CAVATINA AT THE SUNSET MARQUIS, LA

BATD ON Mar 05, 2014 AT 11:36 am

by Chrissy Iley

Cavatina, Sunset Marquis

When I first came to Los Angeles I stayed at the Sunset Marquis. Back then its coral pink and palm tree design made an indelible imprint in my mind. To me the Sunset Marquis was LA, synonymous with sunshine, cocktails and rock and roll.

Rock stars would lie by the turquoise pool. Back then they didn’t seem to have an entourage, minders or PRs. Before there was Soho House, before there was Sky Bar, there was the Sunset Marquis’ bar, then called The Whiskey Bar. It wasn’t private members only, but if you weren’t cool you weren’t in. It was a tiny place where everything happened. The likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Clash, and U2 were always there.

In more recent years the Sunset Marquis have developed and honed their chicness. Rock stars still stay there. I have interviewed Michael Bublé in one of their bungalows with a very large bed a couple of times. He likes to order caviar and frankfurters from the room service menu because they embrace his extremes, and loves the attitude of the hotel itself, which is supremely courteous and non-judgemental.

It is the place that Cheryl Cole fled to after she had announced her marriage break-up and her break from The X Factor USA. It is a place to go that’s beautiful, comforting, and nobody minds what you do.

The restaurant, which is partly outdoors and overlooking a leafy garden of indigenous plants and water features, is where U2 had a party the last time they toured the US. The measures of vodka were extremely hefty and I found myself hugging The Edge and telling him how much he meant to me. And then I sat down on a banquette near Bono, Lenny Kravitz and Cat Deeley and took a nap while the party was in full swing.

The next day I was embarrassed, but nobody cared. So it was with great pleasure that I went back there to visit their new restaurant, Cavatina. The setting is gorgeous and Cavatina has some wonderful dishes by renowned chef restaurateur Michael Schlow. The new restaurant celebrates the hotel’s demi-centenary of existence.

Michael Schlow is a Boston original, it is where he has helmed some of the city’s most renowned eateries – Radius, Via Matta, Alta Strada and Tico. He is generally recognised as a big deal, one of the leading chefs in the US.

He came over to us to see if he could prefer for us his selection from the menu. I love the idea of being chosen for. But between myself and my dining companion we had a list of allergies and food preferences that I saw cause a veil of despair to fall over his face.

The menu fortunately is all encompassing with lots of small plates and many vegetarian options. It comes in four sections – snacks, which feature things like spicy jalapeno tata tots, devilled eggs, crostini with home made ricotta and truffle honey; crudo – which is the raw fish and oyster selection; small plates – which are endlessly exciting; and if you still have room, entrees.

My companion wanted oysters as long as they were cold water oysters. Fortunately they were. She announced that her oysters on the hard shell with black pepper mignonette were the best she had ever tasted. I am afraid of oysters so I wouldn’t know whether juicy or creamy was good or bad, but apparently these were fleshy and juicy. I went for the local shrimp with chilli, cilantro and pomegranate. It was very limey and the pomegranate set it off nicely.

My companion chatted with the waiter who was French and reminisced about oysters in Saint Germain-des-Prés. Apparently these ones are better.

Next up came chilled lobster, cauliflower panna cotta and caviar. This was an amazing mix of flavour, texture, taste, and temperature. Then came crispy brussels sprouts, jalapeno walnuts and sherry vinegar. These were truly amazing and the star of the evening.

The brussels sprouts are served crispy, really quite spicy and a little nutty. There’s an edge to this dish that makes it a destination in itself. The brussels sprout has been completely reinvented.

After this came ancient greens – charred broccoli, cashews and golden raisins. I liked the blend of greens and sweetness but it made my companion simple want for more brussels sprouts.

For our entrees we had the cauliflower steak, which is nothing to do with meat. It is a giant slice through the heart of the cauliflower that arrived grilled, crispy and juicy. It came with some brussels sprout leaves and green tomato harissa yoghurt which added a spicy sweetness. I loved the piquantness of the yoghurt. Cauliflower is the new kale. I’m sure it’s a food trend we’ll be seeing more of.

No menu in California can be complete without kale. We went for the homemade kale pasta with spicy lobster and tomato. The kale pasta was delicious – just enough kale, just enough pasta. The sauce was a magnificent blend of texture and flavour, just sweet enough, just savoury enough. The kale pasta managed to be fabulously comforting as well as healthy and beautifully green.

The menu is inspired and entirely perfect for the setting, which is slightly bohemian as well as chic. The small plates are from around $9, the crudos from $12 and the entrees from $18.

The cocktails were as hearty as I remember them. This time I went for a tequila based one that managed to be spicy and comforting, which we followed with white wine and red wine respectively from the extensive wine list which features European and New World wines. Our French waiter recommended a Sancerre which went beautifully with our food.

No visit to Los Angeles was ever complete without dropping by the Sunset Marquis, and now it is even more essential. I can’t wait to go back for more of the reinvented brussels sprouts.

1200 Alta Loma Rd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, United States, +1 310-657-1333.

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