This week marked my first experience with RH at Andaz, West Hollywood for one of the simplest of meals I could have anticipated.  But as simple doesn’t necessarily mean bare, I will also say one of the more satisfying dinners I wholeheartedly consumed with gusto!

Chef Jorge Chicas has fresh on his mind starting with a new menu.  “We’re moving into more modern, popular ways of eating. The regular customers who dine at RH are real foodies.  They come for the local fruits and vegetables and other ingredients we use, supplied from farms close to LA.”

With a great many of his normal patrons being, either Andaz Hotel guests or entertainment executives arriving daily for a simple but posh lunch, Chef Chicas is hoping these days to attract and invite a more local West Hollywood crowd.  Enhancing RH’s signature “market to table” dining philosophy, Chef Chicas will be expanding upon the California French style cuisine into more Latin inspired dishes as well.  In the next couple of weeks and months, a tapas menu design will be presented so that friends and larger groups can spontaneously stop in and sample from much more than a single dish while enjoying an in-house DJ, a cool ambiance and creative drink highlights from the RH Bar.  For now, it is a menu truly in development and continuously evolving, where the tastes are a combination of the traditional and the au courant, hovering between appealing  and surprising.

RH also intends on shortly (less than two weeks) joining the West Hollywood Farmers Market and will be offering samples of the cuisine there introducing the latest creations not yet appearing on the menu.  You won’t want to miss that!

Cavernous was the first word that came to mind as I walked through a very cohesively designed, softly lit, gray-scale, dining room, admiring the impressive open kitchen to my left bordered by an enormous selection of wines enclosed in a refrigerated several walls case. The cocktail bar complete with DJ partitioned off to the side, stood to my right .  And I also noticed a row of bar chairs bordering the kitchen area for dining literally with the chef.

A banquette fit for at least six was granted to myself and my guest which beautifully faced steaming pots, pans and grills in the not so far distance.  Immediately relaxed and comfortable in a truly easy, California Casual style atmosphere, I  suddenly bubbled aloud, “Oh, what’s that fish?  It smells delicious!”  I really couldn’t help but remark right away.  A delicate aroma was wafting over in my direction and I was compelled to curiously ogle the plates at the next table.  “Salmon?  No Snapper!  Hmm, I’ll have to try that,” I thought.   The evening was already off to a good start.

I had earlier begun browsing the menu online so I kind of had a feel and a pretty good idea of what I wanted.  It was a specific ordered list.  But when you have the opportunity to sample anything you like on a menu, it’s always best to try a little bit of everything.  And that is exactly what I did.  The staff was uber accommodating in every way, gracious and fun.  And, as I learned, the food itself resembled the bright personality of the chef.

The menu for the evening:

STARTERS

Charcuterie with Saucission, Prosciutto, Chorizo and Marcona Almonds.  Particularly perfect in taste and presentation, the Chorizo, thinly sliced was slow to register on the tongue but eventually evoked a very smoky flavor in contrast to the sweeter, brighter tasting Saucission salami.  Italian Parma Prosciutto being more meaty and with less fat than most American versions offered a balanced flavor that was altogether divine.  The plate was finished with typical Cornichons (baby pickled cucumbers) and crisp almonds.

Gloria’s Farm Baby Beets Salad.  Roasted baby beets, Frisee lettuce, baby Arugula, walnuts, and a hint of Bermuda blue cheese mixed with sherry vinaigrette showcased a well blended melange without the distraction of heavy goat cheeses or a complete ‘fusion’ which allowed each vegetable to retain its own distinct and delectable flavor.

Heirloom Tomatoes and Burrata Salad. Gloria’s Farm baby arugula, aged balsamic reduction, extra virgin olive oil amplified the perfectly ripened tomatoes and a firm, (although not overly creamy) Burrata cheese.

Marinated Ceregniola Olives.  A new highlight for the appetizer course,  marinated in herbs, sherry vinegar, pimento and California extra virgin olive oil, were large, meaty and aromatic.

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COCKTAILS

The Mr. Plant, (so dubbed after iconic Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant) concocted with No. 209 Gin, cucumber, tangerine, agave syrup and soda, this before dinner drink actually refreshed all the way through the appetizer courses.

The Basilic, prepared with strawberries and Belvedere IX vodka, lemon and lime initially had the scent of grapefruit, won they evening over completely with is fruity, lightly sweet drink-ability and an extraordinary infusion of basil.

MAIN COURSE

Truffle Risotto featuring local wild mushrooms, creamy risotto, parmesan0 cheese, petite basil was as true to risotto as can be.  Delicate and savory, added to this dish was the ambrosial delight of foamed rose water.

All Natural Creekstone Farm Ribeye.  Served with large sized pomme frites that were more like steak potatoes with a very cripsy skin and Bearnaise sauce, the steak, although could have offered a bit more impact for my own personal taste, was well prepared and tender.

Bouillabaisse. Maine lobster, sea scallops, shrimp, tomato broth, pearl onions, potatoes composed a subtle brothy sauce without a lot of spice or other accoutrement, but the each piece of fish was exquisitely cooked leaving the large sea scallops and the more often than not, hard to get right, mussels astoundingly creamy.

Agnolotti Pasta in a homemade tomato-garlic sauce with petite basil.  Absolutely authentic!  I had this dish in my focus before I arrived at the restaurant and I was not disappointed.  The small square ravioli although un-traditionally prepared with a Parmigiano Reggiano filling instead of a meat and vegetable stuffing, tops the list of ‘must sample’ on the current menu.  The sauce, a puree of tomatoes lightly (red, ground) peppered was salted by additional slivers of parmigiano cheese and topped with micro basil,  which made for a distinctively, on the sharp, spicy side and contrasted the flavor of the dish rather than blended without notice.

Huachinango ala Veracruzana (Red Snapper) in an olive, caper, pearl onions and tomato stew.  Very often served as either a customary Mediterranean style or Latin style dish by nature of the olives and capers, I found this particular heavily flavored preparation a bit more on the conventional side.  It is a new item on the menu and yet it harkens much more to where this menu has been rather than where it is going.  That being said, the fish itself was excellent and grilled to perfection, seared at the edges, leaving the center moist and sweet.

WINE

I asked the staff to choose for me and was wonderfully surprised by two selections that very much rounded out the experience.

Morgan Highland Chardonnay – Santa Lucia Highlands, 2009 – a fruity, weighty white wine with impact that complimented the entire meal.

B Side Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley, 2009m – light pepper reminiscent of a Nero D’Avola but without the bite or sweet or plum, even tempered all around from fragrance to body to finish.

DESSERT

Chocolate Hazenut with Rasberry and Mint. To describe this dessert as decadent would be an understatement and yet it still managed to be light enough to finish to the last crumb.

And the coup de gras of the evening, Salty Caramel Ice cream, so good it made my eyes cross!  The juxtaposition of salt and sweet accorded all the pleasure of a salt water taffy in the milky, lusciousness of a homemade ice cream.