Friday, February 21, 2014

Maude - 02/20/2014

212 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 859-3418

When one of my friends suggested trying Maude I was a bit skeptical; after all I considered Chef Curtis Stone more of a TV personality than a serious chef. These days it's almost a given that high-profile chefs will find themselves on TV at some point whether it's on Top Chef Masters, Iron Chef, or another of the constant slate of cooking competition and restaurant shows, but Stone has spent far more time than most. Not only has he been on both Iron Chef (competitor) and Top Chef Masters (host) hes also been on The Celebrity Apprentice and made a slew of talk show appearances. All this lead me to question whether his restaurant would actually be any good.

To his credit, Stone started cooking professionally at 18 and worked at several top restaurants in his native Australia before moving to London where he would team up with Marco Pierre White, a celebrity chef and restauranteur who was one of the youngest chefs to win 3 Michelin Stars and was also the mentor for many of England's top chefs including the infamous Gordon Ramsay. Given his pedigree and his concept of featuring a single theme ingredient throughout his menu, I was intrigued enough to set aside my doubts.

Lime Sorbet
H. Goutorbe, "Cuvee Prestige", Champagne, France N.V
The meal began with a fresh, cool and delightful palate cleanser of lime sorbet. The frozen confection was sweet and gentle while the Cara Cara segments provided a touch of juicy acidic verve.

Oysters and Caviar
H. Goutorbe, "Cuvee Prestige", Champagne, France N.V
Our second canape consisted of a classic pairing of oyster and caviar. I loved the interplay between the creamy Shigoku and the caviar, a constant ebb and flow of melon-y sweetness and nutty saline. The champagne was especially apt with this course, medium weight and well balance the nose has hints of crisp apple and pear with a touch of wet slate and finishes with hints of brioche and nuts.

H. Goutorbe, "Cuvee Prestige", Champagne, France N.V
These might be the tiniest Gougères I've ever seen. Chef Stone brings his own twist on the classic cheese puff, infusing the creamy center with artichoke which gives the morsel a hint of verdant nuttiness.

Onion Bhaji
H. Goutorbe, "Cuvee Prestige", Champagne, France N.V
Next up was a short detour to India for these some fragrant onion fritters. The popular snack came with a sauce of cilantro, mint, and lime that was adds a touch of tangy herbaceous levity to the savory Bhaji.

Crispy Mussel
H. Goutorbe, "Cuvee Prestige", Champagne, France N.V
The last of the snacks was a single fried mussel in a base of orange aioli. Of course the saline and citrus work well together, the citrus aioli added both weight and balance in a way that was subtle yet undeiably effective; something that would become a hallmark of the whole meal.

Garden Salad - Pearl Onion, Buttermilk, Nasturtium
George Skouras, Moscofilero, Peloponnese, Greece 2012
Having dispensed with the canapes, we moved on to the meal proper. First up was a mix of crisp leafy greens tinged with a creamy lactic tang and flourishes of grassy bitterness. The salad isn't particularly complex but it was hard to deny the appeal of its simplicity and freshness. The accompanying wine was an approachable Greek wine made from the aromatic Moschofilero grape. A bouquet of fresh flowers and ripe citrus and stonefruit leaps from the glass tempered with a chalky minerality on the palate.

Carrot Soup - Smoked Parsnip, Orange, Serrano Ham
George Skouras, Moscofilero, Peloponnese, Greece 2012
I expected to struggle with this course but I found the thick potage of sweet carrot nicely balanced by the parsnip cream. Certainly sweet but tempered with a smoky heft and fatty relish from the Serrano chip.

Lobster - Crimson Turnip, Radish, Brioche
Hitori Musume, Junmai Nigori, Ibaraki, Japan
Our crudo dish was a lobster tartare coupled with bitter succulent radish and turnips. The thin buttery brioche crisp is a fitting companion for the succulent sweetness of the lobster. A very well conceived dish, though I think I would have liked a coarser cut of the lobster or larger pieces for a more apparent texture.

