A Land of Enchantment Dinner | Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air, CA
Bel-Air, CA, June 2021
• GAYOT’s Rating: 16/20
• Cuisine: California
• Breakfast daily 7:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.; Lunch daily 11:00 a.m.-2:30p.m.; Dinner nightly 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. (last reservation 9:30 p.m.)
• Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air is one of GAYOT’s:
– Best Restaurants with the Best Food in Los Angeles Area
– Best Restaurants for California Cuisine in Los Angeles Area
– Best Romantic Restaurants in Los Angeles Area
– Best Special Occasion Restaurants in Los Angeles Area
Most likely when driving to Hotel Bel-Air, you are going to make a turn on Stone Canyon Road from the world-famous Sunset Boulevard and drive up in lush vegetation. It is not visible like the Dorchester Collection’s other Los Angeles property, The Beverly Hills Hotel. The magic starts as soon as you step out of your automobile. You, or at least I, feel like entering the grounds of the Sleeping Beauty castle. Majestic is the word: from the bridge over the swan river, the actual white swans, the Swan Lake, the trees and the flowers. The architecture of the hallways leading to restaurant Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air is rather sober, paying homage to the natural surroundings. Not too many legendary hotels can claim to have such beautiful grounds in the middle of a metropolis.
For the hotel’s reopening in October 2011, after two years of renovations, Dorchester Collection’s COO François Delahaye also wanted to shake things up on the culinary side. Just like the Sleeping Beauty it had been a little dormant. The prince called upon to wake up this, let us admit, exclusive dining venue, was none the less than über-chef Wolfgang Puck.
Like good wines, ten years later the restaurant has aged right and gotten better. Based on my last dinner (see photos below) it has morphed into fine dining. But don’t get intimated by the word “fine.” The ambience, and the décor, as I said above, are rather on the relaxed side. (I can’t say I like the chairs flanking the tables.) You can find any excuse to come here: family dinner, gathering with friends, too tired to cook, business, romantic, anniversary, birthday — just name it. The culinary level has to pair with this iconic estate. After all, you are in Bel-Air, but Bel-Air with no fuss, just like chef Puck.
Chef Puck has, of course, a team with him. Executive Chef Mike Treanor, Chef de Cuisine Connor McVay, and the charming Executive Pastry Chef Tiffany Pascua lead his 90077 stoves. I have seen chef Puck interacting with his chefs and sous-chefs. It is always a great collaboration between them. Everybody can bring their own ideas and each and every one is being listened to. Therefore, chefs can work in full confidence. I would not say at ease, because they have to deliver every day, and at that level it requires work and concentration.
Be careful when the homemade breads arrive on the table. Yes, they are very good but there are many delicacies to come. I hope, like mine, your amuse-bouche will be uni and caviar. The kanpachi crudo in a coconut dashi made me pause, and realize that life can be beautiful. It was no comparison with the much less interesting burrata salad that followed. Timing is timing… and is tasty when it is the first of the season of Italian summer truffles. They were shaved tableside above house-made tagliatelle. There are no flowers decorating the restaurant, so the artichokes, squash blossoms and summer vegetables accompanying the California King salmon in a Tuscan green olive sauce appeared like a bouquet. The Snake River Farms American Wagyu “Butcher’s Butter,” the signature steak, was cooked as it should be: medium rare. Now on to the sweet act to be performed. Part one took the form of a light tangerine sorbet on top of a small tres leches cake. Then came the impressive and delicate cherries and chocolate millefeuille with pistachio ice cream. The conclusion of this very elegant evening was not-to-be-missed chocolate mignardises.
The 26-page wine list of some 550 labels would be too long to fully describe here, but you can understand it is one we call a “Great Wine List.” The focus is on France and California. It includes Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, ‘La Tâche,’ Grand Cru, 2005; Château Haut-Brion,1er Grand Cru Classé, 1959; and Screaming Eagle, 2008.
> My tip: for more privacy, dine at one of the booths.