In the next few paragraphs I am going to talk about my experience at Scarpetta Beverly Hills. Our adventure that night was one of the best I have had in a long time and possibly ever. I will say right now that this restaurant received my second perfect rating for many reasons so if you want to stop reading now and make a reservation for tonight I won’t hold it against you. If not, please read on.
The night before I ran the LA marathon we decided to do an upscale carbo load dinner. We drove out to Beverly Hills for our six o’clock reservation. We arrived a bit early so they sat us at the bar where we ordered some wine and snacked on delicious candied almonds and homemade chips. While the wine was a bit expensive they actually serve it to you in a carafe which gets you almost two glasses. I ordered a red which was very smooth and a great complement to what would prove to be a fantastic meal. After a few minutes they sat us in the upstairs section of the restaurant and we settled in to feast on a modern Italian meal. We met Dan our waiter and he talked with us about the menu. I also let him know that I was running in the marathon the next day and that it was my carbo load dinner.
After we put in our order they brought out the bread basket and spreads. Most places will give you some homemade bread and some butter but not Scarpetta. No, they gave us three different kinds of bread including Stromboli bread! A pinwheel of bread, meat, and mozzarella cheese baked to perfection. It didn’t end there though, they brought along three different kinds of spread. First a simple citrus infused olive oil on the left. Next to that butter, but not just simple butter, a sweet marscapone butter. Last but certainly not least a roasted eggplant carbonara. While the first two were good the eggplant was ridiculous. I could have eaten that all night and when our busboy noticed how much we enjoyed it he slipped us a second container. That is that type of service I always want to have and I will add to that thought a bit later on in this review. A great start but now we were ready for some appetizers.
I could tell at the beginning of this meal that the staff at Scarpetta were well trained, organized, and efficient. The presentation of the appetizers was proof of that. Each dish was brought out by a different person and as they timed it by a cue from Dan each of us had food in front of us at the same time. Now I admit that we over ordered but we all shared and I needed the calories for my race so whatever. My official appetizer was the raw yellowtail topped with pickled red onions. This was a mild appetizer, with a nice bite from the onions but not too much to outshine the fish. A really good appetizer though not the ones I want to focus on in this review. What I will say is that I did find it funny that Mr. Conant served red onions on a dish since he tears people apart on Chopped over them but I guess if you pickle them it’s OK. Take this into account future Chopped contestants.
Now my mom ordered creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms, a fancy name for an equally fancy dish. Served in two parts it allowed you to mix in the mushrooms at your own pace. This was a nice touch because you never know how much mushroom one person can handle especially with the intense flavor of truffle. While I would not order polenta if I was alone I count myself lucky that my mom did. The presentation was really cool and the flavor was amazing. Extremely rich so it was hard to finish which meant that I got to eat some! The polenta was super creamy and great all by itself but when mixed with the mushrooms the dish was brought to a whole other level. The flavors are hard to describe but they are something to remember. I agree though that you have to share because the polenta and truffled mushrooms are too much for one person to handle.
The final appetizer that I want to talk about was by far the best one. In the center of the table they placed two lonely scallops to which I declared “Only two!?” Little did I know the flavors they imparted on these two scallops make it seem like you had so much more. Twice in this meal I had a dish where each bite made me want to lean back, close my eyes, and enjoy. This was definitely one of them. The sea scallops were cooked perfectly with a wonderful sear on each side yet soft and chewy on the inside. Add to scallops a delicious sauce, mushrooms, and sunchokes and an awesome dish begins to coalesce. The surprising and most unique aspect of this dish was the cauliflower. I would never have thought to add cauliflower to scallops but now it is all I can think of. The subtle crunch mixed in with the sauce and the soft scallops made everything come together. For this item it was imperative that each aspect be on each individual fork full. I love to have a dish like that because it means that a lot of thought went into each ingredient and how they worked together. Nothing on that plate was there by accident and because of that fact two scallops were more than enough. Order these when you go or you will be sorry.
As we were waiting for our entrees to arrive the manager came out to check on us. Kendra was really nice and spent a bit of time with us making us feel welcome and appreciated for coming to the restaurant. It was nice to see them so attentive and that is why they are probably full up every night. We also spoke about the fact that I was running the next morning and she told me that I was the first marathoner to come in for a carbo load dinner. It was a fun conversation that would have been enough but there was more to it at the end of the meal.