Terrine - Chicken, Pain Perdu, Mustard
Breton, "Clos Senechal", Borgueil, France 2010
Moving on to the heavier meat courses we started out with a terrine of pressed chicken. The dense spongy block of savory chicken is laced with fresh dill. The Pain Perdu (French Toast) and dijon mustard both add a sense of sweetness with the latter also contributing a touch of spicy relish. Moving onto red wines we started with a Cab Franc from Loire. The wine has a touch of rusticity that would play well with both bird courses along essences of cedar and subdued ripe plum.

"Duck, Duck, Goose" - Duck Egg, Smoked Goose Fat, Swiss Chard
The "Duck, Duck, Goose" was a rather whimsically named duck ravioli. The large raviolo is stuffed full of a dense ground duck meat reminiscent of sausage, with a light gamy savor highlighted by the smoked fat. The chard and slivers of pink pickles provide plenty of bitter and tart contrast as do the bits of finger lime mixed into the cream sauce.

Snake River Farm's Beef - Beef Cheek, Broccoli, Rosti
Emilio Moro, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2009
The final savory of the night was a take on beef and broccoli. I typically prefer my beef courses simple to fully appreciate the nuances of the meat but this was a superbly composed course with everything on the plate serving a purpose and in balance with its companions. The medium rare beef is from the rib-eye cut and shows both fat and rich meaty flavor. The cheek was a hearty braised affair, utterly tender with a much heavier feel to it. The broccoli was a nice change from the typical vegetables that come with beef courses, a light fresh contrast to the weightiness of the steak. The pad of roasted potato was tender and shot through with a satisfying bouquet of rosemary and butter. Finally drops of candied lemon gel bring a unique and uplifting sweetness to the entire dish. The Tempranillo was my favorite wine of the night, pairing bold ripe fruit with a touch of earth and forest floor, a classic steak-friendly wine.

Abbaye de Belloc - Mostarda, Semolina Crackers
Emilio Moro, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2009
The meal comes with an optional cheese course and though our server called it a supplement, I don't believe there is any added cost for ordering it. I was hoping for a more complex composed dish but apparently the restaurant only offers one cheese at a time, for us it was a French sheep's milk first made by Benedictine monks. A relatively high fat content cheese, the Abbaye de Belloc is a firm cheese but melts on the tongue. The flavor is fairly neutral not too salty or pungent and finishes with a sweet nutty twang.

Orange Blossom Madelines - Salted Caramel
Moving onto desserts we started off with warm Madeline cakes suffused with a nuanced bouquet of citrus and a lingering flavor reminiscent of freshly-brewed tea. The salted caramel is simultaneously rich, sweet, and lightly salty. Not wanting to waste a drop of the golden brown confection, I scooped the excess caramel into my coffee

Lemon Curd - Dulcey Cremeux, Yuzu Sorbet, Hempseed
Badia a Coltibuono, Vin Santo, Tuscany, Italy 2006
I typically like to have one lighter fruit based dessert and followed by a heavier one featuring chocolate/caramel, but this managed to combine both into a single cohesive whole. On one hand you have tart lemon curd and fragrant yuzu sorbet and on the other is a velvety Valrhona white chocolate cremeux providing some weight.

Mignardises - Blood Orange Marshmallow | Limoncello Macaron | Buddha's Hand Pâte de Fruit | Chocolate-Kumquat Thumbprint | Satsuma Chocolate truffle
In keeping with the theme ingredient all of the final sweets had some form of citrus. My favorite was the lemon pâte de fruit thanks to the resonant lemon zest. I also quite enjoyed the macaron, chewy and sweet with a touch of alcoholic citrus heat.

Early reports about Maude have all been very positive so I came with fairly high expectations and Chef Stone easily surpassed them. I enjoyed the Stone's idea of highlighting a key ingredient and from start to finish citrus was woven into every course we tasted. As much as I love bold citrus flavors, I really appreciated the way Chef stone demonstrated the fruits' subdued side, deftly adding relief and contrast without the bracing in-your-face acidity. At $75 for 9 courses, the meal is quite reasonable, and I could see myself coming back regularly as the key ingredient changes each month.

1 comment:

Charlie Fu said...

looks like a good deal at $75!