Summer Of Ludo and Gilles pop-up restaurant at Montage Hotel, Beverly Hills
When you’ve lived as long as I have, it’s fun to have an “OMG” moment at a restaurant – Not to mention 5 of them…
Last week, I was invited to Summer of Ludo and Gilles at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. The friend who invited me is good friends with Chef Gilles and his beautiful wife Lizzie so – full disclosure – we got the “VIP treatment.” Nonetheless – the surprises I mention below are available to ALL dining guests, not just VIPs.
Okay, so, never mind the garish pink sculpture of the word Beverly Hills screaming for attention in the outside courtyard. This conspicuous eye-sore, slash photo-op designed to attract foreigners, does its job perfectly, yet, somehow once inside the restaurant’s spacious yet familiarly cozy open floor plan, the marketing gimmick kind of amuses those with any sense of humor.
Here are those Summer Of Ludo and Gilles sweet and savory surprises, in order of appearance:
Surprise 1: A farm-fresh egg scrambled with chives, placed back in its shell topped with two inches of Russian caviar served with a mother of pearl spoon – 25 years ago you could find this dish at Gilles’ former establishment, L’Orangerie, but Angelenos have had to wait decades for this eggstravagant delight to return to its coop. Don’t miss it.
Surprise 2: Echezeax, 2009 is arguably one of the best, if not the best Pinots in the world. It can sell for between $3- $6,000 a bottle but was offered to me …wait for it…by the glass. What? I’m not kidding. Thanks to an amazing gadget called the Coravin, this fancy, commercial-grade wine aerator makes it possible to not only decant wine right at the table, but allows the restaurant to re-seal the bottle for up to a month without rusting (oxidizing/spoiling) the wine for the next customer. That’s nearly $1,000 a glass! I also learned that one of the adorable sommeliers, Omar, who I heard came up with the brazen, controversial if not downright unorthodox idea, also works at Augustine Wine Bar, right across from my office in Sherman Oaks. My 5 o’clock hour looks to be perking up.
Surprise 3: “Would you like mashed potatoes with your butter, mam?” They’re called basil mashed potatoes on the menu, but really, someone should check with the chef to see which ingredient SHOULD be listed first. I’m not complaining… I made sure Chef knew that I was smitten with the basil flavored butter fluff. He even mischievously snuck some extra potato butter in my to-go container, after I told him I don’t allow either butter or potatoes in my kitchen because I “lose the plot” around both of them. It may sound like an everyday side dish to you, but to me, it was a guilty pleasure that made me downright giddy.
Surprise 4: Meet the Flinstones – More and more these days, restaurants are meeting Angelenos’ growing demand for vegetarian fare. Even though there are usually multiple meat options on a menu – it’s a rare treat to see veal. On the few occasions I DO see it on a menu (even though I’m 80% pescatarian these days) I try to order it (or make someone else order it so I can have a bite) Needless to say, it was crisp and tender and simply… fantastic. Spreading over the entire plate like the Isle of Greece, this Vitello a la Milanese was presented classic, bone-in, Flinstone-style.
And for those of you who still prefer surf over turf every time – Ludo and Gilles prawns were unlike any I have ever had in this country! If I had been served these crunchy crustaceans in the privacy of my own home, I would have – wait – allow me to be more delicate – let’s just say – I would have needed a bib.
Surprise 5: Extra Virgin Olive Oil – drizzled over honey ice cream – with tangy lemon and white chocolate? I have tasted balsamic vinegar reductions on fruit many times. But raw olive oil on a dessert. It is mind-blowing. There is nothing else to say. You just HAVE to drive across town to taste it!
Well, maybe there is one more thing to say – don’t wear tight pants.