Our entrees arrived with a few sides. We ordered the potato gnocchi with truffle and Parmesan and the broccoli rabe with ceci beans, caramelized shallots and garlic chips. The gnocchi were superbly prepared, creamy, and rich. I don’t normally eat gnocchi but Virginia did and she thoroughly enjoyed them. I want to talk about the broccoli rabe for a minute. This was a vegetable at its best! With ceci beans (chickpeas) and crazy good garlic chips you would think the broccoli would be lost but that is why they used broccoli rabe. The flavor of the rabe is bolder and more assertive so it could hold up to the other ingredients and yet the garlic was present in every bite. If you don’t like garlic this side is not for you but then we have no reason to eat out together anyway so do what you want.
Though I was starting to fill up it was time for dinner. Once again our dishes were served in unison and since they were all covered the wait staff unveiled them together by cue of our waiter Dan. This type of presentation makes you feel like royalty and we hadn’t even tasted the entrees yet! I decided to go outside the box and ordered the short rib agnolotti. Agnolotti, as I learned, is a mini stuffed pouch of pasta which in this case was stuffed with braised short rib, mushrooms, and horseradish. Such an interesting combo, I had never had horseradish in pasta but Passover was a few weeks away so why not! Just to mix it up Virginia ordered the actual list item, the tomato and basil spaghetti and she said she would get it again.
My pasta was cooked in brown butter and accompanied by hazelnuts and Parmesan cheese. Yes, hazelnuts. At this point I had thrown out everything I thought I knew about Italian food and just let it happen. Everything about this pasta was different and a little crazy but my god it was incredible. The angolotti was fresh handmade and cooked a little al dente as it should be. Simple but incredibly important and generally impossible to find in the chain world of Italian food today. The filling was something special. The short rib was soft and full of flavor but the surprising stars were the horseradish and hazelnuts. The two ingredients that were the most out of the box were by far the reason why this entree was so damn good. This was my second sit back and enjoy dish of the night and I think it was really due to the delivery. Each agnolotti was one bite and allowed you to get every ingredient every time. This allowed me to eat slowly which was good because I was so sad to be finished. This pasta rivaled the meals we had in Rome and that is saying something.
It was now time for dessert and I was full but that wouldn’t stop me. I looked for something light and settled on the coconut panna cotta with guava soup and caramelized pineapple. This whole dessert was a nice pallet cleanser because it was cold and fruity sort of like a melted sorbet. I really enjoyed it and it just looked really cool. I really find it impressive when you get a bowl or a cup of something and the colors are layered. In this dessert it was two layers next to each other which was visually pleasing and only created by a intense attention to detail. I nice ending to a wonderful meal.
The food alone at Scarpetta would bring me back again but it was the service that has convinced Virginia and I to move our anniversary celebration from Duane’s and the Mission Inn to Scarpetta and the Montage. Dan and the waitstaff had a wonderful knowledge of the food and were so attentive and friendly that you felt like a member of the family. This is hard to do in an upscale restaurant and often ignored completely. The chairs were huge and cushy which made us not want to leave since we could have slept in them. All of that would have been enough but Kendra, the manager, sent it over the top. I mentioned earlier that she spoke with me about the marathon I was running the next morning and she did not forget. As we were getting ready to pay she came back with a gift bag. The gift bag was full of supplies for the run from the Montage hotel. It had water, nuts, fruit, and a hat. It was also accompanied by a card wishing me good luck in the race. I was completely floored by this gesture. This was not something restaurants do for a first time visitor but Scarpetta apparently does. I was touched by this and it really speaks to the character of the employees and the commitment they have to their craft. With management like Kendra it was no surprise that they have waiters like Dan.
Our adventure at Scarpetta was one that we will embark on many more times and it will be my official carbo load dinner for next year’s LA marathon. Now, it is quite expensive, about $100 per person but twice a year it is completely worth the investment in your taste buds. In all honesty this was one of the best meals I have ever had including our ten days in Italy. Not just Italian meals, it was better than almost any place I had ever been to. It was not just the food, it was the detail in the ambiance and the commitment to fabulous service that vaulted Scarpetta to the top of my list. But yes, the food was unreal. Just like Buddakan in Philly, Scarpetta is a must go when you visit LA. Make your reservation and thank me later. Scott Conant, you done good sir.
Overall Review: 10/10 – No question
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