Which, if he happens to be in town, means Conant himself.

Despite a rising star, Conant has remained remarkably accessible and open for a TV personality (24 Hour Restaurant Battle, Top Chef, Chopped). While kitchen staff buzzes around him, and his Chef de Cuisine expedites, you can engage Conant or any of the other cooks in discussion of his inspirations (from his mom to staffers), purveyors, even individual recipes.

CLICK HERE FOR MY REVIEW OF CONANT'S CASUAL D.O.C.G. IN LAS VEGAS

But he won’t let you forget to eat. On my visit, Conant served a seasonal selection of his signature dishes with a few surprises:

• raw yellowtail with olio de zenzero and pickled red onion

• tuna “susci” wrapped around remarkable marinated vegetables and preserved truffles

• spiced sunchoke soup, poured tableside over  tiny bay scallops, faro and black trumpet mushrooms

• polenta with mushroom fricassee

• short rib agnolotti with toasted garlic, breadcrumbs and horseradish

• the famous spaghetti pomodoro, toothy but tender with explosively fresh flavors

• roasted branzino with celery root and spring onion

• smoked duck breast

• all accompanied by a lovely basket of bread featuring slices of their delectable stromboli and paired with unique Italian (and one biodynamic Slovenian white) wines.

Desserts, by Executive Pastry Chef Richard Ruskell, included tastings of coconut panna cotta, chocolate ganache, chocolate hazelnut espresso vicherine, and hazelnut semifreddo.

Of course, it would be even better if Conant invited you behind the line to cook with him. But considering the quiet efficiency with which his staff operates, perhaps it’s best to just admire from the other side of the counter. And give them a toast.

Scarpetta Beverly Hills also opens the kitchen for brunch service on Sundays.

Scarpetta at Montage Beverly Hills

225 North Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 860-7970


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