RH at the Andaz

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, Wes and I have a tradition for our birthdays. The birthday boy gets taken out for a fabulous meal … somewhere. The destination is a closely-held secret, and the birthday boy never knows where he’s going to end up until we pull up in front of the place. Keeps things fun. I love surprises!

This year I had no idea where I was going to end up, mostly because of my horrendously unreliable memory. A mere two months ago, Wes read me a review by S. Irene Virbila in the Los Angeles Times of a new restaurant — a hotel restaurant, in fact, that got a rare rave from her. It sounded fantastic, and I promptly forgot about it.

So yeah, when we pulled up in front of the newly-renovated Andaz Hotel (formerly the Hyatt) in West Hollywood, he reminded me of that rave review and I said, “Ooh!” Very exciting!

Make no mistake — this is not just a hotel restaurant. Chef Sebastien Archambault is making some of the best French food in town.

RH is named for the hotel’s old nickname, “The Riot House” which comes from the days when rock ‘n roll musicians stayed there and would throw TV sets out the windows), and Chef Archambault cooks the food of his native Périgord in southwestern France while featuring California ingredients.

And what could be more Californian than a plate of seasonal raw vegetables and a tangy dip?

RH at the Andaz, West  Hollywood - Crudité plate

Raw parsnip … never had that before, only cooked. I rather liked it.

There was a cocktail menu, so of course we tried it out. First, Wesly got what they called the “Los Angeles” cocktail:

Not to be confused with the (superior) cocktail of the same name at Seven Grand downtown, this one has Woodford Reserve bourbon as its base spirit, with “Anjou pear” (muddled, perhaps?), cinnamon and agave syrup. It was tasty but too heavy on the agave syrup.

I got one called the “Red Ferrari,” described on the menu as being made with blanco tequila (I chose Corzo), pomegranate juice, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh lime juice and agave syrup. I was confused by this one. It’s got “red” in the name and lists pomegranate juice as one of its ingredients, but there’s not a hint of red in this drink. I even asked our server to double-check, and she came back and assured me that the bartender had squeezed fresh pomegranate juice into the mixing glass. It must be the relatively rare white pomegranate, then, because I noticed neither the color nor much of the tartness. I did notice, once again, too much agave syrup.

Sadly, the cocktails were not very well-balanced and not that great, although they are at least making an effort. This was the only glitch in what would prove to be an absolutely spectactular meal.

Let it begin.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras Terrine

S. Irene went out of her way to mention how good the terrines and pâtés were, so Wes dove right in with the Hudson Valley Foie Gras Terrine with plum & wild mission fig chutney, arugula salad and brioche.

I did manage to get a bite of this. I moaned and pounded the table. We’re going again soon so that we can order each other’s starters from tonight.

Rich, intense, unctuous, and with that fig chutney … perfection.

Mine nearly made my head explode.

Périgourdine Poached Egg

This was the Périgourdine Poached Egg with field mushrooms, foie gras and black truffles, and brioche spread with truffle butter.

Oh. My. Gods.

This was monstrously good, heady, dizzying. The egg was perfectly poached, the yolk was beautifully runny just like I like it (“dip eggs,” I called ’em when I was a kid, but they weren’t prepared quite like this!).

I’m not sure where they sourced the truffles — I don’t think they’re actual Périgord black truffles from France — but they were perfumey and wonderful anyway, and I didn’t particularly care (if they had been from France I suspect the dish would have been a lot more expensive).

I want this for breakfast every day.

Ooh, ya wanna close-up of the egg?

Périgourdine Poached Egg, close-up

Next we began our downfall, as we decided to each get one starter and then order a third that we’d split. I love charcuterie, and the plate at RH looked very good indeed — Charcuterie la Quercia as it was called on the menu.

Charcuterie la Quercia

It was indeed a superb charcuterie plate — pork and duck terrine, saucisson, chorizo, lomo, duck prosciutto and duck bacon with cornichons. I think each portion of the plate deserves its own close-up, don’t you?

