Sunday, October 14, 2012
Scarpetta: Celebrity, Chain, Delicious
I'm usually fairly skeptical of celebrity chef chains. After all, how good can a restaurant be when the chef has ten locales in five countries. For this reason, I mostly avoided Scott Conant's Scarpetta for a long time. Conant's not a huge celebrity but his high-end Italian chain, Scarpetta, originated in New York and now has branches in Miami, Las Vegas (natch), Miami and Toronto. Here in LA, Scarpetta is located at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills which also houses another celebrity chef spot, Thomas Keller's Bouchon.
Despite my skepticism, I had an amazing dinner at Scarpetta a week ago and am a complete convert. The menu is fairly simple but the food is spot on. Things started on a positive note with a broiled octopus appetizer that was one of the finest octopus dishes I've ever had. The octopus was not at all chewy, with more of a texture of pork than anything else, and a fresh from the grill, slightly charred exterior that was just fantastic.
Pastas were also exceptional, the highlight being a short rib agnolotti in brown butter sauce. You would think the richness of short rib in butter sauce would be a bit much, but it wasn't. The short rib really shined through. Each of these was a perfect mouthful.
Entrees were equally wonderful. The veal chop, topped with marrow, was as moist and juicy as any I've had, cooked to a perfect medium rare. The spiced duck breast had a great flavor (I'm guessing some tea spicing). The only entree that was less than fantastic was the black cod, which was fine but unexciting.
For dessert, the chocolate dishes really shined, particularly a chocolate budino, a sizable serving of rich, silky pudding.
The only downside of Scarpetta, other than the high prices, was the service, which was a bit lackluster, not matching general feel of the place. It could have just been an off night, but the service was quite sporadic. The waiter would take a partial order, then leave and come back later for the rest, water was luke-warm and water service was a bit sporadic. It wasn't horrible, but not up to the level of the food and prices.
My go-to Italian spot is another celebrity chef owned restaurant, albeit one with shared local ownership that originated here, Osteria Mozza. I'd say Scarpetta is every bit its equal.
Montage Beverly Hills Hotel
225 N. Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210