When I stayed at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas this summer, one of the few restaurants I did not get a chance to try was Scarpetta. Since most restaurants now have outposts in various cities, it was a bit serendipitous that upon returning to Los Angeles I found out that Scarpetta was opening in Beverly Hills at the Montage Hotel in October and would be participating in Dine LA. It must be true that being at the right place at the right time are coordinated by great beneficent (gastronomic) forces.
The Montage is beautiful and the dining space at Scarpetta is both an understated and luxurious extension of the hotel ambiance. The varied bread basket ranged from plain whole grain to mozzarella and prosciutto stuffed, and the dipping choices ranged from a wonderfully savory eggplant and tomato spread, to a decadent marscapone and cream, and a citrus infused extra virgin olive oil.
- Since it was Dine LA week, we opted for the menu (which you must ask for) and chose three signature courses for $44 per person. I drank a 2003 Rosso at $16 per glass, and Robin had a Hendricks Gin and tonic for $13, so even with the DineLA deal, count on the average check for two to be over $140 including tax and tip.
- Robin chose to start with the Creamy Polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms (regular menu price $16). Her first course arrived with two covered dishes and was served European style with the expediter spooning the mushroom fricassee over the polenta after ceremoniously removing the covers. This may be the best dish I tasted all night. The mushrooms had an earthy richness which complimented the perfectly creamy polenta so well that Robin said it was done as she would have made it (she is both Italian and a chef, so this was a high compliment).
- I chose the raw yellowtail with olio de zenzero and pickled red onions as my first course (regular menu price $17). Although the fish was obviously fresh and the presentation was pretty, I was not wowed by the flavors. I made a mental note not to order a Japanese style dish in an Italian restaurant again.
I had chosen the yellowtail because my main course was the grilled Mediterranean Branzino with a saffron-cipollini puree, fresh ceci beans, calamari and a tomato marmalade. Branzino is one of my favorite fish and although this was a very nice rendition, and I loved the calamari and ceci beans, but the fish itself was slightly overcooked. Since the regular menu price of this was $30, I would not have been happy if I had paid full price, but I excused it as a consequence of a new restaurant with more covers than the kitchen was used to handling during DineLA.
For Robin’s main course she chose the short rib agnolotti with garlic chips, toasted bread crumbs and horseradish (regularly $23). These were tasty tender bites bursting with flavor. the crunch of the garlic chips and toasted bread crumbs lent a nice crunch to the rich beef. I would recommend this dish to anyone who loves pasta and beef.
- Robin’s dessert choice was the vanilla caramel budino with gianduja chocolate cookies and although I am not a caramel aficionado, this light and creamy cloud of sweetness was a pleasure.
- I chose the more classic chocolate cake with burnt orange caramel gelato with espresso sauce and loved it. The cake was a rich dark chocolate decadence that would make any chocoholic swoon.
- So was it serendipity that I missed Scarpetta in Las Vegas, only to find they are now in my neighborhood? I don’t know. I do know it was a pleasant meal for a decent price with wonderful service during DineLA. Would I go back for a full priced meal? The polenta and mushroom fricassee, the short rib agnolotti, and the desserts are definitely worth it, but I would steer clear of the fish dishes until the kitchen staff skills improve.