Here’s the duck prosciutto and duck bacon.

Duck prosciutto and duck bacon

Clockwise from upper left — Pork and duck terrine, saucisson, chorizo and lomo.

Pork and duck terrine, saucisson, chorizo and lomo

Mmmm, pâté …

Mmmm, pâté ...

Now, on to the main courses. It was a tough choice, as the menu looked pretty great overall. There at least half a dozen dishes I would have been very happy with, but the one that drew me in did so with a magic word that almost never fails to mesmerize me, to get me to do its bidding (i.e., “eat me”) … and that word is “cheeks.”

Slow Braised Beef Cheek

Slow Braised Beef Cheek with button mushrooms, rainbow carrots and a stunningly intense sauce.

Beef heaven. I see cheeks on the menu coming from practically any beast and I’ll eat ’em. It’s unbelievably tender, and you don’t even need a knife. In fact, you could practically spread this on toasted bread.

All that and profoundly beefy too.

With this I drank a 2004 Croze Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley — big and peppery and a perfect foil for the richness and meaty intensity of the cheeks. I might want to pick some of this stuff up, too … even though it’s quite delightfully drinkable now it’ll get much better over the years.

Housemade Crispy Hudson Valley Duck Leg Confit

Unsurprisingly (as sometimes I call him “Mr. Duck”), Wesly got the Housemade Crispy Hudson Valley Duck Leg Confit, with sautéed potatoes, green onion, garlic and parsley. S. Irene in her review said that this is the best duck confit in L.A. “I don’t know about that,” Wes said, “but it’s certainly the best duck confit I’ve ever had.”

The skin parts with a little crackle as soon as you apply the slightest pressure of the knife to it, with dark, moist and tender meat beneath. I want this next time.

Wes’ wine was a 2006 Downing Family Zinfandel, also from Napa. Full flavored and jammy with fruit, it was yum. We’ve both been fans of big Zins with duck.

Of course, we couldn’t leave well enough alone. We agonized over a third dish that we both wanted but not quite as much as the one we ordered, although it looked too good to pass up. Boothbay Harbor Open Lobster Ravioli with Lobster Bisque Sauce. We decided to split it — yes, a third main course — after … somewhat inaccurate advice from our delightful server.

Boothbay Harbor Open Lobster Ravioli

“Oh, the portions aren’t all that large,” the server said. (She kinda lied.)

Oh, and then there were side dishes that looked too good to pass up. These were the Triple-fried French fries:
Triple-fried French fries

That’s triple-fried … in duck fat.

Sautéed spinach

Then there was the sautéed spinach, classic, with a hint of garlic and nutmeg. Kinda just what the doctor ordered, although when we showed these photos to Steve he said that it looked as though someone else’s photo got mixed into my set, and I think he started singing “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other,” from “Sesame Street.” Hey, I like sautéed spinach! It’s not as if something healthy in the middle of all this would have killed me. (Actually, it might … but my system is robust enough to handle in incursion of green vegetables in the middle of all this butter, foie gras and truffles).

And then there’s dessert. And here’s where things started to go downhill.

Oh, not in quality, no no. Everything was and at this point continued to be fantastic. But it was after we ordered our assiette de fromages (that’s the cheese plate), we began to realize that we were learning a lesson this evening, and the lesson was this:

Two people probably shouldn’t eat three people’s dinner.

It hadn’t quite sunk in yet, so let’s continue.

Assiette de fromages

Three cheeses, and none was particularly light or creamy (although they were all great). From the front, we had Fourme d’Ambert, a venerable French blue that’s one of my all-time favorites, served here with a bit of honeycomb. Then behind that was supposed to be Tome d’Aquitaine, a semi-soft washed rind goat’s milk cheese from France, but this was firmer and had an herb crust, served with some grapes on the side. I just decided to eat it anyway, but probably should have sent it back — not because it was bad (it was great) but it was slowing me down. Finally, in the back, we had Mt. Tam, from Cowgirl Creamery north of San Francisco, which is firm and buttery and was served with walnuts.

