Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gordon Ramsay at The London - 09/17/2011

1020 N San Vicente Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 358-7788

I first visited Gordon Ramsay on opening night back in May 2008 and while I wouldn't call the experience traumatic, I left severely disappointed. Part of this was due to my naivete, this was my first opening night meal and I was expecting a more celebratory air, instead the dining room felt positively moribund and Ramsay himself couldn't even be bothered to make an appearance. More important than the pomp and circumstance was the food, lacking the complexity and elegance of Ramsay's other eponymous restaurants, the casual Cal-Asian inspired menu felt unfocused and derivative.

From the reviews I read, the quality didn't improve with time and within a year of opening, Ramsay sold his stake in the West Hollywood property. Despite that, the restaurant has kept his name as he allegedly remains involved in the menu development. I was content having written the restaurant off, but my friend Eric, an avid Hell's Kitchen fan, was kind enough to treat me to private ten course tasting.

Remy Martin - Louis XIII
The aroma is sheer opulence, laden with a complex bouquet of floral notes, ripe candied fruits, oak, spice, and caramel. On the palate the honey and fruit are balanced by a deeply woody sherry-like essence. While this was undoubtedly the most complex spirit I've ever tasted, I don't think I had the palate to fully appreciate it. At $300 for 2 ounces it was nice to try but I doubt I'll be having this again anytime soon.

Canape: Marscarpone and Ricotta Mousse - Truffle Oil and Olive Oil
The meal kicked off with an creamy smooth cheese mousse, the subtle tang of the ricotta was balanced nicely by the aroma of the truffle oil and the toast points added a nice crunchy contrast to the mousse.

Amuse: Mushroom Cappuccino
Despite being a bit monolithic, the soup was enjoyable enough thanks to the textural element of the milk foam. Little did I know this simple soup would end up being one of the evening's better courses thanks to its lack of overt technical deficiencies.

01: Sea Scallop - Chorizo and Beet Risotto
This was probably the best course of the night. The scallop was nicely cooked but a bit overly salty. I was a bit dubious about the risotto, but both the chorizo and beet were quite restrained, leaving the scallop as the focus of the dish. The actual slice of sausage that accompanied the scallop was salty, overwhelming, and completely unnecessary.

02: Moulard Duck Foie Gras and French Toast - Blueberry Sauce
This looked like yet another overly sweet preparation of seared foie and that's exactly what it was. Heavy and rich, I would have liked less of the blueberry and more of the smoked vanilla to accompany the liver.

03: Compressed Summer Melon Salad - Grilled Kingfish and Cucumber Sorbet
The combination of seared fish and melon resulted in a clumsy jumble of sugar and fishiness that felt like a disconcerting cross between crudo and dessert. Despite being bland and watery this was far from the worst course of the night.

04: Veal Sweetbread and Chanterelle Mushroom Tortellini - Garlic Custard
The combination of sweetbreads and chanterelle had my mouth watering, turns out it was wasted effort as there was hardly any of either to drool over. I didn't particularly care for the blunt garlic custard but it was the only real source of flavor on the plate. Sad to see a conceptually promising offal course was reduced to an insipid pasta dish that wouldn't have passed muster at a Macaroni Grill.

05: Escallop of Wild Salmon - Belgian Endive, Celery Hearts, Soy Vinaigrette
It has been some time since I couldn't finish a course, but this was the single worst preparation of salmon that I've ever had. The fish was thinly sliced, overcooked and utterly bland. Inexplicably, the accompanying vegetables also came completely devoid of seasoning. The sole source of flavor was the soy vinaigrette, but the tiny smear wasn't even close to enough to appropriately season the plate.

06: Beef Wellington - Roasted Vegetables and Truffled Green Beans
Ramsay's Beef Wellington was the whole impetus behind this meal so I simply cannot fathom why we were served a dish that would have driven Ramsay to fits of apoplexy on Hell's Kitchen. Kevin's in particular was a travesty beyond words the meat in his two end pieces was charred to a gristly grey mass. At least, the restaurant offered to substitute a filet mignon for anyone who wanted a replacement.

Substitution: Filet Mignon - Onion Jam, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Sherry Wine
Despite being adequate at best, the steak was a marked improvement from the atrocity that was the Beef Wellington. Despite asking for my steak on the rare side, the temperature felt more like a medium and the onion jam was just cloyingly sweet.

07: Artisanal and Farmhouse Cheeses
"Cheeses" is something of a misnomer, as we were actually served a single cheese. The lone wedge of Manchego came paired with toasted nuts, bread, and a fig cake. A passable if pedestrian course, likely because the kitchen didn't actually have to do any cooking.

08: Carrot Ginger Granite
This was another of the evening's stronger courses. I enjoyed the interaction between the creamy spice of the ginger and the icy sweet carrot.

09: Millefeuille - Lemon-Blueberry
Finally something the entire table seemed to enjoy. The subdued lemon cream and tart blueberries deftly complimented the flaky buttery puff pastry.

Coffee & Mignardises
To cap a perfect comedy of errors, our server couldn't name all of the mignardises we were presented because they changed regularly.

Horrific, vile, obscene, I don't think there are enough epithets to convey the unmitigated disaster that is Gordon Ramsay at the London West Hollywood. Food wasn't the only problem with the meal, service was lackluster with the staff gave only the most cursory descriptions of the dishes. The wine director was even worse, refusing to pair wines for the food unless the entire table opted for the wine pairing. Oddly after promising to take care of us at the start of the meal, we didn't see him again until well past the midway point. As a final insult, the restaurant tacked on a mandatory 22% service for the "privilege" of sitting through one of the worst all-around dining experiences that I've ever had. I honestly think that I would have been kinder to the restaurant had they simply refused to serve us and save us 6 hours and $3155.


Sam C. said...

Yikes. Sounds like you just went to food horror house despite it's only September. I was expecting the beef wellington to be at least good, to hear your experience, this is a disappointment....

Epicuryan said...

Yeah this was easily the worst meal of the year so far. I know hotel restaurants often get a bad rap but this was bad even by those standards.

Charlie Fu said...

going to ink. on wed?

James said...

Is Ramsay actually affiliated with that restaurant anymore? I thought I heard he had sold it....

Vittle me this... said...

your commentary is always appreciated! sorry for the terrible meal.

Epicuryan said...

Yup managed to weasel my way into a 6:00 seat

You remember correctly. He sold his stake in 2009 less than a year after the restaurant opened though he supposedly still has some input on the menu

Yeah its a shame. Have you tried the one in NY?

Charlie Fu said...

see you there! Got us a table for 4 at 6:15. You can give me the 15 minute rundown on what to order by then hopefully ;D

Epicuryan said...

Nice! I can tell you what to order now: everything.

Charlie Fu said...

be there with my fiancee and friends, the former will not let me order everything. =(

Going the next friday for a wine dinner, it'll definitely be a whole menu event

Epicuryan said...

Lol thats why you never bring the boss to important events :-P

Impressive that you already have a return trip lined up. I think most people would be quite jealous to know you are going twice in such short order.