It was at this point that it finally hit me (gee, ya think?) that I had probably ordered too much food. It’s even possible that a Deadly Sin was being commited (although I’ve done worse), but dammit … I wanted dessert! And I wanted chocolate. Although I do love non-chocolate desserts, there are times when my mind is set with the philosophy of our friend Mary, who states that it is not truly dessert unless chocolate is involved. There was only one choice on the menu that would satisfy that philosophy this evening, and it was this:

Warm Chocolate Cake

Warm Chocolate Cake with Littlejohn’s English Toffee ice cream, and some chunks of the lovely toffee scattered around. Oh, and it’s not just a slab of cake …

Warm Chocolate Cake, molten center

It’s got a molten center! Okay, the molten center chocolate cake is somewhat of a cliché now, and mostly came and went years ago, but it’s still good, and this example of it was particularly good, and it satisfied my chocolate craving. It also introduced me to the joys of Littlejohn’s toffee, which I will be ordering in the future.

And then Wes had to go and get this to show me up:

Roasted Kingsburg Farm Apple Cinnamon Puff Pastry

Roasted Kingsburg Farm Apple Cinnamon Puff Pastry with vanilla ice cream. I had a bite. It was spectacular. In fact, he said, “[I]n my humble and decidedly not unbiased opinion it was the superior of the two. Yes, chocolate notwithstanding. I know. But still. Partially deconstructed apple ‘pie’ (strips of puff pastry, not pie crust), served in its own little iron baking pan, hot out of the oven, perfectly buttery, soft baked apples, the sharp bite of cinnamon, flaky crunchy pastry fingers … I’m sorry, what? Molten chocolate cake? Oh, if I must.

“Really, it was that good.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re right, of course. We’ll go back so that I can have a pan of this all by myself, and I think I’m probably done with molten chocolate cakes now.

Wes drank a Pineau des Charentes with his apple pastry, and I had a Renwood Zinfandel Ice Wine that was perfect with my chocolate cake.

To put a nice little crown on the evening, Wes said that the bill that was presented was more than reasonable for such a meal. Well, to be specific, it was more than reasonable for three, given that we ate for three. A little heftier for two, but then again two people probably shouldn’t eat the dinner of three, as we had learned by this point … mainly because I was now groggy and had difficulty taking deep breaths as there wasn’t enough room for my diaphragm to expand.

Contented Chuck

So yeah, I was a very happy boy. And if you look closely at my cuffs, you can see one of the birthday presents that Wes got me. (Yeah!)

If you’re a Los Angeles local you should make a beeline to RH. It’s superb French food but not “Cal-French” — the California influences extend primarly to the use of local ingredients, but the technique is all Périgord. Cheers to Chef Sebastien Archambault, who thanked us warmly on the way out. I’ll be back soon.

2 Responses to “RH at the Andaz”

  1. NIGEL said:

    Nov 22, 09 at 9:42 am

    What a great blog and I love the photos. fyi, the Truffles are almost certainly Black Autumn Truffles from Italy (T. Uncinatum), and yes they are wonderful at the moment. The Pergigord truffles (T. Melanosporum) wont be available for a few more weeks yet, theres actually not much difference price per portion wise between Uncinatum and Melanosporum, as the latter is about twice the price per kg, but you only need to use half the quantity.

  2. Shari said:

    Nov 24, 09 at 11:34 am

    Ah…food porn. I’ve missed it. And thank you for sharing the photo of yourself looking absolutely gobsmacked satisfied with your new blinged out cufflinks (I noticed them before you even brought them up). Definitely an evening to envy, even if the cocktails were a little heavy on the agave (which is very trendy in LA as of late it seems). I miss you man!